Category Archives: SCUBA Diving

PADI Scuba Diving & Project AWARE certificates for you!

I love doing outdoor activities. The best thing about being and living in Sabah is that there are a lot of outdoor activities that you can get yourself involved to fill your desire! I started to climb Kinabalu in 2002, and since then I have climbed the mountain several times, and would love to climb again soon. In 2008 I started to scuba dive. And guess what? I fall in love with underwater life.

When one of my Facebook friend asked me about scuba diving few weeks ago, I knew that not all of us have the correct information about scuba diving. Almost all of us think that if we don’t know how to swim, we cannot dive (it’s also a myth that I had before I do diving). It will be very dangerous for those who don’t know how to swim to take scuba diving.

Well, today I have to correct the myth: YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO SWIM IF YOU WANT TO GO SCUBA DIVING. However, if you can swim, it will be a huge advantage for you. That is why professional bodies who certified divers highly recommend that you can swim to dive.

You don’t have to know how to swim to scuba dive because we actually don’t want you to float. In scuba diving, we are afraid that you cannot sink! Because if we cannot sink you, it defeats the purpose of diving. We even put on weight on you to make you sink.

To dive all over the world you need to be certified. There are a lot of professional bodies which can certify you as a scuba diver. I took PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) certification from Borneo Divers which costs me MYR1000 (~USD300) in 2008. The cost varies among dive operator around Kota Kinabalu depending on the ancillary services that they can provides for the divers.

Diving has become an addicting activity to me as to go to Sutera Harbour jetty took me less than 10 minutes drive from home, and another 10 minutes to Mamutik Island! How can you not love this place?

To fulfill a request from one of my good friend (and to entice you to take scuba diving), I hereby post the 4 certificates that I received from my first ever scuba diving experience until my Project Aware involvement.

The first certificate: Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) (cost RM200-RM300)*

It’s the best way to know and feel what it is like to breathe underwater. The short course is done under direct supervision of the diving instructor, which can be finished in just one day. Usually they will let you do one dive or two if you are comfortable. After the dive, this hand written certificate will be given to you. And if you think that you like diving and want to dive all over the world, then you should take the proper license: Open Water Diver.

The second certificate: Open Water Diver (OW) (cost RM1000-RM1300)*

This is the start of you entering scuba divers life. This course took us 4 days to complete. One day in the classroom reviewing some videos and course book, two days in confined water and one day in open water. Luckily for me, the confine water session was held in a swimming pool. The visibility was magnificent! ;-). The instructor will teach us the basics about scuba diving and how to breathe properly under water. They will always tell you that “NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH!”. Open Water license will only allow you to dive not deeper than 18 meters.

The third certificate: Advance Open Water Diver (AW) (cost RM800-RM1200)*

This will be your next stage of scuba diving. Advance Open Water is for you if you are serious about diving and want to explore more underwater. One of the reason why I took AW was I want to dive Sipadan. It’s my dream dive spot. Because of the underwater nature of Sipadan, a lot of experience divers urged me to take AW because I really need it if I want to dive on the spot which Cousteau said “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now, no more. Now, we have found again an untouched piece of art…”

With AW, you need to take at least 5 compulsory specialty dive – in which Borneo Divers was good enough to give me six – in 2 days. I took Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive, Deep Dive, Underwater Navigation, Diver Propulsion Vehicle, Night Dive and Underwater Naturalist. From those six specialty dives, I think I like Night Dive. It gives you totally different view of underwater world in the dark!

The fourth certificate: Project AWARE (cost RM100)

This certificate is just a recognition certificate in which Project AWARE Foundation gave to divers who helped them involve in their events to save  the underwater world. This is the first Project AWARE event that I joined, in which was held on the 25th September 2010 in Mamutik Island.

Basically we were assigned to collect rubbish underwater around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (islands nearby Kota Kinabalu). This year we also add on awareness on the increasing amount of water bottles, by launching “Say No To Water Bottles” campaign. I managed to collect some rubbish around Manukan Island which was only a fraction of about 800 kilogram rubbish that we all collected that whole day!

