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Perhentian Besar - (Big Perhentian)


The biggest of the Perhentian islands is Perhentian Besar. Around the island there are plenty of excellent dive sites.

The following descriptions are from Anuar Abdullah, a local diver who has been diving for more than 20 years in east and west Malaysia, has logged more then 6000 dives and knows Perhentian by heart.

Tukas Laut (Tanjung Tukas)

Type: Fringing Reef/
Submerged Reed
Popularity Rating 3 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 26 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 1.0 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef and Marine Life (Fish mostly)

Tukas Laut or also called Tukas Point is a dive site located on the southeastern tip of Pulau Perhentian Besar. At Tukas Laut, the reef extends seaward with some rocky outcrop forming an arm from the headland.  Branching corals colonize the upper reef slope and the fore reef consists of scattered coral heads. The rubbles are covered with funnel weeds line at the fore reef areas. The reef crest consists of rubble and sand.  Further down the cliff and by the headland is a rocky outer reef.  This area consists of large boulders surrounded by sandy bottom.

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Out on the sandy areas is where one can find the Saddleback Anemone fish (Amphiprion polymnus). This species of anemone fish lives in the sandy area within the safety of its host the Haddon's Sea Anemone (Heteractis haddoni). When threatened, this anemone fish seeks refuge inside the gut of its host.

This behavior is unique as compared to other species of anemone fishes that retreat only to the safety of the tentacles of its host. 

Occasionally, Black tip reef sharks can often be seen in the shallow reef top as well as at the outer reef areas.  Banded pipefish and nudibranch can be found on the outer reef.  Demon stingers and scorpion fish are found on the patches of rubble beds along the reef crest.  Schools of fusiliers congregate at the open water areas of the reef crest as well as at the outer reef.

on the boat ready to diveConditions are generally calm inside Tukas bay where divers enter and/or exit from dives.  Underwater currents can be strong around the corner of the headland and at the outer reef.  Underwater visibility at this site is unpredictable.  It can be crystal clear in the bay and murky at the outer reef or just the opposite.  Factors known to affect visibility at this site are tide, surface conditions and time of the year.  Best visibility that has been encountered at this site is in February and March.

Diving in Tukas Point can be planned in several ways.  Dives normally begin inside the bay and proceeds outward to the headland and outer reef.  Divers may opt to go along the headland and end their dive on the other side of the bay.  They can also choose to return into the bay at the end of the dive if underwater currents are favorable in that direction.

Either way the dives will end with a safety stop at the shallow reef slopes on both sides of the headland. During an ebbing tide and when currents are strong, a drift dive can be planned at this site.

In this case divers will be deployed at the tip of the headland and the dive proceeds with a drift that begins from the outer reef. Divers have mixed opinion regarding dives at this site.  However, Tukas Point is as good as any other dive sites in Perhentian given that the dives are planned and made during right conditions.

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Tiger Rock - Terumbu Tiga - T3

Type: Undersea Pinnacle
Popularity Rating 5 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 22 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 3.3 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef and Marine Life (Fish mostly)

Terumbu Tiga, also known as Tiger Rock or T3, refers to one most popular dive sites in Perhentian.  It is a granite pinnacle located on the seaward side of Pulau Perhentian Besar.  Stacks of gigantic sized boulders form an overhang, swim through, crevices and bedrocks that make a heaven for scuba divers. A diversity of marine life is also packed into this underwater paradise.  Be it fish or macro life or a sand community, they are in abundant.

Predatory fish like Barracudas, Trevallies and Black tip reef sharks are often seen around this pinnacle. Coral fish inhabit the shallower side on the west side.  Macro organisms like shrimps, pipefish and nudibranch can be found on the coral ledges, crevices and overhangs.

The sand community consists of gobies, shrimps, sea cucumbers and several species of shellfish which inhabit the sandy bottom on the seaward side.  On occasions there is a school of Humphead parrotfish grazing on corals at this site.  Even the crown of thorns starfish at this site houses some species of shrimps.

Scattered rocks on the outer edges of the pinnacle support trees of black coral, spiral whips and gorgonians.  Patches of sea whips can be found in sandy areas to the south of the pinnacle.  Seafans, tube corals and wire corals thrive on the sides of overhangs and rocky cliffs.  Bedrocks and boulders on the west side are filled with staghorn and table corals.

