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The Best Dive Centre in Egypt!

For 4 years running, Diving & Discovery Centre in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, has won the Best Dive Centre Award given by the South Sinai government. I was truly impressed by the service rendered & the entire crew demonstrated utmost professionalism & offered individual & personalised attention to each of us.

Watch this video as I go around with Raffaele Vallano, the owner of Diving & Discovery Centre to see the facility offered by at their outlet in Iberotel Club Fanara Resort in Sharm El Sheikh!

And look at what they offer as a full-service dive centre!

I had my entire gear washed & rinsed by members of Raffaele’s excellent team who made sure I didn’t have to lift a finger except to pack it back into my luggage on the day of my departure. Now this is what I call, service beyond excellence!

They can be reached here at this link:- Diving & Discovery

Guang Ming Daily’s Take on Coral Bleaching

Following the topic I’ve posted on coral bleaching here, Guang Ming Daily, a Chinese newspaper, had picked up the news to be translated & explained to the Chinese-reading audience. Subsequently, it was also picked up by the editors of the mainstream media & a collaborative story was done when we went to film the sites & conducted interviews with operators affected by the dive site closure. Once the story is published, then links will be highlighted here too.

Just click on the image for a larger view if you can read Chinese.

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Category: Event, Issues, SCUBA  One Comment

Wonderful World of Mabul!

The cloud of silt smoked wispily from beneath the crab. If it hadn’t been the medium of water, you would think the crab’s bottom was on fire. Hovering closer to take a look, I realised that it was using its hind legs to sift the sand to get to its prey, the Sea Biscuit urchin! Every year, I dedicate one trip to a far-off destination, to capture creatures that would completely blow my mind such as this funny crab. Seeing someone upside down, filming a scuttling crab with its morsel must have been quite a sight for the creatures. During night dives, especially in sites where there are plenty of sea urchins, there is no telling what you might hit when you are concentrating on your subject and the only source of light. I didn’t collide with anything and thank goodness for that.

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Check out the video!

Spending 5 days on the oil rig resort called Seaventures was pure bliss. Located off the island of Mabul in Sipadan, our ”˜escape’ route was down the ocean below, lowered by the elevator that accommodates 7 people at a time. We had a great crew serving us while having the time of our lives when we sieved out the bizarre residents below the rig.

On the night that we arrived, it coincided with Mid Autumn Festival for the Chinese, what we fondly call ”˜Mooncake Festival.’ According to what Ive been told as a kid, this festival is about a rebellion of the current rulers of China then….commemorating an uprising in China against the Mongol rulers of the Yuan Dynasty (1280”“1368) in the 14th century. They devised a plan to time the rebellion to coincide with the Mid Autumn Festival. Permission was sought from the emperor to distribute thousands of moon cakes to the Chinese residents. These mooncakes, seemingly to bless the longevity of the Mongol emperor, contained the uprising message inscribed on the cake itself! Though Wikipedia stated a different story of a piece of paper with a message ??????? – Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the 8th month, that’s inserted into the mooncake, I was told it was inscribed. The rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government on that night and the Ming Dynasty was established soon after. I associate lanterns to this festival because I used to lit them up on nights leading to this day when I was a kid. Prior to being in Mabul, I bought 18 paper lanterns, packed them in my suitcase and on that night, we lit them up and hung them with the help of the crew and other guests in the resort……TA DA…!

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We averaged about 4 dives a day, taking as much in as I could with one of my strobes doing the disco light on me all of a sudden. Disabling that I resorted to one strobe & one light instead. Great weather greeted us when we arrived, stormy weather in between, reminded us of nature’s fury as we scrambled to grab our things off the tables into shelter. Just as the most difficult times in the most difficult of situations, the storm will pass and the rainbow is a reminder of not only God’s promise but that the sun will shine again.

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Footnote:- Over the next few days, I will blog about the things I’ve seen. I have to get ready for yet another assignment next week which would see me in another part of Indonesia. Till I find some time to upload the videos, you can follow me on Twitter for real time updates!

Spearhunting The Real Coral Killers

Coral bleaching is NOT caused by human impact and pollution. It is caused by weather phenomenons. So why has the authorities announced dive site closures to revive the bleached corals?

Coral bleaching is the whitening of corals due to the expulsion of algae ”“ the food manufacturing processors that reside in corals by way of photosynthesis. This can be caused by a number of weather phenomenon triggers, most commonly a rise in water temperatures. Bleached corals are not yet dead.

