We decide on going the the smaller Perhentian Island because it cost less. On the boat over, we met what would be the newest extension of our family: Team Malta. Three 22 year old girls and one guy, all looking to take the same PADI Open Water certification that I was going there to take. They invited us to join them and we gladly accepted the offer.
I won’t say much about the accommodation part but I will say that it wasn’t good. We booked our diving through Panorama Divers who have a hotel that is kind of but not relly associated with the dive shop. We landed a really good deal to book both diving and a room, but the “Resort” (that term they use very loosely here) was awful accompanied by awful employees who just come off as miserable people.
Apparently it’s shitty all over the island.
We are scheduled to start diving tomorrow. So what to do today? We see signs all over the beach for fishing trips… sounds like fun. We find a guy who has a big enough boat for 6 of us and get a good deal of 60RM ($20) each.
Out on the water we are handed wheels with fishing line wrapped around them. This is how we will do it.
Basically you drop the line till it hits the bottom, then when you feel the fish bite, you tug and pull the line up. I got a pretty good feel for this right away and everyone else caught on shortly after.
Everyone had a good time and by the end we had a pretty good haul of roughly 30 fish. Nothing too big though but using the lines and our bare hands, I’m pretty happy that I didn’t catch anything big haha. By the time we got back, it was getting dark and we were hungry and eager to eat what we caught.
After some frustration and blank looks from the staff at our hotel, we got them to cook up our fish. We invited another guy to join us, ordered a bunch of appetizers and feasted family style. This is a good start to our stay.
The next day we were at the dive shop by 8:15am. There were 2 more people added to our class of 5 (Kristi already has her advanced) which were a German girl and a 19 year old kid from Vancouver.
Our instructor, Pablo, told us we were spending the day in the classroom as we had about 90 minutes of videos to watch. What he didn’t realize was they changed the videos a month ago and what was once 90 minutes not takes about 3 hours. A very painful 3 hours of PADI trying to sell you on other packages and purchasing equipment in all of the modules. Pablo ridiculed us for being slow before introducing us to our 2nd instructer, Ahmet, and taking us out to the water.
We went over a few skills to start then went on our very first mini dive. As we first began to decsend under water, it was very weird and intimidating inhaling. This is a feeling I still haven’t gotten over. A certain paranoia that I will inhale a bunch of gross salt water. Obviously this doesn’t happen and then the emotion kicks in: OMG I’M BREATHING UNDERWATER!!!!
On the mini dive, Pablo takes the lead and Ahmet follows behind to make sure we don’t get separated or lost. The first thing Pablo shows us is clown fish (Nemo). Team Malta is very enthusiastic and want to swim as fast as they can to everything. Actually we were probably all like that but I think they’re stronger swimmers than me so they got everywhere before me.
We also saw Parrot fish, Grouper (like the one we ate the night before) Giant clams, Blue ringed angelfish and Powder Blue Surgeonfish (which I believe is Dori)
We dove about 9m for about 30 minutes and it really opened our eyes to what diving is all about and it was a real eye opener. I’ve been procrastinating on this. Of course this is a huge tease on day 1 because day 2 is all theory and skills.
The final 2 modules of videos at an hour each and a bunch of skills to help prevention of killing yourself underwater. This sucked. Practicing taking our masks off, pretending we’re running out of air and how to act in case of an emergency. This takes a lot of fun out of diving but is obviously necessary. We also learned how to set up and check out our gear before a dive.
The next morning we woke up, prepared for the exam, then wrote the exam. There really wasn’t much preparation needed. You only need 70% to pass and it is ridiculously easy. I scored 47/50 because I misread 2 questions and checked the wrong box on another one. I knew the answer obviously was not “I lost my regulator” since the guy in the picture had his regulator in his mouth. Not sure how I managed to check that box.
Easy exam out of the way and back to the water we went for 30 minutes of skills and another mini dive. This one was quite special as we got the oppertunity to see panda clown fish which are hard to find. We also got to see a big hump head parrot fish feeding on smaller non important fish. We saw a big snake eel, blue ring angelfish, goby shrimp, yellow masked baraccuda and yellow masked angelfish. Lastly my favorite were the cleaner shrimp because you hold your hand out to them and they jump on your fingers and give you a manicure. They’re small and it tickles.
