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10 August 2009

Under the Sea

By Derek

“Have you seen a wall of fishes? It’s so huge that all you can do is be amazed!”

That was the question that started it all. That and images of Little Mermaid and just curious about what’s under the sea. Truth be told – diving will unlock another world that you never imagined. Here’s a story of how I got myself started and found no way back.

Bare facts regarding Derek Tan - I can’t swim (not even thread water), not very agile in water (movements in water similar in nature to a dugong struggling on land), and the only advantage I had was an inflated tummy that hopefully would be a natural float in case of an emergency.

Having said that, it must be stressed that Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines form one of the world’s most beautiful coral base in the world and lies in between the natural migration paths of some of the world’s most exotic sea creatures. Indonesia along has regular visits of the pre-historic sun fish (mola-mola) and half of the world’s species of whales. Turtles, sharks, fishes and critters (small interesting creatures such as the mimic octopus and deadly blue ringed octopus) are just at our doorsteps. Taking up diving should be something seriously worth considering if anything about the sea intrigues you.

All smiles right before putting on all equipment. Notice my eyes shivering in fear

Diving is actually quite a safe recreational sport despite popular belief. There are various international diving associations that ensure you are properly trained before starting on your diving adventure such as PADI, NAUI, etc. Each dedicates proper methods to caring for your equipment and dealing with emergencies which is really comprehensive to the point that you are competent enough to dive on your own. Or rather your buddy.

In recreational diving, there is a buddy system that ensures you not dive alone. For obvious safety reasons, a dive buddy is also someone you can share your memories with in your dive trips. As they say, the most beautiful things in life are to be shared :)

Diving is an experience like no other similar to conquering mountains and skydiving and other adrenaline pumping activities and getting certified is the start of that adventure. Before you even think of getting set with all the equipment and jumping into the deep blue sea, all hopeful divers spend a day or two to run through the use of equipment and emergency drills in an enclosed setting, be it in a pool or a confined diving space. Only once my instructor was comfortable, did he allow us to head into open sea. My instructor was an extremely pleasant and patient chap, Nick who without I would not have even been allowed to touch any diving equipment for the safety of other humans around me.

I didin’t manage to actually complete all my pool exercises and had to carry three remaining ones to Pulau Tioman. Pulau Tioman was actually an absolutely amazing location to be certified. In fact, there are so many islands in the region that you would be spoilt for choice. We arrived at the island and immediately got down to business – five dives packed into two days which was simply an experience to remember.

It was truly a nerve shattering experience suiting up in front of the clear blue ocean instead of the pool. There are two approaches to diving, be it getting to an identified diving spot via boat travel or taking a shore diving which is simply walking out from the shore to the depths. My first taste of the sea was through a shore dive and swimming out to swim was really terrifying. My instructor was really patient despite my repeated attempt to overcome my nerves to get down to the bottom. It took so many tries and it was frustrating with air running low with time.

Going down was surreal.

Tasting the water. Beginning the descent

We managed to see sea turtles and blue spotted mantas. Three in fact from the first boat dive. One was definitely like grandpa turtle measuring over a meter and close to two! We saw manta rays hiding behind corals and rock formations and fishes galore! Managed to even peek into the anemone houses of so many Nemos and bue-ish clown fish varieties!

Each dive site was unique with lots to see and you can’t help but stop and admire the wonders just below the waters. We were actually kept very busy with all the safety drills in order to earn my license and it was really exciting to actually see all fishes watching us curiously for a change. We spent time hovering in a meditation stance in the water to control our breathing, learning to opearate without equipment and including removing and replacing our masks, all the while in the water!

Intorducing the world to my dive buddy! Truly it is another world under the sea. Same partner, different worlds!

Behold! The Wall of Fishies!

It was a gruelling, tiring and crazy two days but worthwhile time spent diving. Having earned my license, this can only be an exciting start to a new world of adventures. Next time, it will be just pure diving without all the drills crammed in between. If you haven’t started yet or thought about diving yet, you should. AirAsia flies to so many fantastic dive sites and being an employee is simply a blessing in disguise. Thinking of exploring Sipadan next :) To all divers, share your stories and memories here! Until then, blow more bubbles!

  • Safina

    I’m sooooo happy for you!! Congratulations again. We shall go diving together soon!!

  • Sandip Singh

    Hi, Juz wondering what happened to the application for cadet pilots? Have the acndidates been chosen?