31 October 2009

Travel: Pulau Dayang, Malaysia

While this is listed as a travel entry, the sole purpose of the trip was so I could do my open water dives and get certified as a PADI Open Water Diver. Which I did! I have wanted to do this for several years, but it was a chance seating arrangement at a company meeting that put me by an experienced diver that made it happen. I asked him about classes, he messaged his friend the instructor, the instructor told me to come to the shop the next Monday, and I signed up. Two nights of classes, a pool session (we were able to get it all done in one night), a perfect score on the final exam (sorry, I had to brag), and I was off to dive in the ocean.

The dives would be off Pulau Dayang (pulau is island in Bahasa Malay). This is off the east coast of Malaysia, so I thought it would be a short trip. Wrong. We left around 7pm, and with Customs checks and dinner, it took us over four hours to reach the ferry terminal. Where we boarded a boat that took another four hours to get to the island. We did get to sleep on the boat, which was good, since we reached the island at 4am, hopped into our bunk beds (four to a room), and tried to get in a few more hours of rest before our 8am wakeup call for the 9am dive.

We did three dives on Saturday (all with the requisite testing) and two more on Sunday. It was awesome. The water was pretty clear - about 20 metres visibility for some of the dives - and the sites had some interesting characteristics. I had some issues with my buoyancy and (in the first two dives) equalizing. Part of the buoyancy problem is that I tend to breathe more deeply than I need, which adds to my natural buoyancy (no comments from the peanut gallery), but that will change as I get more experienced. I also tended to focus on one activity at a time, and more than once as I was trying to equalize, I found myself close to surfacing.

There is all kinds of great sea life here. Parrot fish, little nemos, cuttlefish, sea cucumbers, clams, eels...all kinds of cool stuff. Plus, the underwater terrain was very interesting. We did not see the whale shark, which was spotted the week before. Perhaps next time.

I did not have my camera with me but will add pictures of the "resort" and underwater action when I get them from my fellow divers. It was a really fun weekend, and I am glad to finally add to "certifiable" as an apt description of me, "certified". As in Open Water Diver.

The one downside was that a Singapore diver died at one of the dive sites over the weekend. He was an up-and-coming eye doctor here and an experienced diver. There are few details still, but he apparently fell ill underwater while working with a re-breather (mixes oxygen, nitrogen, and helium). He was pulled from the water before 9am on Saturday, so he was out and on his way to the hospital before we went in the water, and we didn't find out until we got back to Singapore. Quite a sobering illustration that diving - like any other outdoor activity - can be dangerous.

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