Saturday, 15 February 2020

Amazing macro diving off Kota Kinabalu

Macro Mania! 

Here in Kota Kinabalu we have a wide range of dive sites & among them you can also find lots of macro.  The term macro means large in scale & is a term used in relation to small creatures because photographers use macro lenses to allow them to take big close up images of the minuscule animals. Marco is now used widly in the diving community for dives that do not focus on the big stuff.

Experienced photographers come seeking smaller inhabitants of the reefs around Kota Kinabalu.

The underwater world really got into the festive spirit this year, providing us with a wealth of gifts in small and colourful packages. Our staff and guests have spotted some incredible critters in the past month.

Anna's chromodoris nudibranch 
A patient search & the help of our eagle eyed  dive guides and you will find some amazing reef dwellers! Among them could be Nudibranchs, shrimps, crabs, pipefish, frogfish, stonefish & so much more!

Slow moving marine life has a huge attraction for photographers, allowing for plenty of time to perfect that shot! 

 Nudibranchs hold a special appeal due to the large number of different species, colours, patterns and their inability to go anywhere in a hurry! 

Magnificent Anemone Shrimp

Waiting for the perfect shot of these cute anemone shrimp while they are cleaning away!
Spotted Porcelain crab

Scorpion Fish

You will often find scorpion fish hiding away in tube coral, or just camouflaged against a rocky wall!

Lovely headsheild slug

Bubble coral shrimp

Orangutan crab

One of my favourites & apt for Borneo, these tiny cute Orangutan crabs are often found on bubble coral, there carapace is so small & has extra long arms compared to its body. It has red/orange fluffy hair, the crab just chills around waiting for plankton to get stuck in its luscious locks & then uses its claws to groom & pick it out for a snack for the day. 

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Paradise Islands off Kota Kinabalu

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP) also nick named the KK Marine Park features 5 beautiful islands Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug. This famous marine park has been a marine park for more then 40 years and its marine life is carefully monitored and protected by Sabah Parks. As a result this area is home to thousands of schooling fish, pristine coral reefs, cool creepy critters such as Frogfish, Octopus, Sea horses, Orangutan crabs and much more! We also have some of the larger marine life such as Turtles, Black Tip Reef Sharks, Eagle rays, Cowtail Rays and even during Spring season the Whale Sharks sometimes come and visit.

All types of divers are welcome here, it is a great place for beginners and also fantastic for experienced divers who want to do a bit of photography. We often have snorkelers too who enjoy the sites of the outer reef rather then the beach seeing much more and get a bit of island time between intervals.There is something here to meet every divers and snorkelers tastes

Gaya Island

The largest island within the marine park and the closest to Kota Kinabalu. The name Gaya came from a Bajau word "Gayo"which means big.  The island is 3,700 acres in size and has an elevation of up to 300 meters.  The island is covered in dense tropical forest which is a forest reserve. On the island, there is a 20km long hiking path . There is great wildlife to be seen such as monitor lizards, bearded pigs and the beautiful hornbill birds. One of the popular sites of Gaya island is the legendary beach at Police Bay. There is a long stretch of white sand which slopes out gradually to the sea and make its a perfect spot for swimming and snorkelling in the crystal blue waters. The reefs around Gaya are still in great condition, making it a fantastic spot for diving. 
A mixture of shallow macro diving and shallow sloping walls full of coral reefs! Dive sites around this Island range from 5m-30m and offers some amazing macro life such as Frog Fish, Scorpion Fish, Lion Fish, Seahorses, Nudibranch╩╝s as well as larger marine life such as Turtles, Barracuda, Tuna and even Reef Sharks can be seen.

Sapi Island

Sapi means 'cow' and the island is said to be shaped like a cow's head.

Known to be the most beautiful island within the KK marine park. Connected to Gaya via Zip line (a.k.a Flying Fox) which is 235 Meter-long 771 (feet), this is open to thrill seekers who want to fly across the ocean at a vast speed between the two islands, known as the Coral Flyer. This is the world's longest island to island zip line. 

Sapi island is only 25 acres and the second smallest island of TARP. There is not only a wide variety of marine life, but on the island there are also Bearded pigs and monitor lizards. 

