Tuesday, October 30, 2012

7 most exotic species to dive with in Sabah, Malaysia

One of Asia’s best diving destinations, Malaysia is home to some of the most exotic marine life on the planet. Because Malaysia lies near the equator, the water temperatures remain about 26 to 30 C (80 to 85 F) year-round. And those warm waters teem with biodiversity, including whale sharks, the largest fish in the world.

Although not as common as in other dive destinations like Australia or the Philippines, whale sharks can still be found roaming the waters off Malaysia. With a little luck and good timing, you too could find yourself swimming with these gentle giants.

Whale sharks can weigh more than nine tons and reach more than 12 metres (39.37 feet) in length. Their mouths alone can stretch 1.5 metres (4.92 feet) wide, and hold up to 350 rows of tiny teeth.

While you might feel intimidated by their size, whale sharks wouldn’t hurt a fly. They’re peaceful and usually trusting of humans.

Having said that, however, whale sharks are more likely to stick around and pose for photos if you don’t touch or swim after them.

One of your best bets for some whale shark action in Malaysia is Lankayan Island, a small coral island in the Sulu Sea off Malaysian Borneo. You’re most likely to see whale sharks there from March to May.

There are, of course, plenty of other fish in the seas around Malaysia. Here are six other exotic species of marine life you might encounter while diving in Malaysia:

Manta Rays

These graceful gliders can grow to seven metres (23 feet) wide, and weigh nearly two tons. Like whale sharks, mantas are gentle and pose little threat to divers.

In fact, mantas are curious creatures and will sometimes approach divers. If you want a manta to approach you, try diving near Sipadan Island off the east coast of Malaysian Borneo.

Hammerhead Sharks

Fearsome-looking hammerhead sharks often ply the waters near Layang Layang Island, a deep-sea atoll about 300 kilometres (186 miles) northwest of Kota Kinabalu.

Layang Layang’s reefs host a rainbow of sea life, but the scalloped hammerheads steal the show, especially in March and May during mating season.