“Vern, the email is out! Jom!”
My would-be dive buddy Bib, who’s also sitting next to me at work called out when she received the email from our company sports club. We’ve been planning to dive together for awhile now, and since places are limited, we signed up within the same minute the email was shot out. I was partly nervous, as I haven’t been diving since I first got my license about a year and a half ago – I wasn’t sure if I still remember the basic skills.
You see, diving is a team sport – because more often that not you’re diving in a group. At the very least, it involves you and your buddy. So the last thing you want to be is a hazard to everyone who’s diving with you. But little did I know, that it wasn’t my diving skills that I was supposed to be worried about – but the fact that the Eastern winds have blown to Redang Island a couple days before we arrived would soon make things quite interesting for the rest of us.
Here’s a quick recap of my time there:
I knew nobody in the bus that would bring us to Merang Jetty. My buddy decided to go ahead and meet us at the jetty, so it was just me. I felt like the transfer student who was at her first day in her new school. Everyone knew everybody. Nobody knew me. Oh wait, that’s the guy who works at my floor. Crap, I don’t even know his name. Well done, Vern, so much for having a life outside your cubicle. Even Dilbert’s shaking his head at you.
We departed on Wednesday night, and arrived at the jetty the next morning. Checked in at Seamonkey Dive Center, freshened up and our first dive was at 2.00 pm. There were a total of 29 leisure divers, and all of us were diving at the same spot, the same time. We got up this large boat (which would soon become my arch nemesis) and headed to our first dive spot. Unfortunately, the current and surge were so strong, and visibility was a mere 2-3 meters that we found ourselves swimming in ‘sharks fin soup’. The only memorable thing we saw in that dive was a huge lump of squid egg, where the divemaster just scooped up for us to see (I’m not sure if that’s legal). Luckily the depth was less than 10 meters, as I lost sight of my dive mates after an attempt to clear my mask, and decided to ascend to the surface. And next thing I knew, the strong waves made my stomach churn and whatever I had for lunch became fish food.
Things did not improve when we got back onto the boat, though. The wait for everyone to ascend was long and excruciating. After purging whatever that was left of my gut, I soon found myself perched at the front deck of the boat (along with others where we call ourselves “Kelab Mabuk”) like a dead fish and hoping to reach the shores soon.
The good news was, I made new friends. Yay!
I did one out of three dives on the second day, which was the first one in the morning at a dive site that surrounds a giant reef. Visibility improved slightly, and we managed to catch sight of various clown fish (including blue lip anemone), a giant grouper, some nice coral reefs, couple of nudi’s, giant clams. My dive buddy took all the pictures underwater with my camera as I wanted to focus on getting used to the water, so all those pretty underwater photos you see in this post are taken by her. The visibility isn’t as clear as what you see in the photo below – I’ve done some editing to do some justice to these fishes.
Currents were really strong in this dive, and we often found ourselves kicking hard but going nowhere. When we surfaced, we were quite far from our boat, and therefore we had to drift along the strong waves for a while – which meant that seasickness struck me for the second time. My breakfast became fish breakfast, and the wait on the boat was even longer this time around. By the time we headed to shore to change our tanks, I was defeated and decided to sit out the next two dives of the day. It was a huge blow to my ego for bowing out so soon, but screw ego – I was here for a holiday and I wasn’t really having much fun. Thankfully though, according to my friends, I didn’t miss much as visibility didn’t improve much in those dives.
I spent the rest of the day getting to know more people (especially those that sat out from the third dive) and became a Monopoly Deal instructor for the rest of the night. The lack of entertainment on this part of the island forced us to socialize – which was a good thing because I finally found out the names of those who have been working on the same floor as me.
To be honest, I had no more will to do anymore diving for the rest of the trip. Each time I looked at the boat, I was already defeated. Others who keep telling me that it’s not worth the
vomit trouble convinced me that I was better off staying onshore. But something within me just wouldn’t let it go. I’m not the kind who gives up so soon – I could at least make one dive and sit the last oen out. The divemaster told me that the dive this morning should be better, and they were bringing us to Che Isa, supposedly the highlight of Redang. Thankfully, my dive buddy did not give up on me, and continued to urge me to go. And I’m glad I did, because for the first time in three days, visibility was great, and the moment we descended we saw a big stingray resting on the seabed, and as we dove a little further, we were greeted with this:
Now this photo did not require much editing. The colors are just as vivid and beautiful in real life. Next thing we knew, we were surrounded by a school of fish (that I couldn’t identify). I experienced mild seasickness when we got back onto the boat, and while it wasn’t as bad as the first two episodes, I decided it was time to call it a day. Funnily enough, many decided to do that too. The last one was a wreck dive, but based on the photos from my friends, I was glad I didn’t make it.
I played volleyball for the first time in the evening with some other guests, just to find out that they were there for a movie shoot (the actor is apparently really famous in the local scene – for fans: Remy Ishak), and ended the night with some really long philosophical talk with my new friends and one of the dive masters. You know, the recurring theme that you’ll encounter with other dive masters: giving up your day job to pursue something you really like.
The talk ended at almost 2.00 am and we woke up at 6 to catch the sunrise. The moment was slow, quiet, and nothing short of magical. I thought about the majestic underwater life I’ve seen, the seasick episodes I had to endure, the dive buddy that never gave up on me, the new friends I’ve made (and a kindred spirit that I’ve found), and I knew at that moment, that when I go back to the city of bright lights, everything was going to be okay.
As assured by my fellow clownfish.