Saturday, August 15, 2015

Scuba Dive at Tioman, Malaysia

Bloooop... Blooooop.. Blooooooooooop!


How's all my fishies (oops, i mean readers) doing? 

It's been a crazy 2/3 weeks for me. With the long Jubilee weekend last week, everyone was either traveling (which we shouldn't really be doing) or taking a well deserved break from their daily routine. 

I've been diving rather often recently. Actually it's only been twice within a span of a month. hurhur. So, you might ask, where to dive in Singapore? If you're a big fan of diving with visibility as greaaaaatttt as not being able to see your hands stretched out or enjoy hunting for gh*st (7th month now, so i shall not say anything i shouldn't), swimming alongside with them, then Pulau Hantu is perfect for you. I don't quite fancy any of that, so your next best location for diving would be the famous Tioman Island

I personally know many friends/acquaintances/dive schools who organize diving trips to Tioman. Some say the place sucks, some say its great, some say its okay because its cheap. Before we decided to head to Tioman for our dives, I actually didn't really know much about tioman. I did some research, but there weren't many blog posts/reviews on scuba diving at tioman. So when I knew I was going to tioman to dive not once but twice, I knew i had to contribute back to the interested divers/diver-to-be community out there. This post is meant for all of you!
fyi, all photos in this blog is taken with my new toy: Sjcam5000+ I am honestly very surprised by its quality, it has exceeded my expectations. I used to own a Gopro as well, but i sold it off, wanting to buy Hero4+ Silver. But when I came across Sjcam products, i decided to give it a try. I bought the latest edition of Sjcam5000+ which is on par with Hero4+, at a fraction of Gopro price! Got my new toy at $240 including an extra battery. all my photos and video settings were put to the highest quality. My only regret is that they don't have any red filters. It is relatively essential to have red filter when you're filming underwater as it corrects the colour balance as you go deeper. 



Tioman is the largest in a volcanic group of islands off the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. 


Back tracking a little, we attended ADEX Fair during April, collected many different dive schools brochures and made our comparisons. One tip: if you're planning to do your open water course (OW) / Advanced open water (AOW) / Rescue diving or even just leisure diving, its always good to attend big scale fairs like these. Its really where you save big bucks! Most dive schools offer accommodation + ferry + dive packages to tioman, and since the product is the same, price/professionalism of the dive school will be the ultimate deciding factor. So it's really important to plan ahead, know what you want and attack the fairs like kiasu aunties. 
We came across B&J Dive Tioman and found their staff really engaging, no hard sales, gave us the info we needed. In the end, we booked our Rescue Diving Course for August and another dive session in July. Early bird gets the worm! I paid Sgd180 for my 2d1n leisure dive from 24 - 25 July, which included 4 boat dives (2 on each day), return ferry tickets and standard aircon accommodation at Fiqthya chalet. My Rescue course cost me Sgd695 for 4d3n from 7 - 10 August which comprised of EFR course, rescue diving course, manuals, theory class, pool sessions, open water dives, return ferry and accommodation at Fiqthya chalet.


Getting There:
There's only 2 ways to get to Tioman; by public ferry or seaplane. Most people would choose the former as it is included in all packages. For Singaporeans, you'll have to make your way up to Mersing, which you can do so by self-driving, or take a coach ride up. It takes about 2-3 hours to drive up, depending on your skills. It is VERY DARK on the way up, and you'll probably be driving in the wee hours. For Malaysians, coach from KL takes about 6 hours to reach Mersing, then you'll change to ferry. Ferry ride takes another 2 hours to get to Tioman. Rather peaceful, not too bumpy ride. I personally have seasickness but I slept throughout the entire journey without feeling sick. As we were on course for our dives, our ferry ride was arranged for us to arrive in the early morning. Our ferry was at 4am and 430am on both occasions, and we arrived at tioman at 6am, before the dive shop opened. So we sat at the balcony and took a quick nap until 830am. It was so refreshing to see the sky transform from its night to sunrise, slowly seeing the sky lighten up. 



Stay:
Tioman has options for every kind of holiday-maker: families with small children, honeymooners, scuba divers, backpackers, adventurers. Most places to stay are clustered around the villages that are dotted along Tioman's coastline while there are also few small scale resorts that are built around private beach coves. As B&J had two outlets, one at Salang Bay, the other at ABC (which we went to), there were various basic standard accommodation options. The most basic accommodation comes with fan only and no hot water shower. We chose the standard option with aircon and hot water shower. But because ABC is a fairly quiet place, with a handful of chalets available, there wasn't much of an option. But we thought since we'll be out the whole day for dives, the accom didn't really mattered much. I think there's Tioman House which is fairly popular amongst the divers, and the nicer/more luxurious one Tioman Dive resort.


