Some 30km east-northeast of Semporna where the territorial
waters of Malaysia and Philippines meet, Pulau Pandanan is a typical tropical island
ringed with fine sandy beaches and surrounded by other similar islands.
The forest here has many different species of wild fruit that ripen at different
times of the year, thus supporting hundreds of fruit bats. A pioneering diver operator
built an observation tower for observing them mating, suckling, carrying their young
and quarrelling noisily. The bats and two resident fish eating eagles are almost
The island itself is less than one kilometre long but it lies at the centre of a
much larger reef with brilliant visibility. The resort is built in the middle of
the island in such a way that depending on which window you look out at, you get
wonderful vistas of Malaysia to the west and towards the Philippines to the east.
Underwater, all around are mixed stony and leathery corals. The east side slopes
gently down but the west side is a drop-off to 70m.
The east side has more pronounced areas of stony corals and harbours many different
species of sweetlips of which the prettiest, Orientals (Plectorhinchus orientalis)
are particularly co-operative to photographers. Sweetlips vary considerably between
juvenile and adult forms, they collect in groups sheltering in caves during the day
and disperse to feed nocturnally on a wide variety of bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
On the west side, Green turtles sleep in two small caves while small groups of caranx
shoal. There are many varieties of gobies and numerous true Giant Clams at 30m depth.
Elephant's Ear Polyps (Amplexidiscus fenestrafer), often solitary, are found
here in tightly packed groups.
Set in surprisingly clear water, Pulau Pandanan and the adjacent reefs will be popular
diving destinations in the future.