Pulau Labuan | Dive Sipadan | Pulau Sipadan

Pulau Labuan | Dive Sipadan | Pulau Sipadan

This tropical duty-free island with an area of 92 sq. kilometers has beautiful sandy beaches with international class hotels and golf course. The numerous activities available on the island will keep the divers occupied after their dives. During the early years, Labuan experienced battles between the Allied and the Japanese Force, resulting in several war wrecks. Two of the World War II wrecks here are the American Wreck and the Australian Wreck. Other wrecks include Cement Wreck and Blue Water Wreck, both from the 1980s.

 

The types of diving skill required on these wrecks are rated from novice to experience wreck diving, with penetration into the hulls. Professional dive operators cater for daily dive trips, as well as from Openwater to Wreck Diving Specialty courses. Visitors may also take advantage of duty-free purchases for dive equipment from the dive centres in Labuan. The Cement Wreck can be dived by novices but the Blue Water Wreck requires Advanced Divers or with logged experience. To penetrate into the two mentioned wrecks or to dive the American or Australian Wreck, you must be certified in wreck diving or have previously logged experience in wreck diving.

Cement Wreck

Situated about 21 kilometres from Labuan, east of Kuraman Island, is a 105 metres modern style freighter. It is said that the freighter MV Tung Hwa was ferrying a load of cement for the Brunei Sultanate but enroute, she struck Samarany Bank and sand behind Kuraman Island. The ship sits perfectly upright on the bottom at about 30 metres. Her masts stand at 8 metres, the roof of the wheelhouse at 14 metres. The position of the wreck makes it ideal for novice divers and wreck diving training. Experienced divemasters would either descend to tie a line or would drop a rope weighted with molded lead as opposed to an anchor to prevent damage to corals and the wreck. Schools of bait fish congregating in huge groups greet divers as they descend the masts of the ship. As your eyes adjust to the low light, the wreck reveals a profusion of coral and marine life. Soft corals in all shapes and colours lance the currents. Small marine animals observed around the wreck include hawk fish, pipe fish, damsel fish, gobies, cardinal fish; the list is endless. The rich diversity of coral life also attracts bigger animals either to feed or to look for a cleaning station. The outer parameter of the wreck is patrolled by schools of fusiliers, bat fish, barracudas and rainbow runners. This wreck offers the avid diver the most photogenic opportunity of all the wrecks.

Pulau Labuan | Dive Sipadan | Pulau Sipadan

Australian Wreck

This is not an Australian ship, but was nicknamed so by the locals form the fact that was sunk by Australian aircraft during World War II. Located about 1.5 kilometres from the American Wreck, this ship is actually a Dutch merchant ship captured by the Japanese then fitted with weapons and utilized as a cargo vessel, but spotted and sank by Australian aircraft in 1945. A maker's plate identified the freighter as built in Rotterdam in 1900. Lying on her portside, the wreck is about 23 kilometres from Labuan, southeast of the small islands of Rusukan Besar on the Barat Banks. This vessel is a riveted hull freighter with a wooden deck that has already deteriorated. She is approximately 100 metres long and lies at 33 metres on the sandy bottom, with the shallowest depth at 21 metres. Nature has transformed what was once a lifeless wreck to rich coral growth with an abundance of marine life. The superstructure is covered with black coral tress, sea whips and stinging hydroids. A particular feature of the wreck is the presence of resident palm-sized frogfish or anglerfish. Large groupers can be seen swimming about looking for an easy feed among the profusion of marine life. Divers are forewarned where to place their hands as many stonefish and lion fish lie camouflaged around the wreck.

American Wreck

The American Wreck, identified as the USS Solute (a minesweeper), lies some 24 kilometres from Labuan, southwest of the small island of Rusukan Besar on the Barat Banks. During the Allied pre-invasion of the Brunei Bay, while carrying out a routine mine sweep, the minesweeper struck a mine midship. She buckled when she sank, with the bow portion folding back over on top of the stern section. The wreck lies at 33 metres on the sandy bottom with tangled masses of metal and cable. Diving this wreck requires an experience diver or a wreck diver to carefully explore the tangled mass. A feature of the wreck is the many fish-cleaning stations, crustaceans and echinoderms. The presence of spiny black urchins requires caution on the buoyancy of the diver when venturing close to the wreck. Depth chargers, ammunition shells, shoe culinary and wire bottles can be still found scattered around the wreckage, amidst mangled metal and cables. A resident school of spotted sweetlips lie as silent sentinels of the wreck.

Pulau Labuan | Dive Sipadan | Pulau Sipadan

Getting There

Labuan Island is services by domestic air flights from Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu. There are numerous international flight connections from either Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu.

Best Time to Dive

Best months for diving are between March to October. Visibility fluctuated with tidal changes but adds to the drama of wreck diving. Little or no current are experienced at the wreck proper but could be stronger outside the parameter of the wreck. All dives are via anchor line with spare tanks provided at decompression stops. As wreck diving can be dangerous, always enquire about safety equipment provided by the operators, especially for decompression stops.