Perhentian Kecil - (Little Perhentian)
The second Perhentian island is Perhentian Kecil, here too people have set foot on the wall. Plenty of hotels are settled here. Around the island you will find another great set of dive sites.
On the northern tip of Pulau Perhentian Kechil there are two dive sites divided by an extended rocky headland that forms a deep bay in the east and a shallow bay in the west. On the north side, the reef is called Tanjung Butung and on the south side there is another site called Teluk Panglima Abu.
Dives can be done at the fringing reef on both sides of the rocks. Further out and upstream is where piles of boulders have formed an outer reef. The outer reef is home to Brown Marble Groupers. Boulder corals line the front part of the reef slope that reaches down to the reef crest at a depth of 14 meters.
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Staghorn and table corals fill the upper reef. Beyond the reef crest, the bottom consists of scattered coral heads and rubble formed on a current bed. Deeper on the sandy bottom are whip corals and harp corals.
The outer reef begins at a depth of 16 meters and ends at 24. Seafans, harp corals and wire corals colonize the deeper end of the outer reef. A school of Humphead Parrotfish grazing on the corals can be seen during early morning dives at this site.
Predatory fish like Great barracuda and Queen fish can be encountered in the open waters of the outer reef. At the tip of the headland at Tanjung Butung there is a steep slope of granite boulders. Macro organisms like nudibranch and cleaner shrimps can be found on this rocky substrate. Remnants of a Thai fishing boat are scattered in the shallow bay of Teluk Panglima Abu. Debris like metal shafts, trawler nets and ropes lay strewn on the bottom.
Diving at Tanjung Butung begin at a buoy line on the leeward side. The dive proceeds with a descent down the gentle slope to the reef crest. The outer reef is just a 10-minute swim from the buoy line. Southerly streams from a flooding tide drift directly into the bay at Tanjung Butung. During this time, eddies form on the west side in Teluk Panglima Abu and the currents actually flows northward.
At this time, plans can be made for a dive that enters at Teluk Panglima Abu and exits inside the bay at Tanjung Butung. The advantage of diving at this site is that alternate plans can easily be made. In case the visibility at deeper areas is poor, the dive can still proceed in the shallower reef slope along Tanjung Butung and Teluk Panglima Abu. These sites are popular with divers in the Perhentian. Tanjung Butung is more popular compared to Teluk Panglima Abu.
Just outside the bay at Pasir Panjang (Long Beach), there is a site that consists of a fringing reef, scattered coralheads and a rocky outer reef. The fringing reef begins at the intertidal areas with a gentle slope that reaches its crest at twelve meters below the surface.
On the front reef are boulders of porites, brain corals and patches of branching acropora. Table corals stretch toward sunlight in the shallow reef tops just under the tidal zone. At the cape outside the bay, the reef slope extends outward to an outer reef.
Beyond the reef crest, there is a white sandy bottom and beds of whip corals. Shellfish like spider conches, tiger cowries, auger shells and murexes can be found at this site. Several species of ray also can be found at this dive site. Scorpion fish and Demon Stingers can be seen on the reef crest.
The outer reef consists of boulders and crevices which are home to Hingebeak shrimps and Jann’s pipefish. A moray is often seen sheltering in the crevices.
On night dives, squid, decorator crabs and cuttlefish can be seen at this site. Batu Nisan is accessible both by boat and by shore. A mooring line nearer to the outer reef makes diving at this site easier, when compared to shore dives. Shore entry for a dive to Batu Nisan requires considerable swimming out to the reef slope, which is approximately 80 meters off the beach.
Special precaution must be taken when diving at this site because part of the reef is right below the main boating lane. Divers wishing to dive at this site should at least be equipped with a safety sausage that can be deployed from 5 meters below the surface. Another safety plan includes getting the dive boat to fly the ‘diver down’ flag and constantly stay in the vicinity of divers.
On the west side of Pulau Perhentian Kechil, just off the shores of Pantai Teluk Aur, is a submerged bank reef called the Seabell. It is situated on a gentle sandy slope with a maximum depth of 16 meters. Scattered rocks and Sea Whips surround Seabell.
Between the granite bank and the sandy bottom there are patches of rubble beds. Spiral whips, sea whips, harp corals and wire corals colonize the shallower reef crest on the northern side. The colony covers vast areas that are linked to another dive site known as the lighthouse reef. Black coral thrives on the scattered boulders on the southern tip of the bank reef in the deepest part.
On the reef top there are porites, table corals and staghorn corals. Seafan are attached to the side of the cliffs upstream. Leaf oysters, Zigzag oysters and Thorny oysters also colonize the sides of the boulders.
Snappers, Coral Groupers and Barracudas can be seen on this reef regularly. Damsels and chromis are abundant. Yellow back fusiliers and bar tailed fusiliers can be seen in the open water.