The rise of surface temperatures in the water is caused why the El Nino weather patterns. El Nino is only one part of the Southern Oscillation. The counterpart to this coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon is La Nina, usually expected from November to January, often has reverse effects to El Nino. La Nina conditions would see a drop in ocean temperatures by several degrees, causing algae to return to corals.

I’ve witnessed a similar occurrence in 1997 and was diving in pleasantly warm waters until 1999 when La Nina brought the cold fronts of about 21 ”“ 23 degrees Celsius back to our waters and giving the algae the much desired environment to thrive in. We had 95% recovery and I believe, we will have a recovery as soon as the water temperatures in the region begin to drop.

El Nino has been around for centuries and has nothing to do with global warming ”“ it can enhance the effects of El Nino but it is not the cause. This is something that divers have known since encountering it during its last occurrence. Global warming is an atmospheric condition whereas El Nino occurs when the gush of warm waters spreads from the west Pacific and the Indian Ocean to the east Pacific.

What has it got to do with divers diving near coral reefs? If we were grazing corals or mowing them, then perhaps the closure is apt but divers hover way above the corals to avoid collision and injury to animal and man. Whether there are divers present or not, the coral will remain bleached until the cold waters (fronts/currents) are brought in by La Nina, which might or might not revive the bleached reef in time. These factors are not related to the impact of divers.
bleached coral

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healthy corals

So what will the dive sites closure achieve? You would think that the authorities would do some research on coral bleaching before making such a drastic move that causes livelihoods to suffer. The Maldives, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia are experiencing the same but they are not jeopardising the tourism trade because of a weather phenomenon.

The efforts of the authorities to close dive sites will bring about dire consequences to the trade depending on dive tourism. Travel agents will stop selling/pushing the sales of dive resorts and packages for fear of getting flak from irked divers. This being said, agents who are not divers, will think it’s probably a blanket closure, not knowing where in the map is Chebeh, Labas, Tulai, Washing Machine, Fish Bowl and whatnots are at (dive sites’ names). They will err on the safe side by NOT selling dive packages.

This effect caused by the announcement has also reverberated to overseas travel agents (who also have no idea where Chebeh, Labas, Tulai, Washing Machine, Fish Bowl are) and they will be less inclined to sell diving and worse of all ”“ they are removing a source of civilian detection of “crime” at seas.

Let me give you an example of what goes on in the islands. Illegal spearhunters will plunder our dive sites and take those resident fishes that have grown accustomed to divers’ presence in the water leaving dive instructors like us with no attractions to show our students when visiting our reefs. When something like this happens, divers from different dive operators who witness the incident, would take photos and warn them to get off the site.

One such incident occurred and divers collaborated to chase the spearhunters’ boat off their territory. Several years ago, it was well-known that Kevin Hiew, the former Head of Marine Parks, detained a spearhunter in Redang waters who was also the owner of one of the resorts in Redang itself. He was prosecuted and fined for spearhunting in marine parks.

If you hold a speargun without a gun license, you are liable to be prosecuted under the Firearms Act 1971. The police have stopped the issuance of these licenses in 1985, with the minimum age set at 21 years to qualify to apply for one then. What age would you have to be now, if you are to be even seen as a legal owner? Make no mistake about this as we are not against spearhunting but against “spearhunting using SCUBA” in the vicinity of marine parks. We shall not go into the specifics of this now as spearhunting is a subject that’s been debated for years.

The presence of dive boats will also deter the encroachment of illegal and legal fishing boats from fishing too close to the marine parks demarcated sites. Regardless of whether they hold the “A” or “C” class fishing license, these fishing boats will anchor in the vicinity, causing untold damage to corals beneath. The Marine Parks and the Fisheries Department do not have sufficient manpower, boats to survey and enforce laws thus, are very much dependent upon dive operators to report and confirm sightings of spearhunters/illegal fishing boat in the area.

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clown fish bleached corals

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Lighthouse at Tokong Timur, Tenggol

A 100 metre well was dug in Tenggol bay, followed by a lighthouse built on Tokong Timur. What kind of crowd are they expecting to accommodate from this source of fresh water? Word has it that a jetty is being planned ”“ which means a flurry of boats would be making their way inwards to the bay where there’s a thriving house reef and divers learn to dive. They have constructed a jetty on Pulau Bidung already, much to the ire of divers and conservationist of Pulau Bidung. The island is not opened to the public, so what is the jetty built for?

