Bahara Rocks (or locally known as Tokong Bahara) is located to the southwest of the main island of Tioman. Journey by speedboat from Tekek Village took us some 30 minutes. Not that many dive operators offer dive trips to Bahara Rocks due to its distance, especially if you are in Salang Village on the northernmost precinct of Pulau Tioman, which means the dive boat journey itself can easily take close to an hour. There are better chances to find a scheduled dive trip if you are staying in either Genting Village or Paya Village, which are located in the southern sections of Pulau Tioman.
A number of dive guides that I read had mentioned about Bahara Rocks being the best dive sites in Pulau Tioman. These isolated sea mounts host a navigation lighthouse since the area is regarded as a main shipping line for fishing trawlers and passenger boats. Due to its isolated location in the open sea, strong currents are not uncommon and large pelagic specie such as whale sharks (one was spotted on April 1st, 2007 and was initially thought as an April Fool joke), manta rays and sea turtles.
During our trip, the weather was good and the sea surface was as calm as a sheet of glass. Our dive guide from Tioman Reef Divers had me gleaming with hopes of spotting my first ever whale sharks or manta rays when he gave us step-by-step instructions on how to approach these elusive specie right before we hit the water. We did not see any actually as there were no currents and I did not blame him for that. The dive was generally pleasant with bottom time of 45 minutes at depth between 15-25 metres.
While the initial observation pointed to a great dive with superb visibility, it was a rather different story as soon as we submerged underwater. The visibility was somewhat poor at probably just over 10 metres or so. We descended to a sandy bottom with the sight of schooling goldband fusilier (Pterocaesio chrysozona) creating an great underwater spectacle. Other than that, a decent variety of damselfish was spotted but the majority of them were either yellowfin chromis (Neoglyphidodon nigroris) or black damsel (Neoglyphidodon melas). There were also a medium-sized school of yellowtail blue snapper (Paracaesio xanthura) although their movement was probably not as spectacularly synchronised as the goldband fusilier.
We ran into a hawksbill turtle here! In general, I have seen more green turtles in my many dives throughout Malaysia, hence seeing a hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a great change. It was initially too engrossed with grazing on the coral polyps and was probably not aware of our fascinated gaze. Only after the captivated visitors started to crowd the small section, it decided to swim away in a breathtaking fashion.
There were sufficiently large varieties of sea fan corals that I spotted at this dive site. Among them were Acabaria sp., small-polyped gorgonian of Acalycigorgia sp., branching gorgonian of Melithaea sp., etc. There were plenty of star feathers of mostly of Comanthina sp. clinging on these sea fan corals. In addition, I spotted a rare yellow-lined red star feathers (Himerometra robustipinna) feeding on top of a barrel sponge (Xestospongia testudinaria).
There were also quite a number of soft and hard coral specie in Tokong Bahara. The soft corals were mostly dominated by multi-coloured Dendronephthya sp. at medium water depth. I also saw a rare green tree coral (Tubastraea micrantha). Other than that, there plenty of brown lobe corals (Porites lutea), plated rice corals (Montipora patula), overlapping plate corals (Montipora capitata), table corals (Acropora cytherea), etc. Apart from that, there were numerous spots where one can find common sea anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) which occasionally form a large carpet on the surface of boulder rocks.
Overall, it was an acceptably fun dive to embark in Tokong Bahara but the lack of expected large pelagic synonymous with this dive site was somewhat disappointing.