PADI Open water dive course
I ended the last blog saying that we went to bed content there was nothing that was going to eat us during our sleep… how wrong I was! Despite spraying a s**t tone of deet and sleeping in a mosquito net the little buggers had a right feast on us. We again sprayed more deet, applied cream and went to get breakfast determined not to let it dampen our spirits.
We had breakfast at the restaurant attached to our accommodation, it was an all you can eat type thing. It was nothing special, in fact I would say pretty crappy, and overpriced. We did not return, but you can be a judge for yourself by the picture below…
Today we were starting the first day of our diving course, you begin by watching 2.5 hours of videos all about diving, Knowledge 1, 2 and 3. While watching the videos you complete a series of questions. Obviously as Emily and I are little geeks we completed the video giving it our full attention and when tested on these sections later by our instructor achieved 100%. In all seriousness, It’s actually pretty important you listen to the videos though, if you don’t you can die, so don’t judge our swatiness.
Our instructor was a guy called Fariz, he was really friendly and cracked jokes with us while he gave us our instructions for our first confined water dive and explained the various bits of equipment. Once briefed, we kitted up and had to walk to the boat, the air tank is heavy and so it was more a bent waddle but we made it.
The boat dropped us off to shallower water and we had to complete a number of skills, to evidence we could breathe underwater, swim etc. I am not going to lie, the feeling of breathing under water is a weird one, your human instinct is telling you not to breathe but your brain is like you can do this, just do what Fariz is doing. Fortunately, it only took a minute of two before we were happily breathing and making bubbles under water.
We then completed our first open water dive, you only go down to about 10 metres but it was good to sea some fish and corals, as well as getting used to breathing under water equalizing and learning how to control your buoyancy. Emily hadn’t quite mastered the whole buoyancy thing and kept on floating upwards, at one point she went up when a boat was coming and Fariz had to inflate his BCD and rocket up and retrieve her. Not sure they found it funny, but I did, the panic on their face was amusing (yes, I am that person that finds distressing situations for other people funny).
First dive complete, we jumped back on the boat and headed back to the dive centre to learn how to clean our equipment.
Later that evening we had dinner at Lazy boys on the beach front, there are about 5/6 restaurants all in a cluster in this area, and we later realised they all had different names with exactly the same menu. The food was nice and very cheap.
We had been hoping to go to the other side of the islands for dinner that evening, we started making our way there when the heavens opened. We hid under a tree for a little bit hoping it would pass but when the lightning started striking we gave up and made a quick sprint to the nearest place.
Day 2 involved confined water 2, open water 2 and knowledge review 4 and 5. Confined water 2 included a number of skills, such as fully flooded mask, mask removal and emergency regulator. We felt pretty apprehensive about the whole thing, the idea of flooding your mask so you can’t see or taking it off completely feels very unnatural. Emily struggled with some of the skills and managed to get herself in a bit of a panic, she decided she didn’t think she complete the course and became upset. Fariz was great, he was calm and understanding, he told her to relax and take her time. Being the trooper she is, Emily continued the dive and provided us with lots to giggle about later that evening (don’t worry I have checked with Emily before I shared this information!).
That evening we went to one of the restaurants along the strip that have exactly the same menu as Lazy boys, I had Carbonara, it was rank. Lesson learnt, always order the countries dish/food style it is what they are good at cooking! After dinner, we headed to the beach bar and had a cocktail while sat on the beach watching a fire show.
The final day, if all went well today we would complete our dive qualification and become PADI open water certified. This morning involved a final exam, it was a set of 50 questions which covered all of the knowledge sections and some practical scenarios. Fortunately, the pass mark was 75% and I scored 94% so it was just the practical dives to go.
Fariz had a day off today so we had a new instructor, we can’t remember his name but he was from Finland. Emily was understandably apprehensive about having a new instructor given her wobble the day before, and how much we liked Fariz, but he was very knowledgeable in the briefing and clearly explained the skills we were required to demonstrate in the water and what signs he would use to request us to perform them.