Jetties alter the current flow that brings vital nutrients and sunlight to the reefs. Seabeds are dug deep and corals are killed in the process.

Is the construction of any structure legal in marine parks? Or does it fall within the jurisdiction of district councils and land offices?

Wouldn’t you want to know if this is just a way of removing the crowd so that no one can protest after such structures are built?

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bleached corals

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This article is also published in LoyarBurok.com

Malaysia in 24Hrs – Underwater Sceneries

Founded by Stephen Ronee Lau in 2008, this project was initially doubted & scorned by skeptics. The participation fee of RM50 was deemed too much by cynics who cast off this initiative as a scam. Stephen is the brainchild behind the branding of Aquaria KLCC’s programs and their first coffee-table book. His concepts in events and mind-map training have earned him a reputation of being a trendsetter. When he approached me to ask for my participation in submitting 20 underwater images for the digital album DVD, I didn’t hesitate. Though the deadline had been extended several times due to insufficient number of images, that didn’t deter Stephen and the rest of us in believing what he could do with it.

On 6 March 2010, this event was launched at the National Art Gallery by the Deputy Minister of Natural Resource & Environment with an exhibit ion of 42 participants’ work, one of each selected from the portfolio submitted for this program. We were given a certificate of appreciation for our work as each one was called to the stage to receive it from the Minister. Even the participants themselves couldn’t believe that such opportunities existed in a simple submission of their photos. It was to be displayed for a month but the Minister announced that it be made a permanent exhibit as Stephen presented all 42 pieces, bound & framed, to the National Art Gallery. I was told a month prior to this launch to be present and being the first of its kind in Malaysia and for the dive industry, I told Stephen that I would not miss it for the world. I even told a dear friend who is no longer here, that it would mean so much to me if I could share the moment but who am I to warrant the time of bigwigs with their heroic deeds? I am just a small fry in the ocean looking out for other small fries not wanting to be eaten before our time.

Well, my little moment of recognition came with the presence of my dear friends who made it in their finest attire to grace and celebrate the event with me since my family could not. Thank you, Heanna, Er-Win, Jia Li, Wong & friend. Your support had been tremendously uplifting.

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Picture courtesy of Bahaman Hashim.

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I can finally say I’m exhibited in the National Art Gallery!!! 😀

ISO Meeting TC228WG1 in Orlando, Florida

I made it to the meeting! The who’s who, who does what’s what in the world of diving were all there in the Orange County Convention Centre in Orlando. I enjoyed the food. Burnt a lot of brain cells talking and convening in the meeting as it challenged my somewhat limited knowledge in technical diving, being a recreational dive instructor. Despite calls to take up technical diving professionally, I still want to maintain my status quo. Two days of intensive debate and discussion. One for Malaysia. We put in the bid to host the next meeting in November 2010. Let’s see what happens then!

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RSTC hosted lunch & dinner! Thank you, Julie!

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Bali Unlimited!

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The Damai…..

It’s a long hiatus and one that was not intended to be. Almost as soon as I complete a trip, I had to pack and go somewhere else. Back in July, I was blessed with the grand prize for a lucky draw in renewing my subscription to SDAA magazine and I won an 8days/7nights ALL_GIRLS trip to dive Bali’s most luxurious liveaboard, The Damai in September. What an amazing gift from God!

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Volcano – Mount Agung

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The back of The Damai….

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Massage decks

Built in Indonesia to a length of 33 metres by 8 metres wide, it’s a villa on water! With a cruising speed over 8 knots, this beauty accommodates only 8 divers in private cabins with queen or king sized beds and shower with bath tubs! The best thing I liked about this boat was the individual workspace for camera gears! There were two masseurs onboard to give massages anytime of the day or night! Two feeder boats would be used to send us out to the dive sites from the mothership. Navigating from the south at Benoa Harbour in Tanjong Benoa, we cruised all the way north to Menjangan after one dive in Nusa Penida’s SD Point.

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Camera Area…..

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My bed!

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From left:- Sol, Ping, Lorenzo, me, Meijin, Mei.

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Periclemenes soror (shrimp) in blue morph

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Scorpion leaffish

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Huge commensal shrimp on anemone & sand dollar!

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Coconut Octopus retracting into shell & using can top to close the opening.

