Labas, Tiger Reef, Golden Reef…

July – September 2011

PADI Divemaster Journey – Part 4

Tioman Island, Malaysia

Other dive sites in the vicinity include Pirate Reef, Malang Rock, One Tree Bay and Kador Bay. Pirate Reef has artificial reefs sponsored by DHL, and its quite amusing to see the DHL logo plaques on the artificial reef structures there. Malang rock and the other sites are more of less similar, with some rocky floors and some coral life. Not too much of aquatic life, its not much frequented by the dive shops and is usually covered by divers to build up experience and looking for a change from the usual. Depths in all these sites are roughly between 14 – 18 mts and is good for open water beginner divers and advanced divers. Malang rock is also a snorkeling hot spot and most times its just as crowded with holidaying snorkelers like Marine Park.

About a 75 minute boat ride away are the island of Labas and Sepoi. Around the islands are dive sites for the more experienced divers. First of these is Tiger Reef and Golden Reef are very close to each other. The current on the surface is very strong, and you can feel the difference even as you approach the islands. The sea is very choppy and it requires a bit of experience to quickly descend as soon as you hit the water, otherwise you will be pulled away by the current before you know it. Using the line is very essential here, and after about 8-9 mts, the descend become more relaxed and you slowly go down to about 18 mts. The beauty of the rock formations and the coral is quite astounding, with many varieties of both hard and soft coral spreading out on the sea floor. There are lot of fire coral which when seen from the surface gives a golden glow to the water, the reason for it being named Golden reef.

Just a little beyond the reef is one of the most spectacular dive sites in Tioman, the island of Labas. Here you have the incredible experience of going through natural openings in between the rock formations, or what you call ‘swim-throughs’. The depth is not very much, just around 12 mts, but the reason it needs experience is that you need to have excellent buoyancy control, to swim through the passageways with rocks on either sides and a couple of instances of overhead environments. You will also need a very experienced guide who knows his way around the many twists and turns almost like a small maze, which may be quite intimidating for a first timer, but after a few dives, its becomes familiar. Labas also has a variety of aquatic life, and many times there have been large schools of fishes, sometimes fairly large yellow tailed barracudas also being sighted. The experience of Labas is unlike any other dive site in Tioman, and gives you quite a thrill. For those interested in macro, and nudibranchs, the steep walls of the rock formations have many different varieties of them. I have also actually seen them move here, doing their slow sweeping dance movement, almost like a sweep of a dancer’s skirt. Those with cameras can have a field day here, there is just so much to capture. Labas undoubtedly is the cream of the dive spots in Tioman, and well worth the long boat ride, and the whole day trip.

Over the course of nearly 30 dive days, I completed about 50 dives, covering most sites more than once. Unfortunately, due to the fasting season, it was not feasible to go to the more far away dive spots of Chebeh in the east side and Jahat and Lighthouse down south. These are relatively the lesser explored dive spots and hopefully I will get to dive there soon.

The month or so of island style living was a remarkable experience, which stayed with me for a long time, often wishing to be back in Tioman. I did travel back as often as I could, and it was great to be seeing the familiar faces again. Funny was a great instructor who was so known for her toughness, that at her age of 50 odd-years, she would still carry not one but two tanks all the way to the boat jetty. A lot of my training and initial dive skills was with much thanks to Funny. That was a great couple of months where I was lucky to have both diving and my design work going on, so I did not actually loose out on anything.