My next target is Sipadan & Mabul Island. After that I would like to challenge myself and take the next level of PADI certification – Rescue Diver – so that I can safely dive with anybody that I want. When my son is ready, I will bring him underwater with me as a dive buddy!

*Cost varies among dive operators here in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Survivor Island (Pulau Tiga) Day Trip

Honestly, I have never been to the island. Although the boat ride there is only about an hour, I still cannot find time to go. I received an invitation (as usual) from Evelyn of Dive Down Below, a PADI 5 star dive adventure center and dive shop plus adventure travel center here in Kota Kinabalu. I dived with them once before in Gaya Island, and they have a very dedicated team of divemasters and instructors.

They are having regular visits to Survivor Island Pulau Tiga for excursion. I am here to share with you their promotional package, in which you can get further information from their website.

Nudibranch, courtesy of Dive Down BelowThis paradise island surrounded by pristine tropical waters is located 6 miles offshore Sabah in Malaysian Borneo. Formed on September 21st 1897 when an earthquake on the Philippine island of Mindanao triggered a volcanic eruption just north of Borneo. The eruption of mud and rock formed a new island 20 meters wide. Over the next four decades subsequent eruptions developed two more islands which have now joined together and three islands have become one and herewith the island was named Pulau Tiga which is Malay for Island of Three !

The last eruption of the volcano was in 1941 but to this day warm mud continues to ooze from geometric vents on the island. These mud baths are safe to bath in and although not proved by science the mud bath is claimed to improve the complexion, relieve joint and muscle pain and remove toxins. If nothing else they are great fun and very relaxing !!

Pulau Tiga was made famous by CBS as the location for their Survivor Island reality based TV show. Contestants were marooned on the island while cameras followed their every move. Over a 39 day period they were faced with physical and mental challenges in an attempt not to be voted off the show, the last one standing was the Survivor of the Island and won $1 million.

The pristine natural environment of Pulau Tiga Park is protected by the Malaysian government. Harming native vegetation and animals is illegal and carries a punishment of up to three years in prison plus a hefty fine.

As a result the surrounding reefs around Pulau Tiga are in excellent condition, with myriads of hard and soft corals, whip corals, barrel sponges, schools of Tropical Fish, Sea Turtles, Rays, Cuttlefish, Nudibranchs, Lionfish, Scorpionfish and the list goes on and on.
Pulau Tiga is also home to some fascinating land based wildlife, proboscis and macaque monkeys, flying foxes, bats, monitor lizards and a plethora of birds – including megapodes, hornbills and sea eagles.

The islands fine white sandy beach provides an idyllic place to relax, swim and enjoy the peace and serenity of this uncrowned tropical paradise. Those who are a little more energetic can trek through the 7 miles of trails now carved through the rain-forest.
Close by Pulau Tiga is Snake Island – named for the many Sea Snakes that inhabit and lay their eggs on the tiny rocky uninhabited island.

Whats Included ?
We offer regular day trips to this fascinating location for divers and non divers alike. Aboard our 37ft & 35ft spacious speed boats a day trip includes return sea transfers from Kota Kinabalu ex Sutera Harbour Marina. (approx. 45mins /1 hour each way, sea conditions permitting), unlimited Snacks and Refreshments, Buffet lunch, use of Resort Facilities, Park Entry Fees, Jetty Fees, 2 x Guided Boat Dives (Diving Package) Guided Snorkeling, All Equipment and Area Orientation and Guided Trip to the Mud Volcano.

Contact Evelyn of Down Below here for more information!

The story of a camera that travels 1770km across the ocean

I spent my first 3 hours of yesterdays work reading through a forum thread about a camera that travels across the ocean, and how a good samaritan managed to get the camera back to it’s owner, 1770km away…

You may want to read about the story here.

underwater camera

And you may also wants to read a thread in Scuba Board about how the guy who found the camera find ways to get the camera back to it’s original owner. I must say it’s the best Scuba Board thread I have ever read.

