One key divers delight when in the water is the opportunity to explore a good wreck.
They come in many shapes and sizes, sometimes they are sunk navy ships from past wars, other times it may be a purposefully sunk. Then there are old fishing boats or illegal fishing trawlers the list goes on. One thing is for certain each wreck has a story, a history of tragedy or victory. Sometimes it’s a wreck where lives were lost and other times it’s a ship that served its purpose and has now been laid to rest in the deep. What follows is the beginning of a journey in to these wrecks, where they are and why they now rest in the deep.
1. USAT Liberty wreck - Tulamben, Bali, Indonesia.
The USAT Liberty wreck is probably the most well-known wreck in Asia, found just a stone’s throw from Tulamben beach, Bali. This 120 long wreck was torpedoed during the Second World War II and towed through the Lombok Straits and run aground at Tulamben. In 1963 a volcanic eruption of Mount Agung pushed her into the Ocean where she rests today at a depth of 25 meters.
The Liberty is home to coral and fish alike, with the usual schools of barracuda, Wrasses, and Trevally but more uniquely pygmy seahorses, ghost pipefish. The Liberty is also a great Night Dive.
2. Sugar Wreck (MV Union Star)– Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
A great beginner wreck that’s 90 meters long, unlike most small fishing boat wrecks a beginner will usually dive. At just 19 meters deep with little or no current it’s an easy wreck to dive for beginners or advanced divers alike.
The Sugar Wreck as it’s fondly known by divers was once the MV Union Star an old cargo vessel that sank while carrying a cargo of “yup you guessed it” sugar. A 20 – 30 minute boat ride is all it takes to arrive from The Perhentian Islands. This wreck is best dived during the dry season, between March and October. Most of the wreck is still intact and parts can be penetrated, the engine room, cabins and bridge are great spots. The large cargo hold is open to the ocean allowing free exploration without the need for penetration or a wreck speciality certification.
The wreck is covered in coral and bustling with life, expect to see an array of coral with schools of snappers, Jacks and Trevally. Look out for the Blue spotted Rays and Bamboo Sharks.
3. Awazisan Maru – Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Perhaps one of the most historically significant wrecks in Asian waters, the Awazisan Maru was the first naval vessel to have been sunk in the Second World War. This is a 145 meter long wreck that was once a troop carrier in the Japanese Navy. She now rests at a reasonably shallow depth of 20 meters off the coast of Kota Bharu on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
As this wreck is fairly close to the mainland the visibility isn’t great between 5 & 10 meters at best. More commonly called the Japanese invasion wreck by locals the Awazisan Maru is now covered in coral and not the easiest wreck to find, a closely guarded secret by the local fishermen.
The wreck is teaming with life, with schools of Red Snapper, Barracuda, amazing white, yellow & red sea fans, hard & soft coral, and plenty more.
4. Five sisters – Tenggol Island, Malaysia
The Five Sisters Wrecks are found off the west cost of Tenggol Island, so named as they are 5 different wrecks of old Vietnamese fishing vessels that were used to escape the Vietnam war. The wrecks are between 24 & 35 meters deep, Tenggol also has so strong current so advanced divers only for these wrecks. If you are looking to do your drift dive speciality, then Tenggol is the place to go.
The light fades down this deep so bring your torches’ to peer into the wrecks and discover some unique sea life, Stonefish, Crocodilefish, Scorpionfish and there are plenty of Nudibranchs. These are wooden wrecks and over the years have started to break apart so penetration isn’t recommended.
Tenggol is a beautiful Island with a large bay, white sandy beaches and turquois water, covered in dense tropical jungle there is nothing to do here but Eat, Sleep, Dive.
World War II Trio - Kuching
Following the attack on Pearl Harbour which brought the USA into the second world war, Japan launched an invasion of South East Asia. In response, the US and Dutch navy’s launched a counter offensive. The battle took place on the eve of Christmas 1941.
Today several wrecks lay sunk of the coast of Kuching.
5. Katori Maru - Kuching
The Katori Maru a once proud cruise liner was torpedoed off the coast of Kuching during the Second World War by the Dutch Submarine KXIV. She was commandeered by the Japanese Navy at the time and being used as a troop carrier during the Japanese Invasion.
This is a 130 meter long wreck that’s found about 22 meters down, be weary there are strong currents here so this wreck site is only recommended for experienced divers familiar with currents. Visibility is also low which adds to the challenge of the dive and the pleasure of its exploration.
Recently there have been reports that rogue metal salvagers have destroyed part of the wreck and it is now spread across a wide area. While this is disappointing it does provide an opportunity to see within the wreck. The strong currents bring pelagic to the area in schools, barracuda, yellowtail snapper and batfish to name a few.
6. Hiyoshi Maru - Kuching
The same submarine that torpedoed the Katori Maru also sank the Hiyoshi Maru the same night. The Hiyoshi Maru can be found not far from the Katori Maru starting at a depth of 16 meters and bottoming out at 22 meters.
This majestic 130 meter long wreck is still intact and is home to Turtles, Snappers and Groupers as well as schooling Snapper and Batfish. With low visibility and strong currents, another advanced diver wreck.
