Learning Diving @ Tioman with Gill Divers and Asia Dive Academy
One of the many adventures we always wanted to try is diving. I’m sure diving is on your bucket list too! Be it the first or last. There are quite a few places to choose from – Tioman, Bintan, Phuket, Bali.
Without much consideration and without knowing much, Notchbad team signed up for open water diver course to Tioman. And yay we are open water certified!
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing all about open water from theory session to pool session to the diving trip, and what to expect for each of them!
How much do you need?
Be prepared to fork out at least $500 depending on the dive school. This amount may seem expensive which I think it is but that’s for 3 days! It includes transportation to and fro Tioman, accommodation, meals, diving equipment, most importantly your diving instructors.
We started off with sharing – Why did you sign up for open water dive?
People say it’s an amazing experience and we should try once in a lifetime.
Trying something New
Preparing for the real diving in Okinawa
Finally, have the courage
10 years ago, I took my open water but I never Dive.
The theory session basically is like a lecture class facilitated by a dive pro for about 2-3 hours. Your instructor will introduce you to some of the basics skills used by certified divers-, buoyancy, pressure concept, equipment, the risk and dangers involved, and the dos and don’t during diving. Basically, to ensure that you are a safe diver and come out alive with no injuries.
The ocean is a vast and mysterious place, filled with creatures that look entirely alien to our land-based brains.
The theory session is extremely useful and important but a bit lengthy and troublesome as it’s like “back to school”. But since diving is an extreme sport, it’s better safe than sorry! Even though many people say diving is safe, but we all know deep inside the water it can be really scary. There are much lesser things that are within our control. Unless you are a fish, staying in the water is something out of our comfort zone. So it’s really important to pay attention, from the start to prevent any unnecessary mishap.
Another reason that you need to pay attention is to pass the test. And yes, there’s a test! (We didn’t know as well!) Now you know at the end of the theory class, there would be a test consisting 50 MCQ question.
TKN: How much to pass?
TKN: 40% ah!
Of course not la. It’s 40/50 marks. This means that you can only afford to make 10 mistakes! If you fail, you have to do is to retake the paper again on the spot. Just some statistic for your reference but may not depicts the actual difficulty level of the test. 3 out of 4 of us failed in their first attempt. But in life, you grow through failure right. HEHE.
The Basic Rules of Scuba
The First Rule of Scuba: Breathe Continuously!
The Second Rule of Scuba: Ascend slowly and maintain control!
The Third Rule of Scuba: Never dive alone or beyond your level of training!
After the theory session, you would have to go for a pool session which is usually the weekend after you complete your theory session. The pool session is to get your hands on to the equipment and have a feel of diving. Since the diving trip is only 3D2N, there’s so little time for you to dive. You can’t afford to waste any time to learn in the sea.
The pool session begins with a test. You are required to swim 400m in any style and tread water for 10 minutes to show a minimum level of physical ability and water fitness. It isn’t as scary as it sounds. All you have to do is to get yourself across the pool and keep yourself afloat for 10 mins as long as you are not touching the bottom of the pool. Most of us simply float with our belly facing up! The issue was more of the sun shining on your face. Remember to apply more sunblock!
Another tip for you – prepare food for the pool session!
From 11-5pm, there’s no lunch break or rather there’s nothing there for us to eat as well. Our pool session is held at Outram secondary school on a Sunday which means no food available at all. So before going, it’s good to have a full breakfast and bring some snacks, bread, bar whatever that gives you energy.
After our swimming test, it was time to get out hands on the diving equipment! Prior to that, we had some recap of theory lesson. The instructor will go through again the hand signals and some important things to note. Always remember to do “ok” sign instead of the “good” sign because good will then means ascend! And also never hold your breath. Because it’s super dangerous and you may end up with lungs injuries. After the swimming test and recap of theories, we are finally ready for the real diving stuff!
Set up your equipment, wear your wetsuit, wear your weights, carry your scuba tank, wear your fins. And you’re ready to enter the pool!
The pool session is a good time to get a feel of scuba diving without the stress of waves, current and the increased depth. This is where you will get to know if they are comfortable with the scuba diving. During the first few seconds when you enter the water, you may feel weird to breathe through the regular. You may feel out of breath, “omg am I going to die”, or maybe you just have the urge to breath through your nose. It’s normal. But you just have to calm down and remind yourself to breathe through the regulator slowly. Some people may take some time to get accustomed to the new experience. Trust yourself.
You will just be practicing some skills by repeating after your dive instructor. Nothing much except relax, breathe, watch, do. The more challenging skills would probably be buoyancy control and more interesting ones was the out of breath exercises and so on. Everything went smoothly until someone did a clown act.
So here’s what happened
The skill practiced was one of the “out of gas” emergencies whereby the out of air diver signals to his buddy. The buddy will then pass his regulator to the out of air diver and secure his alternate air source from the second regulator. After which, both breathe normally and make an immediate, controlled ascent to the surface. During the exercise, Towkaynew confidently passed his regulator to Candyce. Both of them signaled ok and started to ascend. Guess what? He didn’t secure his own regulator after passing to Candyce. Halfway through the ascent, he realised he can’t breathe. OMG he forgot to save himself. What a great buddy! Luckily, this happened in the pool and not the open water!
