My 3rd dive at Renggis Island, off Tioman. July 1982
I was 16 when I first scuba-dived. It was the time when tanks were heavy made of steel, no BCD, no alternate air source (Octopus), no air pressure gauge. The tanks had J-Valve on them with a little yoke on the left for you to yank for some spare air in emergency. The only way for you to know you are out of air is when you suck in the regulator and all you get is nothing. So, you yank the yoke for emergency air and make your way to the surface. The only gauge available then was the depth gauge; all readings were in Imperial units. Decompression sickness was not something that would come to your mind as it was 1982 – it would be 3 full years before PADI’s recreational dive planner became a must. On the surface you would have to kick continuously until you could grab a hold of the boat else you would sink back to the bottom because of the heavy tank. And after I left the military service, I stopped diving altogether, and concentrated more on skydiving.
If it weren’t for that episode where I was interned in a coronary intensive care unit at the Damansara Specialist Hospital back in 2004, I would not have taken up scuba diving as a hobby. As a result of my heart condition then, I was advised by the cardiologist to take up something I might find relaxing and that would have a calming effect on me. I was stressed at work, and I was stressed at home. I had to have a vent somewhere before my heart would give up on me. A year later, I even got my eldest daughter, who was 13 then, to take up scuba diving. And it was at the Perhentian Island where she did her open water course and first dived at a site called Teluk Kerma (more popularly known as D’Lagoon after the only resort on the beach facing the lagoon). My final dive of that trip was at Tukun Laut (known by its more popular name – Tokong Laut), which to me is still the best dive site anywhere in Malaysia. After that trip, my cardiologist took me off Cordarone, the medication to help regulate my arrhythmia. I had found my stress-buster.
My daughter, Hana, during her open water course. Next to her is Fazira, then 10 years old
When I started dating my wife, Jasmeen, early last year, several people told me that she is not the outdoor-type and would never bask in the sun, let alone scuba dive. As a matter of fact, she never even jumped into the pool during our first trip together with friends to PD. Then one night, while being under the influence of some drinks made of wheat and grape extracts, our friend Gemgem, made us promise to go on a trip to Tioman, and I was to do all the necessary arrangements. Of course, when much sober, Gemgem denied saying he would pay for all flight and accommodation costs that were to be incurred. His luck improved when all accommodation on Tioman on the planned weekend, were fully-booked. So, we switched destination to Perhentian. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after my first dive of that trip, I couldn’t get into the room because she was missing. Apparently, she had gone snorkeling with the rest. Now, that was one giant leap for the pampered-kind. Subsequent trips turned her into a “snorkel-master” but still, never enough to coax her to take the plunge into the deep.
The group during the first Perhentian trip – end May 2008
For our honeymoon, we returned to Perhentian with my sister, Nazra, and her husband, Kazu. I had promised my wife that I would go snorkeling with her on that trip. Then, one afternoon, as we were resting in the room, she said she would like to try scuba-diving. A very quick lesson on discovering scuba and correct usage of equipments followed and I took her underwater to 6 meters at the house reef, and I think she loved watching the juvenile batfishes sheltering in between the artificial reef structures. I think that made her wanting to pursue a course proper.
Wifey taking her first plunge doing Discover Scuba during our honeymoon
Last weekend, both she and her long-time friend and ex-schoolmate Dalina, took the open water diver course. The latter’s husband, Renek, is already a dive buddy of mine, having dived together on several trips to Tioman, Mabul and Sipadan. They did their four open water dives at the Tiga Ruang, Batu Kapal/Shark Point, D’Lagoon, and Batu Nisan dive sites, with Renek and I accompanying them at all sites.
Wifey and Dalie during their first open water dive at Tiga Ruang
I finally got to buddy with my wife at Tukun Laut on her fifth dive, where she did her Adventure Deep Dive (to allow her to dive deeper than the open water limit of 18 meters without having to undergo the full Advanced Open Water course). After she had done her narcosis management exercise, I guided her around to show her things. We saw ‘Tripod’ – the three-flippered Hawksbill Turtle, a resident of Tukun Laut, Bamboo Sharks, lots of Snappers, and even the huge resident Titan Triggerfish. But I got to show her two things that she had wanted to see the most: the Boxfish, and the Tomato Anemone Fish. I remember looking at her face, smiling with delight when she saw that cute boxfish swimming around but going nowhere. It seemed surreal to me as it was my own wife I was guiding. I never thought I would live to see this day, that my own wife would be diving with me.
Wifey on the surface before her first deep dive at Tukun Laut
Back on the boat, I told her how much I love her and how truly proud I am of her, and how she has disproved the notion that she is a softie. She smiled with tears of joy welling at the corner of her eyes.