7. Sagiri Destroyer - Kuching
As the name suggests this is a wreck of a world war II Japanese destroyer and is one of the more recent wreck discoveries in the area. She was sunk by torpedo on the 24th of December 1941.
The wreck is broken in two but mostly intact, a true window into the past, she can be found by spotting her mid section funnel. At 26-31meters down the Sagiri is covered in coral, but you can still see the guns and ammunition through it, engine gauges, gun turrets and torpedoes are all intact and still visible which makes this an amazing wreck to visit.
The Sagiri Destroyer is a little further from the mainland than the Katori and Hiyoshi Maru, Some dive centres will only take you to this wreck if you have more than 50 logged dives with experience of depth and currents.
The diving season in Kuching is between April to October.
HTMS, Trifecta – Pattaya
Like Kuching, there are several wrecks off the coast of Pattaya and although they did serve in the war these wrecks weren’t sunk in World War II. After the war the original US Navy ships were decommissioned and given to the Thai Navy who eventually scuttled the craft to create artificial reefs. Each of these ships have been carefully prepared for divers, with large holes cut in the hull for easy penetration, and various potential hazards removed. You’re required to have a wreck speciality certification to penetrate the wrecks, if you don’t have one, an external visit is just as impressive and you can always do a wreck speciality at these sites. During the dive season in 2017 some of these sites have been closed due to over diving and damage so check with the Dive centre before you go.
8. HTMS Kut – Pattaya
The HTMS Kut was sunk by the Royal Thai Navy in 2006 to Honour the King of Thailand’s 60th Anniversary off the coast of Koh Sak just north of Pattaya. This is an advanced diver wreck site with the wreck being between 22 and 31 meters deep.
A former troop landing and deployment craft the HTMS Kut has a large open deck area to explore and those certified for penetration can explore further. The wreck has plenty of sea life living on and around it.
9. HTMS Khram – Pattaya
The HTMS Khram was a former tank and troop deployment vessel sunk to celebrate The RH. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn’s 50th birthday, like the HTMS Kut the Khram has a large open deck area witt the bridge area starting at a depth of 15 meters and bottoming out at 30 meters.
The Khram is about 300 meters off the coast of Koh Phai, stretching out at 56 meters in length the wreck has been well prepared for access and penetration to various areas allowing. exploration of lockers, desks, toilets, infirmary, kitchen, boiler rooms and more.
A great wreck to explore both for the ship itself and the sea life on and around it, you can expect to find Sweetlips, Scorpionfish, Spotted Rays, and maybe even a Bamboo Shark or two.
10. HTMS Mataphon – Pattaya
If you’re a Macro lover than the HTMS Mataphon is a great wreck to visit, found at 22 meters depth between the islands of Koh Lan and Loh Khrok. There are reasonable current at this site as the wreck sits in a channel between two islands. The decks are covered in coral and Macro life with baby Barracuda Sweetlips and Yellow Tail Snappers above. Dig around the Macro to discover Nudibranchs, Dresser Crabs, Shrimps and maybe even a Yellow Sea Horse.
The HTMS Khram was sunk in 2012 by the Thai Navy to create an artificial reef, starting at 18 meters and bottoming out at 22 meters, this is a 36 meter old Tank landing craft.
Koh Chang Wrecks – Koh Chang, Gulf of Thailand
A few hours south of Pattaya and you come to Koh Chang Island, a lush tropical island with beautiful beaches. Koh Chang is tranquil, out of the way and offers plenty of options for things to do which includes wreck diving.
There are 2 great wrecks to explore, one is an old transport ship that was sunk during World War II and the other is a purposeful wreck sunk by the Thai Navy.
11. S.S Suddhadib, Hardeep Wreck – Koh Chang, Gulf of Thailand
Have you ever wanted to explore a 64-meter steam ship from the Second World War? That’s exactly what the S.S. Suddhadib is, also known as the Hardeep Wreck, she rests at 30 meters down, 300 meters north of Koh Chang Island. The hull is still mostly intact but after 70 years in the water all sorts of things have happened to the hull.
The Steam engine has been removed with a hole cut in the hull and that now allows penetration of the engine room, the wall of the main cargo hold has holes in it and with the light coming through looks like a Cathedral Hall to name but 2 features. You can even see unexploded bombs left over from the original attack.
The wreck is silty and Macro life covers the wreck along with corals and plenty of Batfish, Barracuda, Groupers, Wrasses and even Stingrays swimming around.
12. HTMS Koh Chang – Koh Chang, Gulf of Thailand
The HTMS Chang is a fairly new wreck sunk in 2012 to create an artificial reef starting at 12 meters with the mast and captain’s cabin and bottoming out at 30 meters. A spectacular wreck in water with good visibility and minimal currents.
The wreck is a 100 meters long Tank landing craft that was originally built for the US Navy which was later decommissioned and given to the Thai Navy. It has been purposefully prepared for diving with great penetration opportunities, lots to see and explore. Barracuda, Grouper, Squid, Octopus, Batfish, Shrimpfish are just some of the sea life that call the Chang home.