I opt to stay at Tenggol Island Beach Resort as it has a cheaper package to start with and from background research, they are one of the longest establishments on the island. Plus their dive master has been around since the time the resort was built.
Paul, the manager, picked us up at the Dungun pier and brought us to the island. Since it was low season, it was just Belle and I in the entire resort! Not to say that the resort is vast but we did feel like we had the entire place to ourselves. Although the other resorts had a few guests, it didn’t feel over crowded on the beach either.
Tokong Timur is known for Whale shark sighting in September, but from a recent review, a few divers spotted juvenile Whale sharks in the area in March. So to test my luck, we dived here first. No, no Whale shark in sight but we spotted a few Bumphead Parrotfish among other marine life.
Only divers mostly know Tenggol and if you do not dive, there isn’t much for you to do here. There are no other restaurants for you to go to, so do expect a full board service when you book. Apart from the 3 resorts, lush jungle in the background and the sea in front of you, you have absolutely nothing to do! Its great if you are looking to have sometime to yourself.
*Never knew there was such thing as a lilac coloured hard coral!
Amazing Grace dive site was the turning point in all of this. It was my second dive and its safe to say I would be returning here again and again. I got down to about 24m with good visibility that evening. After spotting Bumpheads, I just sat in mid water rotating like a slow turntable.
A coral garden lay before me, in beautiful array of colours from floor to ‘ceiling’, Bumpheads swimming, schools of fishes and a village of anemone reef to one side, I’m surely in fish heaven. It was stunning! I have never see such a beautiful sight underwater before and I wish I had a camera to take a picture of it. There was no one else but just the 3 of us amongst the glorious marine life.
Oh…and everything here in Tenggol is 3 times the size of what I’ve seen back in Perhentian. The fishes are a rather curious lot too and some tend to swim close to you for further inspection.
Life on the island is rather simple; you get up, dive, eat, sleep and repeat. Unfortunately there aren’t many hammocks around in this resort so bringing your own would be a wise idea. If not you would have to fight for the one and only hammock available.
All in all, I would say I had one of the best dives right here in Tenggol. The marine and coral life here is unspoilt and as I’ve mentioned before, you hardly bump into another dive group. It is certainly one of the cleanest unspoilt beaches I’ve been too, so with an unpolluted environment like this one, do watch out for sand flies come evening time!
*I still have the bite marks… not pretty, but I’ll still go back there again to dive! And perhaps not go down to the beach during sunset.
Tenggol Island Beach Resort
They have been on the island for over 10 years and the manager here is Mr. Paul and his nephew Andrew is another person so ask for when Paul is not around. Paul is also a dive master so do expect him to know the best places to dive and spot the marine life you want to see. He’s been diving here for 10 years so do expect the best when you dive with them!
Mr. Chong would be the person to contact if you are to book online or call the office in Kuala Lumpur. Both Chong and Paul are really wonderful and helpful, so are the rest of the staff.
The accommodation is modest but clean, air-conditioned and rather spacious. The electricity comes on during the evenings around 6pm and goes on till morning 7am or sometimes later (depending occupancy). The hot water is 24h as it runs on gas. A reminder, the hot water on low is really hot!
It’s full board so all 3 meals are provided at specific times which are mentioned to you when you arrive. The food is good, so I wouldn’t worry. They do provide drinking water, teas and coffee all day. They hardly sell any alcohol or tobacco so for those of you, who need these, please bring them from the mainland. Actually bring all the snacks you fancy along with you as there are no convenient stores on the island!
The diving equipment is not spanking new but it still works. Most of the divers that come here have their own equipment so equipment rental is limited. The packages they offer with diving only covers for the dive master’s fee. I paid around Rm80 for full gear rental per-day. Do check with them for prices when you book. It worked out to be a tiny bit more expensive per dive but it is worth it!
I highly recommend this place as their dive master knows this place really well and is well experienced.
Tenggol Coral Beach Resort
They are the newbies on the block. Their accommodation seems swanky and their gear is definitely new but the price is definitely dearer compared to the other resort. This place cost a few hundred more and has a slightly better accommodating to its customers, as it has a few hammocks, beach chairs and so on.
