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Malaysia - Dive sites

 

 

Big stuff, little stuff, wrecks and reefs. Malaysia has dive sites for all skills and experience

 


SABAH AND SARAWAK

Barracuda Point, Sipidan

Max depth: 40m+, Type: Wall dive, Skill level: Advanced

As its name suggests, this site is all about pelagics - and barracuda in particular. The dive starts on a wall. After descending to your maximum depth, keep one eye on the blue for passing hammerhead sharks, jacks or barracuda - if you can see past all the schooling fish that is! Barracuda Point is known for them. You're likely to see large numbers of batfish and white tip sharks. To the south, at around 22m, there's a ledge in the reef. And this can be the point where the barracuda action really kicks off. Huge schools of chevron barracuda circle in the water column in groups that are hundreds of individuals strong. At shallower depths you'll be innundated with turtles, chomping on corals between the surface and 10m. Not a bad way to spend a safety stop. Sipidan is regularly ranked as one of the best dive destinations in the world, and Barracuda Point is really the jewel in its crown.


South Point, Sipidan

black snapper Borneo shutterstock

Max depth: 40m, Type: Wall dive, Skill level: Advanced


A wall dive where the headline acts are manta rays and hammerhead sharks. It's a case of the early bird catching the worm here, as divers are most likely to see hammerheads first thing in the morning.The topography is a steep wall, with large coral formations. At depth, it's possible to see thresher sharks and leopard sharks as well. More reliable sightings include white tip sharks, grey reef sharks, turtles, and massive schools of reef fish. Bumphead parrotfish also school here. Up to 1m long, these huge fish feed on the table coral. Eagle rays and devil rays are fairly common too. There's plenty of macro life too, if you can tear your gaze away from the open water to look in the nooks and crannies of the reef. Look out for the blue ringed octopus in the shallows, but whatever you do, don't touch - these little beauties are one of the most venomous animals in the ocean.


Paradise, Mabul

Purple nudibranch Mabul shutterstock

Max depth: 14m, Type: reef dive; Skill level: Beginner

Mabul is the original muck diving destination – the term was first coined here! Whereas at Sipidan the creatures are large and beautiful, in Mabul the inhabitants of the reefs tend towards the small and slightly weird. The seabed is mostly sand and broken rubble, but hidden among these seemingly desolate reefs are plenty of small critters. There are crustaceans galore: harlequin shrimp, mantis shrimp, hairy squat lobsters, spider crabs and porcelain crabs. There are frogfish, crocodilefish, lionfish and scorpionfish. Elaborate pipefish and tiny pigmy seahorses are here, as well as cuttlefish, octopus and bobtail squid. Paradise (also called Froggies Lair by some divers) is particularly rich in frogfish. Situated at the end of the island's main jetty, the reef slopes gently down to 14m where it reaches a sandy seabed. This area, where reef meets  sand, is your best hunting ground for unusual creature. This site really is a paradise for photographers and fans of the small stuff.


Mandarin Valley, Kapalai

Mandarinfish Borneo shutterstock

Max depth: 20m, Type: reef dive; Skill level: Beginner


The highlight at this dive site is the brightly coloured mandarin fish. Generally hidden during the day among sea urchins, at night they come out to mate. The dive site itself is a gentle slope to around 20m; at around 18m, there's a small wreck of a fishing boat. This is a great macro site, so it's popular with photographers. It's worthwhile going as slowly as you can, as that way you're more likely to see some of the more unusual inhabitants. These include cuttlefish, squid, nudibranchs, ghost pipefish and crocodilefish. The shallow reef also serves as a nursery – there are many juveniles here.

By far the best diving in Peninsular Malaysia is on the islands off the east coast. The Perhentian Islands are 21km (13 miles) north east hand have more than 20 good sites. Further south the Redang Archipelago is made up of nine islands and are protected by the Palau Redang Marine Park. And the most southerly is Tioman island 67 km (41 miles) off the coast. There are a number of exciting deept wreks off Tioman. The British battlecruiser HMS Repulse was sunk by Japanese air attack off Tioman Island in late December 1941, and rests at 60m. Features such as the ship's 15-inch gun turrets and its four huge propellers remain intact and identifiable. Another deep wreck that sank off Tioman is the Seven Skies.

