MENTION SABAH, and Sipadan Island comes to mind. What many don’t know is that Sabah has a secret. One hour north of Semporna lies a cluster of relatively undiscovered islands that are Sabah’s hidden diving gems. These islands boast healthy reefs with impressive biodiversity and interesting macro life.
One particular island that stands out from the others is Pom Pom Island. While the island may be small, it is arguably the best macro dive destination in Malaysia and a firm favourite among underwater photographers. There are countless fabulous critters you can photograph in and around the island, but if you really want to shoot rare critters, Pom Pom can guarantee you just that.
A popular site for night diving is the Mandarin Playground, an aptly named hangout situated right underneath Pom Pom Island Resort’s jetty. Swimming anywhere along the reef, from a depth of six metres all the way down to 20 metres, one can find mandarinfish displaying their mating dance. Divers don’t need to worry about hogging this stunning species, as there are plenty for everyone.
Another very popular dive site is the house reef at Celebes Beach Resort, which is known for its super macro critters. Shine your torch anywhere and you’re bound to see several pairs of eyes reflecting light back at you. At a depth of 10 metres, you’ll find a variety of hairy shrimps ranging from white to green, yellow to purple, especially at night when they come out to feed. Other small critters include humpback shrimp and pygmy seahorses. If you’re interested in critters of a more super-macro variety, look closer for the tiny Idiomysis crustaceans and isopods, amongst other things.