Dive season in East Malaysia is open! Been looking forward to diving for a couple of months now and will be planning a trip up to Pulau Redang in April :D
Have postponed our diving plans for a few years due to busy schedule, but finally made time for the Open Water Diver Certification in May 2006 and since fallen in love with diving. After the Open Water Diver Course in Pulau Tioman, we did a couple more dives at Pulau Tenggol and Pulau Redang before the monsoon season.
At first, I was rather apprehensive due to many incidents heard about scuba diving and that it is a relatively risky sport. It also seems rather confusing as there are a number of diving schools that offer certification like PADI, SSI, NAUI and etc. At the end of the day, safety is our priority and we managed to find a dive operator (Fishermen Scuba) that we are comfortable with and took up SSI certification (Scuba Schools International).
We started off with a 1-day theory lesson to go through the basics followed by 2 pool sessions to get ourselves comfortable with the diving apparatus and learn techniques and drills that are of utmost importance in diving. The theory and pool sessions are essential as they prepare us mentally and physically for the open sea. And finally the highly anticipated open water dives (over a weekend) where we got the chance to do 5 dives.For Fishermen Scuba, the arrangement was such that we departed on Friday night and stayed at Hotel Timotel in Mersing. Early next morning, we boarded the Fishermen Diver Explorer at Mersing Jetty and started our journey towards Kampung Salang in Pulau Tioman which is the northern most village. Before reaching Salang, we did our 1st dive at Pulau Renggis which is just off Lalang Village.
For the seasoned divers, this was supposed to be a check-out dive to warm up and get familiar with the dive gears, whereas for open water trainees we did our basic drills like mask clearing, regulator retrievals, air-sharing, emergency ascent and etc. Although we were kept busy with our drills, it was really exciting because the visibility was great and we could actually see lots of marine creatures around like clown fish and anemones.
After the 1st dive, we checked into Salang Indah Resort, a modest resort with basic amenities but nonetheless comfortable. Kampung Salang is beautiful and idyllic; having one of the nicest beach in Tioman with crystal clear blue waters.
After lunch and rest, we headed for our 2nd dive at the house reef, Salang Indah. After a quick revision of basic drills, our dive instructor led us around for our leisure dive :D where we saw so many species of reef fishes that we lost count.
The 3rd dive was at Soyak where we saw moray eels, parrot fish, rainbow runners, cushion sea star and so many more. As the current was pretty strong, the dive was a relatively short one as we were all beginners. With that, we concluded our training for the day.
Nightlife at Salang is pretty happening with many restaurants serving BBQ seafood, satay and the infamous Ramly Burger; and great place to chill out at the only beach bar in Tioman. Had to complete a theory test before hitting the bed.
The following morning, we did our 4th dive at Chebeh. Having completed our basic drills and theory test the previous day, our dive instructor led us straight for our leisure dive. Ahh, this was where the real fun began and where we had more time for explorations and "sightseeing" Chebeh is really very beautiful with great coral formations and is my favourite dive site to-date. Was lucky to see a pair of turtles kissing; many blue-spotted stingrays, giant clams, angel fishes etc etc. And this was the point where we decided we must get an underwater camera so that we could capture the beauty of the underwater world.
The 5th and our last dive for this trip was at Malang Rock. Once again, beautiful dive site and we saw puffer fish, sting rays, moray eels, nudibranch and etc. It was really an amazing experience as we marvelled at the different species of sea creatures all around us.
We are finally certified Open Water Diver! When it was time to depart, we didn't feel like leaving the island and was already craving for more dives. Definitely gotta be back again!