The last reef in Sarawak?

16 Sep

Kuching bay underwater

Before taking off across the S China Sea, we anchored out near the western point of Sarawak to give ourselves an easy, early morning departure. It also happened to be a spot with, shockingly, a sweet little reef to explore. We’ve gotten used to being anchored in a marine park while local boats actively fish around us (including park rangers!?), so this was something of a pleasant surprise.

Here in Sarawak, Malaysia, overfishing and negligent fishing practices have devastated most reef environments. Despite the pretty pictures, this one was not healthy. There were no fish bigger than about 12″, and not a single shark- hallmarks for healthy reefs. But the diversity of corals and other marine life was good, as you’d hope near the edge of the Coral Triangle region.

We anchored near a small island with a turtle hatchery project to spend the afternoon. Jamie and I worked on getting barnacles off the bottom of Totem so they wouldn’t slow us down on our passage to Tioman. We had several knots of current, which made the bottom work exceptionally tiring. I had to hang onto a line so that when I came up from underneath I could hang at the surface and recover- it was impossible to really catch my breath if I had to keep kicking into the current just to stay in one place.

Meanwhile, Claire hit the reef and found many fishy friends, so with a smoother hull we went to join her. It’s no Raja Ampat, but it was surprisingly lovely and intact. She had just been diving over in Sabah near Sipidan, on the NE side of Malaysian Borneo: over there, you can still see lots of turtles, massive schools of fish, beautiful reef forms, even some sharks. She insisted this was still pretty cool. We were just so happy to have her with us!

Claire's here!

I of course cannot get over my fixation on anemonefish. So dang cute with their little grumpy faces. Love the colors of anemone this group is hanging out in.

Kuching bay underwater

I think this is a type of bubble coral, but I don’t know. It was absolutely gorgeous, and there were a few clusters in a few different colors scattered around the reef.

Kuching bay underwater

Beautiful coral forms.

Kuching bay underwater

Niall has become quite the freediver. He can get down and hang well enough to grab photos like this of the fans that tend to be happier with more depth.

Kuching bay underwater

My favorite moment was spotting a flatworm on the bottom. Here it is in my palm: how adorable is this tiny thing? I can’t believe I managed to see it, to be honest.


We’ve been given the moniker of The Happy Family by our friend Brian on the MV Furthur. Sometimes I think it should be The Snorkeling Family.

This all unfolded was about the same time we started getting those “first day of school” pictures from friends at home… somehow, this little island felt like the perfect classroom for our little learners. I guess you could say this is our first day not back at school.

Kuching bay days

This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world


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