Except for this clown that almost sacrifice his life, we completed the drills without much problem.
Last but not least, our diving trip to Tioman!
At 7 pm, we arrived at Blk 13 York Hill which is situated opposite outram park secondary school. You will then meet your divemaster and dive pro which will be your diving instructor for your trip!
We were quite excited after we met our instructor, James and Roger! Somehow they seems to be more excited and enthusiastic than us! And we are the first batch of open water kids certified by Roger.Keke!
We were each given a bag with our diving equipment and was asked to check if everything was inside. It was kinda troublesome to take out everything, make sure everything is there and in good condition. But it’s part of the learning process.
By the time we boarded the bus to Mersing, it was around 9 pm. It took us 1.5 hours to Tuas, 2.5 hours to Habour Mersing Centre, followed by a 4 hours boat ride to Tioman.
It was long enough if everything went smoothly but unfortunately, the other bus broke down and we had to wait at Mersing for the other bus to arrive. This took another 2-3 hour. There goes our sleep time.
Finally, we board the boat and it was freaking cold. Everyone was freezing, even with jackets. Luckily, we brought the sleeping bag. We used it as our blankets between the 4 of us but it barely covered the first and last person. We even tried to hide our heads under the sleeping bag as it was freezing. This boat will be with us throughout the next 2 days.
We eventually arrive Tioman like zombies, our dive was also push back to ensure we had sufficient rest.
Accommodation at Tioman Island – Island Reef Resort
After an entire night traveling, not sure if we are lousy or what but I find it really quite long especially when we arrived at the ferry terminal but had to wait for the other bus for another 2 hours. So the first thing we did was to get some sleep before our dive. We stayed at Island reef resort.
The rooms are hut alike on the hill. They do have beds not exactly very bad, I would say it’s stayable but do be prepared it’s not gonna be nice, clean, beautiful resort. At least, there are beds for sleeping! But I really miss my bathroom. The water supply was really weak and there is no hot/warm water to shower.
We went to our rooms and the first thing I saw was a giant insect, unable to decipher was it was but it looks like a huge black lizard the crawled past the wall. OMG for the next 2 nights we have to sleep here. We couldn’t find it after that, hoping that it was gone. Anyway, there is nothing we could do but to sleep to prepare ourselves for the dive later. Trust me, this is only the beginning.
Later after our dive, we were back to shower, there was a cockroach in the bathroom. It was really a battle with the cockroach. I splash it with water, it flipped over, struggled while staying stationary. The moment it managed to flip back over it started crawling and we screamed and jump onto the toilet seat. Then, we splashed it again and it flipped again. This repeated until we were done. It may sound cruel but it was a terrifying experience, bathing with fear. The accommodation was one with nature, so insects are part of it. But after diving, you would be so tired that you fall asleep instantly.
Diving – Tioman
Tioman Island is ranked among the 10 most beautiful islands on earth with beautiful underwater making it one of the good dive location in Malaysia. We had two days of dives, with 3 dives on the first day and 2 dive on the next day.
Since it is our first time diving in the sea, Roger, our dive pro, conducted another round of recap to be sure of the dos and don’ts before we enter the water. He also went through the underwater communication since we can’t talk underwater. Even though we are his first group of open water students, his instructions were very clear and easy to understand. He made sure that we have a safe and fun diving experience!
There were many things to check before to jump into the water. Weight belt, BCD, mask, etc. We also have to set up the oxygen tank and carry on our back. It was heavy and everything adds up to around 20 kg. During the first two dives, we descended while holding on to the hope. The first time descending was a bit scary.
But subsequently, we adapted to the aquatic environment, we were able to clear our mask, equalize our ears and breathe normally.
During the first 2 dive, we mainly practice the exercises we learned during the pool session.There weren’t much fishes and corals around us, perhaps only one or two that swam over. We were all comfortable in the ocean, and on our third dive, we swim around and explore the waters of Tioman.
Then we had more fun exploring around, we went through the “obstacles” in the underwater playground!
Between each dive, we eat snacks and exchange our views on our dives with our dive master while enjoying the breeze and sea.
Coral and Fishes at Tioman
It’s pretty impressive to be able to see the fishes and coral so close up. But the visibility isn’t exactly very clear. There’s really lots to see but you have to come here yourself to experience it!
We had a total of 5 dives!
Food at Tioman Island
One thing you can be sure is that you won’t go hungry on the island! Dinner is provided but we decided to go for round 2! This prata stall sell quite delicious food or maybe because there is a limited choice!
Open Water Certified
Yoohoo Divers! We are all open water certified! We had lots of fun in the sea!
Thank You James and Roger for taking care of us and making our first Diving experience an awesome one!
Diving is something you should try.
We ended off our trip another item on our bucket list.
To dive at the Great Barrier Reefs in Australia.
Our Dive Center:
Gill Divers Pte. Ltd.
37 Hongkong Street, S059676
Tel: +65 6734 9373
Loved the details of your trip 🙂 It felt as if I were there! I will be going for my first dive in a couple of weeks. Good luck with your bucket list!