Diving, Malaysia

Pom Pom diving – Mandarin fish!

September 29, 2015

Pom Pom diving. No, no, it’s not a bathtub filled with pom-poms and you jump-dive into it in a “Geronimo!” manner. Pom Pom is an actual island in Sabah, Malaysia.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia

Getting there

Pom Pom is a very small flat island, 2.3 km in circumference, it has two resorts – a dive and a non-dive one and only a few people actually live on the island. There are no seasons in that area which makes it a perfect diving site all year round. There’s no public transportation to the island – you need to fly in to Tawau, then take a car to Semporna and then a boat to the island. The car and the boat are covered by the resort and quite surprisingly, from our dive experience, it was one of the fastest islands to get to (no waiting in between each leg of the commute).
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
The whole package – diving, accommodation, food and a return transfer to the airport – is a bit on the pricey side, but boy was it worth it!
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia

Celebes Beach dive resort is still a tiny resort, I think it has 10 or so rooms only, but they’re planning to expand.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
There are no cars, no shops, barely any roads on the island, so do take everything you need.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
The resort provides all the food and they also sell soft drinks, so no worries about that one. But it’s still Malaysia, so don’t expect cheap alcohol there. I don’t think there was any alcohol at all actually, just some beer. So take note.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia

Diving at Pom Pom

Now to diving. We went after getting inspired by colleague’s advice (read his posts about it). Booked 5D/4N stay with 10 dives package. It was plenty for our comfortable pace of two dives a day, but we only covered maybe 10% of the possible dive sites.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia

Small stuff

What can I say, the place is famous for all the macro life you can see underwater – nudibranchs, shrimp, little crabs and finally – the holy grail for underwater macro enthusiasts – the Mandarin fish! The resort hosts yearly underwater photography competitions, here is the link to this year’s album of best pictures, truly remarkable!
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
You need to have a very good eye to spot things like this:
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving

(you see that purple fella in the middle of the photo, don’t you?)
And this. That’s an Orangutan crab I suppose:
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Unfortunately we didn’t take the camera for the dusk dive (that’s apparently the only time to see Mandarin fish in all its beauty) because it was our first sunset/night dive and we were, well, we were a bit scared of the unknown.

Even though we are both at almost 50 dives each, we only did our first night dive here in Pom Pom. Here’s the article about this special fish so you can get the context on why there’s so much fuss about it. So here is a perfect shot of mandarin fish by Celebes Dive Resort’s own Nurul Yazid. We saw about 10 of them in one dive, just saying (divers, envy!):
Mandarin fish by Nurul Yazid

Nudi, lots of nudi

Of course, there were TONS of different kind of nudibranchs. Nudis are my favourite things to spot, but now the definition of macro, of course, changed a bit, so nudi is more micro to me. There are smaller things to spot underwater, now I know. After all the teeny tiny things we now can spot, finding a nudi it easy-peasy.
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Small stuff @Pom Pom diving
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
This one’s my personal favourite:
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Now, to bigger things. This is the juvenile harlequin sweetlips – the cutest little sweetie:
Small stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Pom Pom diving

Venomous stuff

These are the things that if you touch, you die in a slow painful death:
Venomous things @ Pom Pom, Malaysia
Well, maybe not exactly die, but it would be rather uncomfortable either way. So rule of the underwater-thumb (whut?) is: don’t touch anything that’s either too pretty or too ugly – that’s most probably venomous. But to be honest, the complete rule should sound be: DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING.

Lionfish aka Pterois:
Venomous stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Same lionfish, but from the side. I’ve never seen them swimming like this, they would usually sit somewhere hidden, but here, they’re the kings of the sea.
Venomous stuff @ Pom Pom diving
Venomous stuff @ Pom Pom diving
I accidentally landed on hard coral while getting into the water at low tide on our first dive and ended up having a pretty nasty cut that’s still healing a month later. The coral on the other hand was perfectly fine. So touch nothing, divers :-) But overall it was a fantastic trip! Great diving, friendly people, the clearest sea I’ve ever seen and a strong feeling we will come back.
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
So see you soon, Pom Pom!
Celebes Beach Resort @ Pom Pom island, Malaysia
p.s. And as always, thank you Anton for taking and editing the photos :-*

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