Getting My SSI Diving License With Scuba People In Tioman

This isn’t one of my usual holiday blog post.

Don’t expect too many pictures in this one as the key task was for us to get ourselves certified in diving. I thought of getting a waterproof case for my iPhone 6 but one small crack is all it takes to brick it so I rather not.

But fortunately enough, or perhaps unfortunately depending on how you look at it, my wife didn’t complete the 4 required dives.

Instead she did 1.

With her lifetime of sinus problems, equalizing her ears was almost impossible.

So she did the next best thing and took photographs of me.

Day 1 – Road (and water) trip to Tioman

We congregate at Scuba People office in Banda Street. They came highly recommended by a friend of mine as many others will squeeze theories, pool sessions and dives together within one trip.

With them, we did our theories on Tuesday night and our pool session on Wednesday before getting ready to go to Tioman on Friday.

This gave us a lot more comfort and time to take sufficient time to internalize what we learned and not just rush through the motion and regurgitate base on memory.

On the bus to Mersing ferry terminal

The trip nicely coincided with the National Day super long weekend. That means we start our trip on Friday morning instead of the usual Friday night.

But also because of that, the traffic at the causeway was CRAZY!

We left Banda Street around 9:30am and took about 8 hours to only cross into Johor Bahru. Yes the traffic was the crazy.

Human jam at Malaysia custom

It took us another 3 hours to reach Mersing ferry terminal and we manage to check into Berjaya Tioman resort around 3am.

Berjaya Tioman Resort

In between we napped on the bus and on the ferry but the commute was mad. I won’t recommend going across the causeway on wheels in any future long weekends.

Day 2 – Time to hit the water

When I was about 7, my parents enrolled into a swimming course. During the day of the tests, we were supposed to thread water over a period of time.

The pool was a bit crowded and the kid next to me kicked me and caused me to dip down.

I almost drowned then and used whatever I could muster to push myself to the edge of the pool and pulled myself up.

Ever since then I had developed a phobia of swimming. So this diving thing is really about facing my demons more than anything else.

We have to do 5 dives in total, with 3 done over day 1.

Heading onto the boat to the sea around Tioman

The view is excellent and it feels so serene that you just want to take a nap on the sundeck.

Tioman surroundings

But the trip isn’t a retreat. So it’s time to gear up and get into the water. So here it goes:

This might be my last picture

Before getting in, you have to strap up in a:

  1. wet suit
  2. weight belt (I have 4 weights on me. It’s 2kg each)
  3. buoyancy control device (BCD)
  4. air tank
  5. fins
  6. mask
  7. regulator

That’s about 20 kg more of equipment in addition to your own weight. But the BCD also act as a air vest so you won’t have to worry about sinking down. Rather you need to sink otherwise you won’t be diving.

Alas it was too late to do a u-turn. With the deflation of our BCD, we started to sink down and began our first foray into diving.

We had to replicate the safety drills we learned back at the pool but it was made much more difficult in the open water.

The depth and the seawater make tasks like mask removal and exchange of regulator much tougher. And this is done while trying to maintain buoyancy in the water and equalizing your ears in the water.

After my first dive

The equalizing part was a killer for me. I just had a hard time trying to “pop” my right ear. The pressure can be immense. I kept imagining that the pressure would finally pop my ear and blood would start gushing out.

I came to realize equalization has to begin once your head goes beneath the water. And you need to do it constantly every time you change depth. If you can’t equalize at 10 meters, try going to 8 meters to equalize instead.

We took a break after the 2nd time and had some time to wander around a part of the island. They have this really vintage shop that only sell beer for takeaways.

Beer for takeaways only

My wife gave up at the 2nd attempt so it was just me and another couple to go through the rest.

I read before hand that each dive burn about 900 calories. So that day alone I burned at least 2,100 calories with 3 dives. It makes one very very hungry.

Can’t dive? Put on a toilet bowl and you can!

Day 3 – I could almost see my license

Even when we are still recovering from the fatigue over day 1, we have to stick to the schedule and go for another 2 more dives.

As I already done 3 the day before, I just need to do one more to get my license.

I planned to just clock one more and take a nap on the boat.

At the 4th attempt, everything seems to be so much easier. Although too tired to even think straight, the standard drills appear to be internalized and instinctively recited without any reminders.

For once I can actually enjoy a dive and started to focus on the environment and not worry about my life.

The underwater world is amazing. Although the water is a bit murky but you could still make out the shape, color and texture of the sea creatures.

During one of the dive I swam though a school of at least 100 fishes. That was so amazing.

Even though my right ear needs the rest from the earlier lousy attempts in equalizing, I couldn’t give up the chance to do the 5th and last dive.

This dive is done at one of the most popular dive area in Tioman. There are many items in the water that sea life took over and grew their community with.

There are even a treadmill and a bicycle at the bottom of the 15 meters site.

With that, my final dive was over and my fear of dying in water went with it.

I can finally understand why many of my friends love diving. The peace you can experience in the waters is something you can hardly find on land in our world of distraction.

It’s quite therapeutic for me. Listening and focusing on my breathing while seeing Nemo and friend’s swimming around.

I can’t wait for my next dive.

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