First things first, I need to write this down… “I’m a certified diver!!!” and it feels awesome. This post is to document my amazing journey, so I will never forget.
Traveling is my passion– I love seeing new things and admiring all the beauty the world has to offer. Throughout the years, I have traveled as far as I could afford to go, but there is a place I have always wanted to explore but never had the guts to– the underwater world. Diving has always been on my to do list, but the thought of being deep down in the depths of the ocean with only that one breathing apparatus scared the living daylights out of me… plus I might be attacked by some ferocious sea creature. I have also always assumed that my problem with equalizing (that happens when I’m flying) will affect my ability to dive.
I shouldn’t have worried too much.
I honestly don’t know what propelled me to take the plunge (literally!) after all these years to learn to dive. I guess it was at the turn of the new year (2015) when I was making my resolutions– to take more risks and learn something new… and that was the first thing that came to mind. So before I knew it, I contacted the resort and the dive center, made the bookings and was in!
Making the decision was simple at that spur of the moment; but the worries and doubts started popping up during the months leading up to the day, and continued even after I started my first dive.
Redang Pelangi Dive Center
The dive center that I chose to get my certification from was the dive center at the Redang Pelangi Resort. I have been to the resort once before (I shot a travel show here), and had a great experience with the friendly people and the laid-back vibe of the resort. So it was only natural that I came back! Furthermore, Redang island is one of the most beautiful islands in Malaysia and a great place to learn to dive– it’s beautiful, and it’s cheap.
I chose to do the PADI Open Water Diver certification that took me 3 days to complete– that includes theory lessons and open water dives. It was the most eventful 3 to 4 days of my life!
My Dive Companions
Upon arriving at the resort, we were given time to settle down before heading for a quick briefing with our dive instructor, Hann, a local Malaysian who has been diving for 7 years and teaching for a couple. He is cheerful and easy-going, and strict at times; and throughout my course, I felt safe and in good hands. His theory lessons were enjoyable and he made it simple to understand… and most importantly, I didn’t fall asleep during class!
I registered for the course on my own, so I was glad to have another person learning the ropes with me. My dive buddy, LC, was easy to get along with. We helped and encouraged each other; and he always gave me a reassuring word or two when I told him about my diving worries. However, he has a habit of asking the oddest questions in class that confuses me sometimes, but it kind of made up for my lack of.
Setting Up for the First Dive
After the initial theory lessons, briefing of the do’s and dont’s underwater and further explanation by our instructor Hann; we were finally taught how to prepare our equipment to get ready for our very first dive. Receiving my first set of gear was exciting, and the anticipation and thought of maybe getting my own set one day (color coordinated and all) was already going on in my head. I want them all in blue and white!
Setting up the equipment on the other hand, was more complicated than I thought it would be– and I had to learn all these new names for the scuba gears; BCD, first second third stage, regulators and so on. I got certain things mixed up the first few times and would stare blankly at Hann when he told me to adjust something, but after a few times I finally got the hang of it. It was the same situation for all the hand signals I had to memorize and do underwater!
Introduction to the Underwater
Walking towards the ocean for my first shore dive was a memorable moment. Despite the weight of the tank pulling me down, I felt proud– I remember looking at divers on my snorkeling trips and admiring their courage, and thinking how stylish they look in their scuba gear. And now I get to wear (and flaunt it) too.
My first experience underwater was a different story though; I panicked and sputtered, and came out of the water several times. Water was seeping into my mask (my eyes hurt) and I just couldn’t get it out, and I had trouble breathing consistently with my mouth. I had problems equalizing too. Throughout this initial ordeal, my instructor was extremely patient and understanding– and after a few attempts, I finally managed to get my first few underwater skills done properly.
At this point of the course, my fears and doubts had doubled and I was already thinking of quitting. That night, I woke up several times from nightmares of getting stuck underwater and not being able to breathe.
More Dives Later
The next day, after a long discussion with myself (I do that sometimes), I decided to give it one more try. I am not a quitter– and even though I do get scared of things, I tend to suck it in and go ahead with it anyway. So I went back into the underwater… and it wasn’t so bad the second time round. Because it wasn’t so bad, I did it again for a third time… and it got slightly better. And because it got better, I continued with the course.
My instructor, Hann had a lot to do with making me feel at ease underwater. Whenever I start to panic, I’ll look around for him and he’ll always be right beside us with a reassuring nod. My buddy LC was always there for me too, understanding my fears and telling me that they are his as well, and that it is normal to feel them. The huge burden of doubt gradually lifted off my shoulders, and I slowly began to enjoy myself and started to look forward to the dives. You can say diving kinda grew on me.
Honestly, I’m glad I did my initial learning in the sea itself– I wouldn’t have known my fears and overcame it should I have done my lessons in a swimming pool, which is a familiar place. That’s one of the benefits of taking the course on an island.
Open Water Dives
By the time we learned all our skills and headed off for our open water boat dives– I was much more confident underwater and had learned to control my breathing. Though I still had that little ounce of fear in me, I was ready to finally explore the ocean and see things I have never seen before. Hann showed LC and I the wonders of the deep blue sea– pointing out the many colorful corals and fishes and telling us about them during our surface interval time.
Throughout the 4 boat dives for my course; I saw lots of weirdly shaped corals up close, schools of fishes, moray eels, mantis shrimps… and I was also lucky enough to see an eagle ray swim pass.
The Final Hurdle
In order to receive my diver certification, I had to pass my theory examination. During the nights after diving and theory lessons, I would spend time studying my diving manual (I brought it everywhere I went) and answering the exercise questions. I spent quite a bit of my free time reading while sun-bathing on the beach– I hadn’t taken an exam in ages and I wasn’t sure if I still knew how to do it.
Thankfully, the questions were pretty straight forward and my math is still pretty good. I only had two wrong answers… so I passed!
PADI Open Water Diver
It was a great moment of relief when my instructor Hann told both LC and I that we had pass our PADI Open Water Diver course. I am glad I overcame my initial panic attack, persevered… and finally fell in love with diving.
I received my dive log book and temporary PADI license from my instructor– and eventhough there was no official ceremony, I felt a sense of accomplishment; as if I was receiving an honorary medal for being courageous and brave, and a special VIP pass to explore the underwater. That’s the best way I can put down in words how I felt at that moment… it was just indescribable.
Thank you Redang Pelangi.
More Adventures to Come
Looking back, I should have learned to dive sooner. Upon returning home, I went through the list of dive destinations I have been to– and wished I had my license then. I missed out on so much… but now, I’ve got a pretty good reason to head back to those places again!
I’ve spent the last few weeks since my return going through places that I can go diving at– I want to continuously improve, be more confident underwater, and fill up my dive log with lots and lots of amazing dives. I’ve got myself a new hobby, and I’m looking forward to more underwater adventures.