I found a very well written article about scuba diving in Sabah. When I read through it, I was not surprised to find that it was written by none other than Joanne Cotterill, of Borneo Dreams. Sabah is very well-known for its scuba diving spots, due to its fair weather and geographic location.
The best part of it is you can choose the type of scuba diving holiday, be it luxurious or value for money. Book a stay in one of the many world class resorts here and be well pampered on your holiday, or you can backpack your way around Kota Kinabalu. If you choose to go to Semporna for scuba diving around Sipadan, there are a number of options available. Or head off to duty-free Labuan, for more wreck diving.
The Best Scuba Diving Along the West Coast of Sabah, Borneo
When Divers visit Kota Kinabalu the diving trip that all Dive Operators will promote to you is going diving in the local Marine Park – Tunku Abdul Rahman (TARP). The Marine Park is located 15 – 30 minutes by boat transfer from Kota Kinabalu and includes five islands – Pulau Sapi, Gaya, Sulug, Mamutik and Manukan. There are around 20 different dive sites in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park plus a few more dive sites at nearby Edgell Patches (which is home to deeper, healthier coral reefs). Scuba diving around TARP is ideal for divers looking for chilled out diving along pretty coral reefs. It is also suitable for rebreather training through to experienced leisure divers. The dives range in depths from 5m to 35m and tend to have little or no current and good visibility. During your dives you will find good quality coral coverage and a surprisingly wide variety of marine life – a real divers find considering you are only 15 minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Further south of Kota Kinabalu, approximately 30 nautical miles South West, is Pulau Tiga. Pulau Tiga is located in a Marine Park meaning the reefs are protected for conservation purposes by Sabah Parks. At Pulau Tiga there are around 8 dive sites (mainly South and West of the Island). Here you can enjoy scuba diving some unexplored, pristine coral reefs and generally be the only divers in the water. The dive depths range between 6m – 20m, the visibility is generally 5m – 20m with occasional strong currents on certain dive sites. This makes dive trips to Pulau Tiga suitable for experienced leisure divers, some drift diving and lots of underwater photography! During a scuba diving trip to Pulau Tiga you will dive by large coral covered pinnacles, coral bombies and busy cleaning stations. The hard and soft corals are breath taking, including large colourful barrel sponges adorned with Feather Stars, Whip Coral, Table Coral, Gorgonian fans and more. Look out for an amazing variety of marine life including large beds of Anemones and Clown fish, large shoals of Damsel Fish and Antheas, darting Fusliers, Nudibranches, schooling Barracuda, Blue Spotted Rays, Cuttle Fish, Lobsters and more.
If you fancy diving somewhere unique along the west coast of Sabah then look no further than a scuba diving trip to the ‘white rocks’ located near Mayne Rock. The unique underwater landscape creates a special scuba diving experience. When you go scuba diving at Mayne Rock you will find two series of large white boulders (approxmately 100m apart), raising from the sea bed from 7m – 25m, surrounded by large shoals of fish and adorned in hard and soft corals. Alongside this you’ll have the chance to dive along a slightly shallower, pristine undulating coral reef. Divers who have bneen diving the coral reefs at Mayne Rock are often impressed by the visibility and the health of the reefs. When diving at Mayne Rock you will get occasional strong currents – this makes it a dive trip suitable for experienced leisure divers. During a dive trip to Mayne Rock you can expect to spot a wide variety of marine life including shoals of Fusiliers, Barracuda, Yellow Snappers, Bat Fish, Juvenile Nurse Sharks, Lion Fish, Trumpet Fish, Nudibranches, large Puffer fish, Lobsters, Anemone Fish and much more. Expect to find marine treasures around every corner as you explore the large boulders and their crevices.
Fancy a scuba diving adventure? Then go wreck diving at one or more of the three, large Usukan Bay World War II Japanese wrecks. Wreck diving on the ‘Usukan Wreck’, ‘Upside-down Wreck’ and the ‘Rice Bowl Wreck’ is an awesome scuba diving experience. All of the wrecks lay in 26m – 45m of water and can have small to medium strong currents present, making them a wreck scuba diving adventure for experienced leisure divers (minimum PADI Advanced Open Water Diver) and technical divers. You can find a brief description of each wreck dive below.
The Rice Bowl Wreck
So-called because a cache of rice bowls was found in the bow when it was first dived, this is a relatively long vessel lying in a North Easterly direction in 40m at its deepest and 26m at its shallowest. The superstructure is punctured in many places, making exploration possible and interesting, and the metalwork is robust. The soft coral garden is memorable.
The Upside-Down Wreck
The name gives away the orientation of this ship, which lies in the same direction and at similar depth to the Rice Bowl wreck. This one has good swim-throughs, though a torch is essential and is good for exploring as well as a training ground for Wreck Diver specialty.
The Usukan Wreck
This is the deepest of the three at 35m – 45m and consequently only available to technical divers. We use rebreathers, but also support twin-tanks/Trimix and decompression diving if required. The wreck is interesting and has a spectacular whip coral coverage that can give it a frosted appearance in a certain light.
All of the wrecks are covered in stunning soft coral gardens and hard corals, teeming with fish life and home to an amazing range of marine life. Find schooling Barracuda, Nurse Sharks, large Groupers and large shoals of Yellow Snappers and Fusiliers. The variety of marine life makes scuba diving the wrecks a fantastic dive for the experienced Scuba Diver.
Finally, Pulau Mantanani (Mantanani Island), located approx. 40nm North West of Kota KInabalu, is the most northern dive destination along the west coast of Sabah. Home to palm lined beaches, clear tropical waters and shallow coral reefs it is a day trip to paradise for divers and non divers. Mantanani Island is a group of three isolated islands North West of Kota Belud, Sabah, Borneo. Until recently, the islands were only known to a few locals. The shallow coral reefs surrounding the islands have plenty to offer, for both novice and experienced scuba divers. The visibility can be as high as 30m – amazing! Juvenile Turtles are frequently spotted around Pulau Mantanani. Many species of rays have been spotted in the waters around Mantanani Island, Sabah, Borneo – Marbled Stingray, Blue Spotted Ray and large schools of Eagle Rays. For macro photographers the “muck diving” is good too – if you are lucky you can find Seahorses, Imperial Shrimps, Pink-Eye Gobies, Jaw fish, Blue-Ringed Octopus, Ribbon Eels and many types of nudibranches.
The best time to go diving the dive sites along the west coast of Sabah is from April to September (with April – June offering typically the best diving conditions). Please note that you might need flexibility on the date you go scuba diving at Pulau Mantanani as the sea state can, by exception during this period, be too rough to cross to the Islands.
Borneo Dream is the only Dive Operator, based in Kota Kinabalu, running diving day trips to all of these diving destinations. Want to find out more, then visit www.borneodream.com.
Go here for Back-packing about Sabah.
- Scuba Diving In November
- Mantanani Island, Sabah
- Borneo Dream Newsletter October 2010
- Uncle’s Chang Backpacker Resort
- Dive For Earth Day
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