Pulau Labuan lies 115km south of Kota Kinabalu and 8km west of
mainland Sabah. Its deep harbour and duty free port attract shipping from all corners
of the world.
Although three islands, Pulau Kumaran, Pulau Rusukan Kecil and Pulau Rusukan Besar
are designated as Marine Parks, the special underwater attractions of Labuan are
its shipwrecks. Four well researched and regularly dived wrecks to the southwest
make this area 'the wreck diving centre' of Malaysia.
The sunken Philippine stern trawler MV Mabini Padre, locally called the 'Blue
Water Wreck' is 34km west of Labuan, in clear deep blue water. She floundered on
13 November 1981, during an attempt to douse a fire on board and now lies on her
port side on sand at a depth of 35m.
Sunk 24km southwest of Labuan by a Japanese mine on 17 June 1945, the 'American wreck',
the US Navy minehunter, USS Salute, lies broken in half and folded back on
herself, with the bow resting on top of the stern. The deepest part is at 30m while
the shallowest is only 12m below water. The marine life here is rich and colourful
but penetration of the hull is best left to experienced divers.
The 'Australian Wreck', until recently thought to have been sunk by the Royal Australian
Air force, has now been identified as the Dutch vessel SS De Klerk. Scuttled by the
Dutch in 1942 but salvaged by the Japanese and renamed Imabari Maru, she hit
a mine and sunk 23km southwest of Labuan in 1944. She now lies at a fifty-degree
angle on her port side, with only her metal skeleton left to attract abundant fish
The Tung Hwang, locally known as the 'Cement Wreck', is the most outstanding
shipwreck in Malaysia. A Japanese freighter carrying cement, she sank 21km south-southwest
of Labuan on 25 September 1980. This vessel, 92m long, 15m wide and 7.5m deep sits
vertically on the seabed at 30m. Several masts are broken but those remaining are
a mere 8m below sea level. Most of the superstructure is intact and eerily shrouded
in snagged fishing nets, creating an artificial reef rich
in coral growth and home to abundant fish life.
The Tung Hwang is a good introduction to wreck diving and for the more experienced,
it is a true adventure to penetrate a wreck in such a good condition. In calm weather,
the visibility can exceed 30m, making it a perfect subject for underwater photography.