Menjangan is so beautiful and not many people have dived there at night simply because of the distance to the mainland and the ground considered sacred by the locals. With the access by liveaboard, we were able to recce some areas never dived before at night!!! Currents were swift, and before when people tell me about the Bali currents, I used to shrug it off but I’m telling you, the currents are some of the swiftest I’ve ever encountered! I was in my shorts & thermal vest, every metre I drifted in the dark, away from the beam of my torch was an astounding alert as seafans, huge soft corals & hard reefs emerge from nowhere for me to avoid in a matter of seconds! If a shark had been nearby, it would’ve detected my rapid pulses from breathing deeply and swerving to avoid collision. Amidst all that flying underwater, I managed to take some fantastic shots while grabbing onto a rock. I must say it was the most amazing night dive ever!

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Got this Emperor Shrimp & Crab on a Sea Cucumber!!!

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Lionfish on the hunt…

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Dendronephtya sp. soft corals

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Huge Scorpionfish!

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Spider Crab

Surely Menjangan had to be the best dive site in Bali! We went on to dive Puri Jati, Amed, Tulamben, Liberty Wreck, Seraya Secrets & back to Nusa Penida. The water condition at Nusa Penida was dangerous and after attempting to dive to see the Mola Molas, we aborted due to extreme conditions unfit for diving.

I spent 5 nights on The Damai, diving to my heart’s content with 4 other girls who coincidentally, were all of Chinese descent! Mei & Ping are Malaysian Chinese residing in Singapore, Sol is Chinese Singaporean, Mei Jin is Shanghainese and I’m Nyonya Hokkien who doesn’t speak a word of Hokkien! The following 2 nights were spent in a luxurious villa in Bali called Villa Casis, where we returned to after we shopped and roamed the streets of Legian. The bathtub was handmade in an egg-shape which enclosed me entirely. The room overlooks the pool.

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The Villa Casis

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The bathroom

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The bath tub….

Returning home with tons of pictures, great dive experiences & having met great friends over those 8 days was like a dream come true. Thank you for making this possible, Alberto (owner of The Damai) & Scuba Diver Australasia Magazine!!! 😀

Magical Muck of Lembeh!

Frantic is a word synonymous to my packing and getting ready for each trip involving Air Asia. No doubt that it has enabled me to go many places that I hadn’t been before, one of them being Manado in North Sulawesi, a mountainous area and landing point to Lembeh Island where I was to spend eight blissful days diving in the Lembeh Straits. Known for the weirdest and most bizarre creatures, some say that if they were live-sized, they would make great monsters in alien movies!

Armed with the housed LX3, my bag had some serious arsenal. On a mission to track down the weediest of the weedies, hairiest of the hairies and deadliest of the spikeys, I was not going to leave Lembeh’s volcanic seabed unturned. And some European divers sure took my unspoken mission literally by kicking up a storm of black sand when they piled on the weights without sufficient buoyancy control in the water. My Flamboyant Cuttlefish was smogged by the powdery soot as soon as I began filming the undulating iridescence on the torso. My first sighting so I wasn’t going to be drawn into a midwater commotion.


The sea urchins here are bright & colourful but deadly and I wasn’t going to sit on one anymore. Examining each one for tenants became a preoccupation on every dive, only to have me surfacing to ask the Divemaster, Ramli for Udang, Ketam & Cacing!

A predominantly Christian population in Manado, I managed to climb over several mountains to get to the local church. Plagued by a persistent cough before I got there, I was severely drugged in between dives.

Almost every creature that we had wanted to see was shown to us by our beloved Ramli.

Without further wasting another minute, here are the bizarre creatures of Lembeh….

The comical Box Crab…..

The hideous but colourful version of the Devil Scorpionfish

Look at the grain of the sand, this Hairy Frogfish is only about 6cm…..

Redang Rendezvous

Immediately after the dive expo, my dive season kicked off with a trip to model for an award-winning underwater photographer, Lawrence Alex Wu. The trip gave me an opportunity to test my 10Bar underwater housing for the Lumix LX3 prior to my Manado trip days after I got back.

Five blissful days testing and being directed for a change while having some eventful dives with the PADI Course Director, Vincent Toh, made it more hilarious than ever. With the great visibility of 30m and beyond, we made up hand signals as we went along, which was quite innovative on our part considering we’d never been so far apart to take those shots!

