Our world is full of places that contain certain symbolic qualities. We go into the wild to observe, understand and reconnect with nature and to feel as part of something bigger. This makes us calmer, more humble and puts things into perspective. Unspoiled nature, majestic scenery, friendly people and engaging activities that relieve stress and reconnect you with nature are what makes Malaysia and the Coral Triangle a place to be if you consider yourself a genuine scuba diver.
The Coral Triangle is a triangular area of the tropical marine waters of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. This area contains 500 species of reef-building corals in each ecoregion and lives up to its name “The Amazon of the Seas”. It is also home to more than 3,000 species of fish. These are all reasons that urged The World Wide Fund for Nature to make this region a top priority for marine conservation.
Kapalai Island is one of the most representative Malaysian diving destinations. It is called an island, but is in fact a big sandbar situated on the Ligitan Reef. It used to be a real island that’s now reduced to sea level due to erosion over the last few hundred years. There is a resort with beautiful villas built on stilts and there are no beaches – as if made exclusively for diving! In the diving circles, it is considered to be one of the premier macro dive sites in the world. Dive sites are reachable by boat or simply by swimming. If you feel adventurous, you should head out to the House Reef dive site, where you can find three small but closely clustered fishing boats at the bottom of the reef slope at about 18 meter depth. Carefully observe the boat’s corners and you’ll see camouflaged stonefish. If you are an experienced diver, you should visit Mid Reef and search for pygmy seahorses hidden among the branches of the coral reef. Frog fish, leaf fish and rare mandarin fish are also there to ensure the feeling of diving into a macro paradise.
If you are more of a diving recluse, Layang Layang is the right place for you. There are only three things to do there – eat, sleep and dive! It is an atoll seven kilometers long and two kilometers wide and it used to be an active marine base. Diving surroundings are truly splendid – corals are in pristine condition and the water is untouched. If you’ve set your mind to find yourself face to face with a leopard shark, a gray reef or a white tip shark this is a dive spot to be! All of them are commonly seen and, if you are truly lucky, you will also have a personal encounter with a famous hammerhead shark.
If, on the other hand, you prefer muck diving, you should opt for Mabul – muddy sediment, dead coral skeletons, diving among discarded fishing equipment and much more is what awaits there. If you prefer lagoons, pay attention to the Maratua island, a large island with a lagoon. There you can see huge schools of barracuda and sense the tornado they make as they swiftly change direction. If that is not enough, grey and white-tip sharks are just waiting to be seen and photographed.
Last but definitely not least, something that is a once in a lifetime experience is the Turtle Tomb underneath the column of the Sipadan island. Head on over to discover skeletal remains of turtles as this hair-raising but awe-inspiring experience is often considered to be the pinnacle of Malaysian scuba diving.