They seem to be the only one here that has a little shop that sells tobacco and the odd snacks. But it cost twice as much as it does on the mainland, which is ridiculous.
I’m not too sure about their dive team, but I do know for a fact that they do not educate their snorkelers. I caught a few of them touching marine life and one even broke a few corals. When asked, they just said they were not told of the do’s and don’t in the water. As much as it’s the fault of the snorkeler for being ignorant, the person(from their dive shop) who rented the equipment to them said nothing either.
*Home stay in Dungun
All operators especially Tenggol Island Beach Resort leave at 8:30am from Dungun Pier to the island. So if you arrive a the day before, like us, you would need a place to stay. The best time to arrive is in the evening, as the homestay we were recommended to stay at is a long walk from shops. There is a eatery just outside the house which is convenient and the accommodation is pretty good for RM70 a night for two. Air-conditioned room, satellite TV, hot shower and a really clean room. Mr. Teck is the owner, and he is just wonderful. He was kind enough to pick us up from our stop and even send us to the pier the next morning!
*check out the links page for more details on these places
From Kuala Lumpur
Bus: You can take a bus from Kuala Lumpur heading to Kuantan and exchange there to get to Kuala Dungun. This might take about 7 hours in total or less.
Drive: This is the best as its quicker to get from Kuala Lumpur to Dungun. Takes about 5 hours in total without any stops and you can park at the pier, which is safe.
Fly: Take a flight into Kuala Terengganu and then a cab or bus ride down to Dungun, which would take roughly about 2 hours.
From Kuala Besut
Bus: There are buses that go past Dungun, in which they will stop to drop you off. These buses are headed towards Kuantan and would stop by Dungun to drop off passengers. Alternatively you have to get into Kuala Terengganu and then take another bus to Dungun. This could take up to 5 hours but it is a cheaper option.
Drive: Takes about 2 hours and it’s a beautiful ride as you pass by its coastal road.
Taxi: This can be super expensive, almost Rm200 if not more. So try to haggle if you can. We knew a few locals that were heading down here so we paid them about RM130 (for both of us) to drive us to Dungun.
Spotting Bumphead Parrotfish around here is almost usual. Marine life… stunning!
Home to a small family of Bumphead Parrotfish and a large collection of corals. It is truly one of the most beautiful dive sites around the island and I would high recommend this dive site to everyone. It’s sheltered so current here is relatively low if not none at all. But it’s a deep dive to about 30m.
Nudibranch heaven! You can see up too 20 different types of Nudibranches so keep those eyes sharp! The depth can get down past 25m but to see them you’ll have to be at about 12m-15m. The terrain can be a big of a challenge as you’ll be open to surge. This spot faces a rock wall so can be a bit of a challenge for some.
Known for Whale shark sighting, this site is at open sea with just a lighthouse for reference. Surprisingly there was little current that day so it was a relatively easy dive but usually; the current in the area is strong so descent as soon as you hit water.
This one is a strong current area. I got drifted out of the intended dive spot, as I didn’t manage to descend fast enough. But its got 10 prominent rocks that give this place the nickname ‘Tango Ten’. Drift diving here is fun; sadly the visibility wasn’t great so I didn’t spot as much as I wanted too apart from more Bumphead Parrotfish.
Beautiful reef wall. You’ll definitely see Blue Spotted Rays and the occasional Moray Eel. Do watch out for the Triton Triggerfish as I got attacked here… They are everywhere but more so on this side of the island. It’s not a deep dive, goes down to about 20m.
24m dive, with some surface current. If you are looking for Moray Eels, this place has a few and huge ones too. On this occasion we spotted a huge Barramundi Cod or Polkadot Grouper. It was estimated to be more than 2kg in weight. I didn’t really understand the significant of the fish until we surface to then entire group chatting excitedly about it. Apparently this fish is meant to taste really good and cost about RM800-RM1000 for a kilogram.
*this could explain all the hand signs I couldn’t understand underwater that kept referring to their mouths
The other site I didn’t manage to dive are:
- Coral Garden
- Tokong Burung
- Tokong Talang
- Tanjung Sarang Lang
- Fish Bowl
- Batu Chachang
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