Under the Sabah Parks Enactment, Sabah boasts the establishment of five marine parks, solidifying its commitment to preserving the marine ecosystems within its jurisdiction. These 5 marine parks are Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Turtle Islands National Park, Pulau Tiga National Park, Tun Sakaran Marine Park, and Tun Mustapha Park.
By respecting and adhering to the diving rules and regulations established by Sabah Parks, we not only get to fully appreciate the mesmerizing marine wonders of Sabah's diving sites but also actively contribute to the the long-term sustainability of our precious oceans.
1. Green sea turtles
Green turtles are the largest sea turtles and are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They can be found in various sizes and are known to feed on seaweed and other aquatic plants. They face a variety of threats, including poaching, being caught in fishing gear, and having their eggs harvested. A fun fact of Green turtles is they have to hold their breath for up to 5 hours while sleeping because they cannot breathe underwater.
2. Hawksbill turtles
Hawkbill turtles are distinguished by their distinctive beak-like jaw. They live in a variety of habitats as a highly migratory species, from the open ocean to lagoons and even mangrove swamps in estuaries. The Turtle Islands of Sabah have the largest Hawksbills population in Malaysia, with an average of 500-600 nests per season. Hawksbill turtles, like other marine turtles, are threatened by habitat loss, excessive egg collection, fishery-related mortality, pollution, and coastal development. They are listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union and are protected under CITES.
3. Shortfin Devil rays
The shortfin devilray (Mobula kuhlii) is a smaller species of devil ray, with a maximum wingspan of 135cm - shorter than the average door. It is a rare sight in our world's oceans because it is classified as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List. Devil rays, close relatives of manta rays, are less commonly seen by divers underwater due to their elusive behaviour and pelagic nature. They are known, however, for swimming in aggregations known as fevers, which can number in the hundreds.
Where to spot: Si Amil Island, Semporna
4. Coral reefs
Sabah, being a haven for marine biodiversity, proudly hosts an impressive 75% of Malaysia's reefs. Most notably, the majority of these vibrant coral reefs are located off Sabah's stunning eastern coast. Within these waters, an astounding recorded total of 471 species, 79 genera, and 21 families of hard corals thrive, showcasing the region's exceptional levels of coral diversity. This rich coral diversity not only provides a visually stunning experience for divers and snorkellers but also underscores the importance of conserving and protecting these fragile ecosystems.
Where to spot: Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Tun Mustapha Marine Park
5. Sharks (Even the critically endangered ones!)
Sabah is home to an impressive array of 68 shark species. Within the vibrant realm of Sabah's seas, a staggering 50 of these majestic creatures can be regularly observed, thriving amidst the biodiversity fostered by the coral reefs. Sipadan Island is always considered as the precious "shark centre", where you may find the elusive Borneo shark, the rare hammerhead shark, and even the critically endangered whitetip shark there! Additionally, brace yourself for an encounter with the awe-inspiring whale shark, the gentle giant that reigns as the largest fish in the world!
In conclusion, Sabah's remarkable marine biodiversity is a treasure worth cherishing and protecting. Let us continue to raise awareness, support sustainable practices, and advocate for the preservation of Sabah's marine ecosystem. Together, we can ensure that future generations can revel in the same marvels that have captivated us, safeguarding our precious oceans for years to come.
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