Getting a PADI Open Water Diver Certification

I spent 5 days on Tioman Island in Malaysia getting certified for PADI’s Open Water Diver program.  PADI, Professional Association of Diving Instructors, is the largest internationally recognized diving association.  The Open Water Diver course is the entry level course for anyone who wants to learn how to scuba dive.

There are three components to the course: theory, confined pool sessions, and open water dives.  Normally, you do the theory and pool sessions first at your own pace, and then do a trip for the open water dives.  However, since I did not want to waste much time in Singapore, I decided to do all three components at once in one trip.  We went with B&J Diving Center, which I highly recommend.  Our instructor Gery was very chill and funny, but he was also a great teacher.  He made us feel very relaxed, and he would be very patient with us when we did not do something correctly.  We completed the course in a total of 3.5 days.  We started our days at 9am and ended at around 6pm, with an hour lunch break in between.

We did the course in Tioman Island, which is an island off of the east coast of the Malaysia peninsula. From Singapore, it was a 3 hour bus ride to a town in Malaysia called Mersing, and then a 2 hour ferry ride from there.  Tioman Island was really beautiful.  It had gorgeous water and beaches like when I went to Phuket in Thailand, but minus all the tourists that came with it.

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We stayed in a really peaceful area on the island called Air Batang (ABC).  It only had one road, which was only the width of a sidewalk.  When you heard a motorcycle coming from either direction, you have to walk to the side to let it pass.

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On the first day, we arrived at the island at 3pm.  We met our instructor, Gery, and the first thing we did was a swimming test where we treaded in water for 10 minutes in the deep pool.  We also picked out some of our equipment, like wetsuits, goggles, snorkel, and fin.

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The pool was quite small, but it had a shallow end and a deep end (2+ meters)

We also got book that we had to study for the theory component of our course.  The book had five chapters, and we took a quiz after each chapter.  It wasn’t too bad of a read, and it was quite important since there are many safety concerns that arise when you are 15 meters deep underwater!  There was a final test at the end, where we had to get over 75% to pass.

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On the second day, we did the first three pool sessions.  First, we learned about the functionalities of each part of our equipment, and how to put it together and apart. The air tank that you have on your back is super heavy, so it’s quite a pain to walk around with your equipment on.  Thankfully, the pain dissipates once you get in the water, since you can inflate your vest (BCD) to float on water.

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The heavy air tanks

During the pool sessions, we practiced many skills that we needed to know when diving.  One of the most important things is to know what to do in emergency situations, such as if you run out of air.  In this case, you have to tell your ‘buddy’ that you ran out of air, and breathe from their air tank using their equipment.  Since we can’t talk underwater, we had to understand and know how to use many hand signals for communication.

On the third day, we did the last two pool sessions and one dive.  This dive was not from a boat, rather, we walked into the ocean from shore.  On the fourth day, we did three dives, two of which from a boat.

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Setting up our gear on the boat

During the dives, we took the first 15-20 minutes doing skills and situations that we had already practiced in the pool.  After this, we took the next 30 minutes to explore.  The two dives from the boats had beautiful reefs.  We saw nemos (clownfish) in their anemone, barracudas, turtles, and so many other fish that I do not know the name of.  It was a beautiful sight, and it felt like I was flying over the reefs and swimming with the fish!  Unfortunately we did not have a GoPro, so we could not take any pictures underwater.

However, the two dives we took from the shore had very poor visibility.  We could only see about 3 meters ahead of us, so it was really important to stay close and not lose the group.

Although the two dives from the boat had much better visibility, the boat ride itself and doing two dives was exhausting.  We rode out for an hour, did a dive, rode back for another hour, and did another dive.  The boat was very rocky, especially when it was stopped, and I got quite seasick by the time before our second dive.  I would definitely not recommend scuba diving to someone who gets nauseous easily.  Luckily, everyone on the boat was really friendly, and they aided us when we needed help carrying our equipment, putting away our weights, or switching air tanks.  The seasick-ness also got better when we started diving, since you can’t feel waves very much when you are underwater.

After the tiring days of being in the water, we would relax and have barbeque fish or chicken for dinner.  Surprisingly, the island had really good food.  This was really fortunate, since we would be very hungry after a long day of diving!

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Fruits and crepe for breakfast

Everyone on the island was so friendly, including our instructor, the restaurant owners, and the hotel owner, which made the trip feel very homey.  I recommend going to Tioman Island, even if not to scuba dive!