For those of you that have been following our blog, you may remember that Malaysia is where we kicked off our South East Asia trip. Well, we went back and this time it was solely for the purpose of learning how to scuba dive. We had originally wanted to try diving while in Thailand, but because we had friends coming to visit, we ran out of time to go up to Koh Tao. We almost decided to skip it, but before we knew it, we had tickets booked back to Malaysia before heading over to Bali.
Last week, we were in Borneo, Malaysia where we spent three days getting our PADI Open Water Certificates and it’s safe to say that we officially have a new favorite hobby. Here’s how our few days of training went:
Sorry again guys for the lack of pictures. Our Mac is still out of commission and we have decided not to download pics onto the PC because it will mix everything up.
There are a number of scuba diving certifications available as well as a plethora of companies to choose from, but we decided to go for our PADI Open Water Certifications with a company in Kota Kinabalu called Scuba Junkie. The course consisted of one day of classroom training and two days of practical learning in the water. For the course, we paid about $265 per person, which is pretty cheap compared to some other places around the world such as back home or in Australia. The Open Water Cert lets us dive by ourselves (which won’t be happening anytime soon) and gives us the ability to dive with any company we’d like around the world as long as we are only diving to a maximum depth of about 54 feet or 18 meters.
Day 1: Classroom Training
Day 1 brought back memories of sitting in school for hours on end wondering when the day would end. Just kidding, but we did sit in a classroom for 8 hours where we watched videos, reviewed the information we learned and took tests to make sure we were retaining all the information. Despite being a long day, it proved to be pretty interesting and we learned a lot about the theory and safety of diving. Most importantly, it made us even more excited to get in the water the next day.
Day 2: Our First Day in the Water!
Our first day in the water was an introduction to our equipment, basic safety skills and our first two dives to 12 meters. The day started off with proving to our instructor that we could float for 10 minutes straight, which I was really nervous about because I can’t float on my back to save my life. Sad, I know. If only my mother made me take swimming lessons as a kid…(just kidding mom). Floating proved to be easier than I anticipated and we were able to tread water, which was significantly easier than expected….well not for all of us. The Chinese kid in our class of four struggled big time and he flapped around like a fish out of water. Somehow, he made it though and was able to continue the course.
Once we were back in the boat, we put our gear on for the first time – wetsuits, BCD with air tank (the thing that holds your tank and keeps you afloat), mask, 4-5 kg of weights and flippers. Holy crap, that set up was extremely heavy. Add a rocking boat and standing for more than a minute is nearly impossible. After doing our safety checks to make sure everything was working properly, we rolled backwards off the boat and we were in the water in scuba gear for the first time ever!
After popping back up to the surface, we instantly forgot about the weight of our equipment and were surprised at how nice it was to be able to float around while wearing all that gear. It’s almost like wearing a life jacket. We started in shallow water and were briefed on the skills we would be learning and practicing for the day. Step one was breathing and learning how to clear a flooded mask, which Josh and I were both a bit nervous about – Turns out, it’s one of the easiest things we learned how to do.
Sticking our heads underwater for the first time and discovering that we were able to breathe was AMAZING! There’s nothing quite like being underwater for an extended period of time and actually getting the chance to look around and just hang out.
After getting over the initial shock and excitement of breathing underwater, we spent the day learning new skills and doing a few dives to 12 meters. Scuba diving is amazing. There is so much life under there that is difficult to see with the naked eye or even a snorkel. I’ve always been petrified of the deep ocean and I’ve come to realize that it’s because I have no idea what’s down there. Diving opens up a whole new world that we had only seen in pictures and it is truly breathtaking.
After taking a quick break for some lunch, we were back on the boat and ready for the second half of our day. While we had been enjoying our meals on the island, some storm clouds moved in over the city in the distance, but our instructor assured us that everything was fine and we headed to a new destination in open water. No longer protected from the wind by a small group of islands, we hit the open ocean and were greeted by some good size waves. The Chinese kid instantly began puking off the side of the boat and I wasn’t feeling so hot myself. Luckily, I kept my lunch to myself, but our instructor insisted that we just throw on our gear as fast as possible and jump into the water.
Already feeling a bit nervous about diving in general, being forced to jump into the rough ocean where the waves were just tossing and dragging us around was slightly unnerving. We were instructed to swim over to the point that we would start our decent, but that proved to be too difficult and we decided to just head underwater where there would be no wake.
The rush of the whole event made this dive nerve wracking for me. It was eerily dark down there and I couldn’t help but think what it would look like when we surfaced again after the dive. On top of that, I still felt nauseous from the boat and just eating lunch. All I could think about was what the hell would happen if I had to throw up under water. By the way, you can throw up underwater into your mouth piece. How disgusting is that….. Surprisingly, we all made it unscathed and the boat came to rescue us once we surfaced and blew up our inflatable signal. The boat was rocking like crazy as we climbed aboard and eventually we sped back to shore. Despite being a bit traumatized, the ride back through the huge waves was exciting and the best part was the sky-to-ocean lightning striking all around us. Quite the adrenaline rush.
Once we hit land, we both realized how exhausted we were. 8 hours in the 95 degree sun is tiring in itself, but on top of that, one dive can burn about 500 calories. We did two dives and spent 75% of our day in the water. For people that do not swim regularly, you can imagine how exhausted we were.
Day 2: Success! We’re Certified
Day 2 commenced with a 200 meter swim, and boy did it kick my ass. The swim didn’t look too far, but for someone who jumps in a pool or maybe the ocean on occasion, it was extremely difficult. Josh made it effortlessly because he’s just the man, and eventually I managed to huff and puff my way back to the boat. It turned out that the Chinese kid in our group couldn’t swim and he was unable to complete his certification. Poor kid. Apparently you really can fail this certification, which is a good thing because if you can’t swim, you probably can’t make it to the surface if you’re in an emergency.
Our second day underwater was much smoother than the first although we were challenged significantly more with the skills we were required to perform like: swimming with no mask at 12 meters deep, taking our equipment off on the surface and underwater and simulated no-air ascents where we had to swim from 10 meters deep taking no breaths as we swam to the surface.
After practicing some skills, we were able to go on a ‘fun dive’ where could relax a little, practice what we learned and enjoy looking for critters underwater. Diving in this area was exciting because the sea floor is filled with coral which is home to all sorts of interesting creatures including: eels, sting rays, clown fish and so many more beautifully colored fish that I could never name! Luckily we didn’t see any sharks or giant squids, although that would actually be pretty cool. Maybe next time!
With diving certificates in hand, we were so excited to head to Bali where we spent two of our days diving. We’re even considering getting our advanced certs, which will let us dive deeper and allow us to go on some more challenging excursions. We’ll see where this takes us. As for now, we have no idea! We can’t wait to keep exploring the ocean around the world!
See You Next Time,