check us out on facebook!
see our wide range of courses
click to check tide times & wave heights in Taiwan
Taiwan Dive supports Project AWARE
Naruwan - Welcome to Taiwan
emergency first response project aware project aware
 

Kenting

photo by pawl english
Diving in KENTING

The Dive Sites (click to open a new window)

A little about the marine park and the environment:

Kenting Marine Park covers 15,185 hectares of ocean, it has a subtropical climate and an enormous variety of marine life. The average sea temperature varies between 22c in winter to 29c in summer. This warm temperature is maintained by the Kuroshio current or ‘Black Tide’. This warm, nutrient rich, current flows north splitting in two at Seven Stars area 10K south of Eulanbi, one part flows up along the east coast enriching the marine life around Orchid and Green Islands and the other flows NW into the South Bay (NanWan) area. This current is responsible for the huge variety of marine life found within the park. In fact, the Kenting area is home to 60% of coral species found worldwide. Within the marine park boundaries are found some 1,105 reef fish and some 42 species of stony corals (reef building corals) and 42 species of soft corals. Unfortunately, the KMP is under severe threat from illegal fishing practices (lines, gill nets and spear fishing) and the collection of fish, shells and corals by local aquarists and collectors, plus other forms of environmental depredation related to the booming tourist industry (4 million visitors per year) and desperately needs positive action to save it for future generations. See the 2002 report here: See the 2004 report here.

More articles related to Taiwan’s marine ecology can be found here: reefbase.org

A variety of pelagic game fish may be seen offshore especially around the Seven Stars (Chi Shin Yen) area. These include Sailfish, Umbrella Swordfish, Mahi Mahi and Flying Fish during Spring and Summer and White and Black Swordfish during Autumn and Winter. Various types of Tuna may be seen all year round (the main Tuna season in southern Taiwan is in May especially in the old port town of Tung Gang) along with Jacks or Trevallies. During the winter season December to March at South Point near Eulanpi, out at Seven Stars and the Heng Chun peninsula it is possible to see (with a pair of binoculars) Humpback and Sperm Whales as well as Gills Bottlenose Dolphins.

The Dive Sites:

Diving in Kenting (Kending) is year round, but the best visibility is during the dry season, which is late autumn to early spring. This coincides with the NE monsoon which brings with it strong winds. In winter/spring sea surface temps (SST) average 22C~26C and in summer/autumn 24C~29C.

Diving from the shore in the Kenting area may present some challenges for the novice diver. Not least are the coral rocks, coral sea cliffs and lava flow rock that bounder many of the shorelines, rip currents and swiftly moving tides. This makes the Kenting area an ideal place to learn how to dive as Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Divers come out of their course(s) far better able to cope with the less than ideal conditions. Divers who learn on the pristine white beaches of the Philippines or Thailand often find diving in Taiwan quite a challenge.

Please note the tide tables before you go diving (see above) New Moon and Full Moon periods have the strongest currents, 1st quarter and 3rd quarter the least. Onshore winds bring waves and surf so take special care of your exits and entries. Offshore winds usually provide the best conditions for shore diving.

In the South Bay, (Nan Wan) area the current is westwards during flood tide and eastwards during ebb tide. Tide tables for Taiwan can be found above. Also, please see the navy charts for the Kenting Marine Park area, Seven Stars and Liu-Chiu Island. Depths are in meters.

Shore Dives.

Location.

San Hai: see photo. On the west side of the Maupitou (Cat’s Nose Rock) peninsula San Hai is a lovely dive site sheltered from the winds. The actual sites are south of the small harbour.
Entry and Exit: Easy.
Average depth: 16m. Drops off rapidly 200m from shore
Skill level: Novice.
What is there to see? Great soft and hard corals, shallow ravines, lots of reef fish, nudibranchs, Cone and Scorpion shell fish, sea snakes, turtles, coral bommies, crinoids. Lots of Blue-Spotted Stingrays and Ribbontail Rays during the mating season, which is April and May. This whole area once had abundant shellfish (gastropods and bivalves) of all types. Sadly they are mostly gone, collected by divers. So please do not remove shells from any of the areas. Even dead shells provide homes and shelters for other marine species, namely the colourful and amusing Decorator crabs seen on night dives throughout the marine park.

