Pulau Dayang: PADI Open Water Certificate
At the start of the year, Yean and I decided we’d finally go for our scuba dive license. It’d been a long time coming – I had been tempted to do it while in New Zealand, but together with not terribly much spare cash, and not terribly much spare time, I never got around to it. Transplanted in Singapore, it was a very similar story, until Yean decided one day in May that she couldn’t wait any longer, and booked herself in for a PADI Open Water course, starting that night. Grumbling and complaining about having no time to see it through, I signed up too, and was immediately grateful that I did. We went through Amazing Dive, as they seemed like the friendliest, most laid back option out of the wide selection that’s available in Singapore. It turned out to be the right choice – great instructors, great company, and a perfect start into a new sport for both of us.
The course structure involves two night classes, each about 3-4 hours long depending on what your classmates are like (we had a particular fellow who loved to ask rather pointless and irrelevant questions, prolonging our first class to a weary 5 hours), a day long pool session where you get familiar with scuba equipment and basic techniques such as buoyancy and ascending, and finally a weekend of open water diving, with the dives focused on real world skills and techniques. There were two choices for this, Pulau Tioman or Pulau Dayang. Upon a friend’s advice, we elected for Pulau Dayang, as it is smaller, further away, and far more basic – which sounds like heaven when you haven’t left Singapore for a few months.
To get there was a rather long ordeal. We hopped on a coach in Singapore at about 6pm Friday evening. We crossed the causeway into Malaysia, and headed for Mersing, a small town on the east coast where the ferries to both Dayang and Tioman operate from. We arrived at the Mersing Jetty at about 11pm. Due to another boat being late leaving, we had an hour’s wait before we could board our dive boat and head off. It’s a three hour voyage to Dayang – and if you’re lacking sleep (like us) the best place to head to as soon as you get on the boat are the bunks in the center. Don’t be silly like us and go for the seats in the front of the boat – the central aircon unit is located in that room, and it gets very, very cold. We arrived at the Dayang Jetty by about 3.30am – all in all it took about 9 hours to get there. We were hoping by that stage it was all worth it.
It wasn’t until we woke up on Dayang the next morning that we realised how basic it was – and it was beautiful. Complete with running water and flush toilets, it had everything to make life comfortable, and nothing more. Everything from the fine white coral sand beach, to the crystal clear waters swirling around the rocks that frame the beach made the island the perfect tropical getaway.
We went for 5 dives, each about an hour long. Our instructor, Rowell, was the best instructor I’ve encountered in a long long time – his tuition style was relaxed, informative, and left just enough to the imagination so it felt like there was plenty to discover by ourselves. His knowledge of the underwater world and it’s inhabitants is astounding – and the energy that comes out when he talks about even the smallest of aquatic creatures is highly infectious.
Some particular highlights on the dives include seeing a triggerfish, a giant bump-head parrot fish, and a turtle. I’ve never quite understood the craze about turtles – until I saw one in the flesh, gliding through the water in a fashion not too far removed from the way Thunderbird 2 flew.
Unfortunately, I’m still to invest in underwater photography gear, so I don’t have any shots underwater. I did take my Tachyon helmet cam on a couple of dives – but I’m yet edit and upload the clips from that – stay tuned for updates. On this trip, as a sidenote, I did get to try out my recently purchased Canon 7D – a tremendous step up from the 450D.
The return trip to Singapore took about the same length of time – arriving back in Singapore at about 11pm. While the transit time there and back is fairly long (for comparison, it takes about 10-11 hours to fly to New Zealand), when you’re traveling on a package trip, with everything sorted for you, there’s not much else that you can do except sit back and sleep, so it’s not so bad after all.
All in all, a great weekend, and with the arrival of our PADI Id cards, a ticket to a whole new world of discovery. I can’t wait!