How I learned (and relearned) to scuba dive in Tioman

Tioman is an island special to me because it was where I first learned how to scuba dive. Way back when I was in university I took my Basic Open Water Course with my friends from the university Dive Club, and 4 entire years went by before I ventured back into the depths of the ocean, and I did my refresher course again at Tioman while another group of friends took their Open Water Certification.

This was a time before The Occasional Traveller – I have no underwater photos to show nor even very many pictures from my travels, just my logbooks and memory to keep me straight.

I remember the first time I was there, it was during the end of first year in university, while waiting for the new term to begin. I signed up with a  couple of friends with the school’s dive club, and spent a few days hanging out in Tioman. Like my advanced certification, I dived wtih Big Bubble Centre. We took our theory lessons (2 of them, including the test) in campus, and had the pool session at a pool they normally use.

The second time it was 4 years later – my friends were taking their Open Water, and I hadn’t dived since taking my open water! In fact, I hadn’t even picked up my license since then, that I had to go back and get a new one made! We dived with Simply Scuba, and it was definitely a much-needed refresher for me. It was kinda like riding a bicycle though, you remember the basic things as you plunge in the water and put on your suit.

Both dive centres were pretty alright, but the scuba gear was definitely better with BBC because we got to pick it out at the dive centre and each had to handcarry our own gear up from Singapore. SS has its own gear up in Tioman which was pretty limited, and pretty old and not in the best condition.

Tioman is not that far from Singapore. Like Redang, you can fly via Berjaya Air, but we took the 3 hour coach ride to Mersing Jetty, and then another hour or so by ferry. It’s not a bad journey – usually the dive centres leave about 7-ish, and end up reaching Tioman about midnight, so you can wake up and start a full day’s dive the next day.

The night sky on the way to Tioman is incredible. Because it’s so dark out on the waters, the sky is literally aglow with starlight. I swear you could even see shooting stars~ I also recall on that second trip, we were all lying side-by-side  on the flat roof of the boat we were on, drowsily dozing under the midnight sky. Suddenly the boat started to pitch sideways, and my friend next to me at the edge of our group totally started rolling off the roof! Luckily I grabbed her arm in time or we would have had a man-overboard situation!

Overall, diving was not bad in Tioman. Corals are on the bottom, waters are fairly warm, coupla interesting wrecks… Waters were clearer in July than in September – I saw much more things in my Open Water dive than my Refresher Dive. Also, here’s what I wrote in my logbook for my very first dive, I quote verbatim:

  • Water is v. salty, cannot swallow at all (obviously, newbie that I am and having to do all those drills somehow meant I was swallowing sea water)
  • Quite interesting to swim among fish and be so close to them! (I was also very easy to impress)
  • Saw a big jellyfish
  • Also saw clownfish! (see what I mean by easy to impress)

It’s quite interesting looking back at my past dives. Sometimes when I can’t manage to figure out what I saw, I draw these weird little squiggly things or describe them like ‘weird bunch of zebra like fish swimming in unison’. I’ll have to scan some of them in! They’re pretty vague and queer =P

Am pondering going back to Tioman some time, there are lots of yet unexplored dive sites there. Or perhaps to Dayang or Aur, which are about equidistant…

Read more about my scuba diving adventures around the world.

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