Hung Tsai: see photo. West side of Maupitou south of San Hai, another small fishing harbour. Dive south of the harbour or at the right side of the harbour by the dive shop.
Entry & Exit: Easy.
Average depth: 16m~18m.

Skill level: Novice.

What is there to see? Similar to the San Hai sites. There are a large variety of reef fish with some good looking soft and hard corals, coral heads and outcrops of rocks with shallow ravines. Lots of shell fish were once found in this area, now scarce.

Pill Box: see photo. South of Hung Tsai between Hong Tsai and White Beach (Bai Sha Wan)
Entry & Exit: Feeling fit? a 100 m walk through and over coral rocks. This dive should only be attempted when the surf is mild! Be aware that the surf can pick up rapidly at this site, and there are long shore currents.
Average depth: 15m~45m drops off rapidly 200m from shore.
Skill level: Intermediate/Advanced.
What is there to see? This site has great swim-throughs and overhangs, shallow and deep ravines. There are excellent soft and hard corals and a variety of different mushroom corals and shells. Angelfish, Trumpet fish, Surgeon fish and Moorish idols, Parrot fish, Sweetlips, Fusiliers and Redlipped parrotfish are common to this site. Its close proximity to deeper waters brings in all kinds of the larger reef fish, rays and turtles. A great dive for the adventurous diver.

Tou Swei Ko: (the Water Outlet or Cesspool) see photo.

Entry & Exit: Relatively easy, but beware of surge through the coral stone channels as there are Millepora (Fire) corals close to the surface.
Average Depth: 15m-22m
Skill Level: Novice.

What is there to see? Called the Cesspool, for the odor of the methane gas bubbling through the sand at the waters edge. This is an excellent site for novice divers as it is in a protected bay. Though do not go too far our to the left as you will be met by the outflow from the nuclear power plant. There are extensive swim throughs formed by the Jack stone harbour wall. There is a great deal to see here. Seen on almost every dive are the schooling Yellowstripe barracuda and Garfish. During bad weather larger fish come into the bay for protection. I have seen Great Barracuda and large Yellow Fin tuna here. Other commonly sighted fish here are Scorpion fish, Bumphead and Bluebarred parrotfish, juvenile Napoleon wrasse, Lionfish, large schools of Catfish, Trumpet fish, Trunkfish and Puffers. Also a great site for night diving. Night divers will see dozens of decorator crabs scuttling around and observant divers may see, Beaufort’s Crocodile fish and Flounders.

*Divers should be careful not to get too close to the left side of the bay as there are lots of line fisherman on the wall above them.


Houbihou: see photos. This is a fishing port and has a decent marina. Most of the dive boats anchor here. There is a long stretch of beach leading south from the small harbour, this encompasses several different dive sites. There are a couple of great boat dives around the two rocks seen about 800m from shore. Both Houbihou and Nan Wan were former whaling stations during the Japanese colonial period. Whales were dragged onto the beach and butchered. Now whale watching activities are becoming popular along Taiwan’s east coast around Hualien.

Rescue Beach: see photo. Next to the harbour is a small sandy bay. Access to this area is at the back of the marina.

Entry and Exit: Easy.

Average depth: 7-10m.
Skill level: novice.

What is there to see?

Here observant divers can find Leaf fish and Seahorses in the shallow water at about 5m. Schools of Knife Fish and Striped Catfish, Lionfish, Trumpet fish and groups of large Goatfish roam around the site. They’re a few patches of soft leathery coral and some large hard coral heads. Keep to the right, as there is frequent boat traffic through this area. See photo.


Main Beach: see photos.

Entry and Exit: Fairly easy, but be careful not to trip up at low tide.

Average depth. 10 to 15m. Down to 22m to 25m at the south side of the beach.
Skill level: novice.

What is there to see?

