April 2019: Diving hasn’t opened up in the remote Anambas islands yet. You need to be self-contained or have connections with the right authorities to access tanks and air fills. Lucky for us, we carry all our gear on MOKEN, including a dive compressor to refill our tanks. We were really looking forward to seeing what the diving would be like. We didn’t have much to go on, so it was truly exploratory diving at its best. Here’s our dive log.
April 8, 2019: Pulau Pejaul Bay
We went for our first Anambas dive after breakfast this morning on a healthy fringing reef inside the bay near our Pulau Pejaul anchorage. We dove right off MOKEN. Our max depth was 35 feet where the reef gave way to sand. The reef was mostly hard corals with lots of small fish and a few larger ones about. We spotted a well camouflaged cuttlefish. I think he was sleeping. When he woke up, he inked us and swam away. The visibility wasn’t great as there were a lot of long particles in the water and the wind was driving into the bay. Still, a pleasant surprise for our first exploratory dive inside a sheltered bay.
April 11, 2019: Pulau Mandariau Darat Clam Dive
This afternoon, we loaded our dive gear into the kayaks and paddled to the bouldery beach to dive the rocky point on the western point of Pulau Mandariau Darat. We geared up on shore and swam around the point until we reached deeper water. This turned out to be a remarkably beautiful dive site, which we christened the Clam Dive. There were clams everywhere. Oodles of small, colourful clams and a few giant clams too. There was a surprising variety of fish, mostly smaller tropical reef fish, but also a few big guys too. Triggerfish, parrot fish, angle fish, anemone fish, goat fish, butterfly fish, and lots more. Again, this site had mostly hard corals in a huge variety. There were very few soft corals. The shallow reef was a bit dead, but overall, a very healthy reef. We maxed out at 22 feet before we hit the sandy channel between the islands. A happy dive!
April 18, 2019: Pulau Basung Double Reefs
We scoped out the reefs around our anchorage at Pulau Basung and made plans for a morning dive. After coffee, we geared up and surface swam from MOKEN to the fringing reef off Pulau Basung. We descended to 14 feet and swam out around the point to our right. On the far side, we found lots of reef fish and schooling fish, including some large Napolean Wrasse (bumphead parrotfish). We reached 54 feet, although my computer wasn’t accurately recording my depth. It read 30 feet at max depth. After turning around, we returned to the point and crossed over a sandy patch and continued along the inside of a second submerged reef. We found a small school of catfish along the way, then ascended the sandy slope and hung out for our safety stop in the shallows below MOKEN. Another nice dive overall!
April 21, 2019: Pulau Pasu Shark Dive
Happy Easter! After morning coffee, Chris dropped the dinghy and we loaded our dive gear for the ride over to the beach on a small islet located between Pulau Pasu and Pulau Penjalin Kecil. We were going to dive the reef off the southeast side, where we’d heard there might be sharks. We geared up in the shallow water, which proved to be more challenging than I expected. I needed more hands and my BCD wouldn’t float no matter how much air I put in it. I guess it has a hole in it. The swim out over the reef was very shallow with some swell, and I kept getting sand in my fins, so I kept having to stop to deal with that. I finally caught up to Chris and we descended to seven feet. My computer was still on the fritz with depth, but at least the air pressure readings were accurate. It wasn’t starting out to be a very auspicious dive. But that changed quickly. This was a gorgeous, healthy reef and the visibility was spectacular. We spotted two sharks right off the bat and there were lots of Napoleans, parrotfish and assorted reef fish. The sharks weren’t shy and followed us for most of our dive, with lots of swim bys to get a good look at us. We took advantage and also got a good look at them. We kept swimming further offshore until the reef got deeper before finally dropping off to a sandy shelf around 90 feet. We only saw one anemone in the shallows, the rest was all hard corals of all sorts. We swam back to the shallows and then continued back to shore on the surface. I’d give this dive a solid nine out of ten. It probably would rate a ten if we could have done it as a boat dive.
April 21, 2019: Pulau Setuju Coral Garden
Chris filled two tanks back on MOKEN and we had lunch then did some beach exploring by dinghy. In the late afternoon, we decided to do a second dive to the reef fringing the eastern shore of Pulau Setuju. This meant a long surface swim from MOKEN as there was nowhere to beach the dinghy. We finally reached the reef, made our descent and swam in a northeastward direction. Here we found gorgeous reefs again, although these were interspersed with some dead zones. Not sure what caused the damage. Lots of reef fish here too, including a big Napolean and a jumbo pufferfish. Very nice deep reefs to explore and virtually no current.
We would have loved to have made more dives but our generator started to protest when it came time to fill tanks. Rather than be without air to clean the hull en route to Langkawi, we reluctantly decided to call off further dives for this trip as there was nowhere in the islands for us to get our tanks filled. Maybe that will change in the future as tourism opens up more in these spectacular islands.
We only sampled these few spots, and being without a live boat, we had to be content diving from shore or straight off MOKEN in sheltered areas away from currents. I’m convinced we just scratched the surface of the possibilities of diving in this remote archipelago and if this is any indication of what’s out there, I can’t wait to go back again one day to explore more.
In our next post, we say goodbye to the Anambas Islands and Indonesia and head to mainland Malaysia. Stay tuned!