Beyond the pinnacle on the west side is a reef flat that is densely colonized by branching coral species. The reef flat is linked to a smaller pinnacle called Anak Terumbu Tiga or Baby Tiger Rock, which is considered a separate dive site.

Diving at Terumbu Tiga begins at the mooring line on the seaward side. The dive proceeds around the pinnacle, beginning at the deepest point and spiraling up towards the entry point. This establishes a multi-level dive profile that prolongs allowable bottom time. One has to do several dives to fully appreciate diving at Terumbu Tiga.

Direction and areas covered on a dive dictate that not a single dive at Terumbu Tiga is the same as the one before. A dive master may choose to explore the sandy bottom and end the dive at the shallower reefs, others may want to explore the overhangs and the swim-through for macro organisms. One can go around the reef in a clockwise direction while others prefer just the opposite.

All dives have different perspectives and experiences. Underwater currents and visibility change quite often at this site. Check on tidal streams and water clarity before diving. Have an alternate site in mind when planning a dive a Terumbu Tiga. The best and nearest one is at Anak Terumbu Tiga.  Day dives or night dives, when conditions are right, Perhentian Besar's Terumbu Tiga is always a diver™s paradise.

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Anak Terumbu Tiga

Type: Fringing Reef, shallow water pinnacle
Popularity Rating 3 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 14 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 3.5 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef, Marine Life, macro organisms and sand community

A small offshore pinnacle on the east side of Terumbu Tigais a dive site that offers easy access, good coral cover and plenty of marine life. Much smaller than Terumbu Tiga and located in close proximity to that prominent site, it is called Anak Terumbu Tiga, which means ˜Baby Terumbu Tiga™.

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Shark Point and Karang Kapal (Teluk Dalam)

Type: Fringing Reef/
Submerged Reed
Popularity Rating 4 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 14 meters or 20 meters depending on your dive plan
Distance from Perhentian Besar 0.15 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef Marine Life /Fish and Sand community

In the outer corner on the west side of Teluk Dalam south of Perhentian Besar, there are a couple of coral lagoons with fringing reefs that reach into the sandy bottom. This area is called ˜Shark Point™ and was said to be the place to observe sharks in the past.

Today there are still a few sharks to be seen in the shallows, especially when one goes snorkeling there. The fringing reef begins at just 3 meters of water at the edge of the rocky headland that separates the two lagoons. The gentle reef slope widens out seaward to the reef crest that starts at 8 meters. Perhentian island

The reef crest is littered with coral rubble that fades out into a white sandy bottom. Patches of sea whips colonize the areas at the tip of the headland. Further and deeper into the bay is a submerged bank reef known as Karang Kapal, which means ˜Ship Reef™, where remains of a shipwreck are scattered just 50 meters north of the reef.

A dense cover of coral life, including branching, tabulate and foliateous types can be seen on the reef top.  Massive corals, like the porites, line the front reef edges. Reef fish are abundant. Slingjaw wrasse, parrotfish, damsels and even a school of striped sea pike make their home at this reef.  Macro organisms can be found on the front reef. Demon stingers, shrimp gobies, many species of shellfish and the saddleback anemone fish inhabit the sandy bottom. Blue spotted stingrays seem to actively feed on shellfish and crustaceans on the rubble beds.

Shark Point is one of the easiest dive sites in Perhentian and Perhentian Besar in particular. Diving there is possible in all conditions. It is also one of the most frequented night diving spots. Tidal streams and longshore currents always drift towards the ocean. Diving begins in the inner lagoon inside the bay and proceeds with the stream into the outer lagoon. For the safety of divers and snorkellers, a string of safety floats is installed along the outer edges of the two lagoons. It is recommended that all divers who dive at this site enter and exit the water within the safety of the protective line.

Owing to the close proximity to most dive shops in the bay at Teluk Dalam, this site is regularly used as a training area. Ideal conditions throughout the season make Shark Point one of the most popular sites in Perhentian. A mooring line is also available at Karang Kapal to facilitate dive entry. Dives can also begin at this site and end inside the Shark Point safety zone.  Black coral colonizes the bank reefs.