This whole beach area is a dive site, unfortunately in the past couple of years the jet- ski, Banana boat and snorkeling operations have moved in and taken over the north side of the beach. Caution should be observed when surfacing. The best side to dive is the south. Some of the intertidal zone has been cleared of rocks in certain places making an easier entry. The site begins at 5m to 10m and then drops off to 18m to 25m. This is a wonderful place to see a variety of soft coral gardens. There are a good variety of reef fishes found here; common sightings are large groups of Knife fish, Catfish, hunting Lionfish, Angelfish, Moorish Idols plus lots of nudibranches. If you are lucky, you will see the Giant Maori Wrasse that lives in this area and patrols the deeper areas offshore.


Sandy Cove. (Cingwashih) See photo.
Entry and Exit: aerobic, a walk down and back up a steep hill with your gear.
Average depth.

Skill Level: novice.

What is there to see?

This is a great dive site just south of Nan Wan beach area at the top of the hill on the way out of Nan Wan going to Kenting. This is the first dive site of many along the coast heading down to the Oalanpi and South Point. Good hard and soft corals, Blue Spotted rays are common here, decent selection of reef fish, the odd turtle and sea snake. There is a long shore current present here so check the tide tables.


Sail Rock. See photo.
Entry and Exit: A 100m walk from the roadside car park to the entry and exit points at either side of the rock.
Average depth: 10m to 12m
Skill level: Novice.

What is there to see?

A very pleasant site, great muck diving around the base of the rock on all sides in about 6m. Lots of nudibranches, and shell fish also Frog fish and Leaf fish, a good selection of reef fish, the occasional turtle, cuttlefish, Blue-spotted rays, Lionfish, Trumpetfish Angelfish etc. Sadly, a local fisherman sets a fixed drift net here, usually to the left of the rock, so beware of running into that! The main dive area is behind and to the left and right of the rock as you face it from the road. The depth is about 10m to 12m behind the rock and runs to 18m further out. Do not go too far over to the right as jet-skies operate from the beach off to the right. Mind your head when ascending!


Banana Bay. See photo.
Entry and Exit: A walk across the beach and through the coral rocks.
Average depth: 8m to 15m.
Skill level: Novice.

What is there to see?

A shallow fringing reef runs along the whole area from Nan Wan to South Point, this is mid point between the two. Pleasant dive site a small harbour to the right side and to the left a pleasant beach with some shade trees! Shallow for quite a way does not get deeper until about 100 m from the beach. Pleasant diving, and an ideal place for novice divers to hone their skills. However, note the tides, as long shore currents can be very swift. If you get caught in a long shore current descend to the bottom and pull yourself along the bottom to the shore line.


Sand Island. (Shadao) See photo.
Entry and Exit: Novice, but it can be fairly challenging exit with surf and an onshore wind. Great with an offshore! Coral rock and narrow entry channels. Best done at high tide if possible but this is true of most shore dives in the Kenting area.
Average depth: 5m to 13m.
Skill Level: Novice

What is there to see?

Sand Island has a sandy foreshore and is an ideal place to dive, so many instructors use this as a training area. Immediately offshore is a very large sandy area with a few scattered rocks. The fringing reef begins about 75 meters to the left of the entry points. This is a delightful reef with lots to see. Turtles are often seen here along with Blue Spotted rays, Groupers, Dash-dot Goatfish prowl the sand, Puffers and Porcupine fish are bold and will come right up to divers. Squid and cuttlefish egg cases are frequently seen as for the observant diver, are the cuttlefish themselves. Dartfish and Gobies abound, plus lots of nudibranches, many Anemone fish and Damsels and quite a variety of large and small Lionfish. Go left from the entry and follow the reef along keeping it to your left shoulder then follow it back to the exit.