Read about it here.

Oh, during the 1770km trip across the ocean, the camera was bitten by a turtle. Accidentally, the turtle pressed the shutter release button and recorded itself struggling to get the camera off from its body.

Watch it on Youtube here.

Moral of the story: I am going to put my name and address in my upcoming underwater camera housing when I get one. So if it gets lost during my diving, somebody will find it easy to get the camera back to me. You should do it too!

Fujifilm FinePix Z33WP 10 MP Waterproof Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (Green)

Underwater creatures around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu

It’s just not right.

I don’t think I do justice to the wonderful underwater creatures when I do not share them with you. My last few post about my Open Water course was only about me. No photos of them.

So now I would love to share the things I saw underwater, so that you will know how beautiful life is down there. Oh, have I mentioned that it’s just 20 minutes away from where I live?

Kudos to Roslan, the aspiring underwater photographer who took all the shots. I saw all the creatures in this page.

You may have seen them unedited in my Facebook photo album, but these 15 photos were edited & cropped professionally with GIMP. All photos were taken with Canon Powershot A95 with underwater casing. I auto-leveled all the photos to eliminate the blue-green component of the photo, so that it will shown with it’s original colours.

I learned a lot every time I went down there. And I think you should too. Enjoy!

I must admit that those photos are only less than 5% of what I saw underwater…

Amazing Animals Video: UnderWater Animals

Why I choose PADI OW license with Borneo Divers

This is NOT a sponsored post. Although I really admire Borneo Divers (BD) for their friendliness & hospitality, I found out that other scuba diving operators around Kota Kinabalu are equally good and professional in what they do.

I received a comment from one of our blog readers who asked me why I choose PADI for my OW license. While you can actually get your PADI OW license from any certified PADI scuba diving operators around here, I chose Borneo Divers, particularly because:

  1. I know Borneo Divers staffs. Some of them are regular patient in my clinic. And yes, we are also a panel clinic for BD.
  2. My good friend Roslan is really a Borneo Divers fan. If you talk to him, he can give you 1001 reasons and excuses why you need to be with BD – although he is not BD staff. Well, maybe partially…
  3. The course fee for their diving course is one of the lowest in KK (for PADI). And you will be sure that you get a quality teaching from their experienced world class diving instructor.
  4. They have their dive center in one of the island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, i.e. Mamutik Island. This is a big advantage for BD students and divers as they don’t have to lug their scuba units and tanks from the mainland for each dive.
  5. Oh, by having a dive center in Mamutik, all of the main activities are concentrated there, including preparation of meals. While other scuba diver operators have to look for third party meal provider for their students and divers, BD have a regular in-house cook to cook for us.
  6. Although their equipments are old – yes, some of it has served for 15 years – their services and hospitality are excellent.
  7. Their main office in Wisma Jubilee is just 3 minutes walk from my clinic. Hehehe…

Well, I can give you another 99 reasons why I took BD course, but then, it’s up to you to choose from numbers of scuba diving operators here in KK. You may have a slightly different experiences with different PADI operators, but generally, what they teach are all the same. I must tell you that it’s worth all your money spent.

Don’t take all my words. Go experience it yourself.

Go dive. Your life will not be the same.

PADI Open Water certification course with Borneo Divers – Part II

Continued from Part I…

Then we had a one week rest (the whole week) as I could not continue our final day of open water session on the subsequent day. So it was brought forward to yesterday (Sunday, 2nd November). And praise the Lord… The weather yesterday was really, really awesome!

I could not sleep the night before as I was over excited. I end up sleeping at about 2.30 am after watching Liverpool-Totenham match, in which Liverpool lost. Hahaha. I did not finished watching it as I thought Liverpool would win after Kuyt scored after 3 minutes.

It was a bright sunny day yesterday. The sky was clear and the water was calm. Our first boat dive was held at Sulug Reef, just nearby Sulug Island. This was the time when Roslan thought us how to do back flip safely from the boat. The water was clear and the visibility was excellent. We went down to 12 meters deep, in which I could feel the pressure inside my ears. I had no problem equalizing though.

