Friday, October 30, 2009

Pulau Payar, Pulau Perhentian & Pulau Mabul In One Month

Pulau Payar

Before you guys go "Who the hell dives in Pulau Payar?", I had purchased my Langkawi ticket even before I took up my Open Water. It was supposed to be a holiday with my girlfriend but unfortunately, she became an ex girlfriend when the time came, hence I went to Langkawi alone.
Transpo from hotel to jetty

Pulau Payar

Suiting up

Semangat Diving

Just a few more seconds and I'm in the water

Or so I thought

I paid RM280 for 2 dives, boat transfer, hotel pick up, gears and lunch. I was the only one diving and had one Dive Master all to myself. I read in a dive forum that Payar has bad visibility and you know's so true!! The vis was very very bad and it's not advisable for newbies like me because the bad vis experience will just put you off diving totally.
Apparently, the time that I dived was during the worst season in Payar. In fact, a Thai fishing boat had capsized recently and all the crews were missing. Plus, two tourists drowned by the beach a day before I arrived. The moment I descended, I knew I was in trouble. I couldn't see anything!! The current was strong because I could see the particles just coming directly at me. Another indication was the anemone flowing at only one direction, all bent on one side. I swam against the current and in 30 minutes, it was getting worst. My DM went near a rock to shield himself from the current and when I tried to do the same, I was swept up to the surface. As I was ascending, I tried deflating my BCD but I just kept going upwards. By that time,I had already lost sight of my DM. Panic did not sink in as I've gone through worst or similiar situations before. Imagine two jealous women I had to placate on Perhentian that's a panic induced situation. Anyway,I surfaced and then I realized why it was a bad season. Huge swelling waves crashed onto me and what's scary was that I surfaced near jagged edge rocks. I then swam away from the rocks and looked for the boat. This is where I learnt a scuba diving lesson the hard way. I could see the boat but the boat could not see me due to the swell of the waves. If I had a whistle, I would have gotten the boatman's attention but without the whistle, there I was, floating on voilatile waves for about 15 minutes. At times, I swallowed sea water. So guys, bring a whistle at all times. The boatman spotted me and came over. By that time, my DM surfaced and he shook his head. We both knew why.
Dazed and confused

The second dive was no better but the only consolation was the sighting of giant groupers. These buggers were as huge as your car windscreen. Apparently, they're residential groupers there and it was a sight to behold. Other than that, it was bad viz.
I wouldn't recommend newbies to Payar as it would cloud their enthusiasm (no pun intended) for diving. Although, now I know the difference between bad viz and forever viz. Not to mention, how to stay calm when separated from your DM and last but not least- bring Mr Whistle during every dive.

Perhentian Island - Seahorse Dive Centre - Remaining Advance Open Water Course
My first underwater photo shot

I had 3 more adventure dives to obtain my AOWD. I chose Fish ID, Navigation and Night Dive. For my Fish ID adventure dive,I went to Tanjung Basi. At the boat, I was able to already view the corals from above. I descended and aw man...forever viz. What a relief after my nightmarish dive in Payar. I really needed this. Fishes were aplenty at Tanjung Basi and I was given a writing board and a pencil to identify the fishes. I place the board on my strap and 30 minutes later, I realized that the board was gone!!!! It must have slipped out while I was swimming along the rocks of Tanjung Basi. I signalled to my DM that I lost the board and he asked me where was my direction. He was accompanying an Open Water student. I just pointed to the opposite of where I swam and off we went to look for the board. I thought it was a lost cause but just ahead in the horizon, I saw a white object on top of a rock. By golly, it was the board!!! I swam towards and grabbed it with the thought that I've also executed the search and rescue adventure dive with this stunt. But this
shows that the current at Tanjung Basi was calm enough to not sweep my board away.

Next was Navigation Adventure Dive at Shark Point. I saw schools of bat fish, a baby turtle, sting ray and more. It was awesome. Anyway, navigation is super easy.

My last adventure dive was Night Dive. We did it in front of Seahorse Dive Centre and surfaced at the jetty of Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia (LKIM) jetty. I saw groupers, rays swimming away, baby moray eel in one of the PVC tukun tiruans. I motioned to my DI to turn off his torch and I did the same. ABSOLUTE TOTAL DARKNESS. it was only for 5 seconds.
Graduation Ceremony at Sea Horse Dive Centre

With that, I obtained my AOWD but most importantly, my Perhentian dive regained my enthusiasm towards diving again with the excellent viz and amazing underwater life.

Mabul Island - Scuba Junkie, Semporna
I have a military project in Tawau and I went a day earlier to do day dives. Upon landing in Tawau, I rented a Kancil for RM100 and drove to Semporna the next morning from Tawau. If you take a cab from Tawau to Semporna, it's RM150 one way. Scuba Junkie charged 3 dives in Mabul for RM300.00 which includes boat, lunch and gears. I hooked up with Scuba Junkie and man oh man, the number of people diving off the Semporna islands were crazy.
There were at least 15 divers to Sibuan Island, 9 divers to Sipadan and 8 divers(my group) to Mabul. Semporna to Mabul took 40 minutes by boat.
My first dive was at Manta Point and I was excited because this was my first dive in the Celebes Sea. Back roll splash!!! Viz was good and something new I experienced, wall diving. There'd be corals corals corals and then, nothing else but the abyss. It was excellent. the marine life there was just superb.
Scuba Junkie office in Semporna

Boat full of divers

The moment we descended on the second dive, we saw a huge turtle resting. That was the biggest turtle I've seen and we continued on to see lion fishes, nudibranches and loads of trigger fishes. A giant moray eel was also there. It was just picture perfect. The sun's ray penetrated the water and red little fishes were just swarming over a colorful coral. Absolutely awesome.
Celebes Explorer Live On Board and Seaventures Oil Rig Turned Dive Centre Behind Me

The third dive was in front of Scuba Junkie's jetty. Guess how many turtles I saw in that stretch? Seven!!! Also, they were cuttlefishes, groupers and many more amazing underwater life. I saw a curving school of red snappers which made my jaw drop.

Celebes Sea = speechless. You don't have to spend like 4-5 days and taking leave to dive in Semporna. One can purchase Air Asia tickets to Tawau on a Friday night. Drive to Semporna the next morning. Do the 3 dives and fly back to KL on Sunday. It's doable enough to get a fix on your diving.
The island I went to for work

So there it is. My dives in 3 weekends and what do I think about it? I have to probably agree with Meatloaf that 2 dive locations out of 3 ain't bad. My last dive for the year will be at the end of September in Tioman. After that, no more dives until Febuary 2010.


jonie said...

i love your posts... u make things look fun and worth doing :) no matter how bad they can end up to be :) SEMANGAT!!!

Krista said...

Hey I'm looking at booking with Sucba Junkie and staying with them. Would you recomend them? THanks, I found your blog helpful!