On the final day of our course, we went straight to the water. A quick skill exam and back to diving and enjoying the beauty of underwater life. I was feeling much more comfortable this day and way less eager to see everything quickly. As everyone raced to see whatever Pablo or Ahmet were pointing out, Aiden (the guy from Van) and I just relaxed and waited to head over. We were able to see a green giant moray eel, starry pufferfish, a blue spotted manta ray, box fish, and a crown of thorns starfish amongst the other fish we had previously seen. My favorite part was that my breathing had improved since I relaxed and was able to really enjoy the experience. When it was time to go up, I had much more air on my reserve than the other guys.
As we arrived back from our dive, we basically put our tanks down and switched over to get ready for our final dive before we became officially certified. This dive was extra special because Kristi was going to dive alongside me. We had one test to do in the water and then it was all fun dive… and fun it was. As soon as we got the to bottom, there were lots of Indian Ocean Walkmen which have a pretty gnarly sting. We also managed to see andaman sweetlips, golden and tiger trivali and many different snappers. We floated around a decent coral reef and Kristi used team Malta’s GoPro to take some pictures and video. Some of it turned out amazing but I will have to wait until mid August to get the footage as they are traveling until then.
This will have to do until then:
I don’t know how but some of these guys manage to do three dives a day. I have found myself so exhausted everyday. This is a whole different kind of workout as most of it has to do with trying to control your bouyancy with your breathing.
We celebrated with a couple beers each that night and Pablo joined us for the final one. Ahmet wasn’t feeling well so he didn’t make it.
On our last morning on Perhentian Kecil, we got up early again, packed our bags and checked out. Then back to the dive shop because Kristi, Myself, and Team Malta signed up to do a shipwreck dive.
Back in 2000 there was a vessel heading to Thailand carrying a lot of sugar. It was monsoon season and they ran into some issues so they docked in Kota Bahru. When they were there, they found out it would be too expensive to fix the ship in Malaysia so sent a ship to get it. A month later, while the ship was being towed back to Indonesia, weather was rough and it didn’t make it. There are some positives to this wreck:
1) There was nobody aboard so there were zero injuries or casualties.
2) There was no sugar on board
3) It suck in reletively shallow water about 19m deep which is great for me as an open water diver because my max depth is 18m
I had to pay extra for this dive as I am not certified to dive wrecks, so this was called an adventure dive for me which counts as a dive towards getting my PADI Open Water Advanced certificate which allows me to dive up to 30m and takes away most of my restrictions.
This dive was intense. Lots of soot makes visibility very limited. On top of that, there are a lot of people. This was a tough dive for me as nothing seemed to go well. 30secs into the water, I kneed Kristi’s air tank. Then I had a hard time equalizing my ears on the way down. As I finally decended, I had 4 or 5 people bump into me.
Already quite flustered, I made a bonehead mistake and misunderstood my divemaster when he told me to go one way, I didn’t go wide enough… when I looked up… fuck. I was swimming through the wreck, beams and ropes everywhere. Here comes the true test of my skills. I duck one beam, over 2 more, and as I went under the last beam, hit it with my air tank scaring the shit out of me and my divemaster. Only I could end up in this position.
It just wasn’t my day.
On the plus side, it was a really cool dive. Sea urchins, lion fish, bamboo sharks, yellowtail baraccuda, baby angelfish and porkypine fish were some of the new things I was fortunate enough to see. The highlight though was when we came across a cuttlefish eating a rabbitfish. Right there in front of us, devouring this thing. It was really amazing to see up close.
After the dive, Ahmet told me I just need to relax under there. I’m really glad he wasn’t pissed at me for hitting the wreck. I guess I need to focus more on watching my divemaster and not being stupid. Is there an app for that yet?
Learning to dive here was an incredible experience for a great price. Our instructers were amazing and are great people who are passionate about diving. I also had an oppertunity to make some friends in the process. The whole dive class ended up in Kuala Besut where we saved some money by sharing 2 rooms and splitting the cost. Nick from Malta headed to KL to meet a friend for a couple days, Aiden from Van and Marie from Germany headed to Penang to get Visa’s for Thailand so they could go to the Black moon party. Kristi and I joined forces with the remaining 75% of team Malta to go to Teman Negara.
I’m glad I got to share this experience with such great people. I wish everyone safe travels with hopes of crossing paths in the future. Off to the Jungle we go.
I can’t find the spell check on this site and I don’t feel like proofreading. If something is spelled wrong or out of context, figure it out.