The beach to the left, directly in front of the Ranger Station and Shell Museum (worth a quick look) is a Hawksbill turtle breeding ground. It is prohibited to walk on this beach. The beach is unique in the fact that it is white sand made of 97.7% ground seashells. Ironically, local fishermen also lay their fixed nets here and catch the turtles as well as many other reef species. This is illegal but the rangers are in collusion with the local fisherman. I would like to suggest that anyone seeing nets in the water here, or anywhere else in the park, report them immediately to the ranger station or call the Kenting National Park police at 08 886 1331 or 1321. It is illegal to take anything at all from the waters of the KNP. So, until this damaging practice is curtailed please watch out for nets in this area. They are usually set about 50m from the beach entry to the left.


South Point. See photo.
Entry and Exit: Challenging, and not for the novice diver especially with an onshore wind or at low tide.
Average depth: 15m to 25m.
Skill Level: Advanced.

What is there to see?

South Point is the southern most tip of Taiwan and affords great views south to Seven Stars and the Philippines. The site is around the corner from the Lighthouse. Eulanbi Lighthouse area is quite interesting. It is a prehistoric site dating back to between 2000 and 50,000 years ago. This is evidenced by pottery dating back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic period. The Lighthouse was planned in 1875 by a British engineer and has been in service since 1882. It is 21.4m high, aka ‘The Light of Asia’ and has a 1.8 million candlepower lamp visible for 20 nautical miles. This is an advanced dive. Note the tides before diving. This is a great dive with lots to see, not least the amazing UW topography, lots of swim throughs, small caves and unusual rock formations. Broadclub cuttlefish hang out here. It is also possible to see jacks, barracuda, rays, turtles, large Angelfish of all types, big puffers, Napoleon wrasse, Bumphead parrot fish, Bicolour and Bluebarred parrot fish, Batfish, Sweetlips, Fusiliers, Snappers as well as all the smaller denizens of the reef.

*BTW I lost a stainless steel, custom made Hammerhead shark handled dive knife here about 50m out and if anyone finds it you will get a reward!


Boat Dives in Kenting

Independent Rock:
 
Max Depth: 35m. This depth increases if you move off the mount, so avoid this as there is not much to see at greater depth.
Skill Level: Advanced.

What is there to see? Situated in the middle of South Bay [Nan Wan] this site is a seamount and offers some of the best diving in the whole of the KMP and it is the favourite site for most divers that come to South Bay and a favourite training dive for instructors of Adv.OW divers. Notable features on this site are the large and small Gorgonian fans that surround the mount, home to Pygmy sea horses if you can spot them! There are magnificent Sea Whip gardens, Barrel sponges, Garden eels, abundant crinoids of every colour and a good variety of marine life. I have seen decent sized grouper, Blue-spotted rays, Crocodile fish and a large Napoleon wrasse cruises this area. There are large Angelfish of all varieties, snappers, triggers, fusiliers, unicornfishes and surgeonfishes all over. Visibility varies from 5m on a bad day to 25m on a good day, currents vary with the tides so caution should be observed and tide tables paid attention to before diving here. Sometimes a strong surface current requires divers to make a negatively buoyant entry and if the current is running underwater you should tuck into the lee side of the mount. There are now a permanent anchor line and a surface buoy, unfortunately one of the only permanent anchors in the Kenting area and this attests to the popularity of this site.

Sadly every fisherman in the area makes a bee line for this area and on a busy day one might see dozens of locals line fishing from small boats in this area. This practice should be curtailed. Not only has it steadily decreased the marine life on this site, but the whole area is littered with fishing line, hooks, sinkers and lost rebar anchors. 15 years ago, the seamount had moray eels in every nook and cranny, octopus, Broadclub cuttlefish, a good variety of shellfish and giant clams. Painted lobsters and large groupers were all over the site. Local divers and fishermen have completely hunted or fished them out. What a shame!

Two Rocks:
 
Max Depth: 15m to 25m depending on the tide.
Skill Level: Advanced.

What is there to see? This site is west and adjacent to the seamount about 800m off from Houbihu beach. This is a great dive but has strong surface and UW currents at new and full moon or between tides. Great for all you drift diving fans like me. This is home to a huge Napoleon Wrasse that must be a good 30 or 40 years old, as he was big when I first saw him.

