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Scuba Diving in Perhentian, Malaysia
Dive Site: Temple of the Sea
Location: Perhentian, Malaysia
Description: Reef reached by boat
Depth: 0 - 22 metres (0 - 72 feet)
Visibility: 15 metres (50 feet)
It takes many dives to really appreciate this rock pinnacle that breaks the surface. Having dived this in both morning and afternoon, each dive rewarded the diver with different aspects and facets of this fascinating site. Divers must watch out for currents particularly above 7m, which can drift the diver. It is advisable to carry a delayed SMB and reel as the current may not allow return to the line.
Yellowfin goatfish can be seen in their thousands on descent to 17-18m, as they hover casually forming a long 50m horizontal swathe. The stunning 20m visibility is reduced to a milky 7m below the 20m mark, which is where a (sometimes) welcome thermocline exists! The thermocline and reduced visibility must be associated with one another, and the marine life is aware of it also, and seems to congregate in larger numbers at the changeover point. There is also a distinctive 'head of currents', a corner on the pinnacle that fish have come to associate with change of currents, and that of food - it is well worth looking out for. Below the thermocline, one must be more aware of your buddy's whereabouts, and that of the group. It is worth visiting this depth as delicate lilac-coloured gorgonian fan corals clutter the jagged rock formations, in a seemingly illogical pattern. Many small shell varieties favour them, so worth looking closer.
Clockwise around the Temple rock pinnacle is a good idea and at around 15-18m, allows the diver to marvel at the small collections of the larger burrfish. Under no circumstance should anyone upset this creature, as the act of inflating its body many times can cause internal ruptures and death. Occasional sightings of pufferfish groups can be made and amongst the horizontal base areas with their clams and hard corals are sand patches, which are favourite domains of blue spotted lagoon rays, as are the underneath parts of the numerous acropora table corals.
Many of the rocks are covered in encrusting sponges, and as if that wasn't enough, at the horizontal parts of the rocks some 180° around from the starting point, an enormous garden of anemones and clownfish occurs. This cannot be easily be described, every rock face that will support an anemone seems to have one affixed, its outer skin a green leathery appearance, and its upper underside layers an undulating mass of solid distinctive purple or red colour. Add in a bunch of colourful clownfish, of which there seems to be many varieties including the usual Nemo one!
As the site is mid-water, there are likely sightings of trevally jacks and other such transient creatures. If you are particularly switched on to the underwater scene, there are several cleaning stations. These are not easily spotted, but may be noticed when a congregation of larger fish such as the large grouper, angelfish and morays occurs, being cleaned by small colour cleaner wrasse. This is 'white-flag' territory, where all fish are equal. One particular species of fish that occurs here frequently is the Titan Triggerfish. At certain times of the year, mainly brooding season, these are at their most dangerous, and should be totally avoided. At other times, they should also be mainly avoided or not approached in a flamboyant manner, because of its unpredictability. Their realm is vertical and a diver being pursued is liable to ascend, and thus not moving out of its territory so be warned.
The dive continues on ascending circuits around the pinnacle, until safety stop. The rocks on surfacing are a pleasing site, and its pleasure to view the fish continuing their business in the depths below.
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