Wreck diving in Malaysia

Wreck diving is something special. On the Malaysian west coast, Pangkor, Pulau Sembilan, or even Pulau Payar we have not the possibility to do some wreck diving. However, at Perhentian island, there are two wrecks available. These wrecks are merely for reef diving then real wreck diving.

Is it therefore less interesting? No way! The wreck is an artificial reef with everything you expect you can find. It always amazes what garbage of humans left in the ocean, is in another way taken back, or should I say, taken back, by the sea.

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For more serious wreck diving we have to go to Bali. But let's have a look at Perhentian first.

The following descriptions are from Anuar Abdullah, a local diver who has been diving for 2 decades in east and west Malaysia, has logged more then 6000 dives and knows Perhentian by heart.

Vietnamese Wreck

Type: Man-made (artificial reef)
Popularity Rating 3.5 star
Dive Profile Single Square Profile
Maximum Depth 12 meters
Distance from Perhentian Besar 2.5 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef, Marine Life, Macro Organisms

There are no records of when and why exactly this ship sank.  The only fact that locals can recall is that it is Vietnamese. The wreck is a twin-screw landing craft that was used by Vietnamese refugees to flee and find freedom from the tyranny of communism in their country in the 1980's. 

She found her final resting place under 22 meters of water on a sandy bottom. She lays turned turtle with all her superstructure broken apart and sunken in the soft sand. Some parts of her starboard hull structure have fallen apart, leaving a large opening for divers to swim through.

Now after many years on the ocean floor, she supports a huge variety of marine life. Bivalves make up most of the sides and overhangs on the wreck. Soft coral, Seafans and gorgonians cover the upper part of the structure.

Clownfish at PerhentianGenerations of dead clams and mussels have dropped to the bottom forming a rubble bed in the surrounding area. The rubble bed is home to stonefish, scorpion fish and several species of nudibranch. 

Barracudas are often seen under the overhanging parts of the hull, which has been eaten up by corrosion. Big eye snappers and chromis swarm the upper side of the wreck. Reef fish like Blue ring angelfish and butterfly fish can also be found on this wreck. 

Several species of boxfish and puffers are part of the long list of fish that inhabit the Vietnamese Wreck. Tidal and sea conditions affect visibility at this dive site.  Surface and underwater currents can be strong.  Best diving normally occurs just moments before slack tide. 

A mooring line is attached to the starboard propeller shaft and it is used as a descent line for divers. Pieces of debris can be found on the stern side of the wreck. On occasion there is a leopard shark that visits the wreck and the surrounding areas. Special precautions are required when diving at this wreck.

As almost the entire dive is spent at or near the bottom; the dives are normally regarded as ‘square profile’ where decompression obligations and air consumption must be closely monitored. This wreck is located just minutes to the southwest of Perhentian Kechil and is one of the most popular diving sites.

Sugar Wreck

Type: Man-made (artificial reef)
Popularity Rating 5 star
Dive Profile Multi-level
Maximum Depth 18 meters 
Distance from Perhentian Besar 4.7 Nautical Miles
Attraction Reef, Marine Life/Fish 

Sugar Wreck is a sunken freighter located just off the shores of Kuala Besut, west of Perhentian Kecil. A cardinal buoy marks her resting place. She lays in 18 meters of water on her starboard, her bow pointing northeast and parts of her gentry cranes and cargo hatches strewn on the bottom in the vicinity.

Richard Sills wrote us:

"We have just been informed that there are plans to remove the sugar wreck in the water of Perhentian islands. The plan is to remove it for salvage of scrap metal. This is pointless as the wreck has been down there for 9 years and any metal left would not be useable to salvage. I am trying to raise awareness about this and seeing if there is anyone that could help me put a stop to it."

You can help Richard, write to:
sills.richard AT gmail.com

Sugar Wreck sank in the monsoon of 1999. Being recent, the wreck harbors little marine growth, but fish are abundant. The tidal stream affects diving at this site. Diving at the wreck is best during a new moon. At this time, tidal changes are insignificant, causing little or no currents. Visibility also improves as there is no stir up.

A large school of juvenile barracuda can be found around the wreck, especially near the cargo hold and wheel house. Red snappers and sweetlips are plenty too.

Shipwrecks are usually home to many species of venomous fish, like lionfish, scorpion fish and stonefish. Most conspicuous at the Sugar Wreck are the Plain Tailed Lionfish (Pterois ruselli). The shallowest part of this wreck is only 6 meters below the surface. A mooring line is attached to the superstructure at this point. Like Tokong Laut, the Sugar Wreck is one of the most popular dive sites in Perhentian.

Perhentian dive mapSpecial procedures applied when diving at this site includes a quick free descent as t here 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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Check also the Perhentian diving map

Back to Perhentian Island

Back to Diving in Perhentian

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