So I’ve been back in Singapore for 6 weeks now and my backpack has been neglected for too long! Cue a weekend in Tioman.
A group of friends and I decided we’d hop across the border to Malaysia to get our PADI Open Water diver certificates. This involves 4 days diving, performing lots of different skills, doing a massively dull eLearning course and ends with a piece of paper allowing you to dive anywhere in the world. Worth it? Oh yeah!
So when I say ‘hop’ across the border…we left U-Town around 5:40am last Friday and only arrived on the island at around 4:30pm that evening =S, it was a long journey. But it seemed like we had stumbled upon paradise on earth…
This place was incredible! Unbelievably clear blue/green water and an amazing sandy beach. We got ourselves all sorted at the diving outlet and jumped straight off their deck and into the water. We organised our whole trip through the diving outlet and they sorted out our accommodation for us. We stayed in these awesome little houses for the weekend…
There were quite a few restaurants on the island, all typically cheap (it’s Malaysia!) and serving delicious food. Lots of barbecues which kept my carnivorous mates happy, and lots of fried rice for me =P. The best meal I had was fried vegetable rice wrapped in an omelette…I just have no clue how they did this =P.
So on our first day we got suited up and went straight out into the water with our instructor. We were told before we went out what skills we’d be demonstrating (which we’d read about in the eLearning course). The first job was to get all the equipment on and to do our ‘buddy checks’ (where we pair up and check each other’s equipment is all working properly). The weight of the oxygen tank and everything else meant we had a very slow walk out from the beach and into the water =P. We eventually got to water about 5m deep and our instructor talked us through what the descent would be like. It was very weird doing this for the first time (breathing underwater that is). There’s actually quite a lot to think about when diving. We did a slow descent, slowly releasing the air from our BCD’s (inflatable vest type things that all your other equipment attaches to) whilst making sure to breathe slowly and continually through our air regulators (number 1 rule of diving is to NEVER hold your breath, in case of lung over expansion and ensuing nastiness…). You also have to control your breathing to control your buoyancy (how much you flat in the water), which is very strange…It’s odd having to use breathing for a purpose other than, well, you know, survival =P. On descent you also have to make sure to equalise pressure, because it changes as you descend. That means popping your ears (like you don on a plane) and breathing into your mask so that it doesn’t end up squishing your face into nothing =P.
So, having managed that, we got onto doing a bunch of skills. This is pretty much how we spent most of Saturday and Sunday, with bits of fun diving in between where we saw massive schools of fish around the jetty. Most of the skills weren’t too difficult, doing things like removing your equipment and putting it back on, breathing from your buddy’s alternate air source, hovering in the water (controlling buoyancy) etc. However, I really hated the times when we had to remove our masks. I’m not really used to being underwater without my eyes being protected and I freaked out a few times having to do this. It seemed like my instructor was being cruel, because we had to take our masks off on pretty much every dive we did =P. The worst part is that I seemed to forget how to breathe normally when I would take my mask off. Mostly because I was panicking, but also because when you breathe out, the bubbles shoot straight out of your regulator and up your nose =S. Not pleasant =P. Anyway, I eventually got the hang of it and was managing to swim around and breathe normally without my mask on. Thank goodness for that =P.
After we were finished diving for the day, we would typically hang out for a few hours on the beach watching the sunset and then head to one of the restaurants, usually with some of the locals, our instructors, or other travellers. Then we’d spend a few hours playing cards before resting up for the next day. The evenings were great fun!
It was brilliant to get away from hectic Singapore for a while. My semester has been really busy so far. I’m studying lots of environmental law courses which I’m really interested in, so I’m trying to learn as much as I can. I also got a job doing legal research for the Centre for International Law which has been keeping me busy. Not to mention the fact I’m still fitting in training for my first marathon on the 2nd of March. Safe to say, I really needed a break, and Tioman definitely delivered, giving me 4 amazingly relaxing days!
The last day of diving was incredible. We had finished all our skills (apart from one final mask removal at 18m depth…grrr) and so we went out on the boat to a few different spots.
We went down to 18m (our lowest depth yet) and swam around some amazing coral reefs. We were really lucky in that we got to see sting rays, eels, nemo fishes in their anemones, heaps of awesome schools of fish and 3 MASSIVE SEA TURTLES!!!!! It was incredible getting to watch them just swimming about, doing their thing. Being opposed to zoos, and considering my less than pleasant experience with an elephant “sanctuary” last semester, I was ecstatic to be able to get to see so many different species of fish (etc) in their natural habitat.
I’m really keen to go diving again now after those last fun dives! I’m thinking I might try and tie it in with a trip to Indonesia later in the semester. So I’ve pretty had to plan out the rest of my semester week by week =P. I’m going to be so busy! I’ve got another 3 trips planned that I really want to fit in, I’ve got my parents coming to visit for 2 weeks, I’ve got lots of reading for all my courses, I’ve got my job to keep me busy, I want to get back to ACRES (the animal shelter where I’ve been volunteering) at least a few more times before I leave, and I’m also hoping to get a bit of work experience at a law firm here towards the end of the semester. It’s going to be hectic, but I’m loving the semester so far =P. At the moment, I’ve got another week of reading before I jet off to Cambodia for recess week =D. Really excited for that trip! Until next time,