Sapi offers some amazing white pristine beaches with fantastic reefs for diving. Diving ranges from 8-25m and divers can expect to see Stingrays, Fusiliers, Crocodile Fish, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Moray Eels, lots of nudibranchs, Stone Fish and Anemone Fish plus much more

                                                                 Photo of Gaya & Sapi island

Manukan Island
This is the second largest island in TARP quite a popular island for our residents as it has long stretched of beautiful beach for relaxing on and snorkelling around. It is also covered with dense vegetation and has great hiking trails. This Island has very healthy coral reefs teaming with many reef fish and you can even see the very rare and valuable Black Coral diving at this Island. Dive sites vary from 7-25m which makes this island ideal for all levels of divers.
                                                       Photo of Manukan, Mamutik & Sulug

Mamutik Island 
This is the smallest island in the clusters of TARP at about 15 acres in size. However this island goes to show that size is not always everything!  A peaceful and mesmerising island with a quiet beach to laze around on. The rich coral reefs are diverse in marine life. Mamutik Island offers divers and snorkelers very healthy coral reefs teaming with a large variety of large and small reef fish. There are also lots of rare macro life such as Frog fish, Lion Fish, Leaf Fish, plus many more. This island is also home to a giant underwater statue of a Seahorse! The Island itself is like an Island post card with pristine white sandy beaches-most of our divers never want to leave

Sulug Island
Located on the most southern tip of KK marine park Sulug is the most remote and least visited by tourists. It is around 20 acres. The island has no amenities, thus this island offers nature at its best! A long sand spit extending outwards into the ocean. The diving here is ranked among the best in the marine park with common sightings of sea snakes, turtles, rays, frog fish, morays, lots of nudibranchs, and the coral is pristine with an abundance of marine life-truly a divers haven. We highly recommend you dive here for your 2nd or 3rd day diving within the park.
                                                 Our rich coral reefs in TARP 

Monday, 25 November 2019

Why dive at Kota Kinabalu?

Kota Kinabalu - the capital of Sabah - is a very unique city in Southeast Asia.

Being the main tourist hub for travellers flying into or out of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu (or simply KK as we like to call it) has a lot to offer that other cities across Southeast Asia don't. For example: the stunning Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park for diving & snorkelling just 15 minutes from the city centre; the mountainous 'Crocker Range' for trekking just 30 minutes away, including the famous 4095m high Mount Kinabalu 2 hours from KK; as well as white-water rafting, waterfalls, rainforests & beautiful beaches just 30 minutes away. Also, for being a fairly small city, KK conveniently has a large international airport just 10 minutes from the city centre. 

Many divers & snorkellers visiting Sabah will fly into KK and visit our amazing sites in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP) for day trips.

TARP consists of 5 beautiful islands (Gaya, Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan & Sulug) with picturesque white sandy beaches, just 15 minutes by speedboat from Jesselton Point jetty in KK's city centre.

The above photo is of Islands Gaya & Sapi which are connected by a zip line if you are feeling adventurous

The TARP has mixture of shallow macro diving & shallow sloping walls with beautiful coral reefs. Dive sites range from 5m-30m, you can see some fantastic marco life such as Shrimps, Crabs, Pipefish, Seahorses, Nudibranch's as well as larger marine life such as Turtles, Barracuda, Tuna, Eagle Rays & Black Tip Reef Sharks. 

The Marine Park is ideal for all types of divers from beginners to the most experienced of Instructors. Around every corner is a hidden gem waiting for divers to discover! The outer reef's are also great for Non Divers to have a snorkel around seeing schools of reef fish & much much more, they can also be dropped off on the islands to explore the white sand surroundings. 


Hope to see you soon for a fun filled trip in the Kota Kinabalu Marine Park!

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Semporna region - a photographer's paradise!

The Semporna region has some of the best dive sites in the world so it is hardly surprising that many divers arrive with GoPro, point and shoot or full camera set up in hand! What exactly are these photography aficionados hoping to spot?

