KOTA KINABALU: At least 70 shipwrecks off the Tip of Borneo, the northernmost part of Sabah in Kudat district, make the location a potential tourism draw for wreck divers.
The wrecks are believed to have historical value with at least 35 of them from before the 20th century, some said to date back to the 10th century.
Blue Fin Surf and Dive founder Camuel Tsen said dive operators were keen to help develop wreck diving as part of the state’s tourism products.
He said wreck diving could be another added attraction for the Tip of Borneo, which gained popularity for diving and surfing prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and the venue for the annual Sunset Music Festival.
Tsen said they often heard reports about wrecks in the northern waters, which have been along major maritime routes through the South China Sea and Sulu Sea for over 1,000 years.
“There are many stories of wrecks in Kudat but they have not been explored properly and there is no photo or video evidence (so far).
“Wreck diving requires proper planning (and taking into account) the weather, the air supply used, and time at the sea bottom.
“Finding wrecks would greatly boost the diving potential of Kudat and turn it into a prominent destination for Sabah,” he said in a statement on Sunday (March 27).
Last week, Tsen and other divers found part of a vessel off Batuan Mandi island near Tindakon Dazang Beach.
The team took a 30-minute boat ride from the Tip of Borneo to reach the site.
With standard air tanks, they could only explore the wreckage for about 10 minutes at a depth of 30m.
Describing the condition of the wreck, which is about 25m long, he said it was covered with nets and huge fish were swimming inside.
He said they learned of the wreck from locals who spotted part of it while they were fishing. The locals said it sank about 20 years ago.
“With the help of our boat’s sonar system, we managed to locate the wreck,” he said, adding that he believed other parts of the vessel could be nearby.
Tsen, who is also a diving instructor, added that March to early June would be the best time to explore the area owing to calm weather and sea conditions and good visibility underwater.
He estimated that it would take 14 days to obtain comprehensive data about a wreck and hoped that they could receive funding to search the area for other wrecks.
“We will share the details (of our findings) with other operators… (for) wreck diving in Kudat,” he added.