We got dropped off by the boat and had to do our first backwards roll out of the boat, which to our surprise turned out to be not that bad. Due to the current we had to use a line to get to the seabed and I commenced the decent first, after travelling down a few pulls I noticed that Emily was no longer behind me. The instructor and I waited a few minutes as we could see that Emily was on the surface and one of the other instructors from the group was helping her. However, Emily had got herself flustered so the instructor told me to wait at the bottom and went to assist her. Turns out he was also very supportive and was very patient and reassuring giving Emily the confidence to continue the dive.
We were both really impressed with the instructors and Panorama, they were super patient and understanding. They didn’t rush you and they gave you the time you needed even if that meant the session was longer than planned as evidenced above.
We completed the open water 3 including all our skills and in the final dive of the day Emily bought her Go Pro down and managed to capture the below pictures (thanks for letting me use them!).
Unfortunately dive number four didn’t turn out to be one where we saw much, but during the dives as a collective we saw:
· Bamboo sharks
· Hump heads
· Blue sting rays
· Giant puffer fish
· Trigger fish
· Yellow barracudas
· Indian ocean Walkmans
· Scorpion fish
So, after completing open water dive 4 that was it, we had completed the course and we were now PADI open water certified, GO US!
We decided that now we were qualified and not getting up early to dive the next day that we would let our hair down, go for a nice dinner and have some drinks. We had settled on Ewan’s café which was on the other side of the island, so we made our way up the very steep path and got our sweat on. When we arrived at our destination we were disappointed, the restaurant didn’t overlook the beach and it didn’t look very inviting. So we continued on until we arrived at the beach, the sun was just setting and the sky looked amazing.
We strolled along the beach until we reached the restaurant right at the end, ordered way too much food and soaked up the view. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve alcohol so our celebratory drink would have to wait.
Returning to the beach bar on the same side of the island as our accommodation we started on the cocktails which were VERY generous in alcohol content. We couldn’t really work out if the barmen were absolutely wasted or just generally off their head, but they were all dancing lots and generally causing mischief. We met a couple of English girls, Sarah and Ella and they joined us for some cocktails and drunken card games. It was great to let our hair down and enjoy the evening (and early morning) but we eventually returned to the sweat shack to get some sleep.
Oh hello hangover, I woke up feeling like I hadn’t drunk water in days and super-hot in our sandy bed. Luckily after some water, a can of coke and some cheese toast I was back to my normal self.
We had booked a flight from Kota Bharu airport to Penang, so that meant getting a boat back to mainland and a taxi to the airport. The boat back was much smaller than the the boat we had come on and this meant you felt every wave, it was a bumpy ride and not what we needed after a boozy night but we made it without being sick!
We had a long wait at the airport (ferry times and flight times couldn’t marry up) but being in an air-conditioned airport didn’t seem so bad after the whole no electricity thing. There were also no anchor obstacles to avoid, so this was a positive! There were literally anchors all along the beach and in the sea, and I know this is what you expect when there are boats but when there is no light it’s a minefield, and Emily seemed to be drawn to them. I think the word Anchor was probably my most used word during my time in the Perhentians!
Anyway, we were waving goodbye to island life in the Perhentians and hello to city life in Penang.
Ooo I nearly forgot, Emily was awaiting her results for her case exam (the final exam in the ACA qualification) and they were due to be sent at 12pm English time so 7pm Malaysia time. Our flight was supposed to leave at 6:30pm but was delayed and we were still taxiing to the runway at 6:50pm, there was a horrible tense 30 minutes where we didn’t know whether Emily would get the results before we took off or have to wait another hour or so to get them, captured below.
Luckily, she received the results as the pilot fired up the engines and there was a big fat P! Meaning she had passed the final exam and was now a qualified accountant. I was so happy and relieved for her, having done the same thing finishing in December 16 I knew how she was feeling. I was also super relieved… I don’t do well with upset crying people!
Congratulations Emily two qualifications achieved in one week!
Final thought, diving may not be great for your appearance…
Penang adventures to follow ?