We still have to do basic skills in the water during this dive. We have to remove our mask and put it back on, with our regulator in the mouth. It was one of the basic open water skills that we need to master, so that we wouldn’t easily get panic when our dive buddies kick our mask off with their fins. The salt water temporarily hurts my eyes, but then, I get used to it.

While diving at about 10 meters, we saw one of the ugliest view underwater – damaged coral reefs by a fishing net, with the fishing net in-situ. We failed to remove the net from the corals as the net was too long and heavy and we did not bring knives to cut it loose. We have to abandon the net there as we still did not manage to entangle it after 15 minutes of trying.

The one thing that I noticed when I was underwater – I lost the sense of time & direction. I only know how deep I went and how much air I have left in the tank from the SPG (submersible pressure gauge). But unless I wear a compass and a dive computer, I would not know the time and the directions. I only know up and down, left and right. Just to give you the reasons why I need to work hard to get myself MARES Nemo Excel…

Our second boat dive was held at Pyramid Reef, a reef that is situated between Mamutik Island & Manukan Island. Emerged from the sea floor, this reef is not attached to any island around it. They call it Pyramid Reef because of the obvious reason – it has a pyramid shape.

Yes, it was another back flip from the boat and we went down to 12 meters. I saw stone fish, scorpion fish, a lot of anemone (Nemo) fish, few colorful nudibranch, a group of barracudas and numbers of soft coral damaged by sea turtles. It was like an AWARE fish identification dive. Barye, our divemaster brought down a writing plate to tell me what we saw underwater.

That 2 boat dives really makes me hungry. I ate an additional plate of rice and more crackers during lunch at Borneo Divers Dive Center, Mamutik Island. The food (chicken curry & mixed vegetable) was really delicious. It was lucky for Borneo Divers to have a good cook. I am sure I will be back for more dives and of course, food!

Our final dive for the day was a shore dive. We went down to 10 meters following an anchor. This time we learn how to navigate a compass underwater. And this was also the time that I tuned up my buoyancy skills. I felt that I could hover better as I could stay still near to the corals without bumping and crushing them to ashes…

It’s a bit sad when I know that I have to finish the course that day, leaving our HOT scuba diving trainer. Luckily I pass with flying colors. During those 4-days course, Roslan, our guru/mentor/cifu/promoter/photographer/teacher/friend/dive buddy never disappoint us. He followed us all the way from the beginning, making the course much more fun, relax and alive. If not because of him, I won’t be able be with the Nemos & barracudas at 12 meters below sea level! Oh, I have to treat him lunch at Little Italy the week after…

Anyway, to be underwater and breathing effortlessly was really an exhilarating experiences. I could not describe the feelings to you, unless you join me down there.

My next stop will be Sipadan & Mabul. I have decided to take advance open water before proceeding to Layang-Layang. In between I would love to tweak my buoyancy & underwater photography skills.

Damn… I need to consider investing in underwater photography gears next. Nikon + Ikelite + Strobe. How’s that?

Anybody wants to sponsor? Anybody?

PADI Open Water certification course with Borneo Divers – Part I

The weather was really not good during the first 3-days of the course.

On Saturday 25th October, it rained the whole day. Luckily for us, it was only the classroom session. The session was held in Borneo Divers main office in Menara Jubilee, Gaya Street. It started around 9.30am and ended at around 3.30pm.

Our MSDT (Master Scuba Diver Trainer) for the course was Merrilyn Semoring (aka May). Yeah… she’s one HOT SCUBA diver trainer. After introducing ourselves, paid the course fee and received our Open Water Diver Manual, log book & dive table, we started the session with a video. We finished all 5 chapters in the manual with all 5 videos. It really cuts the learning session short, as I don’t have to read the thick manual and dozes off just before lunch.

With the videos, May does not have to give any talks. She just need to get the computer running and answered our questions during the discussion. Honestly speaking, things that I have learned in underwater medicine was a whole lot difficult compared to this whole course knowledge.