Anemone shrimps, Cleaner shrimps and pipefish can be found on the sandy areas around Karang Kapal. The combination of these two sites makes diving here interesting.

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Teluk Pauh

Type: Lagoon and Fringing Reef
Popularity Rating 2 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 14 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 0.2 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef Marine Life 

In the channel on the west side of Perhentian Besar, there is rocky bank just outside the bay at Teluk Pauh. Surrounding the bank is a shallow reef slope that ends on a sandy bottom in just 14 meters of water.

This site is accessible by shore as well as by boat. The shallow sandy shoreline is an ideal training area. Corals sparsely colonize scattered rocks along the sides of the rocky bank. Density of coral covers increases deeper down the slope.  More scattered rocks and coral heads line the fore reef and the reef crest.

Beyond that are patches of rubble bed is seen along reef crest especially in areas down stream. Further down the slope and the seabed consist of white coral sand. The bank lies perpendicular to the channel choking the tidal streams making the flow more intense here as compared to other sites.  Large boulders that made up the bank stood up with their topside breaching the surface.

On its sides are mussels, barnacles and zigzag oysters and trees of Seafan fit in between. Schools of sergeant major, crescent tails and rabbit fish swarm the upper reef. Blue spotted stingrays can be seen feeding on mollusks on the rubble bed. Great barracudas and black tip reef sharks patrols the open waters. Needlefish congregates at the surface. 

Several species of shellfish inhabit the sandy seabed. Perhentian Besar's Teluk Pauh is a site suitable for fun dives as well as training dives. The shallower side of the reef is ideal for introductory scuba programs. Ideal time for diving at Teluk Pauh is during slack tide. This site is dived by divers from dive centers nearby but not as popular among other centers which are further away from the site.

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Tiga Ruang

Type: Reef sloping gradually to sandy bottom
Popularity Rating 1.5 star
Dive Profile Square Profile
Maximum Depth 12 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 2.4 Nautical Miles
Latitude 05°54.821N
Longitude 102°40.680E
Attraction Reef Marine Life, Sand Community 

Tiga Ruang is located on the northwestern side of Pulau Perhentian Besar just south of Tanjung Basi. It is a shallow dive site that consists of scattered coral heads on sandy bottom. 

Staghorn and Table Corals colonized the shallower reef slope that ends at the reef crest just in 8 to 10 meters of water.  Massive Brain and Boulder Corals scattered along the reef edge.  Beyond that is flat sandy bottom that extends into the South China Sea.

Diving at this site begins and ends inside the shelter of the bay. It is best to mark the entry and exit point with surface markers. This will signal other boats that there are divers in underneath. 

diving perhentianOnce underwater it is important to stay low and maintain buoyancy. The entire dive time is spent under regular boating lane. Return to the surface marker buoy at the end of the dive. Otherwise, deploy a safety sausage prior to final ascent to the surface.

This is a good site to observe reef fishes, as there are plentiful of coral reef dwellers. Shrimp gobies and dragonets can be found in the sandy areas.  Shellfish found in the sandy bottom includes pencil shells and auger shells.  On some occasion the Queen Helmet Shells can also be found there.

Further into the sandy area is a habitat that harbors Tree Anemones, the Saddleback Anemone fish (Amphiprion polymnus) and Sea Hares.

Underwater currents at this site differ from Tanjung Basi. On a flooding tide the stream drifts from north to south into the channel between Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kechil. On an ebbing tide it is just the opposite. It is always best to dive with the tidal stream. 

Tiga Ruang is a good site for beginners as well as experienced divers especially when visibility at deeper site is poor. It is also an excellent site for dive training at Perhentian Besar.

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Tanjung Basi

Type: Fringing Reef
Popularity Rating 4 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 22 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 3.5 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef and Marine Life

In the early days when the islanders were harvesting turtle eggs around these islands, they went from beach to beach on their sampan (a small skiff). They would paddle the sampan from the village to all the beaches starting with the ones on the seaward side like Pasir Pinang Seribu.