I had fun with my new setup but if you want to see work done by Alex, please visit here.

Some of the pictures taken with the LX3:-

Better Late Than Never…

On the first weekend of July, after preparing the opening speech for the President, I was told that he couldn’t attend the opening ceremony. The Vice President was away, making me the next in line as the Honorary Secretary to deliver the keynote address.

It’s a different feeling altogether when you get to be on the platform of the ministers and those whom you helped steer the dive industry.

Having been involved for most of my life in building the dive industry has somewhat given me the assurance that it will be here to stay and that our youth spent on a passion is not lost at all. Here’s a picture taken with the Tourism Ministry after the press conference of the opening ceremony…..

There will always be issues surrounding people in the dive industry, more so if they are doing well. I’ve come to accept the fact that there’s no stopping what others might say about you, be it good or bad but track record would prove them otherwise.

I’m happy the way issues have turned to my favour. God has blessed me with a lucky draw of an 8day/7nights luxurious liveaboard Bali trip and many new friends. Launching back into my first love after a long break has given me a newfound sense of belonging in the sport, a refreshed spirit and a renewed passion.

     

Category: Event, SCUBA  Leave a Comment

Autograph and Endorsement

Hans & Lotte Hass

Yesterday I received something in the mail from Jack Lavanchy in Switzerland. The President & founder of PADI Europe sent me a photo personally autographed by Hans Hass & his wife, Lotte Hass. It is truly an honour to be granted this request made during the time I spent convening on the formulation of ISO (International Standards Organisation) Standards on Diving in Vienna, Austria. Jack & Hans are both 90 years of age.

Hans significant achievements and advances have made him a pioneer for both scuba divers and the environment of the ocean. Authored books & made even more documentaries of the ocean, he has received a string of awards in his lifetime, making him the most celebrated living legend while Jack founded PADI Europe 25 years ago & spreaded the dive community to Maldives, parts of Egypt, the European countries excluding Scandinavia and Great Britain as well as French West Indies.

Although the rescue has taken up much of my time, the surrounding issues deserve an equal amount of attention as we believe we are approaching only the tip of the iceberg. People like to take sides because they only see what’s on the surface. Dig deeper, my friends, that’s what I’m trying to say. If one is compelled to defend one’s action in the press, there must be enough going-ons to get their goat. Too afraid of the truth that might bring down the ORG. That has never been our intention but some people see it fit to work in the background to collaborate & evict Sabrina from her farm. We know who it is & I don’t need to rant nor rave because evil-doers will have their day.

I’ve come this far to be a trainer, an educator & an ambassador for Malaysia in the international standards (ISO) for diving, I know what I stand for. I didn’t get here overnight. I didn’t get up the ladder by resorting to underhanded tactics nor by sleeping with people in power or coveting people’s husbands/property/status/position. I’m not self-righteous nor would I impose my principles upon others but people who act dumb when confronted with an act that they have committed just speaks volumes of who they are.

I will continue my profession as an instructor as I’ve received many enquiries on when I will resume my classes but this doesn’t mean that I will neglect the rescue. It’s what puts food on the table for me (and Rufus) and realistically, the rescuer shouldn’t need rescuing right??? (Jon & Lynn, I love your apple cakes, thanks for feeding us on our missions!!!)

I conduct private swimming & water safety lessons, alternating between my diving classes. Sometimes I’m commissioned to write about a destination when I travel so that pays my bills too. I’m not a broker who has made millions in the stock market & can sit around to be a lady of leisure. Heck, I can’t even sit still! Thank God for the might of the pen keyboard!!!

Money is only a means of to live & by no means, the only way to everything in life. At the time when I left my cheating fiancé, I was down to nothing but God saw me through it all. My dad always told me this when he was alive, it’s not a shame to be poor but it would be a shame if you sold your soul to get rich. Since I’ve committed everything to God, I have never been lacking in anything. All praises to Him. And like the autograph that I’d received from Jack yesterday, living my life in truth is an endorsement of honour which would keep me grounded in my principles for as long as I live.