Our accomodation wasn't quite city like, so be prepared to blend in with nature. First time to Fiqthya chalet, I was greeted by a toad and a huge spider in my toilet, low pressured shower heads, failed heating unit (thus showering in cold water at night) as well as multiple bed bug bites. Second time back to Fiqthya (we had no other choice, accom was booked out over jubilee weekend), I asked for a room with hot water because I absolutely can't stand showering in cold water at night. We got the chalet next to our previous one (photo as above), and yes there was hot water and a stronger pressure shower head for more comfortable bath. But, what we didn't know was that, the wall against our beds was probably a giant red ant nest. Or maybe these ants roamed everywhere in groups of 30 or so. Yeappppp, we were fighting with ants trying to prevent them from crawling onto our beds. When their armies kept emerging from the cracks, we decided to drown them. I'm sorry for the lives lost, but im too selfish to share my bed with y'all. After we showered the cracks with plentiful of water, the ants stopped coming out so frequently. An occasional ant or two crawling up the headboard was fine compared to 30 of them at one go.

Credits:MullowayDive
The above map shows the entire Tioman island. DO NOT attempt to walk from one end to the other. We tried to walk from Air Batang (where our village was: ABC) to Berjaya and it was horribly far. Well, you could try to cycle across, but there's a hill in the middle with flights of stairs to climb. If you're keen for an intensive workout, by all means. Otherwise, there's sea taxi service available (min charge of RM30 onwards, depending on how far) to bring you to the other jetties on tioman.


Food:
Local delights everyyyyywhere! Their fried rice, nasi lemak, tioman fried noodles etc etc was yummylicious! Food is cheap, and you can find anywhere that sell these. local style food cost RM6 onwards, whereas burgers or such cost RM10 onwards. The food pretty much taste the same everywhere, just a slight difference in RM1 or 2. We tried almost every dining outlet at ABC during our stay at tioman. There is one place that serves thin crust pizza at the end of ABC. Why did I specially mention them? Because their service is the FASTEST!!!! Sunset Grill, i love how fast you serve your food. fyi, average wait time for food to arrive in your face: 20min (non-peak), 40min onwards (peak). I guess Slow & Steady is their motto. *shrugs*
There are convenience stores on the island, but they are extremely vastly spread out. On certain days, they are not even open. We expected that so we brought our own food over; breakfast, snacks, supper. And by supper, i meant this .......... (photo below) But it is a challenge to find hot water, we used the water cooler outlet at the dive shop



Diving:
Here comes the most exciting part of the trip! During my July trip, I went for solely leisure dives. The leisure dives are mostly boat dives, unless bad weather or unforeseen circumstances (which I actually experienced). Prior to this tioman trip, my last dive was in Maldives during June 2014. If you'd like to read more on my Maldives trip, please click here Travel Maldives on budget
Otherwise, lets move on with my tioman trip.


The boat leaves shore in the morning about 9/930am and everyone on the boat goes through the same schedule. You don't get to dive once and come back to shore. The boat goes out to the 1st dive site, dive briefing is conducted, off you go for your dive, come back up the boat, moves off to another location where lunch is served on the boat, then off for 2nd dive and up again and back to shore. 

If you have motion/seasickness, do remember to take your seasick tablets at least 30min before going on the boat. I have quite bad motion sickness, I can't text while on the cab, it makes me sick. I do take the ginger tablets which you can get off the shelf at any watson/guardian. These are the natural remedies to curb seasick. There are other pills which helps with seasick, but i prefer to go with the natural option. There are those elastic bands which helps as well, but essentially they are just bands with a protruding button/point that presses down on your acupoint which helps relieve seasick. I have one of those bands which i got when i was traveling on boat quite frequently in Cairns, but I have not used them for my diving trips. I find that just taking the ginger tablets help. 
Oh, and if the boat anchors on one end, you'll find that it will rock alot. that happened when we were having lunch on the boat; it rocked alot. I ended up with a massive headache for the rest of my trip. Oh, and 3 hours later i went snorkelling and puked everything out. *fish foooood*

B&J provides very good service i must say. Before you set off, everyone is assigned a bag number. This bag will contain all your dive gear and it stays inside throughout. It's good in a sense that you know you'll be having the same gear throughout your dives that you're comfortable with. and you don't have to snatch with other people. Even if you're bringing your own gear, they will encourage you to put it in the blue bag so you wont miss anything out. These blue bags are then transported down to the jetty by the staff, and you just make your way down. I heard from other people that B&J is the only dive shop that provides this kind of service which is really great in terms of customer service. Once you're on the boat, be prepared to assemble your gear on your own.... 


