Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bucket list checked! Open water PADI diver certified!

It wasn’t quite something that I fathom to do. I could hardly snorkel. Scuba diving was mind blowing.
Then an email from KSRP came in announcing a dive trip in Redang Island. The open water license was so cheap! I could resist a good deal, so I signed up anyway, despite my fear for scuba diving. This was last year.

This April, KSRP announced another trip. It is a bi-annual trip, the first one being in April, the other in September. Having proudly passed my open water license last year, I decided to enroll for the leisure dive this year. I was still pretty jittery, I did not quite got over my anxiety of being underwater. I was told that if I dived more often (by the very encouraging and friendly KSRP divers) I will get better at it. The thing I love about KSRP dive trips is that, everything is arranged for you. You just have to pay up, and show up!

The bus left KLCC at midnight of Wednesday. Armed with a neck pillow and warm jumper, I slept through the journey. We arrived in Batu Rakit for a nasi dagang breakfast before boarding the ferry at Merang Jetty for the Island. The sea was calm and blue. The one hour boat ride was smooth and pleasant. When we disembarked from our ride, the blue sea and white sand took my breath away. I’m ready to dive!

There were 6 dives arranged for us. Two dives a day. All meals were provided for us at the Redang Mutiara Resort where we were putting up. Our dive “tour guides” were from Seamonkey Dive Centre. The weather was sunny but cool, nothing like the heatwave that we were having in KL. A very much welcomed break from the heat!

After our sumptuous kampong style lunch, we got ready for our first dive. Our BCDs (the thingy that helps us float and sink), regulators (the thing that we breath through) and fins (cheapos like me don’t want to invest on my own fins just yet. But I did buy my own mask. The first thing that you should buy I was told) was all prepared for us by the dive centre. We just needed to check that it fits and bring it onto the boat. Our tanks were already on the jetty.

We had two dives arranged that afternoon. We trooped onto our boat at 2.30pm and chugged out into the open sea. Upon arrival at our dive site, we were split into two groups. The expert divers group, and the “still jittery but still want to dive” group. I was in the latter. Our first dive site was only 11 meters deep. Specially selected for us to get comfortable and have a small refresher before going for deeper dives. A big relief for me. The expert group hit the water first while we wait for our turn.
I strapped on my BCD, made my way to the edge of the boat. I forgot how heavy the tank and BCD was. Luckily there were people helping me steady myself while, already in my fins, clumsily edge my way to the edge of the boat. It was one of those big boats with a small deck at the back to jump off the boat.

I adjusted my mask into my face, placed the regulator into my mouth, looked into the horizon and took my giant stride into the water. That first hit into the water and the first breath of compressed air was exhilarating! Once I was properly buoyant I signaled to the boatman that I was ok and made space for the next diver. When we were all in the water and ready, we made our descend. Slow and majestically. When everyone was at the bottom we were told to practice removing our regulator (yes removing the thing that we use to breath in!), let it go and put it back into our mouth and start breathing again. We also had to practice clearing our mask. These may sound a bit daft, but these are essential safety skills that at minimum we must master in case someone yanked out regulators off by mistake or kick our mask off. Once everyone had passed the mini refresher course, we were ready to explore the dive site. Like a school of fish we followed our dive master around the corals and navigate our way through a completely different world. It’s almost surreal. Having fishes swim past you, fishes that we only see in Aquaria. There were also lots of sea cucumbers, all sorts of corals and clams that open and shut when you tease it. 

After our mini refresher dive, the subsequent dive sites were deeper and even more interesting.
The following days were filled with so much more wonder and awe. Corals were more colourful and more fishes come out to play in deeper waters. I had the privilege of spotting turtles at two different dive sites. A thing that I could never imagine to witness. Turtles swimming before me. Clownfish is a common sight. Just like in the cartoon, they swim and play in their anemones. I made it a special point to take a video of them just to show my kids. We were told that it was the trigger fish nesting season. They are particularly dangerous at this time and we were to keep away and never swim over them. They do attack when they feel threatened and their sting can really hurt. The things we learn from the ocean. It was liberating finning around and over the corals, alongside fishes and taking goofy pictures with our dive buddies. Needless to say my Instagram was filled with photos from the trip almost instantly.

One of the dive site that we explored was a shipwreck. It was a boat that was donated and purposely sunk. I didn’t think much of the shipwreck. It was sunk only last year so it was still “fresh” and only a bit rusty. We explored it nevertheless and swum over and around it.

With every dive I completed, I was more and more confident. I could descend with no issues and have almost no anxieties. So it is true, the advice that I was given. At the end of the 6 dives, I already look forward to my next trip.

After 4 days of fun in the sun and in the water, we packed up and headed home. Heart singing from the adventure, new found friends and memories to last a lifetime.

The yummy nasi dagang breakfast at Batu Rakit

My gear

Preparing our equipment for our first dive

Happy divers

All ok!

Happy shinny people

At the shipwreck with our dive masters

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