Addicted to underwater photography!

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Where I stayed
Puteri Salang Inn

Flag of Malaysia  ,
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

After the super-sweaty exertion of our jungle walks in Taman Negara, we were desperate to get to the coast and cool down! Quite a few folks along the way had recommended Pulau Tioman, off the east coast of Malaysia, as a relaxing island with some good dive spots, so it seemed like the obvious choice for our next stop (before flying to Borneo from Johor Bahru on the Wednesday the 24th). And on the map it looked like a relatively straight-forward bus journey from Jerantut to Mersing, the port town from which ferries to Tioman depart.

So we left Taman Negara by public bus early on the morning of Thursday the 18th, and caught a so-called 'bas ekspres' to Kuantan, from where we would change onto another 'bas ekspres' to Mersing. It turned out to be a looooong day's travelling, with the bus stopping for nearly an hour in some dusty, anonymous town, for apparently no reason. We got to Kuantan at 2.30pm and were told that the only bus to Mersing was full.... arrghhh! With pleading eyes we managed to talk the ticket-booth man into finding us two spare seats, thank goodness. We arrived in Mersing around 5pm, too late for the last boat to Pulau Tioman, so had to spend the night.

At 7.30am on Friday morning, we boarded a fast speedboat service to Tioman. It got us to Salang just after 9am, and we were met at the pier by a tout who offered to show us some chalets. We had no booking, so took a look: the Puteri Salang Inn turned out to be a very pleasant little cluster of chalets set in a garden, away from the main bustle. After dumping our things we explored the small beach-side settlement of low wooden huts that is Salang, and took a look at the dive shops. By the afternoon we had signed up with DiveAsia for the Advanced Open Water Course, and took home our books to start studying the theory.

On Saturday morning we met with our instructor, Raja, for the first two dives of the course: a wreck dive on the 'house wreck' just offshore, and a peak performance bouyancy dive. For the first time our camera accompanied us underwater - Raja showed us how to safely place our new Sony CyberShot in its marine housing (ie properly greasing the o-ring etc) and off we went, snapping away like crazy.

In the afternoon we tackled the compulsory navigation dive, which we both passed, hurray! I'd been quite anxious about this one, because I was really crap at handling the compass during our Open Water course in Thailand. After an exhausting day's diving, we lay on the beach with our textbooks until sunset.

Sunday we had a day off before having to report at sunset for our night dive. We got some snorkelling gear for the day and walked over the headland to Monkey Bay. Despite being veterans of a 17km hike in Taman Negara, we found the 40 minute, uphill walk through the steaming rainforest quite tiring. The narrow beach at Monkey Bay was tree-lined and shaded, and we spent most of our time in the water, playing with the camera. In the afternoon we walked back to Salang beach, and found the coral reef just beside the jetty to be in a much better condition than Monkey Bay. After a light snack, we cruised over to the dive shop to kit up for the night dive.

I must confess I was quite nervous at first! The idea of being surrounded by pitch-darkness underwater didn't appeal to me, but as I got used to the sensation, clutching my dive torch and staying VERY close to the instructor and to Rich, I found it quite soothing and relaxing (apart from the fact that I had to keep on clearing my leaking mask!). We spotted a cuttlefish, a moray eel and some boxer shrimp, as well as plenty of sleeping parrotfish tucked into nooks and crannies in the coral. Before we knew it our 45 minutes were over.

On Monday we boarded the dive boat for our two offshore dives off Pulau Tulai (Coral Island). Our first, the deep dive, took us to 27 metres at a site called Sea Fan Garden - a wonderland of massive orange, red and purple fan corals waving gently in the current. The second dive of the day took us through a maze of passages between large boulders festooned with soft corals. We found ourselves getting quite absorbed in taking photos, often hovering over a patch of coral or sea anemone for a minute or more to get the perfect shot... it's a good way of pracising one's buoyancy!

With both the offshore dives done, we were now officially Advanced Open Water Divers. However, the diving bug had bitten, and we decided to stay on for one day of fun diving. So on Tuesday morning we headed out on the dive boat again, this time to a site called Malang Rocks. By now we were feeling really confident and comfortable while diving, and enjoyed the day's underwater sightseeing in the company of a real joker of a divemaster named Roderick, and a lovely Dutch couple, Mike and Francisca. Needless to say, plenty photos were taken! Between the two of us we were arriving at a system for sharing the camera underwater: Rich would start with it clipped to his BCD, but within 10 minutes down below, I would insist on having it handed over to me!

Tuesday evening was our last on Tioman, so we splashed out on a barbequed half chicken, a shisha pipe and quite a few beers in the company of Mike & Francisca and Alex & Neil (a British couple we had met in Taman Negara and spent a few good evenings with on Tioman). By the time we staggered from the beach bar back to our chalet, it was 3am...
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