Apart from the big guy, divers will see a large variety of marine life. Everything from large Angelfish, Puffers, Surgeon fish, Snappers, Bannerfish, Jacks, Barracuda, Sweetlips, Trigger fish, Butterfly fish, Emperors, Unicorn fishes, a good variety of hard and soft corals, as well as nudibranch and shellfish. Well worth a visit.

Coral Gardens:
 
Max depth: 15 to 25m.
Skill Level: Advanced.
What is there to see? This site is 500m south of the Two Rocks site adjacent to the Maopitou peninsula. Here are some of the best coral gardens in Asia. The UW topography is unique, huge coral encrusted boulders litter the site, providing swim throughs and overhangs; these boulders are covered with a variety of Hydrocorals, Soft or Rubbery corals, Gorgonians and Stony corals. The diversity of corals here is amazing and beautiful, as is the diversity of the marine life. This is a great drift dive with the right tide, just fold your arms and enjoy the scenery. Be prepared for anything here. This is the only area in Kenting where I have seen shark, a Black Tip. The Napoleon Wrasse also hangs out here and with decent viz you may be lucky enough to see this big fellow chewing nonchalantly on a bit of coral. However, if not never mind it will be a great dive. Marine life common to this area are triggerfish, Barracuda both Yellowstripe and Pickhandle, Moorish idols, then various types of Unicornfish, Surgeonfish, Parrotfish, Wrasses, Groupers, Angelfish, Gobies, Hawk fish, Damselfish and of course Butterfly fish. Often seen here are live shells and various species of nudibranch.
Seven Stars:(Chi Shin Yen)
 
Max depth: 35m though this drops off quickly on all sides.
Skill Level: Advanced +

What is there to see? Perhaps you should ask what is there not to see? This is an awesome dive site and in my opinion the best by far in the whole of the Kenting area. Seven Stars is a group of large rocks situated 10K south of Eulanbi lighthouse. It is the meeting place of two ocean currents, when these currents are flowing a standing wave can be observed to the east of the rocks.

Seven Stars earned some notoriety a decade or so ago when a group of Chinese divers all got bent trying to beat the tide window. This reputation as a dangerous site was further enhanced when a group of 5 Chinese divers were lost out there when the sea state picked up and a large swell, which obscured the divers from the captain, picked up. The divers did not have an SMB or other signal device to enable the crew to see them and the captain was forced to head back when he ran low on fuel. The divers, who had wisely tied themselves together with their empty weight belts, were swept up the east coast of Taiwan within sight of land. Two of the divers thought they could make a swim of it to shore, most unfortunately they drowned. The others, who all stayed together, were found 2 days later off the coast, south of Taitung, very badly sunburned, dehydrated but alive. For a long time boat captains refused to take divers out there, and it is still difficult to persuade captains to go there in anything but perfect conditions.

The sea state at Seven Stars can change rapidly, going from a slack or very mild current to 4 to 6 knots and from a slight swell to a large one within the space of a dive, if you go there at the wrong time. A decent current (half moon) is best to see the big pelagic fish that roam the area. Everything seems big here even the normal reef fishes like Angels and Triggers are huge. There are painted lobsters, moray eels, nudibranches and shellfish of all types scattered around on the walls. On the southwest side, there are the remains of an old steam ship; visible are the large boilers and drive shaft. I have seen large schools of Banner fish, Moorish Idols, Fusiliers, Unicorn fishes, Snappers, Sweetlips, Surgeonfishes, massive Jewfish, Groupers, Turtles, an Eagle Ray, Jacks, Great Barracuda, Dogtooth tuna, Yellow fin tuna and once a very large Blue fin tuna swimming up current. Even on a slack tide or a bad day the dive is still good as divers are usually in awe of the phenomenal visibility, which often exceeds 30m and can be a good 50m (160ft), just about as good as it gets in tropical waters. Because of the distant location and rapidly changeable conditions, divers who go there ought to be experienced with currents and have redundant signaling devices. An SMB is essential; a mirror (an old CD will do) a strobe light, a reef hook and a buddy line is a good idea. I must confess that I once went out there with a bunch of gung-ho local divers in what I knew would be a strong current, armed with (in addition to the above) a naval flare and a dye pack. A highly recommended dive, go if the opportunity presents itself, but just remember it’s a long swim back to shore if the dive boat misses you! Don’t take this dive lightly, make sure you go there with an experienced guide and an experienced captain.

