THE CEMENT WRECK:
Located at 05 , 13.295' N , 115,04.875' E and resting in an upright position the 92m long, 2654 Ton Japanese cargo ship the M.V. Tung Hwang, sank on the 15-9 -80 after having hit the Samarang Bank en route to Brunei, with a cargo of cement for use in construction of the Sultans palace.
This beautiful wreck ranges in depth from 8m at the top of the bridge gantry where the buoy line is tied off down to a 32m sandy bottom. The wreck is encrusted in soft corals and feather stars and is home to massive shoals of swirling bait fish and many kinds of predators in search of lunch. The ship is still fairly intact apart from the damage to the bow where it struck the bank; also, the funnel has collapsed, lying on its port side tearing away part of the deck which now gives good access to the engine room and various corridors running off it. The marine life on this site is abundant with many different species including Lion Fish , Cube box Fish, Moray Eels and schools of Bat Fish just to name a few. Unfortunately, the local fishermen know where the wreck is resulting in quite a few nets and lines hanging on the steel work after they have been snagged and then abandoned. These in turn spell death for creatures such as Turtles which get trapped in them. Sometimes fishermen still fish on the wreck even when they know there are divers down on it. This resulted one day with Matt getting hit on the head with a fishing weight much to Terry’s amusement. You could dive this wreck everyday and not get bored with it as there is so much life on it and so many parts to explore. Probably one of the best dive sites we have dived, and quoted by some sources as the most photogenic wreck in Asia.
THE AMERICAN WRECK
Located at 05 degrees 08.614' N , 115 04.906' E the USS Salute AM 294, Admirable Class Minesweeper lies broken in half on a sand bottom at 30m after hitting a Japanese mine on the 8th June 1945, during pre-invasion sweeps of the Brunei Bay, with the loss of nine lives.
Built in November 1942 by Winslow Marine Railway and Shipbuilding Co., Seattle, Washington, and launched in February1943, this 60m long, 625 Ton minesweeper served firstly as an escort ship before joining Mine Division 34 in the South China Sea . She received 5 Battle Stars for her part in WW II. Before hitting a mine amidships causing the bow and stern to start sinking, two landing craft came to her aid and attempted salvage but were unable to control the flooding and she eventually sank.
The Salute, now lies in 30m of water and is very broken up and collapsing in on herself. Various war goods can still be seen on the wreck including rounds of ammunition. Depth charges were removed by the Malaysian Navy recently causing more damage. The wreck is now home to many soft corals and schools of Yellow Tailed Barracuda. Because of its depth topping out around 20m, one ends up with a relatively short dive which is a shame as there is a great deal to see on this wreck.
THE AUSTRALIAN WRECK
Situated at 05 , o8.283' N, 115 ,05.403' E the "Australian Wreck" lies on her port side at a 50 degree angle slowly collapsing into the sand at 33m. Some uncertainty surrounded the origins of this wreck. It gets its name from the fact that it was thought to be an Australian ship or that it was Japanese and had been sunk by an Australian torpedo bomber. Both theories have been now proven to be incorrect.
The ship was originally a Dutch passenger/cargo steamer called the S.S. De Clerk, built in 1909 by Nederlandsche Scheepsbow, Maasschappij. This 300ft long, 40ft wide, 2071 Ton ship, was scuttled by the Dutch Navy in 1942 at Tanjong Priok, West Malaysia, to prevent her use by invading Japanese forces. The Japanese subsequently re-floated the ship and renamed it the Imbari Maru (some say the Imaji Maru). Unfortunately, during a sailing between Singapore and Manila, whilst transporting 1210 personnel to the Philippines, she struck a Japanese mine at 09.45hrs on 16th September 1944, with the loss of 339 lives, mainly all prisoners being transported as slave labour and were chained up in the cargo holds! The wreck is complete, but collapsing in on itself. The teak decking and wooden wheel house have rotten away giving easy access into the cargo holds which contain various war goods and china crockery and bottles, plus some human remains of those who perished on her, and therefore should be treated with the respect of a war grave (but generally isn’t!!). Care should be taken inside the wreck as the bulkheads and shell plating are very flimsy in parts. Most of the ship’s portholes have already rotted out and disappeared into the silt that has collected in the holds (apart from those which have been plundered!!). Visibility on the wreck is generally poor, adding to the wreck’s eerie feel. There is not a great deal of coral growth on the wreck, but it still attracts an abundance of bait fish and various pelagics, such as the 2m Stingray that took Matt by surprise as it glided out of the gloom on one of our dives. The poor visibility does not really mar this dive, it just adds to the overall feel of it, making it another excellent wreck dive off Brunei.
BLUE WATER WRECK
Located 35km offshore the wreck of the 80m long, 12m wide Philippine stern trawler the "Mabini Padre" lies on her portside in 35m of water. She sank on 13 November 1981 whilst under tow fighting a fire on board. Rumour has it that the amount of water used to dowse the flames was the reason why she eventually sank.
This wreck is commonly known as the "Blue Water Wreck” due to its position so far offshore out in the “blue water" and therefore generally has excellent visibility. The best of all the wrecks around Brunei. The only trouble with it being so far offshore is that chances to dive it are few and far between , but on a plus note at least the marine life is not constantly being hassled by divers and therefore is abundant , I do not think we have seen so many Lion Fish on one wreck, they are literally everywhere . The coral growth on this wreck is not as prolific as other wrecks but it is getting a good coating of hydroids and sponges, it is also home to big schools of Barracuda, White Tip Sharks and many other pelagics cruising around such as Trevallies, Jacks, Spanish Mackerel and Tuna.
Once again with this wreck, dive time is limited as it bottoms out at 35m, with the highest point at 24m. But being so easy to navigate with it lying on its side and visibility so good , it is easy to see the whole wreck in one dive and gaze down upon it whilst hanging off the buoy line whilst doing a safety stop, you never know what might come cruising past out of the blue water.
These tiny outcrop of rocks just offshore of Brunei, are home to a light beacon and nesting Sea Eagles on the surface, and plentiful corals and fish below. This was the first place we took Matt for his open water dives, and were surprised by the amount of life on them especially Anemones, and a various kinds of Clown Anemone fish, resident in them. Unfortunately, being so close to shore it is subject to bad visibility, fairly strong currents and a fair bit of surge in the shallows. But, if you time your tides correctly, it is not a bad site for a first dive experience. We often use this site for training dives.
Further out to sea towards the Malaysian island of Kuruman, Abana Reef is often used as a second dive site for a shallow dive after a deeper wreck dive. Once again this site is very much alive with whip corals and Anemones, but the visibility is once again generally only average so you don’t really get an overall view of the beauty of the reef, which is a shame.
Even closer to Kuruman, this reef tops out at 9m and drops off on all sides to a sand bottom at around 20m, making it easy to navigate in it’s usually low visibility state. With the site full of life, you get the feeling that if the visibility was better, there would be the chance of seeing larger fish, rays, or sharks instead of all the relatively small stuff even as pretty as it is.