Turtle on Mamutik Shore Dive


JO watches the friendly Green Turtle feeding
just 100m from the Dive Station on Mamutik Island – TARP

In contrast to our previous Marine Turtle post we’re pleased to report a positive turtle story.

Throughout the past month divers and snorkelers around Mamutik Island have been treated to several encounters with a friendly Green Turtle (Cheonia myda) that has been feeding on the fringing reefs of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.

Green and Hawksbill turtles are seen throughout the year within the park but the environmental and hunting challenges they face have resulted in fewer sightings. As a result an encounter is fairly uncommon and always a treat.

For more information on Turtles please visit our Turtle Marine Biology page.

Saltwater Crocodiles in Sabah – Borneo


We have once again been treated to several sightings of Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah Borneo, some in excess of 3m in length.

Crocodylus porosus is one of three or four species of Crocodilian living Borneo, it is also the largest growing up to 7m long.

Worldwide populations have greatly decreased throughout the last century due to habitat lose, urbanization, river development projects and extensively being hunted for their meat, skin and through fear. This trend however has reversed in Sabah within the last 10-15 years and along the lower Kinabatangan river numbers are increasing


This recovery is probably due to a number of factors, most influential was protection of the species in 1982 and establishment of the Sandakan Crocodile Farm in Eastern Sabah which fulfills the demand for the animals meat and skin

Saltwater Crocodiles are an awesome creature to see, especially in the wild in an area where they are abundant and thriving. For more images please visit our Borneo Reptiles photo collection.

When staying at Kinabatangan we reside off the beaten track at Bilit Adventure Lodge.



Nudibranchs – What are they?


H. kanga. Hoovering up the soft tissue of its
favored sponge.

Nudibranchs ( meaning naked – gill and pronounced NUDI BRANKS) are Sea slugs belonging to the class Gastropoda and are always a popular creature for divers to look out for.


Gills are located at the back of
the animals body

They have soft bodies and in many cases are extremely colourful ranging in size from microscopic to almost two feet long !

They can be found in all our oceans throughout the world at all depths with many remaining undescribed. For more information about the biology of Nudibranchs please visit our Marine Biology Sea Slug page.

When pointing out Nudi’s during training dives for novices one of the most frequently asked questions is what do they eat ?? Sea slugs consume a wide variety of foods from Brozoans, Hydroids, Alge and even each other !!


H. kanga. Sensory organs on the
top of their head help locate food.

The most common slugs encountered by divers are from the family Chromodoris they are mainly sponge feeders and represent some of the most colorful of all the families.

On a recent dive we captured some interesting,


descriptive shots of H. kanga feeding on its favored sponge food, image above and right.

We thought this post might interest marine enthusiasts and help them better understand the way Nudi’s eat.

As you can see in the first image, the mouth opening extends and it is literally hoovering up the living tissue of the sponge leaving only the white skeleton behind.


These animals use “chemical warfare” as means of defence. Storing toxins from the consumed food within their soft bodies. The toxins are either distasteful or poisonous to their predators. This form of protection has been so successful that many have evolved without a shell, unlike their land cousin the common snail.

Knowing the food source can help identify a species as coloration is often variable.

We have compiled a photographic Sea Slug Field Guide to assist divers in identifying their Nudibranch find, it is presented like a free book for all to use.

Danger Downbelow – Box Jellyfish


Grain like spots located on each corner
of the bell head are the animals eyes

Whilst conducting a Macro Photo Dive this morning at Palau Mamutik in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP), Kota Kinabalu, Sabah we came upon what is reputed to be the most venomous marine creature on earth, the Box Jellyfish Chironex sp, sometimes referred to as the Sea Wasp.

Known mostly for its presence in Northern Australia for approx. 50 -60 deaths in the past 100 years. In the Asia – pacific region deaths resulting from these creatures are less reported and as a result their existence for most people goes unnoticed. Dr Jamie Seymour, head of the Australia Tropical Stinger Research Center – QLD suggests as many as 100 – 200 deaths per year may take place in Asia Pacific.

Easily recognized by the box shaped head and four clusters of tentacles grouped together at each corner. They are a member of the class Cubozon and scientists today are still deciphering the basic biology of these lethal creatures.

What we do know is each one of their tentacles contain millions of stinging cells and if a person is stung badly death can occur in a few minutes. Fortunately these animals do not target humans but they do inhabit surrounding waters of tropical beaches where we love to swim.

They have eyes at each corner of the box head but no brain, see image left. When they see something as large as a human its thought they stay away.

In more than 400 dives within the TAR Park, we’ve only ever seen three whilst underwater, one upon exiting a shore dive, one in the surface waters above the reef and today, on an artificial reef in 5m of water, all were within a handful of meters from bikini clad swimmers. We have also seen them cruising the Sutera Harbor region on the mainland more frequently, perhaps they enter the marina and find it difficult to get out. Usually our sightings follow heavy periods of rain, as has been the case here for the past two weeks.


Not all Jellyfish are harmful to humans

Encounters with these animals are very rare here in Sabah, when we first arrived and for several months we were unaware of their presence. We feel however that people should be somewhat vigilant especially those with children, a young girl died from a sting last November just a few hundred meters from where we saw one today. Treatment for stings is to apply acetic acid -household vinegar but most importantly seek medical care immediately.

Its also important to know that not all jellyfish are dangerous to humans, we often encounter other species that are quite stunning in appearance and totally harmless.


Whale Shark Sightings


Divers, Swimmers and Snorkelers should stay at least 3m away from
Whale Sharks

This year’s Whale Shark season in Kota Kinabalu has passed with no credible sightings, which leads us to wonder why?

Every year from February to April the waters surrounding the north western coast of Borneo become cooler with temperatures dropping as low as 24 degrees at diving depths. At the same time, Krill begin to appear along with their predator the Whale Shark Rhincodon typus – the only representative of the Rhincodontidae family.

Although the Whale Shark is the largest fish in the ocean, migration patterns are still poorly understood and their absence this season could be attributed to a number of occurrences. For one, last years giant visitors were harassed and injured by locals and tourists, one young male was hit by a boat propeller.


Fish Bombers photographed in the Tunku
Abdul Rahman Park, Sabah Borneo

Overfishing and ocean pollution is a rising and constant threat to all marine life within the food chain and will no doubt put pressure on already small numbers of Shark visitors to the region. Unknown to most, fish bombing continues in the surrounding waters of Sabah, although an illegal practice law enforcement appears to be weak in this area and we often hear bombs exploding whilst diving.

This years El Nino could also be a factor, studies at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville indicate that in strong El Nino years Krill numbers are lower, whereas during La Nina years krill abundance proved to be much higher. So perhaps the El Nino phenomenon somehow negatively affects the whale sharks’ food supply in certain areas, thus less or in our case none are seen.

At Ningaloo reef in Western Australia the Department of Fisheries and Calm have developed strict guidelines for human interaction with Whale Sharks. Perhaps in positive anticipation of them returning next year the local authorities of Sabah should introduce a similar enforcement. For more information on these guidelines please click here.

For more information on Whale Sharks please visit our Marine Biology Sharks section.