Saturday, June 30, 2012

Life as a Dive Master @ Turtle Bay Divers


Our day started early on the island. At 7am, there is a power cut. Even though there are 2 huge wind mill installed on the island, there are just for display, we still run on generator. Fan stopped working, I am awaken but still needed another 30 minutes to roll around in the bed. By 7:30am, I have to get up in order to start work at 7:45am.

At the dive shop, we read from the huge white board what is going on for the day. Some of us need to be in Turtle Bay Divers @ Mama(Big Island) and some of us @ Long Beach. Those who needs to be at Mama, the boat leaves at 8am. We have to pack our dive gear and all we need for the day to bring to Mama. We will be diving off Mama and work till 6pm. We arrive at Mama and first thing is to setup our divers equipments. In Mama, the shop is smaller and it is much quieter and relax.

For those who are diving off Long Beach, first we check the divers' forms to find out about our divers' dive experience and setup their dive gear. Once that is done, we sit down and have our breakfast. We have time till the divers arrive at 8:30am. We will ask all the divers to check their gear to ensure everything is ok before we start our dive briefing.

Long Beach
Sometime we don't have to dive in the morning or the day, then we hang around the shop, help to clean the cups and the floor. When divers come back from diving, we make sure they have their tanks swop before the next dive or we make sure all dust caps are dried and closed before they dump it in the water. When there is really nobody, we sometime day dream staring at the beautiful white beach and blue sea. :-) We do get to do some fun dives when it is not busy. End of the day, we store all the rental equipment back into the room and change the water in the rinsing buckets.

Working as a dive master is fun when we have the passion for diving. Everyone who works here loves diving, most of us gave up our real job to be here. All we want to do is dives and be with the fishes. We enjoyed finding stuff and showing it to our customers. We enjoyed going to the same place to look for the same thing or discovering new things. We will talk about what we find and get excited about seeing even a 0.5mm nudibranch. We will search for the name and talk about it for days until the next new thing is discovered. I love my job! It is not too late now to enjoy what I do and to do what I enjoy. :-)

Of course it is not always fun and happy, sometime we have bad weather, it can be rain, choppy sea, strong current, low visibility, jelly fish, thermocline or sometimes bad divers!

There were few weeks where thermocline stayed in all the dive sites, we had low visibility plus cold temperature, we can't go deeper than 16m. Finding stuff became more difficult. T3 became like a freezer from 14m onwards, temperature drop from 29c to 24c. It was freezing for me!

During full moon, current picks up at most dive sites, new divers will definitely struggle in their dives. We have to manage the divers so they don't crash into coral and also manage their air consumption plus trying to show them stuff. :-( Phew!

For a few weeks in June, swamp of Jelly fish invaded some dive sites. They have long tentacle and stinger, doing safety stop or during decent is a big problem, some got stung and once I had to abort a dive.

Talking about bad divers, we get them everywhere. They come in all sorts of ways. Especially those who took their Open Water and never dive since or just pass their Open Water or just naturally not a water person. You get what I mean? We get divers who have no clue about buoyancy, they either go up or go down and unable to stop (these are classified as dangerous divers and our nightmare) others has problem with finning, either they are cycling or dragging their fins on the bottom, some suck 150 bar in less than 30 minutes (we called them air sucker), there are divers who doesn't respect the reef and divers who are in their own world all the time, it is hard to get their attention and keep them on our sight. Potential for "Dive Separation"!

We do get good divers and most of the time we had good time with them. We are happy when they are happy. Part of our responsibility is to show them some cool stuff and make sure they have a safe and enjoyable dive. I personally like photography, if I get divers with camera, I work harder to try to find them stuff. It makes our day when we have happy customers. :-)

At Turtle Bay Divers, we have 4 boats and we do 4 trips a day. First boat leaves at 9am, second trip at 11am is reserved for students, then 1pm and 3pm. Sometimes we have night dive that leaves at 7:30pm. We take maximum of 4 divers per dive, we do maximum of 3 day dives and sometimes 1 night dive. Normally happen when there is group booking who are doing 7 dives in 3D2N or 10 dives in 4D3N package. I often get them, good thing is we get to know how they dive after a day, bad thing is we are stuck with them for 3 to 4 days for good or for worse. :-(

We have about 15 dive sites around Perhentian Islands, top 3 dive sites are Pinnacle, Sugar Wreck and Terumbu Tiga(T3). My favorite is Terumbu Tiga (T3) because I get to find lots of nudibranches here. Others are nice as well for example Shark Point, we get to see Turtle and Black Tip Reef Shark quite often. Seabell is amazing when the visibility is good. Batu Layar has beautiful and healthy coral. D-Lagoon has the Jenkin Rays. Seahorse Drift is a hit and run dive, sometimes no seahorse and no current but sometime amazing stuff! We recently found a new muck dive site near Sugar Wreck, we found nudis, octopus, cuttlefish, seahorse, funny looking crabs, mantis and etc. We also takes turn to dive in Redang, we do 2 boat dives on a half day trip. Water are more blue and visibility is better, Terumbu Kiri is a good site to see turtle and school of silver bat fish.

