Every dive day we will get up early, have breakfast and load up before parting Dungun. 35 minutes of boat ride later, beyond the bow and far on the horizon creeps up the last island along the Terengganu coast, Tenggol.
Tenggol Island or Pulau Tenggol is a beautiful three by two kilometre island off the southern coast of Terengganu, Malaysia. It is part of a cluster of islands which also include Pulau Nyireh, Tokong Timur, Tokong Talang, Tokong Burung and Tokong Kemudi (Tokong Laut).
The name Tenggol originated from the shape of the island which looks like a person perching (Bahasa Malaysia “tenggek”, Terengganu dialect “tenggol”) from afar.
Pulau Tenggol was traditionally uninhabited and is therefore almost as close to it’s original state. It is believed that Vietnamese refugees who fled by boat were stranded on the island after the Vietnam War.
Pulau Tenggol is surrounded by the warm crystal clear waters of the South China Sea. For the most part, the island is rocky, rugged, covered with dense jungle and surrounded by beautiful steep cliffs. There are two beaches on the island, located on Teluk Ayer Tawar and Pasir Tenggara.
Most travellers visit Pulau Tenggol for it’s amazing dive sites. Some even say it’s “the best diving in Peninsular Malaysia”.
The monsoon season starts at the end of October to early November and ends at the end of February.
The dive sites are unspoiled and much of the reef remains intact. Tenggol Island and the surrounding islands are blessed with various reef types which are well suited for all level of divers from beginner up to technical divers. Most of the dive sites are accessible through out the diving season, however early in the season from March to late June, the Southern part of the Island is ideal. During the middle towards the end of the season which is in late October the Northern part will be best.
Shallow fringing reefs like Turtle Point on the western part starts from about 4 metres and gradually becomes deeper up to about 18 metres. The dive site is sheltered in a deep bay and is excellent for beginners. It’s thriving with colourful reef fishes and creatures. At times, guitar sharks and eagle ray may be spotted at the deeper sandy area.
Submerged rock formations and pinnacles are one of the many favourites among divers. Some of these dive sites are quite deep and can go up to 40 metres. Generally these dive sites are suited for more experienced divers as they may be exposed to challanging environmental conditions. Big pelagics are frequently spotted here, especially giant trevallies, bonitos, baracuddas and the famous whaleshark. Notable sites on Tenggol Island are Tokong Timur, Tokong Burung, Tokong Talang, Tokong Laut, Tokong Dolah, Berolok and Fish Bowl.
Deep sloping reefs are also one of Tenggol Island’s highlight among divers. Sites like Amazing Grace and Tanjung Gemok are where one can find healthy coral formations as far as the eyes can see. Huge soft coral colonies are also present and the view on a clear visibility day is breath taking.
Due to it’s strategic location, Tenggol Island hosts another speciality which is drift diving. Currents around famous sites like Moon Raker, Mini Highway and Tanjung Api can be quite strong and is not for the faint hearted. The sites are deep and lengthy which is ideal for drift diving. Divers will be rewarded not just with the adrenaline rush but also the beautiful scenery and hunting pelagic creatures.
Aside from huge pelagics, macro creatures are also in abundance here. Tenggol Island wall dives are where most macro hunters especially those who are into photography will flock. Exotic nudibanchs are a common sight and rare creatures like ornate ghost pipe fish can also be spotted. Shrimps and other curious creatures are also favourites among critter hunters. Wall dives in Tenggol can be quite relaxing as the dive sites are mostly sheltered.
For thrill seekers and those who’s an explorer at heart, Tenggol has some interesting ship wrecks to offer. The Malaysian Marine Park Department has sunk several vessels to act as artificial reefs at various locations around the island. Fisherman Wreck, Deep Wreck , Sawadee Wreck and Five Sisters Wreck are suitable for most divers with advance certification training. The wrecks are at various depths, with the deepest being at 34 metres. This is still within the recreational depth limit.
There are two other wrecks that are of historical value which is Kapal Kain (Cloth Wreck) and Propeller Wreck. Both of this vessels were sunk a few decades ago. Given the extreme depth of more than 50 metres, diving here is strictly limited to Technical Divers only.
Upon completing the last dive of the day, Lady Fatima takes us back to Dungun
where we spend the night, replenish, and get ready to do it all over again the next day
Kuala Dungun is a coastal fishing town in the state of Terengganu, Malaysia. Located 366km away from Kuala Lumpur, it is only a 3.5 to 4 hours drive away, thanks to the new highway (LPT2).
The neighbouring town, Bukit Besi used to be a busy iron mining town in the 1940s til the early 1980s and Kuala Dungun served as the port where the ore was imported.
Kuala Dungun is a relatively laid-back and quiet town but comes alive every Thursday night when the night market or pasar malam opens up. It is one of the biggest night markets in Terengganu, well known for its many food stalls and used imported goods. Be sure to go with an empty stomach so you can indulge in all sorts of local food.
There are a few beaches in Kuala Dungun including Pantai Teluk Lipat, Pantai Teluk Bidara, Pantai Batu Pelanduk and Pantai Teluk Gadong. In the evenings, many locals head to the beach for kite flying, fishing or to just enjoy the beautiful view with family and friends.
Dungun is well known for it’s many food stalls and restaurants. It is probably one of the best place to eat, dive, sleep and repeat.
Here’s a list of restaurants and food stalls (including dishes to try) we highly recommend when in Dungun: Medan Ikan Bakar, CB Wee Seafood, Warung YY Gemilang, Maggi Ketam Station, Keropok Lekor Nelayan, HBO Pink House, Hola West, Uncle Chua, D’Arianna, Laila Tom Yam.
KFC, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Domino Pizza, Merrybrown, and various local and western cuisine.
7-Eleven, Nirvana Hypermart, Pasar Besar Dungun
Hospital Dungun, Watsons, Alpro Pharmacy, private & government clinics
Maybank, CIMB, Agrobank, Public Bank, Bank Rakyat, BSN, Western Union