Tioman Island - Malaysia - August 2015

Tioman Island, or Pulau Tioman as it's known locally, is a local favourite for divers.  Within easy reach from Singapore, it's one the better & closer dive sites. Although there are a few dedicated dive resorts on the island, this was my first ever "liveaboard" - Friday to Sunday living & sleeping onboard the dedicated dive ship White Manta.  Four dives & a night dive on Saturday with a final dive on Sunday on the way home was quite a daunting prospect but exciting at the same time!

The whole operation is super smooth and super slick.  Boarding the White Manta on Friday it's a twelve hour sail from Singapore to Pulau Tioman and the first dive is early, 7am. The ship has lovely cabins and everything I could possibly need. The crew are super efficient and super friendly and it's the most luxurious diving I've ever had! 

The Gear

I took way more gear than I actually needed. The main camera I use on dive trips is a Canon S100 and the official underwater housing unit. Though I don't have any dedicated strobe units, the onboard flash through a diffuser is good enough, provided I can get close enough & steady enough.

For this trip I also paired it with the D30, Canon's newest shockproof & waterproof camera, and I was determined to put the camera through its paces.

I even took a 5DS, 6D, 11-24mm lens and 24-70mm lens intending to shoot the Milky Way but underestimated how much the boat would rock even in calm conditions.

For this trip, I covered six dive sites in total; 4 during the day on Saturday, 1 night dive and a final dive on Sunday morning before heading back home to Singapore.

Renggis Island

A nice easy site to get used to being in the water again.  Someone sunk a climbing frame, bicycle and treadmill  Visibilty was poor to average and although I had hoped to spot some sharks in the early morning light, sadly the biggest animal seen was a turtle. Still, not a bad first dive to get into the swing of things!

Tiger Reef

Another site where sharks are a common sight but again they opted not to show up.  Poor visibility and another absence of larger fish meant the focus was on the coral & smaller critters.

Pulau Labas

A tiny, rocky islet just off the coast of Tioman, the site is famous for numerous small swim-throughs in the rocks - beneath the surface, the island is like swiss cheese. Better visibility and lovely coral, we were also treated to a good, close-up view of a turtle meant this was a highlight for many of my dive companions but I didn't enjoy the tunnels - with so many diver, visibility inside was awful, claustrophobic and devoid of life. In hindsight I'd much rather have stayed outside the swimthroughs and stay shallower exploring the coral!

Batu Malang

Malay for Malang Rocks, this was the best dive site of the entire trip. Essentially it was three large rocky pinnacles, just underneath the surface of the water. Visibility peaked on this dive and it had the widest variety of pretty corals. Most of my pictures were shot on this dive! 

Pulau Tumuk

My first ever night dive, I was a little nervous about how much I'd enjoy it as I'm not a huge fan of "black water" - but it was great!  Decent visibility and conditions helped and although again we didn't see any larger marine life, seeing the glittering bronze eyes of tiny shrimp among the coral as my torch swept over them. I'll definitely be doing more night dives in the future.

Jack Rock

After a short overnight sail further south we stopped at the final dive site, Jack Rock, a tiny upthrust of black volcanic rock, barely breaking the surface. This dive was horrible, absolutely dreadful, with driving current and less than 2m visibility. It was an ordeal to be survived rather than enjoyed. Although I did manage to get a shot or two using the D30, in the end I abandoned photography and focused on surviving :)

Dawn upon arrival at Tioman Island

Renggis Island, with Tioman rising behind it. A nearby dive resort can be seen in the background.

The dive started to the left of the rocky area, proceeding around the nearside to the climbing frame & treadmill before heading around the back ready for pickup.

The famous Renggis Treadmill with the climbing frame in the background.  The currents were at their strongest here and I was more concerned with my position in the water than the man-made landscape!

A sunken bicycle looking forlorn on the seabed.

A stunning view of plate coral, one of my favourite shots from the entire trip.

A big Green Sea Turtle, shown here foraging among the coral.

An extremely well camoflagued cuttlefish! Its eye is visible at almost the exact centre of the frame.

S for Spikey Sea Urchins!

My base for the weekend, the MV White Manta

One of the boat crew responsible for fishing us all out of the water at the end of each dive.


The largest species of jellyfish in the world, a Lion's Mane jelly

The moment of launch - this is a "giant-stride" entry into the water.  You have to make sure you push yourself far forward to avoid banging your tank off the boat and make sure you don't hit the water face-first and risk losing your mask or regulator.

The first of many clownfish photos. I was on a mission to get some quality clownfish on this trip.  Shot on the D30.

A huge school of yellowtail barracuda, these are small specimens. I've swam alongside 3m long barracuda off the coast of Florida before, they are one ugly fish!

This was a peculiar sight. As my dive buddy kicked away with her fin, the wave of water behind her washed over the coral and it instantly turned from the orange brown of bottom left to the white colour you see top right. I think this is because all the coral polyps shrunk away in response to the surge of water.

Pulau Labas with Tioman Island in the background.

A black-and-yellow sea star has made its home on this coral head.

One of the most beautiful samples of coral I've ever seen, the detail & intricacy is unbelievable.

A exceptionally big & beautiful giant clam, this specimen was nearly half a metre long.

An abstract image of numerous tiny coral polyps.

This little clownfish bit me!

Another coral abstract, this almost looks like an aerial landscape to me.

This is a nudibranch, or in other words a sea slug. Super bright & colourful, they are awesome to see underwater but often difficult to spot because they are so small. This specimen is on the larger side at a few inches in length.

Pink anenome fish, similar species to clownfish.

Hide & Seek.

One of the largest clownfish I've ever seen, I've since learned that the larger a clownfish is the more likely it is to be female. All clownfish are born male then the largest in a group spontaneously changes sex to become female.

A Happy Couple.

A blue-spotted stingray hiding beneath a plate coral.

Coral detail.

The fields of stag-horn coral around Tioman often seemed endless and were quite the sight.

How that rock found its way there and how it stays balanced is quite amazing :)

The only photo from the night dive, this is a furry hermit crab hiding inside a conical shell.

Jack Rock, a tiny little outcrop in the middle of nowhere.

I can definitely recommenhite Manta liveaboards - click here for more info - and if you do decide to book a trip, please let them know I sent you! I don't get anything but it's nice to know my trip report was useful for you!