Time to head to another Malaysian dive destination, my third one since getting my license. Honestly, I have never heard of Pulau Tenggol, or Tenggol Island, until a friend invited me to join her dive group for a dive adventure to the island. Since I have been going for dive holidays solo all this while, I thought, why not? It’d be nice to experience the underwater with a group of friends.
About Pulau Tenggol
Pulau Tenggol, located off the east coast of Malaysia; is less known than the other neighbouring islands like Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian or Pulau Tioman. It is reachable by ferry from the jetty in the town of Kuala Dungun, in the Terengganu state.
This small island only measures about 3km in length, with the longest width at 2km– and is most parts rocky with towering cliffs and vegetation.
Most people do not know about this island as it was previously uninhabited; until three small resorts were set up on its main stretch of beach. However, it is popular amongst the diving community as it offers almost untouched and pristine corals, even along the beachfront; and is teeming with marine life.
Bear in mind though– if you decide to visit Pulau Tenggol, there is literally nothing to do there, but dive and bask under the sun on its golden (but sand fly-filled) sand. However, if you arrive with a group of friends… things can be very different.
Starting from the capital of Kuala Lumpur, we began the 6-hour journey just after midnight; and arrived at Kuala Dungun early in the morning. After a quick breakfast in town, we headed for the jetty– which was not really a jetty, just a pretty run down concrete area to board the boat to our resort. From there, we got on the small speed boat (arranged by the resort) for an hour ride to Pulau Tenggol.
If you get seasick easily (like I do)– it’s best to be ready with some pills to make the ride slightly more bearable.
Tenggol Island Beach Resort
Tucked within the shade of the trees fringing the beachfront on the west side of Pulau Tenggol; the Tenggol Island Beach Resort is a no-frills, backpacker-style chalet resort, one in three resorts along the beach. It provides all-inclusive accommodations in its wooden chalets, and a recently added bricked building.
The food offered in its cafeteria is basic Malaysian cuisine of rice, meat and vegetables– nothing fancy, just good enough to fill the tummy. If you need to snack, bring your own munchies and tidbits. There are no convenience stores or ATM machines on the island.
The island is secluded, empty and quiet. And despite the abundance of sand-flies that left me with spotty scars; I enjoyed lazing on the verandah with the sea as my view, swinging on the hammock under the warm sun, calm night walks on the beach, and wading into the sea under the moonlight– accompanied by great conversation and even better company. What I enjoyed most though, was waking up to the gentle call of the waves on a breezy, misty morning.
I answer it the best way I know how– by preparing for my first dive of the day!
Diving in Tenggol
The Tenggol Island Dive Resort has its own fully-equipped dive center. However, the dive group I was with had our own certified instructor and divemaster who were familiar with the dive sites around the island. They led and assisted the group for the entire course of our dive on the island. We just borrowed the base for storage, kit-ups and air tank rentals.
The rates at the dive center range from RM65-95 per dive with a divemaster; depending on shore, boat or night dives– and they are usually packaged together with the stay.
Pulau Tenggol is popular for its clear visibility and abundant marine life– unfortunately for me though, during this visit to the island at the end of June, visibility was really bad. The waves were really strong as well, and that hindered us from going to the dive sites on the other side of the island. However, no matter what nature throws at us; diving is diving, and I always enjoy and appreciate every single successful dive.
Most of the dive sites are dotted around the island, so we returned to the resort after every dive on our small speed boat. Here are some of the dive sites I visited while diving in Pulau Tenggol.
Turtle Point (Depth: 10-15m) –
This is a relatively easy dive just off the shore from the resort beach. It has a sandy bottom with lots of staghorns and sponge corals. There were plenty of sea cucumbers too, and what are the odds– I spotted a turtle at Turtle Point!
TV Wreck (Depth: 20-25m) –
This wreck is located within the bay of our resort as well, and is called TV Wreck because of the abandoned television just outside the sunken fisherman’s boat. It was a pity that the visibility during this dive was bad, so I could hardly see a thing– what more find that TV.
Rajawali Cave (Depth: 15-18m) –
This dive site is located on the northwest part of the island, just above the beach bay. It has plenty of corals– rock, soft and trumpet corals; and is also home to an abundance of nudibranches. This was the dive site where I saw the most fishes throughout the trip; scorpion fish, trumpet fish, trevally, lizard fish, stingray, and the trigger fish.
Tanjung Api to Sri Nakhota (Depth: 15-20m) –
This was the furthest dive for us, towards the northeast of the island– and due to the current and the waves; we started at the end of one site, and ascended at the beginning of another. We were diving next to a brown coral wall that was filled with various types of nudibranches. I also spotted a crown of thorns, and several cushion starfishes.
Teluk Rajawali (Depth: 20-25m) –
One of the sites furthest north of the island, this dive site is teeming with corals. There are also several boulders and high walls along this northern bay– I saw plenty of anemones and clown fishes here.
Five Sisters (Depth >25m) –
This wreck consists of 5 wrecks attached together– however it goes much deeper than my license allows me to dive, so I had to be satisfied with just the first one. It wasn’t a very impressive wreck though– small and almost completely broken down with a carpet of moss, and various nudibranches.
First Night Dive
This deserves a mention because it was my first night dive. I was skeptical at first– not knowing whether I was ready to plunge into the deep shadows of the underwater. Well, in the end I did, and I’m glad. I loved it.
Somehow, with only the streaks of light from the torches; the darkness was peaceful and calming. Fishes were sleeping, and there was a stillness of life. Bear in mind though, that it’s best to avoid night diving in Pulau Tenggol if the tide is too low. There are plenty of staghorns flanking the beach– and it might be difficult to get back to land after the dive, without stepping on them and destroying the corals.
It was fun diving with a bunch of like-minded people that led to the crazy 4 days under and above water. As a new diver, it was inspiring listening to stories from the experienced divers in the group, finding out more about marine life (that I wouldn’t know about if I wasn’t diving), learning new tricks and improving my skills underwater, and basically just spending all my time thinking about diving.
Lots of firsts this time round:- first night dive, first time using my own dive computer and BCD, first time seeing a trigger fish and first time getting slightly disorientated from the low visibility (and then figuring out how to handle it). Having more dive friends have definitely helped widen my knowledge about my new-found hobby, and triggered my curiosity even more. The only way to cure it is to have more dives, and I’m up to 20 dives now– hooked and loving it!
*Underwater pictures are courtesy of my dive friend Jeffrey, who owns a better underwater camera than I do.