The "big stuff" 

For many divers, the main goal of their dives will be the "big stuff", they will come seeking sharks, turtles, rays and schooling barracudas and will not be disappointed! The turtles around Mabul are plentiful and not shy! They will usually be happy to pose whilst you snap away and you may even be rewarded with a smile! Sharks can be trickier due to their lack of interest in staying still! White tip sharks and leopard sharks are amongst the easier sharks to photograph as they are able to rest immobile on the bottom for periods of time and with some patience you will be rewarded with some great shots! Glimpses of hammerheads can often be fleeting and by the time you realise what you're lucky enough to be seeing they are gone, every so often someone will get that elusive schooling hammerhead shot though!

"Macro mania"

 Most experienced photographers come seeking the smaller more cryptic inhabitants of the reefs around Mabul & Kapalai as well as the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. A patient search and the eagle eyes of one of dive guides will usually help to show up all kinds of reef dwellers such as nudibranchs, shrimps, crabs, pipefish, frogfish, stonefish and much much more. Slow moving marine life has a huge attraction for photographers, allowing for plenty of time to perfect that shot! The more photography a diver does, the more they find themselves getting into the smaller inhabitants of the reef, often to the extent that they will move 50m or less in one dive! Nudibranchs hold a special appeal due to the large number of different species, colours, patterns and their inability to go anywhere in a hurry! Divers will often find themselves staring at a frogfish, camera at the ready waiting for the elusive "frogfish yawning" shot!

"After dark"

Once you feel as though you have mastered both wide angle & macro shots you may start to wonder what else there is and that is where a whole new world opens up - the night dive! Venture onto the reef after hours and you will find an array of critters waiting for their turn to be the star of your show as well as challenging you with new shooting conditions. Night dives are a great time for a slow paced dive, exploring the reef one circle of torchlight at a time producing as many if not more macro sightings than day dives! Parrotfish sleeping in bubbles in the reef, spanish dancers and all sorts of cuttlefish, squid, eels and seahorses make for fantastic subjects and will keep you occupied for hours (or until you get cold or low on air!!).

Whatever your level of experience and camera set-up, the Semporna region will have something for you to photograph - ask your guide for tips & tricks, chances are they're an avid photographer themselves!!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Sipadan Barracuda Point - Why we love it!

Barracuda Point is a world-famous dive site, and it's often top of the wish list for our divers when they make their trip to Sipadan…  It's a favourite of our dive staff too - you'll be hard pushed to find a staff member who doesn't rate this amazing place in their top three, if not their number one!

Barracuda Point is in between Drop Off (Turtle Tomb) and Coral Garden, located close to the island.  There is a sloping coral reef, which drops down into a channel, with another (smaller) reef rising and then sloping off again before that 600m drop. As the reef takes a sharp corner we get some super fun currents there… There is also a plateau at the end of the channel, which is often where our friends the barracuda can be seen.

We start the dive in the shallows with the jackfish (bigeye trevally) - there are some keyholes (crevices in the reef) where we can see schools of batfish or pickhandle barracudas, a wonderful greeting as you descend after your back roll off the boat!  As we cruise in the shallows with the the enormous school of jackfish, very often bluefin trevally and GT's (giant trevally) are around too, looking for prey. We also keep an eye out for the bumphead parrotfish in the shallows – decreased visibility in the shallows is often an indicator that they are there, as they poop out sand – it can get quite murky!

Before we even drop to our max depth, or get to the barracuda tornado it's an awesome dive! We go over the wall and make our way down to our max depth, often passing some white tip reef sharks and huge grey reef sharks on the way. When descending -  ALWAYS keep your eye on the blue – as the barracuda sometimes hang out there in a wall of fishy-ness, or sometimes cruise past like a high speed train (we call this getting "buzzed" by the barracuda!).

The wall itself is awesome - with crags and crevices (where we sometimes shelter from the currents to watch the sharks!), but don't forget to look beneath you as we often see turtles resting on the ledges of the wall if they're not swimming overhead.  But we don’t stay there, we make our way round to the sloping coral reef on the corner – there’s a beautifully coloured school of red tooth trigger fish and longfin bannerfish mixed together. Watch out for big grey reefs, white tip reef sharks, the barracuda (again) – but also for dogtooth tuna zipping past hunting, or giant groupers hanging out. Watch out for behaviour too – if you see smaller fish schools zipping into the shelter of the reef – look and see what’s chasing and hunting them!

