Labuan is a trade-free zone and tax-free haven and an International Offshore Financial Centre (IOFC).
It means DUTY-FREE spending spree for tourists! Labuan has great beaches such as Pulau Rusukan Besar, Pulau Papan for more water activities like snorkeling and other water sports. Land activities such as trekking are also possible with many natural attractions in Labuan. Ramsey Point can give you that adrenaline rush that you cannot get from scuba diving with a Flying Fox experience!
Check out quaint hipster cafes such as Mortar Cafe, where they serve up an array of fusion dishes of local delicacies with western touches. You’re in a coastal city, don’t miss the chance to have good and cheap seafood; check out the newly opened restaurant in town - Mr Crab Seafood and Steamboat Restaurant! Remember to try these recommendations: Wet Butter Salted Egg Crab, Kam Heong Mantis Prawn, Tiga Rasa Sauce Fried Garoupa and Pumpkin Crab Soup!
Vernon Bank ,“The Next Layang Layang”
"The group did six dives in the two days and only managed to cover a small portion of the Vernon Bank site.
In such a big reef area, as expected, the group saw pelagic marine fishes including a huge Manta Ray on the surface and then one underwater.
“Probably because they have never seen divers before, hence they were shy and swam away quickly. I had no chance to snap a picture of them,” said Lee.
“As Vernon Bank is structured like an atoll, I believe this will be a cleaning station for Manta Rays and turtles.
“We also observed fast swimming Tuna and other pelagic fishes. I m sure sharks too can be seen there particularly at the deeper ends up to 70m.
“I also believe there are reef walls and with the up currents bringing nutrients to shallow water, larger pelagic fish like sharks, hammerhead sharks and manta rays will be there too,” Lee added.
In the smaller critter world, Nudi Branch, porcelain crabs, whip Coral Goby, Stone fish and Scorpion fishes could be seen along with lot of sea fans and pygmy seahorse. (An excerpt of the interview with Borneo Post by Clement Lee)
The Vernon Bank is hailed as the new “Layang Layang”. This huge area of reef is literally untouched. Last year, a team from Coco Dive checked the site out with Malaysia’s Diving Ambassador, Clement Lee, and pelagics such as Manta Rays have been sighted at the surface of the water. Due to the time and schedule constraint, the group only managed to do 6 dives but much have been sighted, including elusive critters such as the Bubble Goby, Stone Fish, Pygmy Seahorse etc.
Wanna learn more about the Vernon Bank?
World War II Wrecks!
Labuan is MAJOR for wreck-enthusiasts. There are four wrecks: Blue Water Wreck, Cement Wreck, Australian Wreck and the American Wreck, the latter two are WWII wrecks.
The Blue Water Wreck was a Philippines trawler that sank in 1981. Visibility at Blue Water Wreck is the best, hence the name. The wreck is 80 meters long with the shallowest depth at 24 meters. The Cement Wreck is 92 meters long and sits at 30m in the water. The wreck is full of soft corals and marine life such as groupers and batfish.
The American Wreck is a US Navy minesweeper which was built in 1943. The wreck lies about 24 km off the coast of Labuan, sits at 33 metres with the shallowest part at 18 metres. This wreck requires divers with more experience to explore.
The Cement Wreck is possibly the most impressive wreck you’d have seen. It is 105m long, with masts at 8m and the roof of the wheelhouse at 14m and the main deck at 19m. This wreck is the most “instagrammable” out of all the wrecks, with the best fish population out of all the wrecks. Huge schools of barracuda surrounds the wreck and the coral growth has created a haven for animals such as groupers and turtles. This wreck is great for beginner divers to explore with great visibility and offering photographers with great wide angle shots.
The Australian Wreck has an extremely interesting history. She was serving the Dutch East India Company in Indonesia until WWII, when the Japanese forces took over. Setting sail from Singapore, she was bound for Manila, with 308 workers, 26 comfort women and 5 Japanese soldiers. The wreck now lies about 1.5 km away from the American Wreck, at about 33m of water. Another resident of this wreck is the frogfish!
How to get there?
If you’re interested to check out this island for yourself, AirAsia flies 7x weekly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Labuan.