What is the Diving like in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP)?

Dive Sites & Scuba Diving in TARP

There are not many places in the world that offer a bustling city full of modern facilities and then right on the doorstep, just 8 minutes by speedboat from the central entertainment district, a stunning tropical marine paradise. Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu, is such a place and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, locally known as the TAR Park, is home to Downbelow’s PADI 5 Star IDC Dive & Adventure Centre on Gaya Island, just 8 minutes by speedboat from the mainland.

Named after Malaysia’s first prime minister, covering and area of 50km², the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park was gazetted as a national park in 1974. Consequently the area’s fauna, flora and marine eco-systems enjoy the protection of the government appointed environmental body, Sabah Parks.

Master Instructor Joanne Swann Scuba Diving TARP

The Dive Sites!

Turtle in TARP

Dive sites within the park offer some great scuba diving for beginners and experienced divers alike. TARP is also great for underwater photographers, providing lots of macro subjects in relatively shallow calm water.

The coral reefs feature lots of very healthy hard and soft coral. Our scuba diving guests are often very surprised to see such healthy corals so close to a city. We have 49 dive sites to choose from & our divemasters will choose the best dive sites depending on the sea & weather conditions, plus individual diver ability on the day.

Dive sites are predominantly sloping coral reef and sand from 2m to 25m depth. We also have mangrove areas providing protection for juvenile fish. In the park, we have the KM Kuraman Wreck Dive Site which is home to a variety of critters and offers a great intro to wreck diving, especially for those completing a PADI Advanced Course.

The Marine Life

Macro life is what we are passionate about, but having said that, there are plenty of larger marine creatures to be found. We regularly see turtles and rays and one of our nearby dive sites became home to a small group of Black Tip Reef Sharks.

February to April is traditionally Whaleshark season however sightings are not guaranteed and quite rare but its fun to know we share their water and they could appear any time during the season. Schools of barracuda, snappers and fusiliers are common. We often see cuttlefish, moray eels, lionfish and pufferfish. Nudibranchs are common, so too are all 7 species of clownfish, all of which can be seen in just one dive site! Many species of crustaceans, scorpionfish, pipefish, demon stingers, cuttlefish and stonefish are also usual suspects. We often find frogfish, ghostpipefish and, once in a while, the highly prized blue ringed octopus!

Multiple day dive packages offer great value for money and you won’t see the same dive site twice – unless you wanted to of course, which does happen!

Nudibranch and Shrimp

Watch Our Scuba Diving TARP Video !

Frequently Asked Questions !

Visibility ranges from 4m (at its worse) to 30m (at its best) we generally experience the best “Viz” from late April through to October. During whale shark season the viz is usually at its worse due to the amount of nutrients in the water. If we experience heavy rainfall the river run-offs will also reduce the visibility underwater. But generally we experience 8m – 15m most days.
Our scuba diving and snorkeling are 2 different programs so each will be conducted at different sites in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Sites will be chosen based on their suitability for each program / course by either a qualified PADI Instructor (for Divers) or our professional snorkel guide (for snorkelers). However even though your family / group is booked on the different island activities, all of you will still be together during the activity intervals since we have a lovely beach diving center that we return for refreshment, surface intervals and lunch. It’s a lovely place to rest and and enjoy the tropical surroundings. You will also be together during the land and boat transfers to/from the island. You will only be separated during your course and snorkeling activities. Unless specific requests are made to be on the same boat but this is subject to the dive site and conditions on the day.
It is extremely rare for us to cancel our activities, we average cancelling a day once or twice a year only! We are very fortunate to enjoy year round diving and snorkelling. Only if it is dangerous do we cancel and if you are not able to re-schedule to another day, then we will offer a full refund. If it rains then we have shelter at our Dive Center on Gaya Island, when it does rain it tends to be quick downpours but the majority of the time its beautiful tropical sunshine.
We are not effected by the monsoon in the same way as other locations. There are a few geographical reasons for this but the structure of the islands where we are based and the crocker range of mountains mean that we operate all year round with beautiful sunshine most days. Its quite rare to have a full day of rain. Usually when it rains, it does so from about 2pm onwards. It could be a quick downpour or it could last into the evening. We experience the most rain in November & December. January – March is usually very dry.

Scuba Dive or Snorkel Tropical Reefs.  There is something for EVERYONE


It doesn’t get any better than Downbelow!
They planned our entire 2 week stay in Borneo, we didn’t have to lift a finger. We saw everything you can imagine; Pygmy Elephants, Orang Utans, Proboscis Monkeys, Crocodiles, Horn bills!They know all the best local spots and really take care of you which is so important when traveling somewhere new!
Tamsin & Phil, Independent Travellers
One stop shop for marine and wildlife adventure
I spent a month with Dive DownBelow studying to be a PADI Open Water Instructor. Great location (near markets, shops and cafes), professional staff and a fun experience all round.
Carl Charter, GoPro Intern
A very memorable holiday!
The whole Dive Downbelow team is great and this was a huge contributor to us having a very memorable holiday with you. Thank you for your help all through the trip, and also thank you to Tim who was very professional, patient and made our diving course so enjoyable and successful.
Dmitry & Helen, Independent Travellers

Our Commitment to Conservation!

Dive Sites & Scuba Diving in TARP
RESPONSIBLE TOURISM project_aware_logo

During the past 15 years the company has established itself as a leading conservation and education provider locally and on the international platform. At Downbelow we are committed to responsible tourism. We design experiences and provide courses that foster appreciation, awareness and conservation of our environment and development of local people. In the course of this labour of love, our effort has been acknowledged by various publications and awards. To date, Ghost Net Removals, Underwater and Beach Clean Ups, Coral for Life, Tree for Life & Project Aware remain a large focus of our day to day life Downbelow!

What Makes Downbelow Different ?

  • Customised Itineraries To Save Money & Maximise Time
  • Genuine Focus On Conservation & Outreach Community Programs
  • TWO Full Service Island Based PADI 5 Star IDC Centres – Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
  • Own and Operate Our Adventure Lodge Accommodation – KK Times Square
  • Fully Comprehensive Quality Control Standards and Procedures
  • TWO Resident PADI Course Directors – In House and Full Time
  • Gained International Awards for Excellence, Education and Experience
  • Awarded the PADI Green Star Award for Environmental Practices to Reduce our Environmental Footprint
  • Hassle FREE – airport to airport service all under one company
  • Dedicated experienced travel consultant for planning your trip, during your trip and post trip support
  • Approved British Ministry of Defence Commercial Dive Centre
  • Company Profits Support Welfare & Marine Conservation