The journey was long and strenuous. They would normally take food with them and worked all day. The process of paddling and extracting their harvest was lengthy and tiring. By the time they reached the northern headland, the food they carried would normally turned stale. The word ˜basi™ in Malay literally means ˜stale food™. Therefore, they named this cape ˜Tanjung Basi™.

Tanjung Basi is located at the northern tip of Pulau Perhentian Besar. Just like Tanjung Butung, this site is an extension of a rocky headland that stretches out into the sea at a maximum depth of 22 meters. Large granite boulders make up most of the seaward landscape. The steep rocky formation gradually levels into a gentle reef slope inside a narrow bay on the west side of the island.

The rocky headland makes up one third of the dive site with crevices and substrate that house a variety of marine life. This includes moray eels and marble groupers. Macro organisms along the rocky landscape include pipefish and nudibranch. The coral reef in the remaining parts of the dive site consists of table corals on the reef top, branching acropora on the reef flats and massive coral heads (porites) on the front reef slope.

Vast areas of rubble on the reef crest are also known as current beds where rubble is deposited into the bay as a result of current eddies that bring in the debris from upstream. This in turn becomes a habitat for shrimp gobies, triggerfish and a few species of shellfish.

Beyond the rubble bed, there are scattered coral heads on a white, sandy bottom. A colony of Yellow Margin Triggerfish nests in the rubble area. Titan Triggerfish are also seen in the area. During the course of a dive these areas should be avoided. Triggerfish attacks can cause panic and add the risk of a rapid ascend.

Mooring forms are laid on the reef crest inside the bay with line and buoy to facilitate the deployment of divers and snorkellers that visit this site on a daily basis. Dives normally begin on the shallow reef slope on the west side at the mooring line.

At ebbing tide, the dive can be planned as a drift dive in moderate currents. A similar plan can also be applied to a flooding tide, as currents rarely drift southward at this site as a result of eddies created by the headlands.

Barracudas and other predatory fish are often sighted in the open water beyond the tip of the headland. On the reef, schools of big eye snappers and turtles are regularly encountered.Yellow margin triggerfish and titan triggerfish make nests in some parts of the rubble bed. Stacks of table coral in the shallower areas of this reef are a spectacular sight. The ideal conditions around Tanjung Basi make this site a popular diving spot in Perhentian.

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Batu Butuk

Type: Rocks, Fringing Reef and Bank Reef
Popularity Rating 3 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 22 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 3.5 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef, Marine Life, sand community, swim-through, macro organisms 

Located just south of Terumbu Tiga this site consists of a granite headland, fringing reef and few bank reefs just off the reef crest. Batu Butuk boasts unique swim through and abundance of macro organisms.

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Batu Layar (Sail Rock) (Tiga Ruang Kecil)

Type: Submerged Bank Reef
Popularity Rating 3.5 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 17 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 3.5 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef, Marine Life and sand community

This dive site is located approximately 400 meters outside the bay at Tiga Ruang Kecil.  It is a shallow water bank reef densely covered with massive and branching coral.  Large boulder corals (Porites) line the slope on the eastern side and branching corals densely populate the west side of the reef.

Scattered coral heads and rocks line the reef crest surrounding the bank. Massive schools of Striped Sea Pikes and Big Eyed Snappers congregate at the reef top, while stingray can be found on the sandy bottom surrounding the reef.

The maximum depth at Sail Rock is 17 meters and the reef top is in 8 meters of water. Curtains of damsel and chromis sway in the tidal stream above coral heads.

Diving at this site proceeds with a decent down the mooring line anchored to a rock just outside the reef.  One circle around this reef takes approximately 25 to 30 minutes and the remaining dive time is spent on the reef top. Sail Rock is a site that displays a spectacular density of coral and fish.

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Special procedures applied when diving at this site includes a quick free descent as there is no buoy line. Despite the fun and excitement offered by this reef, it is rarely dived due to difficulty in locating it. Proper planning and good navigational instruments can help locate Secret Reef. A GPS is an essential instrument to have in locating this dive site. Once the reef is located a shot line must be deployed near the reef to mark its position. Diving can begin by following the shot line to the reef. Without the marker line, divers run a risk of missing the site altogether. Bottom time is limited to decompression obligations, therefore the time spent at depth considerably shorter than usual.

Check also the Perhentian diving map

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