When we finished the classroom session, the day is still wet. The rain continued till the next day.

On Sunday 26th October, we started our course with the the confine water session. Still, the weather was really not on our side when I arrived at Borneo Divers booth at Sutera Harbour. Borneo Divers boatman said the water in Mamutik was like ‘Milo’ – a local drinks which consist of cocoa and milk – a direct way of saying that the visibility underwater was bad. Our instructor, May said that we have to abort doing it in the island. Instead, she brought us to Sutera Harbour swimming pool where we learn all the open water skills.

Yay! I was really disappointed at the beginning as we could not do it the usual way in saltwater around Mamutik. But then, I changed my mind after the 2 and half hour lesson ended. The excellent visibility in the swimming pool really made our lesson smooth the whole session. If we were to go the island during that ‘gloomy’ weather, I was afraid that we would not be able to concentrate on the lesson because of the harsh wave & poor visibility. During the confine water session in the swimming pool, we were thought a lot of basic scuba diving skills that we have to learn and do. 2.5 hours in the water really made me freeze, tired and hungry. I went back home and drop dead (deep sleep) the whole night.

On Monday 27th October, a holiday for Malaysian, (Deepavali holiday) we went to Mamutik Island for our 1st open water session. It was a shore dive, means that we have to walk about 100 meters with our BCD, regulators and tank to the shore. The weather was still not good, but then, that was our only chance.

Oh, now I know how to put my fins on while in the water. My fins were the full foot type – means that it is more difficult to put it on compared to the open heel one.

The visibility was really bad. I think it’s only about 1 meters only at the surface. We went down to 10 meters, where the visibility was slightly better. The teaching session started again with more basic diving skills. May thought us how to sustain our neutral buoyancy in the water by controlling only our breath. It was really difficult at first, as I sunk on the sand on my first full exhale.

It was just a matter of controlling your low pressure inflator (LPI) to fill your BCD with just enough air to keep you neutrally buoyant – staying still in the water, not up or down – using only your inhale/exhale air. The second time I inhaled full breath, I was moving up, shooting like a rocket which my divemaster, Barye had to pull me down. I didn’t know why I could not let my body slowly descent back down then. Funny…

As the visibility was bad, Roslan did not take much photos. Yes, he followed us, from the start of the course till finished. He took a lot of videos in which quite hilarious to watch. You know it when you watched bunch of anxious divers (me and Rahman) doing a lot of funny movements in the water, trying very hard to get our buoyancy right underwater. Hahaha… I laughed myself when I saw my videos.

Anyway, we went through the day with 2 dives, in which with the second dive, I tried to tune up my buoyancy skills. I have to master ‘Hovering’; a skill that every diver should master, in which you control your buoyancy to stay still at one point in the water, without kicking or moving your arms. To tell you frankly, my buoyancy skill still sucks although I took the next 3 dives to practice. But I think it was a bit better last Sunday, 2nd November.

Continued to Part II…

PADI: Go Dive

PADI Open Water Diver course – come join me!

I blogged about my first SCUBA diving experience last April when I did my DSD with Borneo Divers. I am now going to get myself certified with PADI – to get my Open Water Diver certificate soon.

After much planning and consideration, I manage to get Roslan to help me on getting the best bargain package (without compromising learning qualities) on the course.

As I cannot get 4 days leave straight, I planned it during weekend – including 1 public holiday, Deepavali. So, this would be the tentative dates:

Classroom session: Sunday, 19th October 2008, will be held in Borneo Divers @ Menara Jubilee, Jalan Gaya. Formally, it is an 8 hour session, maybe start in the morning and end in the late afternoon. We will be teached on basic SCUBA diving using videos and maybe some online material.

In the water session: This will take 3 days straight – from 25th to 27th of October 2008, will be held in Mamutik Island. It’s Saturday to Monday – Monday is public holiday (Deepavali), so we take the opportunity to get the most out of the holiday. The best thing about this in the water session is that all 9 teaching dives will be held in Mamutik Island itself. If you do this in Kuala Lumpur for example, the session will be held in swimming pool. How not cool is that?