Category: Issues, SCUBA  6 Comments

Vienna Calling The Movers & Shakers

At this very moment, I’m sitting on my bed in a cosy room of a hotel near the Austrian Standards Institute in Vienna. I’ve been bestowed with the task of representing Malaysia as a delegate to attend the ISO (International Standards Organisation) Standards Meeting for Diving, sent by the Technical Committee of SIRIM. Being in the working group of the first standards set, I’d been involved as part of the policy planning at the national level since 2005. I am so honoured to be sent here. It’s amazing how the whole system works when you get to the international level and meet all the movers and shakers of the dive industry around the world. It’s even more baffling that there are only two other females in the meeting and one of whom is an observer (no right to vote). 

Again, I was the youngest of the lot and as I thought of something intelligent to say when I was having breakfast with butterflies on the first day, the eventual meeting was only formal until I injected pummkinology into the proceedings. Whenever they had to concur on matters, it would be called as a ”˜unanimous decision of the participants,’ and when they glanced my way, I’d say, ”˜I”“nanimous”¦.U-nanimous”¦? We-nanimous???’ *Nod nod nod*  “Ok, we have wenanimously decided!”

Pam oh Pam, when will I ever learn to be serious? Don’t tell anyone but I think I had the most amount of fun in that two-day meeting. I have to submit a few reports when I get back. Even my BSAC instructor, Deric Ellerby, was present, obviously, because he wrote the BSAC manuals and was instrumental in building the industry!

When I return, I would have a lot of work to do. This would mean translating all the effects down to the dive operators and keeping them informed and hope, they will finally come together to a better tomorrow.

4th Redang International Clean Up Day 2008

No matter how many times I’ve been here before, Berjaya Redang Beach Resort has never failed to allure me to the tall swaying palm trees growing on the fringe of the beach. This amazing property has been built on its own private cove, away from any other development. Situated at the north of the island, Teluk Dalam is a bay that holds the romance for many a couple who chance upon the crystal blue waters in the Redang Archipelago. Every year since 2005, Berjaya Redang Beach Resort had been celebrating the seas held in conjunction with the Redang International Clean Up Day and Project AWARE. The dive centre has the PADI Gold Palm IDC Resort Centre status, which conducts regular Instructor Training Courses throughout the year.

Sitting onboard Berjaya Air’s Dash 7 Twin Otter plane, I was reassured with the cabin crew’s smiley face that the journey was going to be short and sweet and not bumpy as I had anticipated. Having flown in turbulent skies, I knew I could not fare that well above ground as I would be in water but Berjaya Air’s ground and cabin crew proved me wrong with the services rendered, making the experience from checking in my one ton equipment bag to boarding the plane, buckling up and landing, a very pleasant one that I forgot about my flying blues”¦. The flight took 1 hour and ten minutes as we sailed across the peninsula to the east coast through a patch of stormy clouds in Kuala Terengganu before breaking into blue and sunny skies. Summer is not quite over. 

Anticipating the arrival of 90+ divers the next day, we arrived a day ahead of the crowd, making sure there was ample time to set up our underwater video and camera gears for the initial testing on the first dive. We did the first dive off the house reef, checking out both the reef and the underwater camera housings. Between us, there were about 60kg of dive and photographic equipment. The General Manager of Reef Check Malaysia, Julian Hyde and his assistant, Ummi Haslinda, joined us for the dive to see what the house reef was all about. Project AWARE, an organisational focal point for IYOR 2008, is working with international governments, environmental and educational organisations to support initiatives that increase awareness about the value of coral reefs and reef ecosystems, increase understanding about coral reef threats and possible solutions and help implement improved management strategies, conservation and sustainable interactions with coral reef ecosystems. Reef Check is a methodological way of conducting reef surveys through the participation of volunteers who have been trained as Eco Divers. The team was present to conduct a talk as part of the effort of Redang International Clean Up Day 2008.

The following day of the event proper, when the hoards of divers arrived, they were quickly ushered to the Beach Restaurant for briefing and distribution of gift packs before lunch. Much to the disappointment of many regular participants of this event was the absent of the colourfully-designed emblem of Project AWARE T-shirt, which was somehow substituted by a Berjaya Corporate Polo T-shirt instead. The T-shirt is one of the most coveted piece in an event like this one especially it’s in the fourth year running. Many still kept it unwrapped in the hope of exchanging it for a project T-shirt in the future.

The dive centre was overflowing with people gearing up and preparing for their first dive of the day. With four to five boats at the floating wooden dock just outside the dive centre, everyone was getting armed and ready to pick up the menace of the reefs called Crown of Thorns. It’s a starfish capable of devastating corals if left unchecked as it devours huge areas of living colonies in the reefs. With all the good intentions of getting rid of this animal, there is a serious need at various sites while at some others, none at all. Moving the participants to action wasn’t the hard part but giving enough net bags and thongs for each of them is!