We get 2 days off a month, but during these off days, we are not allow to dive, I think it’s good, it forces us to rest and recharged.

Other than diving, there are nothing much to do on the island. There are some treks up the hill and cross to the other side of the island that we can finish in 2 hours. We can go snorkelling or kayaking. At night, there are a few places to party, drink, chill or watch movie. Life is just simple and relax here. If only I can have a proper house to stay it would be perfect but I am not complaining. :-)

To view photos of Perhentian, click here :-

Turtle Bay Divers website :

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Working in Perhentian Island, Malaysia

It has been a long time since I have an oppotunity to write. I apologised for the long delay. That's because I didn't have a  laptop and I was off on a remote island in Malaysia working as a Dive Master. Yes I have been off my travelling trail for 3 months now but it is just a break in between. :-)

In April I went for some dives in Perhentian, an island located north east of peninsular Malaysia. This island is magical. I came here every year since 1997. It's my little paradise. At that point in time, I didn't have enough money to continue my travel to Africa, so I have to find a temporally job. I had 3 options, One, I was considering whether  to leave to South Africa in May and work as a volunteer in Botswana for a month, that will safe some cost while visiting the country. Two, find a temp job in Singapore for a month  then leave for South Africa in June. Three, work as a DM in Perhentian then leave for South Africa later. There are also other reasons behind that kept me back, it is still winter in Africa in June and I don't like cold. If I leave in June, I will finished my trip end of September, then it's a difficult time to find a job. Then I received message that  the volunteer job in Bostwana is available anytime of the year so that means I don't have to be there in May and well...who wants to go back to office work in Singapore so I  decided to stay and work as a Dive Master. :-) I got a job on the last day with Turtle Bay Divers so  that's how it  all begins.

At the beginning I just wanted to work for one month. I didn't know if I was able to take the long hour and hard core work. Work starts at 8am and finished not earlier than 6:30pm everyday, the first few days were physically tiring for me. I did 2 to 3 dives a  day and need to carry loads of tanks in and out of the water. I crashed at 9pm every night. As I was based in the  big island branch it was quiet and peaceful. I had a good night sleep every night but I still felt tired the next day. After a week, after getting a hang of it  I started to enjoy what I am doing. It started to feel like a holiday job. :-) But 2 weeks later, I had to moved to Long Beach branch in the small island. At the beginning I wasn't happy to move because Long beach is a party place, music is loud till 4am in the morning but the accomodation is cheaper so I really had to move in order to safe some money. The first few days were a night mare for me, I couldn't sleep with the loud music blasting till 4am in the morning, after a week eventually I got used to it.

Here at Turtle Bay Long Beach I met the rest of the team, we were 6 DMs and 7 Instructors. We are from all over the world, Turky, England, Germany, Norway, Spain, France and Malaysia. Everyone is friendly and the team spirit is good. I like it here too. We have 4 boats and 4 trips a day, starting from 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. Each boat can take between 7 to 12 divers. During a fully booked day, each DM will make 3 dives plus 1 night dive sometimes. We take care of a maximum of 4 divers per dive. Doing 4 dives is not a problem for me, what's tiring for me is having to take care of bad divers. :-) 

Diving has been good so far, I have seen Sargassum Frog fish, eagle rays, loads of Black tip reef sharks, loads of turtles, big school of barracudas and now on Pinnacle there is a Clown Trigger fish, my favourite fish. :-D My favourite dive site is Terumbu 3, a site that has loads of different nudis and loads of swimthru. Sometimes during my off day, I am allowed to go fun diving with my camera, I will always choose to go T3. 

Over the last 2 months I have made loads of dives, is nice to get paid for diving. :-) In May itself I did 56 dives, that's an average of 2 dives per day, on the 10th June 2012 I clocked my dive no. 1000. :-) We went out at 11:30pm and dove for 99 minutes over to the next day. I love this job so much but I do need to continue my travel too. :-( 

My plan now is to work till end of July, leave the island and start to do my training for Nepal trip in September. I would like to hike to Annapurna Base Camp and then visit Tibet if it is not too expensive. After Nepal, I will probably continue to Africa. Let's see how it goes. Stay tune!

To view photos of Perhentian, click here :-