Depth Per­cep­tion

We braved a nine-hour jour­ney to reac­quaint our­selves with Tioman Is­land, and with the seren­ity of the seas

Men's Health (Malaysia) - - Guy Skills -

SANDY BEACHES, THE SUN and sea­wa­ter com­bine to make recre­ational scuba div­ing an ap­peal­ing form of ad­ven­ture travel. Which makes us pretty darn lucky as Malaysia has some of the best div­ing sites in the world.

It can’t hurt ei­ther that, be­sides pro­vid­ing you with the op­por­tu­nity to show off your hard-earned physique, div­ing is a great, low­im­pact form of re­sis­tance train­ing. The mea­sured breath­ing and the abil­ity to think and act calmly while un­der­wa­ter are also an ex­cel­lent stress buster and con­fi­dence builder.

At the in­vi­ta­tion of Vic­tori­nox Swiss Army Time­pieces Malaysia, we trav­elled to Tioman Is­land off the coast of Pa­hang with Baki Zainal, Vic­tori­nox am­bas­sador, avid ocean en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and TV host. The mis­sion was to get ac­quainted with Vic­tori­nox’s INOX Pro­fes­sional Diver watch col­lec­tion, go div­ing, and play a small part in sav­ing the ocean.

While the fre­quent divers got handy an­chor­ing four coral nurs­ery ta­bles that we had built ear­lier to the seabed, lapsed divers (that’s us) got a half-day re­fresher, and novices un­der­went the Dis­cover Scuba Div­ing (DSD) course un­der the watch­ful eye of dive op­er­a­tor UDive ( www.udive.com.my).

Our sub­se­quent “fun dive” at Labas Is­land, one of many dive sites off Tioman, in­volved some nifty ma­noeu­vring through caves and cav­erns amongst st­ingray, mo­ray eel, and count­less shoals of

colour­ful fish and coral gar­dens. It was a taster to the kind of amaz­ing un­der­wa­ter ex­plo­ration any cer­ti­fied diver can em­bark on if you choose to suit up and jump in.

WHAT TO DO

Div­ing isn’t for ev­ery­one. It is a high-com­mit­ment ac­tiv­ity that re­quires a min­i­mum of three days to sit for the en­try-level open water cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (in Malaysia, the most pop­u­lar scuba-div­ing train­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body is PADI). Find out if it’s re­ally for you by sign­ing up for a Dis­cover Scuba Div­ing course.

Once you nab that li­cence, div­ing hol­i­days will re­quire time off for travel and re­cov­ery. There’s no fly­ing 12 to 24 hours ei­ther side of your dive due to de­com­pres­sion re­quire­ments – that’s the des­ig­nated time re­quired for gases like ni­tro­gen to dis­perse from your body safely.

GET­TING THERE

Ber­jaya Air no longer flies to Tioman, hav­ing ceased their ser­vice in 2015. Drive or bus it to Tan­jung Ge­muk just north of the Pa­hangJo­hor bor­der, the jump-off point for a two-hour ferry across the South China Sea to the Kam­pong Tekek jetty on the west side of Tioman.

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Ber­jaya Tioman Re­sort Ho­tel that sits on three kilo­me­tres of white sand beach, and pro­vides a com­fort­able base from which to ex­plore the area’s mul­ti­ple dive sites. If you’re do­ing it with bud­dies, plump for a stan­dard quad chalet for four or a deluxe triple for three. The re­sort also has a gym, an 18-hole golf course, and of­fers kayak­ing and jun­gle trekking. ( www.ber­jaya­ho­tel.com/tioman)

WHEN TO GO

Malaysia’s east coast des­ti­na­tions such as Tioman, Redang and the Per­hen­tian is­lands are closed dur­ing the mon­soon sea­son be­tween Novem­ber and Fe­bru­ary, but year-round div­ing is pos­si­ble in Sabah and Sarawak and many other parts of South­east Asia, though vis­i­bil­ity may be im­paired and the wa­ters a lot chop­pier.

GET­TING DIVE READY

Like many ex­treme sports, recre­ational div­ing doesn’t come with­out risks, which is why there are ex­ams to pass and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions to gain. Some ba­sic rules to fol­low in­clude get­ting enough sleep be­fore a dive, not div­ing with a cold (you could risk a burst eardrum), lay­ing off the al­co­hol, and – if you want to get more out of your air tank – quit smok­ing.

TIPS

If you’re se­ri­ous about div­ing, buy your own wet­suit. Hav­ing to stay hy­drated un­der the sun and the ad­di­tional pres­sure of be­ing sub­merged places on your blad­der means you’ll even­tu­ally have to take a leak – rentals have been uri­nated in too many times to count. South­east Asia’s trop­i­cal weather and warmer wa­ters mean you can opt for a thin­ner 2.5 to 3.5mm wet­suit. Sleeve­less or short-sleeved and legged ver­sions are pop­u­lar, but a full-body suit will re­duce the chance of scrapes or in­jury from an un­ex­pected at­tack by a ter­ri­to­rial eel or a sting­ing jel­ly­fish.

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