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Malaysian Homestay Programme 

What is a homestay programme?

A homestay programme gives tourists the opportunity to stay with a chosen family, interact and experience the daily life of their homestay family and learn the culture and lifestyle of the rural community in Malaysia. A homestay programme cannot be classified as a lodging facility. It focuses more on lifestyle and experience, including cultural and economic activities.

What types of activities are offered in a homestay programme?

Each homestay programme offers different types of activities, depending on the culture, food, economic activity as well as location. Every state in Malaysia has its own uniqueness in terms of culture, ranging from the nasi dagang in Kelantan to the sumazau dance in Sabah, as well as the long houses in Sarawak. Examples of homestay activities include:

(i) Culture and Lifestyle

    Traditional dances, traditional songs and traditional food
    Traditional games and sports
    Culture: marriage, assembly of animal sacrifice and festivals

(ii) Economic Activity

    Rubber tapping
    Fish breeding
    Agriculture: paddy, cocoa, oil palm, fruit

(iii) Recreation

    Jungle trekking
    White water rafting
    Visit to nearby tourism products

(iv)  Environmental preservation

Tree Planting Programme: Tourists are encouraged to plant trees at their homestays with the aim of preserving the environment and further beautifying the landscape of the homestays.

The Malaysia Rail Explorer is a new homestay package where tourists are invited to experience rural life in Kelantan. Visiting Kelantan by train is the best way to experience the culture and traditions of the state apart from enjoying the railway journey from Singapore to Kelantan. For further information and to make reservations for this package.

How much are the homestay packages?

A 2-day 1-night homestay package is between RM150 and RM250 inclusive of accommodation, food and activities (the cost depends on the activities offered by the homestay operator and activities requested by tourists). A detailed cost for each package can be obtained from the official Homestay Malaysia website.

How do I make a reservation for a homestay?

The particulars and cost of each package can be obtained at the official website of Homestay Malaysia. Tourists may choose the state they wish to visit as well as the activities they wish to participate in. The map to the homestay and the information about each homestay can also be found at the website which makes it convenient for tourists to make their reservations directly.

The Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC) at Jalan Ampang is the focal point for information about tourism in Malaysia. It also provides the facility to make reservations for homestays.

"The Malaysia Rail Explorer" is a new homestay package inviting tourists to experience rural life in Kelantan by taking the train from Singapore. It is the best way to learn more about the culture and traditions of the state.

Scuba Diving Malaysia

Scuba Diving Site in Malaysia
Islands surrounding Malaysia are renowned by divers all over the world as one of the best diving spots on the globe. Below the surface of many tropical islands you can experience the wonderful underwater world in all its glory. Great numbers of travelers visit Malaysia with the sole purpose of scuba diving. The best places to dive are the islands in the eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia and the islands in the eastern part of the Borneo province Sabah.

Diving on islands in the western part of the peninsula is less popular, due to turbid marine water conditions which has a negative impact on underwater visibility. The only place to dive in this area is at Pulau Payar, a small uninhabited island that lies between Langkawi and Penang. This is however a somewhat spoiled tourist attraction, so it’s better to head out to other parts of Malaysia, where diving conditions are perfect.

Package deals are very popular in Malaysia. Many resorts have some sort of partnership with diving schools, so you can arrange accommodation and a scuba diving course at one location. Most packages roughly consists of the same components, 4 or 5 nights stay at the resort, the diving course incl. books and equipment, the boat ride from the mainland to the island and back, free meals and drinks and in some cases a couple of extra fun dives.   

Redang Island
Scuba diving at the eastern side of Peninsular Malaysia

The best place to get your scuba license is at one of the islands on the eastern side of the peninsula. Package deals are cheapest at Pulau Perhentian; here you can get your official PADI for approximately €200 (or around $270). All diving schools are certified, some have more ‘stars’ than others. Prices are roughly the same at most of the diving schools. Should you want to get your dive master (or rescue diver or any other advanced course) license, you should probably contact some of the diving schools up front. Price does however differ great from regular prices in most European countries. For example a diving course in the UK or the Netherlands can be twice or even three times more expensive. A typical diving course takes you four days at the least. Don’t bother to try and do it in less days, you have enough to learn so a four day course is the absolute minimum amount of days. We did a 5-day course at Pulau Perhentian. We paid €190 for the standard PADI course, this was incl. of books and equipment. Other islands in Malaysia are perhaps less interesting to go to for a diving course, since prices are usually a bit higher there (i.e. Pulau Redang, Pulau Tioman). 

Tioman Island by Levent Oskan
Recommended diving schools on Pulau Perhentian are: Flora Bay, Coral Sky Divers, Watercolours, Spice Divers and Pro Divers World. I only have (great) experience with Watercolours, but read and heard from fellow-divers that all other diving schools mentioned above a pretty good too.

Diving in this part of Malaysia depends greatly on weather conditions. Especially during monsoon period diving is not an option. Resorts close during this period, since the weather can be extreme at times. It’s even impossible to visit the islands, since ferries are out of order for tourists. The monsoon period starts roughly in the beginning of October, and ends roughly around March. I use the word roughly, because some years the monsoon is very mild, starts later and ends earlier. Some years it starts mid-September, and ends during March.   

Payar Island
Scuba diving at the western side of Peninsular Malaysia

As mentioned before; scuba diving is not that great at islands like Langkawi, Penang or Pangkor on the western side of peninsula Malaysia. The best place to dive is at the tourist attraction Pulau Payar, a small island between Langkawi and Penang. Diving here is pretty expensive, compared to other diving spots in Malaysia. Besides, coral isn’t that great anymore, though due to massive amounts of zooplankton there is an abundance of fish to spot underwater. Right next to Pulau Payar lies Pulau Kaca; here you can dive to a number of shipwrecks. Though we haven’t been there ourself, we read pretty good stories about diving at Kaca.

Don’t have a scuba diving permit? You can also head out to Pulau Payar for a snorkeling trip, it’s a fun day out and you’ll see many beautiful fishes on the shallow shores of the small island. You want to get a diving permit and it’s impossible to travel to islands like Perhentian or Redang? Get your PADI at Langkawi, at the dive center you’ll learn the basics and theoretical experience. The final dives will be done at Pulau Payar. It is a bit more expensive, but still cheaper than in most other parts of the world.

Close to Pangkor Island you can find Pulau Sembilan. Until recently this island had one fairly popular diving school, Sembilan Divers. Unfortunately this diving school went out of business, so for now it is not possible to dive in marine waters around Sembilan. 

Sipadan Island
Scuba diving at the islands surrounding Borneo (Sabah)

When you plan a diving trip to islands surrounding Sabah, you’ll soon end up at the some of the best diving spots in the world; Pulau Sipadan and Pulau Mabul. Both islands have the best diving conditions you can imagine, although it’s better to be an advanced diver due to currents and depths. At these islands it is also possible to do a diving course; prices are affordable, though accommodation can be pretty expensive.

Sipadan Water Village
There are some resorts (there are not that many resorts) where you get a package for roughly $1000 for a couple of nights. Compared to accommodation on for example Pulau Perhentian these prices are pretty high. Nonetheless, the price is worth every penny, since you are visiting one of the best kept secrets of Malaysia. Accommodation is very exclusive, almost impossible to compare with the resorts at Pulau Perhentian. If you are a true scuba diver, this is absolutely a must-visit!

Other famous diving spots at the islands surrounding Sabah are Kapalai, Labuan, Langkayan and Layang-Layang. All these islands have the same in common; great dives, great visibility, huge walls, various types of species and of course a great tropical experience on the islands itself.
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