From the outside reef, we make our way back into the channel – sometimes there’s no current, and we get to explore this at our leisure. Spotted garden eels, great barracuda getting cleaned. White tip reef sharks hanging out under corals, or day octopus going about their business. We pass by Turtle Rock – a world-famous cleaning site for turtles (sometimes they fight over who gets cleaned next!) – making our way down the channel nice and easy. If there’s no current, the barracuda form the mesmerising world-famous tornado – almost hypnotic! There's an enormous boulder about halfway down the channel which can have some cool macro finds if you can tear your eyes away from the rest of the action.

But if the current is pumping you can cruise down the channel like Superman!  Sometimes we wait it out and fin gently into the current here as the barracuda tornado becomes a wall – no less spectacular, a wall of barracuda as far as you can see! Sighting the tornado or wall of barracuda is top of every diver’s wish list – and the amazing spectacle is what gave this dive site its name.

After we've had enough of the barracuda (as if that is possible!) we can cruise down the channel making our way shallower (keeping an eye out for napolean wrasse) until it's time to make the safety stop…  Sometimes the current stops abruptly at the end of the channel, throwing us back where we came from - but that just means you get to see it all over again!  And sometimes we cruise on in to the next dive site, Coral Garden.  But that's a story for another time…

Safety as always is Scuba Junkie's top priority - so regardless of your experience we'll give you a fantastic dive at Barracuda Point!  We know the tides and the conditions really well, and all of our DM's have hundreds (if not thousands) of dives there.  Hope to see you soon at Sipadan!!

Monday, 9 May 2016


April 28th was D Day.  Online dictionaries define D Day as “the day on which an important operation is to begin or a change to take effect.”  D Day for the DMTs means the equipment exchange and stress test.  It’s the last day of the course and a good way to end on a high note.  I thoroughly enjoy it for many reasons, but mainly because (i) I am in charge and (ii) I am really good at giving orders…..

After consulting the Instructor Manual for the rules and grading criteria for completing the equipment exchange, I gave the group a few minutes to powwow aka create an action plan (see the photo below).  PADI lists the equipment exchange as:

“In confined water, demonstrate the ability to effectively respond to an unusual circumstance underwater by exchanging all scuba equipment (except exposure suits and weights) with a buddy while sharing a single regulator second stage...”

We even had paparazzi underwater.  One of our guests volunteered to take photos of us throughout the morning.  After a fun morning underwater, we took apart our equipment and rinsed the sand out of our hair, bodies, and kit.

The snorkel test took place on the 30th where Scuba Junkie proudly welcomed 6 new divemasters to the professional world.  Sadly, both Daniel and Peter left us the next day.  The girls (Katrine, Moa, Sara, and Shantha) signed up for the 6 week Eco course.  They are currently working on the finishing the Reef Check course, shadowing divemasters, and going on boats.

Pssst, whalesharks have been sighted recently!  If you have any questions about our DMT program, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Congratulations to Daniel, Moa, Shantha, Sara, Katrine, and Peter!  We hope to see y’all underwater soon!


Toward the end of the month, we focused on the DM conducted programs.  These programs include:

     *ReActivate, which is a program designed to refresh water skills and scuba knowledge when a person hasn’t dived in a while;

     *DSD diving, which is a program designed for people who want to experience diving without completing the open water course;

     *Discover Local Diving, which is a program designed to introduce people to a new diving area; 

     *Skin Diving/Snorkeling

I divided the candidates into two groups of three again.  While I was working with one group, the other group shadowed different instructors on a variety of scuba courses and divemasters leading fun dives.  After five days, we switched.

The first five days I had Daniel, Shantha, and Sara practicing their briefings and guiding.  Below is a photo of the team taking a break on the jetty.

Here is a silly photo of Daniel, Sara, and Katrine practicing their buddy checks.

The last five days of the course, I worked with Peter, Moa, and Katrine.  Here’s a photo of them right before a debrief.

It was great fun working with so many different personalities on the course.  As with anything, each person has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.  For instance, some people are stronger at briefings while others have stronger underwater skills.  What made this month really special was how everybody helped each other out.  It was awesome watching my scuba babies grow as divers!