Generally people look at the TAR Park and think that surely there’s no great diving so close to a busy city like KK, especially when they go to the tourist beaches on Manukan and Sapi and see the coral damage from crowds of people.
The truth, however, is that because it’s so near the city, it’s increasingly well protected by Sabah Parks, and once you go slightly deeper than the height of your average tourist, the real fun starts.
People who have dived around the park, especially with knowledgable, enthusiastic guides the likes of Downbelow’s staff, realize that the proximity to the city is actually the number 1 selling point. Frogfish (pictured left) are frequently encountered, nudibranchs are very common with many rare and varied species regularly encountered. Seahorses, ghostpipefish, flounders, stargazers, mandarin fish, moray eels, lion fish, and many species of crustaceans are among the usual suspects and divers can frequently interact with cephalopods as they slowly fin along the reef.
A dive before breakfast? Do it in the TAR Park. Lunch time diving? Yup, that too. A night-dive just before dinner? Downbelow does that quite often :)
So, in bullet form, the TAR Park is great because:
– There’s varied and interesting dive sites just 10 minutes from the city;
– Destructive fishing practices in the park are nearly extinct;
– Corals are vibrant and evermore populated by a myriad of undisturbed and returning fish;
– Macro-creatures abound;
– Pelagic fish encounters are increasing;
– Turtles, rays, even the odd reef shark or two, they’re all in the TAR Park;
– There’ shallow dives with lots to see;
– Deep dives with interesting critters;
– Usually no significant current, but if you fancy a drift dive there’s sites with that too;
– And there is 1 big wreck just outside park (but quite deep – 35m – 50m), and 2 not too far away;
Here’s some comments from the Downbelow Guestbook that highlighted the Park in particular:
On 25 May Eric & Isabelle who dived with Downbelow said “We enjoyed our diving at great length, in particular, we saw the two painted frogfish, boxer shrimp and also the orang utan crab, all in one dive. It’s such a great and memorable experience for both of us.”
On 17 May, Downbelow guest, Jack French, said “the night dive I did with you on Saturday night is one of my favorite dives ever. What a great time! I can’t wait to come back to Borneo with my family and dive again.”
On 23 April, James, a guest of Downbelow, said “thanks for our visit to Gaya – we were really surprised – given past experiences of KK bay, our expectations weren’t really up there, but we had a great time, enjoyed the snorkeling and loved your dive centre”
On 9 Feb, Ying Li and Jans Kier said “On the way back from Kota Kinabalu I asked the kids what was the best experience from our holiday. Both Ellen and Adam said the snorkeling day trip!”
On Nov 18 Charles Silva said “I just got back to grey, cold and rainy Stockholm and already miss Borneo and my wonderful long sunny days and diving adventures among the turtles, sharks and nudibranchs in the TARP.”