Dive 197: Eel Gardens, Pulau Mabul (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:48:00
Max depth:  20.7 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  10 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  02:46:00

Our last dive of the day was back at Mabul but this time on the other side of the island.  As our boat neared the site, we sped right past a bloke way out from the island with just a snorkel and a weight belt.  We circled back to check whether he was OK and he signalled as such – what an idiot though, being so far out from the reef and the island without any sort of marker or high visibility life jacket.

There was a slight current for this dive, so it was a nice cruisy ride going with the flow.  We saw a few different nudibranch varieties, some sort of crustacean with big oval googly eyes protruding from its shell, a couple of turtles swimming up to the surface for air, and I even saw a blue-spotted ray well inside a hole after seeing a giveaway puff of sand (however when i went to point it out to Jose, the ray was so far inside the hole that we couldn’t see it at all and Jose must’ve thought I was imagining things!)

On our safety stop, the German couple in our group spotted a giant cuttlefish and started giving chase to get a photo, but the cuttlefish was clearly feeling very threatened as it kept swimming backwards at the same pace that the Germans were advancing on it.  All the while, it was changing colour as it was passing over sand and then coral – absolutely fascinating – and its tentacles were raising up in anticipation of an attack (or a defense?).  Jose also spotted a zebra eel in a hole right in the middle of a large soft coral, its head popping out occasionally to peer at us.

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Dive 196: Great Wall, Pulau Kapalai (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:49:00
Max depth:  16.2 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  6 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  01:35:00

This site was just further along the reef than Midreef, where we dived yesterday.  There are lots of outcrops of rock with tonnes of growth all over them, so it  was a matter of examining each one for signs of life.

We saw a juvenile blue ribbon eel that is mostly black in colour.  The DM, Alvin, somehow had speared a small fish onto his pointer and waved it in front of the eel to entice it to come out of its hiding hole.  As it came out to grab the fish, we probably saw almost the length of its body before it quickly retreated with its catch back into the hole.  Jose found a massive spotted eel in a hole, and although I could see its body and even its tail in writhing around in the hole I couldn’t find its head poking out anywhere.

There were a few nudibranch sightings, a blue-spotted ray, an octopus hiding under a rock that couldn’t even be enticed to come out and ink when Alvin poked it with his pointer, a few varieties of anenome fish, quite a few shrimp waving their long white antennae around, a small school of around 6 coral shrimp fish swimming away in their peculiar vertically upside down style, and a crocodile fish resting on the bottom underneath a sea fan.

Dive 195: Old House Reef, Pulau Mabul (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:49:00
Max depth:  18.6 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  6 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  17:17:00

This site is a bit like the Kapalai house reefs but off Mabul Island and are really huge structures weighted down with heavy rocks on a sandy bottom with no coral growth at all.  Some of the reefs are teepee-shaped, some are just one massive cube of rock and wood, and others are big stacked cube structures around 5 cubes high.

The reefs attract an amazing amount of marine life, from little critters on the structures to an enormous school of jacks that were school above and around them.  There were a good few thousand fish in the school, just one big silvery swirl that was pulsing in and out and around like it had a life of its own!

On the structures themselves, we saw a few crocodile fish, nudis, a well camouflaged brown and green leaf fish, a tiny pipe fish, and at the top of one of the largest structures was a large rust-coloured frog fish that had bits of growth over it looking exactly like a bit of sponge!  The DM, Alvin, poked it with his pointer and the frog fish showed its awkward hopping movement, slowly hopping from one part of the structure to another.  Amazing study in the curiosities of marine life!

Our ascent and safety stop was done right next to the massive school of jacks – so cool!

Dive 194: Midreef, Pulau Kapalai (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:44:00
Max depth:  20.1 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  6 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  03:30:00

It was a very short boat ride just out to the edge of the reef from where the resort is located.  The reef stretches out quite far, but we went really slowly along the reef looking for little critters.

One of the Dutch guys found a tiny little shrimp that was less than 1cm long and completely indistinguishable from the whip coral that it was sitting on except that it would move when it was poked with a pointer.  Amazing that he spotted it!

We also saw quite a few different varieties of nudibranchs, including two that were stuck together in the throes of mating or something, a little hairy squat lobster on a big broad barrel coral, an octopus hiding in its hole, and I even found a tiny translucent shrimp on a fan although after I turned around to find someone else to show it to, I couldn’t find that little shrimp again.  Doh.

At the safety stop, we saw some small bumpheaded parrot fish, and apparently there was a massive turtle as well but unfortunately it swam away before I got to see it!

Dive 193: Lobster Rock, Pulau Si Amil (Malaysia)

Dive time:  00:43:00
Max depth:  25.0 metres
Temperature:  29 C
Visibility:  10 metres
Buddy:  Jose
Surface interval:  01:01:00

We had yet another amazing macro dive here on Si Amil, with Alvin finally finding a pygmy sea horse on a fan – they are just so tiny and so well camouflaged that it takes an eagle eye to see them on the big fans!  (Clearly not in the realm of my abilities!!)

Again, there was absolutely no current so it was just a really chilled out relaxing dive critter-hunting.  We also saw 4 ornate ghost pipe fish floating around one outcrop of rock – amazingly beautiful things, a family of three little squat shrimp, a little banded pipehorse, and a blue ribbon eel.  Jose also found what looked like a colourful coral lobster that was trying to  scurry off to another hiding hole.

I also saw about 3 curious looking coral shrimp fish, all swaying and swimming vertically upside down in unison.  Very strange!