Finning with the fishes

It feels strange the first time. Your mask. Your awkward gear, a bit heavy. You ease into the water and your face slips below the surface, Inhale; the air comes with a reassuring hiss and for the first time, you breathe underwater. In moments you forget your mask. Your equipment transforms to light and agile and you’re free like you’ve never experienced before. With that first underwater breath, the door opens to a different world. And your life will never be the same again. You can see more different species in ten minutes there than in ten hours in the most unspoiled wilderness above water” – excerpt from PADI OPEN WATER DIVER manual intro.

I don’t think I can explain the way I felt when I first descended down to the ocean more accurately. It was on the second week of august that I went for my diving certification trip with gill divers to Tioman islands, Malaysia. When I enrolled for PADI certification, all I wanted was to get to know the sea and after my theory and pool session, I really was looking forward for the dive trip. The only downside was that, I didn’t have any friends to come with me. But, I made some very good friends during that trip and that weekend turned out to be one of the best till date in all aspects. When you dive, you enter a completely different world. There were people from all parts of the world with me for diving - US, Canada, Korea, Indonesia, France etc and everyone was really cheerful. After my first dive I promised myself that once I reach back Singapore, I am going to enroll for the advanced course, and yeah, I did. Officially, I am now a PADI certified open water diver.

As always, this is another photo blog and I believe pictures tell stories in more details than words.
We started our trip on Friday august 14th from Singapore by around 8pm. We crossed Malaysian border, had a nice and long dinner and set out for Mersing to catch our boat to Tioman. (Tioman is an island in Malaysia, one of the most beautiful ones, I will say) Usually we are supposed to be starting from there by 11pm, but that day, there was some problem with the tides and we could start from there only by 1:30am. Reached our resort in Tioman around 3 and fell asleep immediately.

The next day, I woke up to see a beautiful resort which overlooked the sea. But the weather was not that good, it was drizzling. We had our breakfast in the resort in nice cool weather. I didn’t want to go out though. Just wanted to stay there lazing around and enjoy the weather.
The resort we stayed is called the Island Reef Resort and it contains small cottages build around a hilly area.

Finally, we got on our boat and started towards the dive sites. Our instructor, Monica told us to streamline our equipments and get inside our wet suits. Since we were trained all these during the pool session 2 weeks back, it was relatively easy for me. Also I was fortunate enough to have the same buddy – Raline – from my pool session. She is a cool and funny person.

Briefing Session - That’s our instructor – she is one of the coolest teachers I ever had. She told what we were going to do and also the possible fishes and corals we may find there.

After the boat came to a stop, other dive master/instructors – Vijay, Johnny and Gray – went in the water to tie the buoy and rope for us to use for our first dive. Even though I had my underwater camera with me, I didn’t want to take it during my first dive. Also I hadn’t cleaned it properly and Monica showed me some hair strands in the O-ring of the casing.

We descended one by one and had to equalize frequently and I was a bit scared about equalization. But once I was down, it looked awesome. We were holding on to a rope and looking around in amazement. Since it was our first dive, we were in a reasonably deserted place. But there was a small anemone and a couple of clown fishes were there. Also there were some sea cucumbers in the bottom and some corals. A variety of fishes were coming and going from all sides and I was not sure what to do there. After everyone was down and we familiarized with the environment, we demonstrated a couple of skills and by that time our air were running out. We went back on deck.
Even if there was not much of moving around, we all thoroughly enjoyed our first dive. We had our lunch in the boat itself while our gas tanks were refilled.

Since I loved being in water and also wanted to try my underwater camera, I simply jumped to water and took some random snaps. Someone was feeding the fishes.
The next 2 dives were the most awesome ones. We finned along corals and rocks, up and down, through schools of colorful fishes and I cursed myself for not taking the camera. By around 5, we were all tired and we back on boat and set our journey back to the main island.

Tioman Island, Malaysia

The beautiful Sunset from the dock. We all became friends by evening and we were happily chattering about all that we have seen on our first day. Before we got to our resort, we stopped at a nearby shop to eat and they made tasty food.
After that the leisure divers who were going for the night dive, left and me and my other open water diver friends left to our cabins and took a bath. Then we came down for the barbeque dinner. By that time the leisure divers were back.

We came down to the beach by 9pm and got ourselves a couple of beers and some snacks and talked for around 2 hours about the first day. The seasoned divers shared their experiences.

The first thing I did next day was to clean up my camera properly with the help of Monica and made sure I am not going to miss anything this time I dive. Thanks to Johnny for taking this shot.
That’s Monica, our instructor. I wonder how she manages to control her buoyancy that well.

That’s a Bridled monocle bream. I had to chase this guy for a bit to get this shot.
I spend some time studying the fish charts after my first 2 dives as I didn’t know any of them. With the help of Monica, I managed to remember the most common fishes. Still I have not find out the names of couple of them.

That’s Raline – my buddy. She was funny, all the time making funny faces when I tried clicking a snap. She was trying to smile or show me something when I was clicking this snap. According to Monica, we both made a good buddy pair. Since I was consuming air fast, she had to check my air regularly.
This little guy was furious at me when I was trying to take this snap as I was interfering with his home. I got lots of shots of clown fish; even one brave clown fish came out of his anemone and danced in front of my camera. When I change the camera direction, he stayed in front of the camera without allowing me to focus on him. I guess he wanted me out of his domain.

