As a scuba diver based in Kuala Lumpur, who loves to explore remote dive locations in the region, AirAsia has been crucial in the choices of dive destinations available to me.
I remember being one of the few lucky ones that manage to fly with AirAsia to Balikpapan from Kuala Lumpur in early 2006 to go to Sangalaki – a dream dive destination for most divers since it is synonymous with Manta Ray (Manta birostris). And yes we saw lots of Mantas, especially whilst snorkeling, with the Mantas swooping below us. You could even see them from the boat, as their wing tips and small dorsal fin (at the base of the tail) breaks the surface, when they filter-feed just below the surface. Now with AirAsia flying again to BalikPapan (from Jakarta this time) I expect plenty of divers to take advantage of this opportunity. To get to Sangalaki, you have to fly to Berau from Balikpapan, you can get more info from Sangalaki Dive Lodge.
Pulau Weh, north of Banda Aceh is another dive destination made feasible by AirAsia. Prior to AirAsia flying to Banda Aceh, divers must fly to Medan and make their way north by flight or bus just to experience diving in Pulau Weh. Pulau Weh, being a dive location in the Indian Ocean is definitely worth a visit, especially to see the difference in marine species as compared to Malaysian waters. Pulau Weh is also famous for its meadows of sea fans (check out Batee Tokong), I have never seen so many sea fans, growing close to each other, continuously from depth of 25m to well below 50m (I didn’t go beyond to see where they end). The flight to Banda Aceh only takes 90 minutes, which is shorter than going to Tawau for Sipadan.
Manado is the latest dive destination served by AirAsia. The world famous macro heaven, Lembeh Straits, near Manado is now available, direct from Kuala Lumpur – so now divers have no more excuses not to go and see the weird & wonderful creatures there. Highlights would be the psychedelic-coloured Rhinopias or weedy scorpionfish, the hirsute Hairy Frogfish and the alien-looking Bobbit Worm.
I’ve also made other trips with the help of AirAsia such as Komodo & Alor (via Bali) and Raja Ampat (via Jakarta). So you see, I’ve had a very long relationship with AirAsia, from the days of the used 737s to the brand new A320s (I miss those extra legroom seats near the wing on the 737).
However, somehow I feel this love is not reciprocated by AirAsia. The controversial Sports Equipment fee (RM40, used to be RM30) for our essential dive gears has caused much anger and heated arguments at check-in counter between divers and the counter staff (that are just doing their job). So in the interest of keeping our relationship going, I would like to appeal to Tony and the team at AirAsia to review the fee or give additional baggage allowance if we check in our dive gear. Because with AirAsia, everyone can dive! (at remote, dream dive destinations).