As the course is still open and it’s open to everybody, I would like to invite you to join me. Until now, only 2 have confirmed with me. Just drop me an email if you want to join.

The cost? You may try to ask around. If you go alone, it may cost you more than RM1000 for PADI Open Water Diver course. SSI cost is usually lower, but there are a lot of advantage on getting PADI certification. I promise to give you the best bargain around.

When you have the world’s top dive site at your own backyard, it is almost inappropriate NOT to get a diving license!!!

Come and join me. The more, the merrier…

PADI Open Water DVD

First 3 basic equipments for your SCUBA diving lesson

I did my DSD few months back, and decided to get myself an Open Water PADI SCUBA diving license in October. After getting some input from Roslan, one of my good friend (senior at high school & the person who is responsible for me going diving), we went to Sabah Divers at Wisma Sabah to get the first 3 basic equipment for SCUBA diving – mask, snorkel and fins.

Sabah DiversOf course, I can just hire them every time I go diving, but in the long run, I will save more on the items and it will always be mine. And I can use it for snorkeling around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a group of beautiful islands just 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu with my kids on weekends.

I know that I diverted my blog post a bit with SCUBA diving, but by staying in Sabah, I could not resist NOT to write about it. I have been to the highest peak of Borneo few times, 4095.2 meters above sea level. So this time I am going down, maybe up to 40 meters below sea level. Sabah is blessed with these two assets, in which people from all around the world spends millions to get to where we are. I just don’t want to miss the opportunity, as world class diving spot is just “at my backyard!!!”.

Anyway, back to the equipments. I bought all the items from Sabah Divers dive shop. As Roslan is a regular customer with them, I got a very good discount on all the items (I love discount!!!). At the end of the shopping session, I was RM600 poorer after spending on those 3 (actually 4, including a tote bag).

You don’t have to buy these equipments to get yourself an Open Water PADI diving license. You can hire them with the dive operators, but you will be more comfortable using your own equipments.

Knowing that spending on LiquidSkin MARES will burn my pocket more, I decided to settle on lower ranked brand, TUSA. Honestly, I decided to buy these items after getting some feedback from Roslan and some homework done from the internet. I bought:

TUSA snorkels1. TUSA Snorkels SP-130 Platina Hyperdry
Check it out from Amazon: TUSA Platina II Hyperdry Easy Clear Snorkel

  • Hyperdry system with three current rectifying plates.
  • Pre-angled purge valve to eliminate gurgling of water by breathing and let air bubbles pass by the side of the face. [PAT.P.]
  • Ortho-consciously designed mouthpiece for ultimate comfort.
  • Detachable two-sectional swivel adapter to minimize the pulling feeling. [PAT.P.]
  • Three-dimensional pipe curve for the ideal angle for snorkeling.

The sensation of residual water (gurgling) while snorkeling is eliminated. This revolutionary snorkel uses a new mouthpiece, designed with the aid of ergonomic engineering.

TUSA mask2. TUSA Masks TM7500Q Splendive II
Check it out from Amazon:Tusa Splendive II Light Weight Dive Mask

  • 2-window design with wide field of vision and light weight for comfort
  • Bi-symmetrical lenses for easy installation of corrective lenses.
  • Special low volume design for snug fit and easy clearing.

The Splendive II, TM-7500Q is very light with a total weight of only 6.3 ounces. It fits close to your face providing an extra-wide field of vision and is also quick and easy to clear. Corrective lenses are available for easy installation.

Basically, the correct way of choosing a mask is by putting it on to your face, and make sure it fits nicely on your eyes and nose. Gently inhale with the mask on to make sure that it sealed your face and do some movement (like tilting) of your head or even jump with it. A good mask is a mask that will not fall down while doing some vigorous things with the mask on.