A pack of sea urchins. The first day, I didn’t notice the blue color inside the spikes, which looks like their eyes.
A large table coral. According to Monica, this is around 70-100 years old. So we were very careful not to go near them, we didn’t want to destroy them as our buoyancy control was not that good.
That’s an eight banded butterfly fish. I saw all sorts of butterfly fish there.

We finned through rocks and narrow paths

Even through schools of fishes

That’s Astri, I guess she spotted something in the coral. She was also helping me with the photos, whenever she saw something interesting, she called me.

That’s Morgan and Laetitia from France

That’s Raline again, trying to hug a coral.

And that’s me again, thank you Johnny…

Check this out, a car wreck in one of the dive sites. It was a change; you expect some ship wrecks and see a car wreck instead.

That’s Johnny, our dive master and he was the one who kept track of me when I was wandering off to take pictures of everything I saw. Also he helped in controlling my air consumption.

Time to come up!

Took a snap of the dive comp when I was doing my safety stop.

Up up, there you go!

Our boat coming to pick us out!

The diving team! Uh! I miss them already.

That’s Vijay with his summersault from the upper deck to water. We all jumped in to the sea when we were waiting for our air to be refilled. We had all the fun in the water.

We even took some photos under water. That’s Monica and Raline, I am not sure whether they are trying to smile or scream or threaten me there, ha ha.

Finally, after our five dives, we had to pack up and get ready to come back to Singapore.
I don’t know about others, but my mind was stuck in there with the island of Tioman and the underwater world. It was more like a dream, swimming with the fishes and touching the corals with my own hands. (I am pretty sure it’s the same way everyone else felt). Anyway, by 2:00pm, we started our journey back to mainland of Malaysia. During our journey, we filled out our dive log books and I spend some time matching the unknown fishes in my camera with the ones in the books. Then I went out and simply sat on the side of the boat, with my legs touching the waves and enjoying the moments. After we reached Mersing, we took our bus back to Singapore and we reached back around 8pm.
There are still a lot of things for me to learn and practice especially buoyancy control, breath control, proper equalization etc. It was an incredible experience and something that I can cherish for a long long time. I am looking forward for my dive trip for PADI Advanced Diver course soon. Thanks to all my friends for giving me such a good time. Hope we can all dive together soon.

Over Enjoyment!

Usually when I don’t write blogs for long time, it means, either there are not many happenings in my life to write about or I am having so many things happening that I hardly get enough time or mood to even think about writing. The latter seems to be the reason for last couple of months. Even those blogs I managed to write was more of photos and less of content. The reason being, I was determined to enjoy my vacation to the fullest. And I did it.
Looking back, I can easily say I just had the best vacations ever and I don’t have track of the things I did. By the time I was back from India, I promised myself that, no matter what I do, I’ll write all about it. I somehow managed to do it for one or 2 things. Every time I do something new, I think about blogging. But then again, I managed to microblog (twitter) some of them I guess. And I really wonder now whether I have lost the grip of writing.
I am not that sure why I am writing this blog now. May be as a desperate attempt to get back in the track of writing or like I read in one of the blogs, it’ll be fun to read about this vacation after 10years or so.
Ok here comes the list,
Places we changed upside down - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In Singapore (The ones I remember) - Singapore Zoo, Science Centre, Labrador Park, Sentosa, Chinese Garden (which used to be in the back yard of the place where I stayed last time), Clarke Quay, Clarke Quay, Clarke Quay…
Bottles we finished! (Outings & Parties) - numerous, I have no idea about how many, on an average, 2 - 3 parties per week.
Others - PADI open water Scuba Diving Certification. Sea diving at Tioman, Malaysia next week, Marathon 2 weeks from now.
Movies I watched in Silver screen (The ones I remember)
Angels & Daemons - Great one, loved it
The Taking of Pelham 123 - Good One
Transformers - Crappy
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - I liked the previous one better
Ice Age 3D - loved 3D, but not the movie
Luck - I thought this was the worst movie until I watched…
Love Aaj Kal - Great Movie if you want to waste your money, time and peace of mind
Hangover - Excellent, the best part is, we went for this movie after a party, really drunk and I want to watch that movie one more time
UP (3D) - Awesome movie in terms of both the story and the 3D, loved that one
Paintings - The Lake House
Games - Tomb Raider Underworld, Crysis Warhead
Books - Around 5 I think, now reading Harry Potter series, again
And many other things which I don’t remember now…
Above all, I made many new friends.
Finally, the vacation’s over. New semester is starting from today. At this point, I feel drained of all the energy, exhausted from over enjoyment, but with the satisfaction of having the best vacation, ever. I used to wonder whether I’ll even get tired of overdoing the things I love. Guess I got the answer. Tired to the end that I am promising myself that there won’t be any more parties and outings, (atleast for a month). I wish I get to ‘execute laziness’ like I did some time back and get back my writing ‘grip’ so that I can be back to my regular blogging and blog about atleast some of the items in the list above. Hopefully I will, let see!