Advance Open Water 2015

I have put off blogging for so long, much thanks to my work and school work. Assignments this term seems to be never-ending and I’m actually trying to create a website for a company that I am setting up! Furthermore, school season has started and that means tuition has started too.

Anyway, I decided to take a weekend to do my much-awaited advance open water course. My dad wanted to join (yes, my dad’s a diver too), but due to some circumstances, he needed to stay home. So I decided to go ahead with my man.

Once again, I find myself back in Tioman Island, one of the few diving places where majority of Singapore’s diving schools go to for the open water assessment. I went with the same diving school as my open water course, Blue reef Scuba. Usually, the course is about SGD$489 (which is the cheapest thus far in Singapore), but I had to pay an extra $70 as the usual budget resort at Salang Beach was full. Well, it was $70 well spent. Nothing compares to a hot shower (with rain shower head), and international buffet meals after a day out at sea. The bed was really comfy with fluffy pillows and comforters.

The first night was relatively uneventful, other than the other 2 guys who were sharing rooms with us seemed unfriendly. After much awkward prying on my end, I found out that they were doing their Open Water with another 5 of their friends. I think they were a tad unhappy that they were bunking with us and not their homies. This changed throughout the course of course and soon the boys were talking about everything under the sun.

The PADI Advance course, personally, feels a lot like just 5 leisure dives, with maybe 2 dives that tested on your skills for about 5mins; namely Peak Performance Bouyancy and Underwater Navigation . Of course, it comes with a night dive as well, which I’ll talk more about in a while

For Peak Performance Bouyancy, you learn how to hover, using only your lungs and not your fins, like those pro underwater photographers. I had a slight trouble with this, since I am naturally positively buoyant (means i float). What was impressive was that our instructor, Ali, was able to do it so effortlessly. His body was vertical, and his fins were only about 5 inches off the seabed (like a ghost). Now, divers usually inhale to rise and exhale to sink, so it doesn’t exactly make sense as how he could be motionless! I tried doing it a couple of times myself and I found myself floating to the surface.

As for Underwater Navigation, *insert long heavy sigh*. In all honesty, when I was made to use the underwater compass, I was completely clueless on how to use it, even till date, even though we were briefed. Basically, you pair up with your buddy, one to use the compass and one to count the number of kick cycles and to tap your shoulder once the number of kick cycles is done, so that you can rotate to whatever direction you should facing next. Now, using the compass requires the diver to be able to do some Math underwater, just simple addition and minus. Everyone who knows me knows that I am hopeless at Math, so what makes them think I can do Math underwater when I already struggle with it on land?! Someone should seriously invent an underwater calculator already.

Naturally, I was paired up with my man. I was, unfortunately chosen to be the one using the compass and although the whole time my posture was of me looking at the compass, my mind was blank and my eyes were looking at the corals below me. I was totally dependent on my buddy to guide me since I gave up right at the start as I didn’t know which direction to face even from the beginning, even though I was suppose to be the one guiding him! Ha! Luckily, we were just told to dive in a square, and my man told me that he just estimated, coz he knows I wasn’t doing my job, to form that square. After this dive, the instructor told us that all our kick cycles were too small, and so our square was probably only 25m X 25m. It was only a few days ago, when I was relating my experience to my bff Bernie, that I found out that if we did it properly, meaning proper, big, kick cycles, we would not have been able to estimate and guess our bearings.

Now, for the night dive, people who have read my Bali post, knows that I have already done that before. So although the other potential advance divers were excited about it, I was really reluctant. The instructors were able to see through my hesitation and assured me that we will have dive torches and not like we were diving in total darkness, but when I told them what happened in Bali, they were more astonished that I did night diving before I even got an advance certification!

We entered from the boat, so it was kinda scary, like jumping into a dark abyss. Overall, history did not repeat itself (thankfully), and to be honest, there wasn’t anything much to see. A bunch of sea urchins peppered the sea floor, and nothing else. It got so boring at one point that I didn’t bother shining my torch anywhere else but in front of me, and hopefully a wandering fish might be caught in the stream of light. The instructors did made us kneel on the seabed in a circle and use our hands to fan the water to show the ‘sparks’ underwater. Not as impressive as Bali, but everyone else was still pretty amazed. If we ever did this on land, it might be a pretty funny sight!

We ended the course the next day with one last dive at Renggis Island. Once we got off the boat, the current was so strong, everyone had to hold on to a rope while waiting for the rest to get off the boat! Once we descended, we had to kinda fight the current. It was hard man. Homegirl was struggling her ass off, and eventually got so tired, I just gave up stopped finning to rest. Thank God, my man has a lot more experience than me fighting currents (since he is a certified life guard), he held unto my hand and just dragged me which I was more than happy to allow so. After the currents, we went with the current and went drift diving! Drift diving was so much fun as you really do not need to fin at all and the water just pushes you. Its like watching an underwater movie! We sighted 3 sea turtles ( I have an obsession with them ) and almost ran into a couple of Titan Triggerfishes.

Between my own and my other advance divers’ cameras, we rounded up thousands of pictures. Most of the pictures here are taken using my Nikon AW110. As there were so many, I decided to just choose a bunch of my favourite ones to upload here.

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This is a Moray eel, if you squinted hard enough.

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More sea turtles with a fish trying to catch all the attention

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This is me, on a threadmill, for probably the first and only time.

The amount of fishes here was indescribable, it looks like King Triton’s castle

This trip was amazing, not because of the Marine life, or that I am now officially an PADI Advanced diver, but because I met so many like-minded people and made so many great friends and of course, future dive buddies. Everyone, especially the advance divers bonded extremely well, we still kept in constant contact with each other and planning more holidays and dive trips together.

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Thank you Shirong, Sam, Mike, Kate and especially Ali our instructor for making this trip such a memorable one!

I also managed to curb seasickness! I feel so proud of myself, even though there were Open Water students puking around me. Even my man was surprised at how well I held up. So here’s a few tips that I used myself:

1) For some unknown reason, I couldn’t get any sleep on the bus ride to the jetty, which is about 4-5hrs away. Furthermore, we took a night bus. So once I got on the ferry, I conked out. Sleeping really helps, maybe that’s why a lot of sea sick medicines like Dropamine, makes one drowsy. If you are unable to sleep, maybe you can try popping the pills.

2) Keep away from oily stuff during breakfast. That means, no fried bacon or grilled sausages. For this trip, even though I had a whole buffet selection (at least 30 dishes) to choose from, I stuck to plain omelettes and plain cereal with milk. Try to get more carbohydrates to get energy as you will need loads for diving. Stay away from anything acidic like Orange Juice. Your stomach will thank you later.

3) Load up on the Gingers! Not asking you to eat ginger directly, but stocking up on packaged instant ginger tea will be nice. I brought a box with me on this trip, and just made the tea in a Thermos flask before leaving the room for the day. No idea why it works, but having hot ginger tea after a dive is probably one of the most satisfying and weirdly relaxing feeling in the world! Just the smell of it will make you feel instantly better. For people who are not so keen on Ginger, I’m pretty sure pharmacies do have Ginger pills which is touted to cures for sea sickness, not sure if it works though.

There are, of course, many other ways, from looking into the horizon, to drinking Coca Cola. Not sure if these work, since looking into the horizon doesn’t really work for me, and I’m not a fan of soda (just thinking of all that gas in your tummy while its churning, not exactly comforting). But who knows, what might not work for me, might just work for you.

Signing off~