TUSA fins3. TUSA Fins FF-9 X-Pert Zoom
Check it out from Amazon:TUSA Xpert Zoom Full Foot Split Scuba Diving Fins

  • Innovative hydrofoil design and hybrid blade produce greater forward motion (lift) both on the surface and under the water.
  • Propeller-fin™ technology and super lightweight design achieve the ultimate performance with less effort.
  • Open-toe full foot pocket provides superb comfort and support.

TUSA combined Propeller-fin™ technology and the multiflex-blade-system, resulting in the newly developed X-PERT ZOOM full-foot fin. The FF-9 provides more speed and power with less effort and fatigue than traditional paddle blade full-foot fins. The FF-9 is a super thin, lightweight design, yet it generates maximum performance and comfort with minimum strain on the leg muscles when using a small bent-knee kick with a light rhythm.

Yeah, right… I got all those information from TUSA’s official website. As I have not used them yet (at this moment of writing), I could not give my personal views on those equipments.

Oh, as I am going for a SCUBA diving lesson this October (either at Pulau Mamutik, Manukan or Gaya), I would like to invite you to join me. So far, I have 2 other friends (Nazul and Rahman, my previous dive buddy) who will be joining me to get the license.

Just drop me an email if you want to join. The more, the merrier. I may be able to give you a very competitive price for the course as I know some people in this area…

My STAROBA Sabah PADI DSD (Discover SCUBA Diving) in Mamutik Island

At last… After more than 7 years staying in Sabah, I’ve got the opportunity to go SCUBA diving!!!

When I received the invitation by Roslan Mokhtar, one of my senior from STAR Ipoh for a SCUBA diving session here in Pulau Mamutik, I was really excited – but then, I just realize that I don’t know how to swim (there goes my secret)… Fear of drowning was there, as I have experienced it once before.

4 stooges…
Roslan, Rahman, Nazul and Me…

Anyway, I overcame my fear and just followed Roslan’s words – you don’t have to know how to swim to SCUBA dive. But if you know how, it would be an advantage.

Borneo DiversIt cost me RM190 for a DSD (Discover SCUBA Diving) package by Borneo Divers. It was almost 25% discount from the original price of RM265 if you go by yourselves. The package includes almost everything – boat ride from Sutera Harbour Marina, Sabah Park fee, jetty fee, all the SCUBA diving and snorkelling equipment, diving fee, instructor fee and the MEAL!!!

It was a very nice and sunny Sunday, 30th of March 2008. I woke up early to buy some groceries from Putatan Tamu and had some nice banana leaf packed nasi lemak for my breakfast. At about 8.15am, Nazul arrived at my house and we went straight to Sutera Harbour Marina with his SLK (small little Kancil).

We were the first to arrived, followed by Rahman Din and Roslan (our STAROBA Sabah Presiden cum SCUBA diving introducer). Unlucky for Shukri, he had some family problem and could not join us that day.

After filling a PADI DSD form and paid Roslan for the trip, we started our journey by boat at around 9.30am. It took only less than 15 minutes for us to get to Mamutik Island from the marina. It was a smooth ride as the water was a bit calm that morning.

Upon arrival, we were guided (of course, by Roslan) to Borneo Divers diving camp, where we were introduced to our instructor for that day, Andreas. He prepared all our equipments and suits as we really don’t have a clue what was going on, and what it’s going to be that day.

A simple lesson of SCUBA dive was thought by Andreas, and it only took less than 10 minutes to finish at the camp. We were then was given wetsuits to wear, and at that time, I felt like a surfer (or Baywatch guy maybe?). It felt good, until we were given the weighing belt (with weight) and the tank. Damn… It was so heavy that I said to myself “How do I dive with all these this heavy thing?”. After some calculation, there were about 30 kilos of equipment attached on our body!

