Diver Down! Discover Scuba!

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MALAYSIA OVERFLOWS WITH NATURAL BEAUTY, but arguably half its splendour lies beneath the waterline. The waters off Malaysia’s coasts and islands are teeming with aquatic abundance – thriving coral reefs, eerie shipwrecks, underwater caves, and endless schools of tropical fish. Even veteran divers from elsewhere are awed.

But offshore snorkelling is barely a beginning. To appreciate Malaysia’s undersea wonders, you need to scuba dive. No longer just the realm of James Bond and Navy SEALS, scuba diving is now enjoyed by millions. But not all enjoy your advantage – you’re in Malaysia near the world’s best dive sites, all within your glub-glubbed reach.

All you need is your Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification. PADI is the world’s largest certifying organisation for recreational diving, and best of all, your PADI certification is valid worldwide and never expires! (Visit www.padi.com for more information). Don’t worry – getting certified isn’t hard or scary. Follow these steps and you’re well on your way to exploring a brave new world.


1. Conquer your fear
I was treading water in the North Atlantic, a thick mist obscuring all directions, the water cold and biting. I remember my desperate kicking for terra firma, and the mounting realisation of my end.

And then I awoke, a ten-year old with newfound respect for deep water. That one short dream shaped me, but it was logic that overcame. Today’s scuba equipment is inherently safe, and the PADI course teaches you the ‘safe’ way to dive. Swimming means staying afloat, but scuba diving means breathing normally underwater. “What’s easier than breathing?” In a deep breath, my fear was gone.


Facing your fears is tough, but it’s always less scary than you think. Finding a good instructor helps immensely.
2. Find a good instructor 
There are countless dive centres in Malaysia, but not all count your safety and enjoyment in their bottom line. With the wrong instructors, you can end up with faulty gear, receive lessons in ‘Mal-English,’ or get screamed at for doing something wrong when you were never taught what’s correct. You’ll get turned off diving forever, and that’s not fair to you.


The gang at Scuba Symphony love diving, and it shows in their instruction. They cater to expats wanting to scuba dive. Most dive centres require you visit at least seven times – not easy to fit into expat schedules! You can complete Scuba Symphony’s “Open Water Diver” (OWD) course in two weekends. In the first weekend, they helpfully explain the theory sessions and present your first confined water dives – both held right in KL. On the second weekend, you and your instructors visit a magnificent island (Tioman, Redang, or Dayang) to complete your open water PADI training.
Scuba Symphony has one of the lowest market rates for all PADI courses. The initial OWD course is RM1200, including rental of reliable, thoroughly checked equipment, personalised travel arrangements, a free “Discover Scuba” course for your spouse or friend, and more. The classes are small, so lessons are tailored to your level of progress. If you’ve still got ‘the fear,’ soothe yourself in knowing Scuba Symphony has a 100-percent safety record!
Does this part read like an advertisement? Here’s the ‘real’ story: Scuba Symphony approached me because they really wanted more expats to experience the wonders of diving Malaysia’s waters (and read more about diving in The Expat). Their exuberance was addictive, and I took them up on their challenge. They bent over backwards to help me get PADI-certified – even arranging a one-on-one dive with an instructor when my schedule conflicted with previous arrangements – and they offer these special considerations to all students. They nurtured more than my scuba skills; I also learned why they’re so enthusiastic about diving – it’s beautiful down there.
Scuba Symphony also wants you to embrace subaquatic splendour. Bring this copy of The Expat to the Scuba Symphony office and receive a FREE “Discover Scuba” session! For more information, call 03-9284 5093, or visit www.scubasymphony.com (e-mail: [email protected]).
3. Theory sessions
Classrooms… ugh. It’s actually more interesting than you think, especially considering the fun (though serious) nature of the subject matter. With good instructors, you’re set at ease and shown everything you need to know before hitting the water, like why it’s important to equalise pressure in your ears. I scored 46 out of 50 on the written test, well within the pass range.
4. Confined water dives 
And now the fun begins! In a hotel swimming pool, you’ll don scuba equipment and take your first baby-steps underwater. You’ll learn the basic skills, like how to clear your mask of water, and how to achieve ‘neutral buoyancy’ – a skill I still struggle with. But with instructors nearby you’ll never feel alone, and with the surface just above you’ll never feel helpless.
When my day was finished, I realised I had even larger, more rational fears than my past fear of water… like wearing a bright pink wetsuit in front of customers at a poolside restaurant!
5. Open water dives 
Ah, island life. Beyond the training, this is a great mini-holiday. The accommodation is basic, but you won’t want to spend much time ashore – there’s too much to see offshore. This is when you’ll get your feet wet (and the rest of you!), and this is where you’ll first see why the course is worth every ringgit. Once you perform a few basic skills, you’re PADI certified!
Diving in Malaysia is like discovering a whole new world filled with strange new creatures. You won’t be able to look out from the beach in the same way again; part of you will wonder what’s happening below the waterline. On my trip, I saw clown fish (Nemo!), stingray, and countless other creatures among the amazing reefs. Meanwhile, everyone saw me in my now-trademark pink scuba gear.
There’s truly nothing like scuba diving, and most anyone can master the skills necessary to enjoy recreational dives. Now when I go to an island resort, I can proudly show my PADI card and logbook, rent some gear, and revisit this brave new world. I can hardly wait for my next diving experience. If you see me, wave and say hello. Chances are I’ll be the one wearing pink.
Source: The Expat November 2004, article by Mike Street
This article has been edited for ExpatGoMalaysia.com



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