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 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!