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