Diving Pulau Tenggol

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Pulau Tenggol, Malaysia

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Country: Malaysia  Area: Malaysia

Water Temp: 27 - 31°C (81 - 88°F)

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Pulau Tenggol along the east coast of Malaysia has been described as a forgotten gem in the South China Sea.  With green forests, white powder beaches and plenty of reefs, this natural island is ideal for divers and snorkelers. 

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Pulau tenggol is the last in a string of islands that contains Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang.  Much of the reef remains intact as fishing, spearfishing, harvesting of marine life and food are strictly prohibited, and this has produced the ideal environment for diving, snorkeling, swimming and canoeing.

 

Marine Conservation

An eco drive went underway in Pulau Tenggol in 2009, involving underwater and beach clean-ups in support of marine and environmental conservation and to preserve and protect the environment and marine life of the island.

Climate

It's possible to visit Malaysia at any time of year but the rainy season that runs from June to September can cause rough seas and lower visibility.  The months of July and August also have the heaviest rainfall.  Water temperatures range from 27-28C (80 - 82F) on average, and up to 31C (89F) in the summer months.  The best diving season is during the months of January, February, March, April, May, October, November and December.  The average day temperature in July and August is around 33C (91F), and 29C (84F) in December and January.

 

 
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Pulau Tenggol offers a range of dive sites for all levels of diving proficiency. 

House Reef

Here the seabed slopes gently from the shoreline before dropping away.  This sheer drop spreads across the bay before levelling off.  Currents are calm, and the site is a good place to encounter turtles, schools of humphead parrotfish, Napolean Wrasses and other juvenile fish taking shelter among the corals.  There is also a wooden sampan that hosts moray eels, boxfishes and lionfishes, and because of the vast macrolife it's a great place to sharpen underwater photography skills.

Tokong Laut (The Highway)

With a maximum dive depth of 22m (66 feet), the strong currents here make this site a great place for more experienced divers.   The strong eddy currents at the surface can be unsettling but the undercurrent tops it all.  At certain parts of the route the current changes course, and it's best to swim away from the drift to spot schools of pelagic fish that float by and into a funnel between the large boulders.  There are also plenty of coral trout swimming around this area.  When the sea is calmer it's worth spending time exploring the boulders as they house a golden carpet of cave corals and batfish.

Coral Garden

This site is home to a vast sea of sand dunes.  A garden of large Christmas Tree worms peering out of the coral rocks and brightly coloured nudibranchs sliding over the corals seem to have set up home here.  There are large brain corals and also a resident grouper who lurks under the table corals. Currents are mild and the maximum dive depth is around 20m (60 feet).

Pulau Nyireh

Here divers can peer under boulders and into nooks and crannies to see what might be lurking within.  There are lots of soft corals and a small cave at the base of a large boulder.  A giant moray supposedly lives here and it's a good spot for those who enjoy taking time exploring the rocks. Currents here are usually mild but the site is known to have sudden strong currents at times.

Tokong Timor (white rock)

Located around 300m off the south western side of the main island, this site is flat but littered with rocks and boulders.  Feather stars can be seen clinging to the surfaces of barrel sponges while sea grass blankets the slopes on the north eastern side.  There are also some pinnacles and two oddly shaped boulders that are home to a couple of black groupers.  There are selections of damselfishes and there have been sightings of whale sharks in the area during the so-called whale shark season of August, September and October.  Visibility can reach around 18m (55 feet) and the dive begins in earnest at around 16m (48 feet).

House Wreck

The wreck here is embedded in white sand at about 7m (20 feet) of water.  It's well marked with a buoy and is an old Vietnamese boat (sampan), which may have been smashed deliberately.  A little less than 10m (30 feet) south of this wreck is a sunken trawler where a giant moray lives in the hull.  There are also soft corals which have attracted a good range of fish such as butterfly fish, parrotfish and groups of blue and yellow fin fusiliers.  There is no current here and it's possible to dive down to around 32m (96 feet).  Visibility reaches around 16m (48 feet). 

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How to Get there

Flights are available with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia daily from Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Terengganu Airport.  The journey is around 45minutes.  From Kuala Terengganu airport taxis are available to Kuala Dungun and from Kuala Dungun there are speedboats departing for Pulau Tenggol (journey time 1 hour).   Express coaches depart daily from Kuala Lumpur (7 hours), Singapore (9.5 hours), Johor Bharu (9 hours) and Penang (9 hours).  The coach journey includes two rest stops.

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Where to Eat & Drink

There isn't much in the way of bars, restaurants or nightclubs on Pulau Tenggol, but visitors can enjoy a range of food and drink while staying at the Tenggol Island Beach Resort or Tenggol Coral Beach Resort.                  

Kuala Dungun, where boats to Pulau Tenggol depart from, has some eating and drinking options.  Visitors can enjoy sampling Nasi Dagang, a rice specialty of Terengganu that's a mix of rice and glutinous rice with coconut milk, eaten with tuna curry and light vegetable pickles.  Laksam, made using wheat and rice flour, can also be enjoyed with gravy made from fish meat and later mixed with coconut milk.  Wooden shops line the main road and the buzz in town is at the fish market.

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Other Activities

The main activities on Pulau Tenggol are diving and snorkeling but back on the mainland, Sura Point at one end of Dungun beach is a secluded beach that's worth visiting.  To get there, take a short climb up the hill and pass some lakes.  It's also possible to take a short rest at the local Malay food stalls.  The river in Dungun is also a good spot for freshwater fishing and bamboo rafting.  From this river it's also possible to access Ceralak Waterfalls by boat.

Pulau Tenggol's deep hilly forested interior also makes it a paradise for adventurous hikers and trekkers. 

Telok Ayer Tawar is the largest and most secluded sandy bay on the west coast of Pulau Tenggol with facilities and amenities for sailing, boating, windsurfing and other sports and recreational activities.

Family Friendly

The resorts on Pulau Tenggol can arrange snorkeling and diving activities for children but other than water-related activities such as playing on the beach, there aren't many family activities available.

Elephant Trekking & Abuse

On a general note, while in Asia, please do not support Elephant abuse by riding Elephants or supporting Elephant performance.

In Thai culture, the Phajaan or ‘the crush', is the torture method elephants undergo to become a part of the tourism industry. Essentially this involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time to make the Elephants submissive to humans.
Asian Elephant spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
There is responsible Elephant tourism in Thailand - a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them. 
Any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means they have undergone horrific abuse in order to get them to where they are
Please do not support Elephant torture and make your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry.
  • The 'training' Elephants go through to become a part of the tourism industry involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time starting as a calf
  • Asian Elephant's spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
  • That said, there is responsible Elephant tourism to be found in Asia, a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them.
  • Remember; any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings it basically means the Elephants have undergone horrific abuse in order to get there

You can help these magnificent animals by making your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry; the main problem is a lack of awareness.

Dive Report is committed to raising awareness to the abuse suffered by Elephants used in the tourist industry. If you want to know more you can find out more hereherehere and here. Also see a PETA documentary video here.

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Tips

Pulau Tenggol is generally a diver's playground and snorkeling options can be limited.

Tourist facilities on the island may not be very well-developed for a mass influx of vacationers.

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