Story and photos by Felicia Chung
After years of contemplating taking up diving, my chance finally came and I thought I really should go for it this round. After the Marine Group co-ordinator asked if I’d like to sign up, I just had to say… YES.
The plan was to have all the participants come for theory classes prior to the trip and to do the practical at Tioman itself. So, the first theory class was set for 29th March 2008, at a dive shop in Sri Hartamas. Here, I met divemaster Lim Eng Hoo, instructor Ms Colleen, and the other nine participants, consisting of six ladies, two gentlemen and a teenager. We managed to cover four of the five chapters of theory lessons in two weekends, leaving the last chapter to be completed on the island.
Very early on 19th April, the dive participants and most of the Open Water participants arrived at the Mersing jetty. We waited for the ferry to take us to Panuba Resort. Sadly, one of the participants could not join us due to a bad flu.
Upon arrival at the resort, we managed to get some rest and started on the serious stuff after lunch. Colleen gave us a briefing on how to set up the diving gear. After getting properly attired with wet suits and all, off we went to Monkey Bay for our very first underwater training. We learnt about breathing techniques, clearing our masks, finning, changing our regulator to the alternate air source… a lot of stuff to learn. We were split into two groups – with Eng Hoo helping Colleen in the training.
On the second day, Colleen came down with the flu and a bad cough, so another instructor, Sonia, assisted us. In the days that followed, there were more and more things to pick up and master, till the instructor was satisfied that we’ve comfortably mastered the diving skills. Then came the theory AND the swimming AND the floating test. We had to swim a distance of 200m and stay afloat in the water for 10 minutes. Thank God it’s the sea… I’m able to float better!
The biggest challenge almost all of us faced was buoyancy control. But once we somewhat knew how to do this, it was a really amazing feeling…It was really great. The last dive was a leisure dive for us… and for the first time, I felt that the dive was just too short. Eng Hoo’s warning was right… he told us diving is addictive. We are truly grateful to all our instructors – Colleen, Sonia and Eng Hoo, who have been very helpful to us and to Hui Min and the Marine SIG for organising this Open Water Course.