Susu Dara Besar - Susu Dara Kechil
Two smaller island north west of Perhentian Kecil, Susu Dara Besar (big) and Susu Dara Kechil (small) are uninhabited but have around a nice set of dive sites.
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The following descriptions are from Anuar Abdullah, a local diver who has been diving for more than 17 years in east and west Malaysia, has logged more then 6000 dives and knows Perhentian by heart.
Temple of the Sea (Tokong Laut) is an offshore pinnacle located 6.3 nautical miles from Pantai Teluk Dalam. It is a premier dive site in the Perhentian Islands. The pinnacle rises from a sandy bottom at 25 meters below the surface. Trees of black coral and gorgonians thrive on the ledges and colorful soft corals dominate the overhangs and cliffs in the shallow areas.
The reef crest consists of stacked boulders with crevices that are shelters for nocturnal species like Nurse Sharks, Bamboo Sharks and Morays. Plankton brought in by the prevailing currents make this an active feeding area for fish like fusiliers, damsels and chromis. These fish attract predatory fishes like barracudas, big eye jacks and trevallies.
Tokong Laut is an excellent dive site. In moderate currents plenty of activity can be found upstream. Closer to the surface, barren rock suggests that it has been regularly battered by oceanic swells from the South China Sea. This can sometimes be observed, as one could feel the surge during safety stops in the proximity of the pinnacle.
Larger pelagic species like barracudas and jacks can be seen in the open waters surrounding the pinnacle. Occasionally, whale sharks can be encountered at this dive site. Macro organisms like shrimps and nudibranch can also be found at this site. The unique topography of this pinnacle, which establishes several zones in the reef structure and its diversity are two reasons all divers have rated this site as the number one site in Perhentian.
Tidal currents affect this dive site as they do at all other sites in Perhentian. Weather also affects current and water movement in Tokong Laut. Stormy weather can cause strong surface currents. Underwater visibility ranges from 5m to well over 25m and it is also seasonal.
Best visibility at this site occurs early in the dry season between March and May with an average of 15 meters. In other months, the visibility changes with weather and tidal conditions. Thermocline, which takes place in the entire South China Sea in July and August, also affects Tokong Laut. At these times, diving should be planned for shallower areas of the pinnacle.
Tokong Burung (Tokong Burung Kechil)
Tokong Burung is a granite pinnacle that is part of the outer islands in Perhentian. It is located between Pulau Susu Dara Kechil and Pulau Rawa. The narrow channels between these islands are areas prone to strong tidal currents. The topography of this pinnacle and the shallow sea surrounding it offer good underwater visibility all year. Diving normally begins on the leeward side (south) of the pinnacle and ends in the channel on the eastern side.
During strong currents, the dive will end on the northern side of the pinnacle following a drift. Dives at Tokong Burung are best during an ebbing tide. At flooding tide, the dive profile should be reversed.
The reef at Tokong Burung consists of a shallow staghorn garden and a gentle slope that reaches the reef crest at 14 meters. At the edge of the reef crest there is loose rubble and a sandy bottom. There are several species of mollusks that can be found here, including the large Queen Helmet Shell (Family Cassidae). The Helmet Shell plows through the sand in search of sea urchin, on which they feed.
Auger Shells belonging to the family Terebridae can also be found at this site. Schools of fusiliers, chromis and damsels can be seen on the reefs. Larger predatory fish that can be found at this reef include barracudas and black-tipped reef sharks.
This site is not as spectacular or diverse when compared to Tokong Laut. Its distance is another thing which makes Tokong Burung less popular. One who dives at this site should look at it in a different perspective. Unlike Tokong Laut, Tokong Burung’s diversity lies mainly in its sand community and reef life. Careful observation reveals wonders at this site.
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.
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Other dive points in Perhentian:
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