Frog Rock: (Cingwashih)

 
Max depth: 20m-25m
Skill Level: Advanced.
What is there to see? This site is adjacent to Kenting town and is a very popular boat diving site with some of the captains. Lots to see, Blue-spotted rays are common to this area especially during mating season in May. Small schools of fusiliers, snappers, bannerfish, surgeonfishes, sweetlips and a variety of parrotfishes inhabit this offshore reef. UW topography consists of large rocky coral outcrops interspersed with sandy patches. Look for the rays in the sand. Also found around this site by observant divers are frogfish and a variety of nudibranch.

I would like to suggest that all divers to clean up the reef at every opportunity and refrain from removing anything from the water. It is easy to slip an onion sack into your BCD pocket and pick up the plastic waste you will see around on a dive. You can make a difference. I would recommend carrying an all-plastic box cutter on dives to cut fishing line from the reef or free animals caught in illegal gill nets. No need for a fancy knife, and you can afford to replace the blade after a days diving.

I try to organize reef and beach clean ups every year on Earth Day at the end of April and on Coral Reef Day in September. For more info on this, check the links or the calendar.

Have fun diving and dive SAFE. This site is not yet complete. I welcome any comments you have on taiwandive.com, any positive feedback or suggestions for links or additions. If any of you have photos of marine life in Taiwan or in the Asian region please contact me, I will be happy to post them on my site or link to them on the Web.

P.S.

This does not complete a full list of all the boat diving sites in KMP. There are numerous other sites and I will add to this as time goes by. The main purpose of this site is to address questions that I have had presented to me many times during my 18 years of diving in Taiwan. I have spoken to so many divers, or divers have called me or emailed me and said that they want to dive in the KMP but they have no idea where to go, what to expect, what the depth is, what can they see, where are the entry and exit points, what are the currents like or what are the tides? I hope this site does something to address these concerns.

The KMP has wonderful diving and is a fabulous place to kick back and relax or spend a weekend away from the cities. I hope this will encourage more scuba divers and skin divers to go there and enjoy its beauty.

As far as I am concerned the more people who dive these spots, and encourage the local dive businesses to protect them, then the more the locals will realize that the healthy reefs and abundant reef fish bring money into the local community via busy dive shops, hotels and restaurants.

Local government officials may be encouraged to petition the national government to protect the reefs and plan the formation of protected areas and marine parks especially on Penghu, Dungji Island, Green Island, Orchid Island, Seven Stars and Xiao Liu Chiu. It is about time that the Taiwan government realized that time is running out to protect these very special areas. They should stop pandering to special interest groups, give the laws some teeth, enforce the laws and then do something constructive to stop the degradation and destruction of Taiwan’s precious and vulnerable reef system. Although this may present a bundle of problems to local officials, I would like to suggest that the noisy and polluting recreational businesses, such as Jet Skiing and Banana Boating be restricted to areas where there are no easily damaged fringing coral reefs. This may be a dream but I would like to see the day when all the Jet Ski and Banana Boat operators are moved north of the Marine Park area and the KMP is restricted to safe, none polluting activities. The KMP and its environs could be an international holiday destination for eco-tourism, scuba diving, surfing, and small boat sailing, windsurfing, snorkeling, bird watching, hiking and camping. This move would also invigorate the small towns north of Kenting and bring financial benefits to these areas.

Hope you will find this site useful, please feel free to offer me some constructive criticism, or suggest ways to improve on it.

All the best and have fun diving. Andy Gray.

Links:
Project Aware
More articles related to Taiwan’s marine ecology can be found here: www.reefbase.org
Tide tables for Taiwan can be found here. Also, see the navy charts for the Kenting Marine Park area, depths are in meters.

 
copyright © Taiwan Dive | site designed by Randomized Design