Slowly descending down a coral slope on your left shoulder. Don't go too fast or you will miss the more camouflaged residents such as stonefish and frogfish watching you go by. Like all of the Kapalai scuba diving sites, both small rare fish and invertebrates are in abundance, living without the threat of Sipadan's many dangerous reef predators. The Ligitan Reefs of Kapalai also act as a nursery for juveniles of many species.
As you get down to the floor you may find several cuttlefish. To watch the responses of the cuttlefish to your movements, as its skin pulsates and flashes into different camouflage patterns, is a great interaction between man and aquatic creature. It is also worth keeping an eye out so as not to miss the chance to see squadrons of their squid cousins jetting by.
The cuttlefish often tend to linger near the wreck of a small fishing boat found in around 18 metres of water. Naturally the wreck provides shelter to various other wonders such as ghost pipefish in various colours including reddish-orange. Also often spotted here are the photogenic longnose hawkfish, crocodilefish and nudibranchs.
Over the channel amidst the corals and sponges, you can hunt at dusk for vibrantly coloured mandarinfish merrily dancing this way and that, among the black spines of sea urchins. The list of small critters to be found here is endless. Add to this the few large sharks and crayfish that put in an appearance after the sun has set and you can see why this site is so highly regarded.
Due to its relatively shallow profile and the prolific list of critters that live here, Mandarin Valley is a very popular Kapalai dive site for photgraphers, since they can stay under for long periods of time.
Mandarin Valley Reef Basics: Slope and sandy floor
Depth: 8 - 20m
Visibility: 10 - 20m
Surface conditions: Can be a little choppy
Water temperature: 25 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: 1
Diving season: All year round
Distance: 1 km (5 minutes) from the Kapalai jetty or 5 km (10 minutes) from Mabul
Access: Kapalai scuba diving resorts and Mabul resorts
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