Wetsuit models…

We then walked for about 100 meters to the starting point. For your info, it was a shore dive. So, there will be no back flipping from the edge of the boat which you can see from the television. And the first challenges that day were to put on my fins (on the foot) in the water. It looks easy, but you should try it yourself…

Teaching lesson

The first unforgettable experiences that I had inside the water was the sea water. You will surely get the sea water into all your orifices, especially your eyes, mouth, nose and etc…

SCUBA diving

Damn… My eyes were really painful as the sea water went into, and I felt it was even worse with my throat. Luckily, the burning sensation in my eyes faded less than a minute or so. Andreas told us that salt water will make your eyes uncomfortable for only 30 seconds.

Me with Andreas

We started at 1 meter depth, where Andreas taught us with the basic SCUBA diving techniques, and the 5 things to remember as you are under water (and I forgot all 5 already). It looked quite easy off the water, but when I was under, the feeling was totally different! He then asked us to do what he taught, one by one, so that we will do the right thing under the water. We even have to stand on our knee, submerged in the water and do all the things again, until he is satisfied with our technique.

SCUBA diving

The fear of drowning? I had it for only few minutes before Andreas asked us to empty the gas from our buoyancy compensator. As I went down, the feeling disappeared. And down we go!

It was quite difficult for me to adapt to the new underwater environment. After comforting myself and slowly breath through the mouthpiece and the regulator, I found it quite easy. It was quite boring at the beginning nearer to the shore, as I could only see sand and more sand.

So, Andreas brought us further away to the artificial reef area, where they artificially planted and put reef inside the area, to attract other creatures (like Nemo) to live there. This artificial reef was made for divers to see (especially for beginners like us), so that we don’t have to dive and look anywhere else to see the underwater living.

I did not realize the depth of the area until I glimpsed at the altimeter – 15 feet! And I totally loss the orientation of time also!

What I saw was amazing. The view of the environment was quite similar with the one that I saw in Discovery Channel and National Geographic – but it was slightly enthralling as I saw it live!

The star of the day was always Nemo, because it was the only creature that I recognized under the water. However, as I was trying to get really close to the reef where it stays, Nazul came from behind and kicked the nearby floor. All of a sudden, my view was blocked by the uprising sand!!! It took more than few minutes for the sand to clear up, and as I could not wait any longer for that Nemo, I swim away from that area.

There were a lot of things that I saw, which mostly consist of colourful fishes and reefs, which none of them that I recognized (except Nemo). I might have came across a group of anchovy fish but I don’t know whether I was correct. I have difficulties on propelling my body forward, as the fins that I rented was really on a bad shape. Anyway, after about 30-45 minutes underwater (I told you I lost the orientation of time), we wet out of the water. I don’t know why, but I felt the tank that I put on my back weight twice as much as before we went into the water!

We walked back to Borneo Divers camp area and I was a bit giddy. I could feel my semi-circular canal did not able to cope with my position. I just sat down and it took another 15 minutes for my body to stabilize. We had a very nice lunch, prepared by Borneo Divers.

We rested for another hour, before I decided to go for snorkelling. I have never done snorkelling before (yes, it’s true), but I think as I was there it’s good to do it anyway. I still afraid of drowning, but after all, it is sea water and I was wearing a wet suit. That should be able to keep me afloat while in the water.

Oh, if Nemo was the star of the diving, sea cucumber was the star of the snorkelling. This was also my first time seeing a live sea cucumber, and I also had a chance to hold it in my hand (eeeeewwww!). Roslan even make jokes out of the creature. (It feels kind of velvety…)

Mamutik Island Jetty

After another hour or so, we started to feel a bit tired, and decided to call it a day. A very nice experience for me and my two other brothers-in-arms which never did SCUBA diving before. As we finished cleaning and packing everything, my watch showed 2.30pm. Wow… Time flies too quickly when I was enjoying myself there!

Certificate giving ceremony was held at the Mamutik Island jetty, just before we head back to Kota Kinabalu. Although I was tired, a bit giddy and had some tan on my skin, it was surely a worthy experiences…

Boatride to Kota Kinabalu

So, my next step would be:

  1. Shopping for my own SCUBA diving equipment.
  2. Get a PADI Open Water License.
  3. Sipadan… Wait for my visit!!!

Check out more photos in my flickr!