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Scuba Diving in Perhentian, Malaysia
Dive Site: PIR House Reef
Location: Perhentian, Malaysia
Description: Reef done as a boat or shore dive
Depth: 0 - 10 metres (0 - 30 feet)
Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)
House reefs are typically 'well trodden' but not so with this one! The diver is greeted by a vibrant expanse of hard staghorn corals along with a fringing reef of coral heads. Dived both day & night, the daytime dive reveals many creatures and early morning or late afternoon are the best times to spot the more infrequent critters. Sessile and mobile marine critters are as diverse, if not more so than on some of the outer reefs as this site is quite sheltered and reasonably free from tidal movement.
Shore entry is usually via the beach opposite the dive centre onto coral white sand, probably the product of millions of parrotfish chewing! The sea in the bay has a distinctive blue-green hue, accentuated by the green staghorn coral structures which are quite extensive to the left (south of the PIR dive centre). The area of the shore dive can start at the small wooden pier, crossing under it (being mindful of small boat craft and ferry). From here head south to hit the reef, still at 5m and proceed outwards deeper to 8m, along the cusp between reef and sand. Return is reciprocal until a depth of 2m is encountered and the reef is an extension of the land rocks nearby.
The small wooden pier has few fish around it, we saw a barracuda probably sniffing around and others spotted a turtle which are common in the area. Occasionally sharks come in and the pier structure provides ideal wide-angle photographic opportunities, with its tall vertical columns and planking. The sand in this area is littered with an array of building rubbish, mainly concretions of pipework, conduits and also some small items dotted around. These provide homes for damselfish and clownfish, as well as sand gobies and a few cleaner wrasse. The latter suggests a cleaning station, so something to look out for.
The sun will be in the south or west depending on time of day and means the pier struts are ideally suited for photographs. Take care as depths are to 2-4m, although this can have an advantage as split shots could be obtained of boats, people etc. The best time for this type of photography is afternoon.
Moving to the reef, an array of hard coral structures await, initially lobe and star then a field of staghorn stretches as far as the eye can see. Small isolated coral heads are dotted around a short distance off the reef. These contain many damselfish, clownfish and anemones, but by far the best marine creature here are the hundreds of colourful, small and skittish Xmas tree worms. These occur in bunches of twenty or more. Over the staghorn can be seen large shoals of goatfish, and on the occasion we dived there was a large shoal of black coloured fish, mainly tangs and large damsels, swimming in and out. In the shadowy areas copper sweepers and similar hide.
The beauty about this reef is much time can be spent in the shallows exploring a vibrant reef with much marine life with a chance to spot some bigger items coming in. Plan the dive to agree a bottom time on the pier and then how much time up and down the reef, or perhaps air consumption.
A good night dive to do is to use the boat to go a few hundred metres offshore to the west, and head back on rough course 120 degrees, exiting via the beach. The reef offshore provides a refuge for many creatures at night, and all over the small coral heads crabs of varying descriptions roam, including large splendid crabs covered in green weed camouflage. Offshore, fields of staghorn coral tower and groves of seagrass occur. Small groups of squid come in to hunt and occasionally sharks can be seen such as bamboo sharks, similar in appearance to the UK dogfish but with more pronounced spots. Burrfish are out, preferring to hide in the darkness and many colourful sea urchins graze. Hundreds of little glistening dots reveal the whereabouts of small shrimps, some brave enough to come out of their hiding holes in the fire corals. Feather stars perch precariously on coral heads, their arms outstretched and their colouration intense.
On occasions green sea turtles come in for a rest and could be with remoras attached. With depths not exceeding 8m long bottom times can be had, but be sure to time the night dives so evening food is readily available on exit or you could face being hungry. An alternative is to eat well beforehand and save some bread for a snack later.
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