Tioman Island, Malaysia

Diving with the gang


It was my first time visiting Tioman Island. I joined my sisters and friends on a 3 day diving trip. We drove 5 hours from Kuala Lumpur to Mersing, a sleepy fishing town and popular gateway to Tioman Island. To get to the island, we purchased passenger ferry tickets. It was the second day of Raya so many shops were not opened and only one ferry was working. Needless to say, we missed our boat and had to force our way onto the next boat.

The ferry ride was comfortable. The ferry was a 2 storied, enclosed space that was well air-conditioned, which was really important because the boat was full. The ride took an hour and made several stops. Our diving center and hotel were located in Tekek village, the third ferry stop. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a driver that was kindly arranged by our diving center, Tioman Reef Divers (We later learned that it was a 15 minutes walk to our hotel).

We checked in at our hotel called Cheers Chalets and got the largest room that fitted 7 people.

We then walked to the diving center, passing by the only Chinese restaurant that was opened that day and eventually became our lunch joint. We were greeted by the diving center owner and his Japanese wife. After a quick introduction and briefing, we were promptly given our schedule for the day.

Our group split up into 2 teams for the first dive: advanced divers (my two sisters) and refreshers/student divers. Since it has been 5 years since I last dove, I had to enroll in a refresher course. I was pleased that I still remembered the basics but still had trouble clearing my mask and keeping my buoyancy. Later that evening, my group separated again: my sisters and American friend went for a night dive while the rest of us had our Chinese meal at Chinese Sarang Seafood. The wait for our meal was more than 1 hour however the meal was decent. We later learned that it is not unusual to wait for our dinner.

On our second day, my sisters, friends and I went out for the open water dives. I came to appreciate my dives and saw plenty of tropical sea creatures. The highlight of the trip was encountering a green turtle feeding in the midst of coral reefs. I was so excited because it was something I hadn't seen. At the end of the day, we dove near a jetty where I swam next to a wreck. My DM brought a bag of bread and we fed the fish. We also witnessed my sister and friend jumped off from the jetty. I would if I was a strong swimmer. Later that evening, we walked around the village and took pictures of the Milky way. It was a great spot as there was little light pollution and by the beach.

On the third day, I was separated from my group and joined a group of foreigners. We dove twice near Labas island where I got to experience diving through underwater boulders and caves. After reuniting with my sisters and friends, we headed for Pirate reef. I dove for a meter when I felt pangs of pain near my molars. I consulted with an independent dive guide and after a couple of attempts, I abandoned dive and waited for the rest of the trip. My sisters and friend surfaced and I was actually quite glad because I saw how exiting the water occurred.

Overall, the trip was amazing despite slight hiccups of the ferry rides and dinner wait times. I thought Tioman has more things to offer than Perhentian islands. However, I might be biased since it has been 5 years and my memories are blurred.

I learned a lot on this diving trip. Here are some tips on diving that I hope you find useful.

- Great basic skills that one can practice are acquiring neutral buoyancy and breathing.

- Go with a great and trustworthy group of friends.

- When diving, get local people for dive master and boatman. The experience and knowledge of the island are two critical components of a good dive. We dined with our dive master on the last evening and learned so much from him! Ask for food recommendations. Our DM said it was squid season when we were visiting and he was right!

- In my humble and free opinion, Tioman Reef Divers is a great and possibly one of the oldest diving centers in the island. It is important to get a dive center that you feel comfortable with. I solicited advice from the owners and dive masters as well as their guests and customers! Something must be going well for the dive center since many of their customers are regulars.

- If you can, try to get a full diving package. A package typically includes diving gear and equipment, transportation, accommodation and meals.

- Bring your own underwater camera and gather knowledge on capturing beautiful pictures prior to the trip.

- Wear socks or booties to protect your feet from blisters. Wear full body wet suit to protect from scraps.

- My first diving instructor is caring and good at what he does. I missed him during this trip. Always develop a friendship with your dive masters.

- Most importantly, protect the corals and sea creatures when diving. I cannot stress how important to be aware of your surroundings, your body and gear in the water. Try to minimize contact with the sea creatures and plants as well as the environment. Remember- we dive because of the environment hence we should do our very best to care for it!

Last modified: 8/27/12