Before we launched the event, getting these enthusiastic, sporty people together to get a group photo was a feat for small cameras. To get everyone into view, at least three shots were obtained from left to right to stitch them into a panoramic photo. Photographers with mightier lens would have contained everyone in a single shot and just as soon as the pictures were taken, it marked the start of the Redang International Clean Up Day proper.

As divers gathered for the launch, non-divers gathered to clear debris off the island. Not that the island is littered badly but the rubbish littered by passing boats that is washed ashore by waves on different parts of the island warrants its own attention. Shutterbugs on land as well as underwater were snapping away to win the coveted prizes sponsored by Sony Malaysia. 

Last year, over 100 volunteers made up of a group of enthusiastic divers, professional divers and non-divers together with media groups from Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, United States and Germany participated in the Redang International Clean-Up Day, successfully collecting and removing a total of 707 ”˜crown-of-thorns’ starfish (Acanthaster planci), 31 fishing nets, 20 non-biodegradeable plastic traps and 80kg bags full of domestic waste from major dive sites at Mak Simpang, Chagar Hutang, Turtle Bay, Berjaya Redang House Reef and Bahagia Wreck. Non-diving participants and volunteers cleared up the beach area at Chagar Hutang and collected over 75 plastic bo ttles, 45 food containers, 35 individual fishing lines, 15 shoes, 10 styrofoam crates and 2 buoys. The amount of trash and debris collected sent an alarming message that there is more to be done to educate the public on the importance of marine conservation. At the time of publication, the total amount of rubbish and Crown of Thorns collected was not documented yet.

Berjaya Hotels & Resorts has joined hands with Reef Check Malaysia to commemorate the International Year of the Reef 2008. The main objective of this collaboration is to strengthen the awareness on ecological, economic, social and cultural value of coral reefs and associated ecosystems. A ”˜Reef Talk’ was conducted by Julian Hyde to enhance the understanding of critical threats to reefs and generate both practical and innovative solutions to reduce these threats. 

“It’s crucial for us to sound the alarm and send a message to the public on how easily humans can devastate the state of well-being of the environment. Aside from cleaning up Redang annually, we are also looking at promoting the island as one of the best diving destinations in Malaysia. There are more than 20 diving spots around the island; each spot with its myth and beauty to showcase. The resort houses a certified 5-Star PADI Gold Palm Instructor Development Centre which offers all levels of dive courses for both learning and advance divers. We believe everyone has a fair chance to experience the beauty which lies within the depths of the ocean.” says Mr. Sonny Lim, Assistant General Manager, Berjaya Redang Beach Resort. And what a resort it was! The newly constructed Hillside rooms had a perfect view of the ocean, unobstructed even with the presence of native tall palm trees. The rooms are equipped with bathtubs and a separate shower cubicle plus ample space of a walk-in wardrobe that shares the counter wash basin too. And with a king sized bed, I had more than enough room to share with my big, fluffy travel companion called Choffster. A highly recommended place to unwind and experience tranquil, resort atmosphere on these slopes.

The three days package we were on included accommodation in a twin-sharing room, 2 breakfast, 2 lunches and 2 dinners, coupled with 3 boat dives and a welcome gift pack and T-Shirt. The event had been endorsed by Project AWARE (dive industry’s leading non-profit organisation) and Malaysian Sport Diving Association (MSDA), aimed to cultivate and promote the importance of preserving and protecting the environment and ecological systems of Redang Island for the benefit of the future generation.

The two days of activities came to a close with the voting and selection of the winners of the photography competition. Kenneth Leong and Reynard Shoon took home the grand prizes of a Sony camera, Marine Pack and vouchers. Though many came with no expectations of what they would get out of a trip like this, everyone went home with a sense of fulfilment and the knowledge of having contributed in one way or another towards the betterment of the environment. 

Failing To Fear Is Not Failure At All


I spent 2 1/2 hours each day till 7:30pm from the time I was 10 to 16 years old to swim laps, sprint & long distance so that I can be on par with the National Swimmers who were training in the same pool and looking back, I don’t even know what all that training was for. The grueling timed laps made us hyperventilate so much, thus increased our lung capacity & reducing our fat content very quickly. I was 150cm when I was 10 years old & by the time I was 14, I was 168cm. In the span of 4 years, I shot up by 18cm and lost the width in the middle. Needless to say, by the time I was over with going for the gold, I was 172cm tall & within the next few years to adulthood, I shot up by another 3cm. These are some of the things that I couldn’t control.

