July – September 2011
PADI Divemaster Journey – Part 1
Tioman Island, Malaysia
Tioman island is the closest dive location to Kuala Lumpur, just a 5 hour drive away. If you are taking a bus, it usually leaves around 11.30pm from Tasik Selatan, the bus terminal that is further outside of the main downtown area. The terminal is new, and unlike Pudu Raya is well organised with a large area, and completely air-conditioned, so you do not have the claustrophobic and sweaty feeling as Pudu Raya. Transnasional buses, travel to and from Mersing, the jetty point to Tioman. Bookings can be made online, very convenient and not too expensive either. The Tasik Selatan Terminal is well connected to any part of the city by the MRT, and is easy access from the MRT station also. The bus reaches Mersing very early in the morning, around 4.30 am, and the jetty point is a short walk away. If you are lucky, the tide is early and there is a special ferry that leaves at 6.30 am, which costs a extra 10MYR. The regular first ferry time is 10.30 am, so you may have a long wait. There are restaurants that open around 7am so food is available and you can usually just stretch out either in the shopping complex or the waiting area.
The ferry takes about an hour and half in normal conditions to reach Tioman, but in early monsoon and choppy seas, it may take longer. Tioman is a fairly large island with only the beach side being inhabited by the local people. The major part of the island is hilly and covered with thick forests and thankfully, totally untouched. There are about 4-5 stops where the ferry drops off and picks up tourists, with the more busy spots of Salang and Tekek being further north. Paya beach is the quieter area, with just 2 resorts and a few chalets and restaurants and is ideal for a romantic getaway with little activity.
Diving is just about the only major activity in Tioman, second only to snorkeling. Weekends have boat loads or holiday-goers from Singapore and Malaysia, most of package tours. Paya Beach and Tioman Paya resorts have AC accommodations, slightly high budget with around 100MYR a night for a twin chalet, which is about the normal rate at other chalets available there. Dormitory facilities are not available except in Sealantis Dive Center, which is available only for those taking leisure dives or dive courses. Food is a bit more expensive than the mainland, with about 8MYR for a normal meal with a drink, nothing fancy. You have a choice of Malay and Chinese food with western food available in the resorts which is more high priced, around 15MYR.
To have a pleasant stay anywhere, what you really need is building up a rapport with the people around, which gives you a nice at-home feeling. Some places can give you that is an overnight stay. I had first been to Sealantis on my 2nd dive trip and the casual and easy atmosphere struck me immediately. I went back to complete my Advanced Open Water and stayed for a week plus and then was back for Rescue Diver Certification and Divemaster internship. It is better to do atleast a minimum of 3 weeks internship, during which you will have the unlimited opportunity to do 3-4 dives everyday, something you usually pay for. So it’s best to take some time off and do the course slowly and gain confidence and improve skills by doing more and more dives. Essentially you may be diving in the same spots many times, use the opportunity to study the landmarks, trying to make a mental map of the dive site, even drawing up one later if you have a compass. You also start noticing the different aquatic life that are specific to each dive site and also how each species of fish move differently, feeding habits and also how they react to your presence.