They have a few dive boats, but only 3 captains, so the boat depends on the size of the dive group. The dive sites that the boat goes to changes daily. Probably depending on the level of certification of the divers for the day, or if anyone is on course, or depending on the weather.

Dive Site 1: Chebeh Island (Day 1)
Dive Site 2: One Tree Island (Day 1)
Dive Site 3: Sepoi (Day 2)
Dive Site 4: Ghost Town (Day 2-Shore Dive)

As mentioned earlier, leisure dives are typically boat dives unless due to unforeseen circumstances. After our 1st dive on the second day (Dive Site 3), we were having lunch when the boat received a call from the dive shop. Turns out that the other dive boat which was out had broken down and needed help. It was down to only 2 captains that day as the other was away off island, so we had to go over and help them. After sometime, it was decided that the boat cannot be fixed on the spot and we had to tow them back to shore. But, after towing sometime we had to leave the bigger boat behind while the smaller boat unloads everything and return back to tow because it was moving way too slow. So the captain dropped all of us somewhere near shore and we jumped off the boat to continue our dives at Ghost Town.

Below are photos from my dives, not in any particular order/sequence. Enjoy!





I met a new friend while on my boat dive, Aira. It is such an amazing coincidence that we used to work in Cairns together! I had such an incredible time in Cairns, working on Fitzroy Island Resort for 7 months which opened my eyes to Great Barrier Reef and scuba diving. Aira on the other hand, is from KL but a PR in australia, she's worked on Cairns mainland as an accountant and started scuba diving then too. We even took out our dive log books and it was both from Cairns. AWWW!! Such a small world!




I find this photo amusing because it was commented that I look like im going to the fish market. LOL. my hair is so messy and i hate that it's always getting in my face and everywhere else, so i got this bandanna at ADEX fair to wear over and stop all the flyways. heh heh.




*************************

After my July dive, we returned in August again to do our Rescue course. I didn't take any photos while on the course because there was simply no time for you to whip out your camera and snap some photos. The course lasted for 4 days and it was a full day for every day. boy was it tiring! Our first day was spent in the classroom where we did our Emergency First Response (EFR) course.


The next 3 days was a mixture of rescue theory, pool sessions, open water situations/scenarios, exams. We learnt a great deal on this course and I must thank our instructor, Olie for being such a great teacher. He was really patient with us, explained everything thoroughly, made sure that we were clear of everything that was taught, and gave us many scenarios and situations to react to. Throughout the course, we were mainly "saving people". Doing rescue breaths in the open sea, towing the diver back, undoing the equipment and unloading them off the diver any myself and carrying the diver back to shore was EXTREMELY TIRING. Honestly, i was out of breath the whole time. It was a really daunting course but I am glad i took up this course to become a more competent diver. you had to be on the ball all the time, be alert, react calmly to any situations that was posed. I can't guarantee that I will be that calm during a real emergency, but i'll try my best. hahaha. I can't really describe the rescue course because there is too much details, but all i can say is that its a well planned, well thought out course which i would recommend if anyone is planning to sign up to be a rescue diver. I would recommend going with Olie as your instructor but unfortunately he's leaving the island to go to CAIRNS!!! 


On our 3rd day of course, we ended at 6pm and overheard the dive masters (DM) talking about a shipwreck dive that was happening tonight. It got us really excited because we haven't really had a proper leisure dive on this course. Eventually, we signed up for the night dive on the spot, got changed and headed down to the jetty to set off. impromptu much...

Night Dive Site: Sipadan Wreck

I took videos instead of photos because of the lack of light, photos would turn out blurry. Halfway through recording the videos, i realized that the videos look quite like a horror film. hurhurhur. I've yet to upload any of my videos on YouTube, still thinking if i should edit and string them altogether or do it up one by one.. hmmmm. any suggestions?


HORROR NIGHT


After taking the final exams, I am soooo glad that we passed on our first try and that we are RESCUE DIVERS now!!! *throws confetti*

This marks the end of my dive trips at Tioman. I hope this blog post will benefit you guys one way or another. If you have any queries/questions/feedback, do leave a comment below or drop me an email jasminechye@gmail.com 


Now, i shall be off to hunt and research for my next dive adventure.
Happy swimming everyone!


xoxo,
Chye


3 comments:

amazon said...

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Dive Asia said...

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Zul Ali said...

Nice......well writen