In between the swimming training, I tried springboard diving, became a part of the first synchronise swimming team in Malaysia & got invited to perform all over KL. I don’t know how I got through secondary (high) school with the amount of extra curricular activities I had. Swimming was the anchor sport but then there was tennis, squash, golf, roller skating, jogging, track & field, volleyball & weight training at the gym & the fights with Jack……Oh I played hard. And the energy was boundless. Never had trouble with sleeping.

And with 5 of the 17 cats I had in the past, they trained me to sleep still because they would wedge themselves on top, in between my legs under the blanket each night & you would think that they are nocturnal creatures. I wish I had a camera then to freeze them for eternal reminiscing.

Today, many years on, I’m preoccupied with other things. Work, life, living, issues, other people’s issues, plans, courses, diving & studying for the next level. At every opportunity, I try to relive my childhood & do the things that make me laugh (sometimes at other people’s expense…. 😛 ) and amuse myself silly at the thought of their misfits…….

This is Clemence, my buddy at the Instructor Trainer Course. I was bored at lunch. And my phone had this capability…..


This is Kenneth Mok & Tony Tsui in the background. They were the Course Director candidates from Hong Kong…..

And this is William Tong, the Course Director who’s training us!!! My sifu! Wahahahahahaha! He wasn’t spared too…..

On a more serious not, here’s Kenneth, Tony, Clement & the sifu of all sifus, Michael Tong in action….. 😛 (I’m seriously in trouble if they read this!!!)

And just prior to my course last weekend, my second boss & Chief Operations Officer, Vincent & the Sales Director, Thomas, took us out for lunch offering me lots of encouragement for the weekend ahead……and they too, weren’t spared…..

Vincent aka Oscar The Grouch (Sesame Street!)

And Thomas who so like to pinch our cookies from our cookie counter…..

So tell me, how on earth do I resist the urge to be a kid again when so many of these opportunities present itself to me??? I failed to fear the consequences of this & my not-passing the exams the first time around, but this surely does not make me a failure at all.

I had the biggest encouragement of all when my Hong Kong film star idol, Mark Cheng, dropped by to have photos taken with us & obliging to sign autographs just before the pool session!!!

Failure, I AM NOT!!! …….*DROOL*…..

Undivided Attention Needed

In the passed two months, I’d been hitting the books any chance I’ve got, knowing that this would be my make or break point in my career as a dive instructor. You wouldn’t believe this but I flunk the exam. Despite burning the midnight oil, I’ve been juggling my work, the association, the dive conference & my assignments pretty well but heck, it wasn’t just me who flunk, the whole class of four flunk too!!! Though I don’t feel as bad as I should since the retake is in two weeks time, I still can’t believe I flunk! In the PADI examination 6 years ago during my crossover from BSAC, I scored 98% on Standards & Procedures & 95% for the rest of the papers. What went wrong??? The candidates from Hong Kong did a brave thing by retaking their exams immediately & subsequently went on to become NAUI Course Directors. (Congratulations, Kenneth & Tony!!! It’s been a pleasure to work with you!!!!) Clemence & I will retake after a break & I’m going to hit the books till I ace it!!! BUSHWAH!!!

Could it possibly be the distraction that took me away in the pass two weeks? Well, whatever it is, I doubt this distraction is here to stay. Anything that blows hot & cold is inconsistent & never lasting. I had thought it was too good to be true when everything seemed to feel so right & to have everything fall into place but there was just something that I couldn’t well place. Maybe it was trust. Maybe it was intention. Maybe this wind just blows where the fun is & there’s nothing to sustain it here. A thousand maybes but let the truth be told in the beholder for courage is in the ability to be true to oneself. Perhaps words don’t mean much to those who don’t value what’s being said. And what’s being said was said in a haste to get results. I certainly learnt a lot. Much more than what the course offered. The stakes are high when the bounty is great. I’m just happy to learn this before I placed my bet. No doubt, I will place my undivided attention where it’s needed & that’s in ace-ing my Instructor Trainer course on the 16th…!

Category: Issues, SCUBA  4 Comments