Dive in to Earth Day 2011

Story by Si Penyu
Photos by Ilyas Sapiyan and Si Penyu

When Hui Min said she needed volunteers for the “Dive in to the Earth Day 2011” programme (23-26 April), I did not hesitate to join. I wanted to meet new friends and also get first-hand experience educating school children on our environment. But, boy! I got more than that at the end of the trip!

I carpooled with Hui Min, Phoon and Fiona. We spent a night at Mersing and met the rest of the participants – Jeff, Carol, Wan Yeng, Teik Gee, Owen and Cheng Tuan at Mersing Jetty the next morning. The ferry ride took us another two hours to reach Tioman. My reaction when I saw Panuba for the first time was “wow!” 

Later that afternoon, while the others geared up for their first dive, Hui Min, Phoon, Fiona, Ilyas and I headed to Sekolah Kebangsaan Tekek to conduct a half-day programme for the kids. 

Hui Min asked me to become the emcee for the event! I’ve never emceed in my life before! I was nervous at the beginning and finally gained confidence as the kids were responsive and did not disappoint me one bit! 

The programmed kick-started with a talk on “Hutan Hujan Tropika” by Ilyas. Later, there was a drawing competition themed “Haiwan dan Persekitarannya,” an environmental-themed game, tea break and a beach cleanup.
I’ve been contemplating taking up the Advanced course for a while now and finally signed up. I was assigned to Juergen Koch and got to choose three specialty dives and two compulsory dives (Deep Dive and Navigation Dive). I did three dives for the first day, including a night dive. Juergen made sure that I was comfortable with the dive site before taking me to my first night dive. He even tested me on finding my own way back beneath the bubbles before my night dive.

The next day was the anticipated deep dive. I finally got to dive with the rest of the crew. We went to Soyak wreck. It was nerve-wrecking as we descended. It took a while before I could see the bottom. After two days and five dives, I’m now a certified Advanced Open Water Diver!

One of the most memorable dives that we did was the unintentional “Search and Rescue” dive at the Marine Park. The visibility was bad. After a while, we realised that we had lost three divers. Juergen finally decided to ascend and abandon the dive. So lesson learnt in this dive: (1) always follow the divemaster, (2) if you get lost, ascend and abandon the dive. But in our case, since our tanks weren’t even half empty and Juergen is an experienced divemaster, we descended again as soon as Juergen saw the bubbles of the missing divers underwater. We communicated through sound, by tapping on the tanks and the diving slates! We finally found them and continued the “Search and Rescue” dive and found a man with an umbrella underwater!
On the last night at Panuba, we had a BBQ. Hui Min did a great job preparing the food. Chicken, fish, potato and corn (I never knew Carrefour’s corn was so yummy!). We did another two dives the next day before heading back to Kuala Lumpur. We reached KL around 10.30pm. It was a great trip! Yes, I did meet new friends. Best of all, is that we share the same interest – diving, nature and photography! Thanks to Hui Min for organising such a great event! Hope to see you guys again in the near future!