After arriving in Kota Kinabalu late on Sunday, we checked into our hotel, The Pacific Sutera which is on the beach at the south end of town, near the airport. The next day I got up early and made my way to Scuba Junkie for a day of diving in the Tunku Rahman Marine Park.
Before arriving I did my research and emailed a few dive operations, finally deciding on Scuba Junkie based on reviews, price and location. All the local KK dive operators run day tours consisting of 2 or 3 dives, with a lunch break at one of the islands in between. As I had just finished my Sidemount course I was keen to get some practice in and Scuba Junkie were able to accommodate me.
I arrived at the Scuba Junkie at 8:30am and we walked down to the wharf, which was about 10 minutes away. There were about 8 customers diving with 4 diving staff, which was a good ratio. I was placed in a group with 3 others and we had 2 dive masters looking after us for the day.
The dive sites are all in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which contains a number of offshore islands, about 15 minutes by boat from the wharf. We arrived at our first dive site, called North Sulug and were quick to get into the water, which was a nice warm 26 degrees.
Straight away my dreams of crystal clear tropical water were dashed. With the islands close to both the mainland and a large Asian city, the sites can be affected by runoff from rivers and stormwater drains, and unfortunately today was one of those days.
The visibility was around 10 metres, with a fair bit of silt in the water, so wide angle vistas were out of the question. Luckily the marine park is famous for its macro muck diving, so I changed over my wide-angle dome for my new Subsee +10 macro lens and took a few shots.
We got down to around 20 metres on our first dive, averaging 14 metres over the 56 minute dive. Afterwards we took a break on nearby Pulau Sulug, an uninhabited island with a nice beach.
Our second dive was at a site named Barracuda Bonanza. The water was much clearer this time, with up to 15 meters horizontal visibility at times. Using my wide angle dome I captured some nice reef vistas, but although we saw some barracuda, they stayed mostly in the distance, out of camera range.
On this dive we were escorted to a small artificial reef consisting of some tractor tyres. There were a number of macro creatures living within they tyres including some colourful Banded Coral Shrimp.
This dive was the best of the three for me. Here the maximum depth was 18 metres, with an average of 12 metres over the 53 minute dive.
Kota Kinabalu Muck Diving
After the second dive we docked at Pulau Mamutik, where we spent 90 minutes having lunch and relaxing. It was a beautiful location, as you can see from the the picture below. It was crowded though, with lots of visiting groups of snorkelers and tourists enjoying the sun and water.
Lunch was included with a few basic rice and noodle dish choices. Servings were large and tasted great.
The last dive was just off the island at a site called Turtle Reef. There were no turtles and the vis was very poor, under 3 metres at times, though it got better towards the end of the dive. On this dive we saw a lion fish and sting rays.
Although conditions were not as great as I had hoped, I still had an enjoyable time diving off Kota Kinabalu and would recommend Scuba Junkie as a professional and friendly team to dive with. I did learn there is better diving in the vicinity and will arrange my next trip to Mabul which has access to the renowned Sipadan Island.
Check out my dive log for these three dives here.. Kota-dive-log.pdf
Tropical Beach on Pulau Mamutik
Exploring the Artificial Reef
Shrimp Hiding in the Tyres
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