Boxfish and Puffer fish inhabit the scattered rocks surrounding the bank reef. Blue-spotted stingray are more abundant at this site than at any other site in Perhentian. Macro organisms like nudibranch and flat worms can be found both on the reef as well as in the sandy areas. A white pipefish that mimics the sea whips is also seen in the sea whip garden.
A typical dive plan at Seabell includes a descent down the mooring line located at the southern tip of the bank reef. A multi-level profile can be achieved by beginning the dive at the deepest part of the reef and circling up to the reef top in a spiral profile.
The depth on the tip of the tallest rock on this reef is in eight meters of water. It is located just fifteen meters to the west of the mooring line. The dive ends with a safety stop at the mooring line. When currents are swift, the alternate ascent plan should include a free ascent on a drift at the end of the dive.
In that case, a safety sausage is an important item to carry for a dive at Seabell. Some form of surface marker should be used in all dives in the Perhentian Islands, as there are many boats passing over all dive sites. An alternate dive plan can also be employed when diving here.
During an ebbing tide when the current drifts towards north, a dive can begin at Seabell and end at the Lighthouse reef with respect to the currents. Both topography and conditions around Seabell, which allow for flexible dive plans, are reasons why many dive masters favor this site.
The headland to the north just outside Teluk Kerma is littered with stacked boulders forming a beautiful landscape underwater. Just off the reef and further down the slope are scattered boulders called Karang Kerma Laut. It literally means the ‘seaward reef of Kerma’.
Granite boulders of immense size and varied shapes make up the bulk of the entire dive site. On it greenish tinges of algae growth that consist of funnel weeds and sea grapes. Sporadically cat’s tail, wire corals and Seafan decorates the walls of the boulders.
Surrounding the reef is clean white sand bottom. This dive site faces the opening of the channel between Perhentian Kechil and Perhentian Besar and therefore it is blessed with the nutrient rich water that floods daily in from the South China Sea.
Fusiliers and other plankton feeding fishes can be seen schooling just above the reef. This activity invites predatory fishes like trevallies and barracudas. On the bottom and on the algae rich substrates there are many species of mollusks and sea cucumbers. Cliffs and walls on the rocks are home to a variety of nudibranch.
Cracks and crevices in the boulders became cleaning stations the hosts a variety of symbiotic cleaners like the Jann’s pipefish (Doryramphus jannsii). Most conspicuous of the cleaner species that can be found here is a cleaner shrimp (Urocardidella antonbrunii). Sea whips provide elevation to the feather stars that feeds on nutrient brought in by the prevailing currents. On careful observation feather stars too become shelter to a few species of shrimps and crabs.
Diving at Kerma Laut is similar to most other sites that have a connecting headland, fringing reef and an outer reef. A mooring line attached to the outer most rock also facilitates deployment of divers. At the bottom the dive can proceed from the outer reef and to end at the fringing reef slopes. Special precaution must be practiced when diving at this dive site as it is located under the most prominent boating lane.
Divers should be escorted at all time by the dive boat and on the final ascent from dives deployment of safety sausage is necessary. Boating accident that involves divers rarely occur, but it is always best to prevent it from happening.
Water movement affects Kerma Laut in two ways. One is the daily rise and fall of tide that causes a change in currents. Second is that larger swells occurs with the change in the weather. Underwater visibility depends on water movement, tide and time of year.
Karang Selat (Secret Reef)
Congregation of fishes in big schools is what attracts many experienced divers to this dive site. Secret reef is located in between Pulau Perhentian Kechil and Pulau Rawa.
It is a small deep water bank reef that is lined with healthy black coral and gorgonian. Bottom substrates surrounding this site consist of course sand and rubble. The reef consists of granite boulders jutting from the bottom at 28 meters to its tip at 24 meters.
The entire reef is in fact made up of scattered boulders with crevices that shelter a variety of nocturnal fishes. Common species found at this site are Bamboo Sharks and Nurse Sharks. Few species of moray eels can also be found at this reef.
Deep water species like the Plain Tailed Lionfish (Pterois ruselli) can also be found at this site. Schools of fusiliers can be encountered in the open water just above the reef. Occasionally schooling batfish can also be seen. Larger species like barracudas and jacks patrols the outer areas of the reef and can be seen when visibility permits.
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.
The best time to dive at Secret Reef is between the months of February and April. This is when visibility is at its best. Thermocline exists during other times especially in the hotter months.
This causes an increase of algae known as phyto-plankton that thrives as a result of elevated photosynthesis activity. It affects water visibility at Secret Reef as well as other dive sites in the area. Besides visibility, water movements also impose a challenge to divers. Always plan a dive at Secret Reef when the tide is slack.