LAHAD DATU: Tingkayu Corals in Darvel Bay here is poised to become a tourist hotspot with the discovery of a unique scuba diving site known as ‘The Blue Hole’.
The finding was made on Feb 14 by a group of divers which included researchers from Sabah Parks (TTS) as part of a scientific expedition to collect marine data at Darvel Bay.
Unlike other blue holes in the world, this marine formation has two structures, each with a hole 15 metres deep into the seabed.
TTS senior research officer Nasrulhakim Maidin said the blue hole is probably the only such feature in Sabah, perhaps even in Malaysia.
"If this sunken coral structure (like a cave in water) is promoted as a diving site, it could become a major tourist attraction such as The Great Blue Hole of Belize (Central America), Blue Hole Dean (Bahamas) and the Dragon Blue Hole (China),” he said.
He added that the divers stumbled upon the hole when a remote sensing map detected what it initially thought was a coral area.
“We explored both blue holes and could cover the site with just one tank of gas. The experience was amazing. When we came out of the blue hole from the left to the right, we were like moving over a mountain range in the sea,” Nasrulhakim said
He added that the blue hole could be promoted as a tourist diving site, as it is strategically located near Sipadan Island in Semporna.
However, he said that Darvel Bay, which is about 100,000 hectares in size and encompasses the blue hole and 50 islands, should first be gazetted by the state government as a marine preservation area.
“The gazette is an initial move to preserve marine life in the area. (And) we discovered that The Blue Hole has lots of corals,” Nasrulhakim said.
He said that gazetting the area would also contribute to state revenue.
“Last year alone, Sabah earned RM7.8 billion from tourism, and this income can be further increased with the latest product like Darvel Bay,” he said.
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaysia Sabah Borneo Marine Research Institute lecturer Associate Prof Dr Juanita Joseph said gazetting the bay would draw more turtles to the area, as they are in search of safe havens with untouched corals.