MYTH: Learning to dive is time consuming and really expensive.
Let me first debunk this myth before talking about my personal experiences. A lot of times when I talk to my friends about diving and encourage them to start when they show interest, I hear things like, “I’m too busy, diving takes too much time” or “It’s too expensive”. While I have to admit that diving as a sport can be rather pricey, taking the Open Water Diver course was actually not that bad on my wallet. I signed up through Amazing Dive and the whole course, including online materials, theory, pool session, a weekend long Tioman trip, gear rental and the certification, cost $600 in total, which I felt was totally worth it! As for the time-consuming part, learning to dive only takes about 4 days (5 if you include the online theory portion that you do at home). There will be a theory session of 3 hours one day, one full day pool session during a weekend, and finally the Friday night – Sunday night weekend trip to somewhere nearby to round up the process. After this, you will be a fully certified open water diver ~
So on to my experience taking my OWD. When I came back to Singapore, I immediately started looking for dive shops and courses online. After googling and reading reviews on FB for a while, I decided to go with Amazing Dive (later I found out they are under a parent company, ADA – Asia Dive Academy, which has 5 dive shops under it). Their service was impeccable from the beginning as they answered all the questions I emailed them promptly (and I had a lot! Cause I’m the kind of person who likes getting all details possible before signing up for anything :x). After finding a friend who was also interested in learning diving to do it with me, we paid the initial deposit of $150 and I was all set to start. I was registered in the online platform that gave me access to the materials required. There were a bunch of videos and quizzes that taught me about the basics of diving.
After completing them, I went to a theory session on a Tuesday night after work. On the Saturday after, I attended the pool session at Outram Park Secondary School. There, we had to pass a 200m swim and 10min treading test. We then got to learn and practice the relevant skills that would prepare us for the open water dives during our trip.
After a long anticipated wait, the day of my trip to Pulau Tioman finally arrived 😀 After work, I went over to the Gill Divers shop near Clarke Quay, where the buses were waiting and ready to bring us into Mersing where the ferry terminal was. We left at about 6.30pm, crossed the border, and arrived at Embassy Hotel in Mersing later that night. We had to wake up really early the next morning (around 5.30am) to catch the ferry over to Tioman. Already, the air felt fresher and the waters were clear and blue.
Once we got to Tioman, we brought our stuff up to the resort and checked in.
A short while later, we set off for our first day of diving! The first few dives were mainly for clearing skills, where the instructor would make sure you demonstrate the skills learned during the pool session. This was the first descent into deeper waters (compared to the pool) so it still felt pretty amazing! The other dives were fun dives where we went around the reefs and got familiar with controlling our body and buoyancy underwater. It was pretty warm underwater at a temperature of 29 degC and the 3mm shortie wetsuit was enough to keep me warm.
We completed 4 dives on the first day at Paya Bakau, Kudo and Renggis, then retired back to the resort for dinner and logged our dives for the day.
It was then free and easy for the rest of the night. There was a prata place near the resort which delighted me since I did not get the chance to have any in Singapore yet.
Then it was time to sleep to prepare for the next day of diving. I did 3 dives on the second day in Pirate Reef (but actually did not manage to find the reef) and Renggis. There was an underwater playground here to swim around.
Ended off the trip with a total of 7 dives and officially passing my OWD ^_^
Here’s some of the stuff I saw underwater!
After diving it was time to pack up and take the ferry back to Mersing where the bus was waiting to bring us back to real life. It was sad to leave but I felt glad that I had such a happy and fulfilling weekend!
Check out my AOWD post if you’re interested to learn about the next level in the diving certification!
For beginners, make sure the season is good before going on any diving trips. During monsoon or off season there might be bad visibility or strong currents that can be dangerous, especially to the less experienced. The shops are pretty good at not having trips during monsoon season but it’s always good to check it out before deciding to go. Sometimes there might be trips off season to try to see certain types of animals.
Try to get comfortable with swimming before going diving. They only require a 200m swim test and a 10min treading but if you struggle with that you might want to practice swimming a little more. I started off struggling to swim 200m but after a few swims I could do at least 10 laps (in a 50m pool) without feeling tired. If you’re more comfortable in the water, you’ll be less nervous having to descend and breathe underwater.
If you haven’t gone snorkeling before, it would also be good to practice using a mask and snorkel in the pool so you get used to breathing while your face is submerged. And breathing through your mouth.