Every year, people from around Asia come to Labuan to dive. The waters surrounding the seven idyllic islands off Labuan are home to some of Malaysia’s richest coral and fishing grounds. Labuan offers fascinating and colourful underwater sights on coral reefs with a dazzling variety of marine life.
Nearby are four wrecks, which also make for great diving for wreck-diving enthusiasts. They are the Blue Water Wreck, the Cement Wreck, the American Wreck and the Australian Wreck. Each of these wrecks has its unique character. All the four wrecks are suitable for both beginners and more serious divers.

Great Wreck Explorations Off Labuan
Up to now, Labuan has identified four ship wrecks to dive near Labuan; two from World War II and two from the 1980’s. These ships lie in 100 to 115 feet of water, with the top portions at 25 to 70 feet. Visibility varies greatly season to season from 20 feet to 70 feet. These wrecks are named “Cement Wreck“, “American Wreck”, “Australian Wreck” and “Blue Water Wreck”.

The type of diving on these wrecks ranges from novice to serious wreck diving with penetrations into the hulls. Local dive schools provide various introduction and basic wreck diving training courses leading to a PADI Wreck Diver Specialty rating and TDI Advanced Wreck Diving course.

The “Cement Wreck” is most suited for novice divers. For the “Blue Water” wreck, one must be an advanced diver with deeper diving experience logged. To penetrate into the above two wrecks or to dive the “American” or “Australian” wreck, one must be certified in a wreck diver specialty or have logged experience in wreck diving.

Conditions For Diving
All divers are required to show proof of diver training from an internationally recognized Diver Training Agency or they will not be allowed to dive without first taking a dive course. Log books are highly recommended. All dives must be with a buddy; no solo diving is allowed. Depth on any dive shall be limited to a maximum of 130ft (40m). For safety measures, a mandatory minimum 60 minutes surface interval is required before the next consecutive dive, regardless of whether you are diving by computer or by tables.

To Night Dive, divers must show proof of night, cavern or wreck diving (with penetration) in the form of certification cards or log books documenting such dives. If no proof is available, diver who wish to night dive are required to take an introduction or certification course in night diving. The latest recommendation from DAN and Diver Training Agencies, recommends a waiting time of 12 hours after diving, and sometimes up to 24 hours, before boarding a plane.

Nitrox Diving In Labuan
Enriched Air or Nitrox is a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen like air but with higher proportion of oxygen. Using this mixture, divers can stay underwater longer than when using normal air. It is safer than other methods because divers are less likely to get ‘bends’ since they are breathing in more oxygen. The use of Nitrox in recreational diving in Labuan started in 1995. It is only for suitably qualified divers with EANx certification, but certification courses in Nitrox are conducted in Labuan for divers, either in groups or individually.

The Four Wreck Of Labuan
The Australian Wreck
Name : SS De KLERK
Type : Cargo/Passenger Steamer
Dimensions : L85 m, B12 m, DR6 m (approx)
Year Built : 1900
Built By : Unknown

This wreck lies south west of Rusukan Besar Island about 23 km from Labuan and is anything but Australian. It is the wreck of a cargo and passenger steamer originally named SS De KLERK, built in Amsterdam in 1990 and plying what was then the Dutch West Indies. During World War II the Dutch scuttled the ship to prevent it from falling into Japanese hands. But the Japanese salvaged the ship and renamed it the ‘Imbari Maru’. In 1949 while on a voyage to Manila it struck a mine off Labuan and sank. 339 passengers lost their lives, mostly workers and prisoners of war. The wreck lies on the sea bed under 21 meters of water. Experienced divers will enjoy exploring the interior of the wreck. Others will appreciate the variety of marine life around it, including soft corals, lion fish and seldom-seen frog fish. It is a good subject for underwater photography.

The American Wreck
Name : USS Salute
Type : US Navy Minesweeper
Dimensions : L184 ft, B33 ft, DR9 ft
Year Built : 1943
Built By : Winslow Marine Railway and Shipbuilding Co. Seattle, Washington DC, USA

This wreck lies south-east of Rusukan Kecil Island, 1.4 km away from the Australian wreck and about 24 km from Labuan. It is the “USS SALUTE”, a US Navy Minesweeper built in Seattle, Washington in 1943. It was first put into service in Hawaii in 1944 escorting convoys between Pearl Harbor and several ports in the Far East. Later it was involved in intense action, providing protection for anti-aircraft vessels and submarine, as well as minesweeping. After several minesweeping operations in the Philippines, the ship began operating in Brunei Bay where it struck a mine in 1945. Nine US sailors lost their lives when she sank.

The Cement Wreck
Name : MV Tung Hwuang
Type : Freighter
Dimensions : L92 m, W15 m, DR7 m
Year Built : Unknown
Built By : Unknown

The “TUNG HWANG” is a freighter that sank while transporting cement to Brunei for the Sultan’s new palace. It hit the Samarang Bank and sank as it tried to reach Labuan for repairs. Fortunately, no lives were lost. The wreck now lies east of Kuraman Island and just 21 km from Labuan. It has settled in an upright position. It is the easiest wreck to navigate, making it ideal for training in wreck diving. Divers can swim around in the cargo hold and docks. There is a great variety of marine life to be found here including barracuda, turtles, lion fish and reef fish. Soft and hard corals grow on the surface of the wreck, which makes this the best Labuan wreck for underwater photography.

The Blue Water Wreck
Name : Mabini Padre
Type : Stern Trawler
Dimensions : L80 m, B12 m, DR6 m (approx)
Year Built : Unknown
Built By : Unknown

This wreck lies northeast of Kuraman Island and is 34 km from Labuan. It gets its name from the very clear ‘blue’ waters it lies. Of all the wrecks, this one has the best visibility. The wreck is the ‘MABINI PADRE’, a large Philippines fishing trawler, which caught fire and sank in 1981. It is an interesting site for divers as it is completely intact. It also supports a wealth of marine life like soft corals, grouper and bat fish.

 

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