 

 

TIOMAN ISLAND

Tiger Reef

blacktip reef sharks

Max depth: 30m, Type: Sumberged pinnacle, Skill level: Experienced

This underwater pinnacle between Sepoi Island and Labas Island starts at around 10m and goes down to 25m. The current can sometimes be quite strong which means lots of healthy sea whips, soft corals and crinoids. Lots of marine life with black tip reef sharks often cruising around.  Barracudas, snappers, fusiliers, soldier fish, surgeonfish andtrevallys in profusion.  Keeps your eyes peeled for the occasional whale shark.


The KM Sipidan


Max depth: 30m, Type: Wreck, Skill level: Experienced

KM SIPADAN is a former Royal Navy warship that started service in 1964 under the name KD Sri Sarawak. It was renamed  KM Spidadan and was decommissioned from Navy services in 2005. It was  an sunk as an artifical reef at the Sawadee dive site on 29 March 2012. The Sipadan is some 31m long and 4.5m wide and has been stripped of all weapons and its engine before it was sunk. It can be penetrated by qualified divers.


Seven Skies

Max depth: 65m, Type: Wreck, Skill level: Experienced/tech

This vast Swedish super tanker sank after an explosion in 1969 not far from Anambas Island near Tioman. The wreck sits upright in 67m and is still intact. The top of the funnel is in approximately 25m, the bridge and the superstructure at 30m, then various decks and structures to explore down to the main deck level at 45m. The stern is the best dive - if you descend to the top of the funnel  you can bump into patrolling schools of barracuda, manta rays and the odd whaleshark. Descending to the decks you will be amazed by the huge soft corals. Qualified tecgh divers can enter the vast wreck and explore

REDANG ARCHIPELAGO

Tunnel Point

gorgonian

Max depth: 30m, Type: Reef, Skill level: Advanced 

A jumble of large boulders strewn in such a way as to form tunnel-like structures that divers can swim through and explore. Sometimes the boulders creak and groan in the pounding surf. Gorgonian fans clinging to the rocks surrounded by soft and hard coral. Bumphead parrotfish, small barracudas, jacks and nudibranch can all be encountered here.


North Point

turtle

Max depth: 30m, Type: Reef, Skill level: Advanced

Tanjung Tokong is situated very close to Turtle Bay at Chagar Hutang where SEATRU has its field station. As such, it offers greater opportunities to spot green and hawksbill turtles. The sea here can get rough at times but divers will be rewarded with the diversity of fishes and other reef life found here, including jacks, snappers, Napolean wrasse, fusiliers, nudibranch, flatworms and the occasional shark. Many boulders are covered with soft coral, sponges and sea fans. Keeping the reef on one's left, divers can head into Turtle Bay where colourful hard and soft corals abound.


Tanjung Gua Kawah

whitetip

Max depth: 30m, Type: Reef, Skill level: Advanced

At the northeastern tip of Redang, Tanjung Gua Kawah tends to have strong surface and deep-water currents and is best left to experienced divers. Rocks and boulders descend to sandy bottom at around 15m. Coral growth is average but due to the currents, there are opportunities to encounter pelagics in the open water, and other fish life in caves and under overhangs.

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

Tiger Rocks

Soft coral

Max depth: 20m, Type: Drift, Skill level: Advanced

A lively drift dive over coral covered boulders - lots of soft corals, feather stars and gorgonians. Plenty of fish with big schools of batfish and surgeonfish. Visibility can drop if the current picks up too much but with the right conditions a great drift dive.


Sugar Wreck

Sweetlips


Max depth: 18m, Type: Wreck, Skill level: Open water
 
This 90m cargo ship sank in 2000, and lies on its side in  18m of water. Lots of coral growth on the hull. Big schools of snappers, sweetlips, jacks and trevally circle the hulk and plenty of smaller fish shelter inside. Penetration is possible for experienced divers and the engine room, wheelhouse and cabins are all accessible.

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