I booked a weekend dive on this island for my Advanced Open Water Course, so on one warm friday night, I boarded a bus full of young and noisy divers from Bugis which will take us all the way to Mersing jetty. Most of these divers looked like they already know one another so I was a bit of an outsider. And then I saw Andreas looking very comfortable and more or less as out-of-place as me. I remember him from our classroom training because he's the star student who filled up in advance the Knowledge Reviews on our course book, while the rest of us struggled to listen to the lecture and fill up the questionnaires at the same time. I thought to myself that's a good point to have in your dive buddy right? So I sat next to him and asked him if he's french. He was actually swiss. He's spending his 6-month sabbatical in Singapore while doing his Phd and I thought if I could get him as my dive buddy, we can ace our Underwater Navigation exercise. I reckoned compass reading and some navigation stuff would be elementary for him.
So the next 3-hour bus ride wasn't too bad especially when I had my soon-to-be-buddy to chat with, even the long wait in the ferry terminal was fine, but the rough and bumpy 4.5 hour boat ride was a bit of a torture. It was also freezing cold inside the cabin and with only my malong* to wrap myself into, it took almost all of my self-control not to grab Andreas' blanket.
I still managed to get some sleep though how I dont know, and when I woke up we were almost in Dayang. They had these dorm-type rooms and I just picked a random bed and tried to sleep some more, we were only given 3 hours to sleep before we start diving.
A view of the Pulau Dayang from the pier
Next day, Carla - our dive instructor assigned us to our dive buddies and I was glad to be teamed up with Andreas. Our first dive was just a fun dive so Carla can check our bouyancy and all. I was a bit stumped when everyone started setting-up their own equipment. You see I took my Open Water Course back in 2005 and since then I haven't setup anything again - I always let the resort do the work. So while everyone was setting up, I intently observed how to mount the bcd in the tank, connect the regs to the bcd, check the air, check the SPG, etc. We did our pre-dive safety buddy check (thank god!) and in a short while, we were finally underwater.
setting up our equipment
We've only been in the water for 30 minutes and I havent seen much yet when Carla signaled us to surface already. It seemed that some of us were almost low on air so we had to finish the dive early.
this is me with my new yellow split fins :)
For our 2nd dive - we had to do our kick cycles and compass reading underwater. Buddy and I finished our task early and so we had some time to explore while the others are still navigating. We saw lots of hide-and-seek christmas tree worms and they're always fun to play with when they burrow themselves inside the corals that they live in but reappear again after a short while.
false clown anemone fish
Among all the adventure dives we're taking on that weekend, night diving is the one im most looking forward to. It was definitely fascinating, we went to the same divesite we visited during the day but we saw a whole new set of creatures, nocturnal ones that you wouldn't normally see during the day. It was also fun turning off all our lights and disturbing the planktons around us - their bioluminescent characteristic make them seem to sparkle underwater. (couldn't bring my camera though)
A rock in the shape of a lion (Batu Berhala) in Pulau Aur
It was deep and drift dives on the following day. I enjoyed drifting because there wasnt much work involve, and so I was able to take more pictures. We saw a huge more than a meter bumphead parrotfish which made my day :). There were also a lot of puffers, featherstars and the last one we saw was a cute baby green turtle.
baby green turtle
After our dives, we had some free time so buddy and I explored some parts of the island. Pulau Dayang has a gorgeous beach with fine white sand. We were more drawn though with the impressive granite rock formations of the island and if we had time we would have wanted to climb it. The summit was rumored to be inhabited by giant kingkong mosquitoes.
buddy andreas on the beach after our dives
from top left to right: 1) our room, 2) the other room occupied by very neat people, 3) dining area/social hall, 4) sun deck
The trip back to Singapore took us 9 hours. And so I finally got my advanced open water license, made new pals, and unfortunately got bitten by some parasitic larval forms. I was itchy all over on most of the way back, and my skin developed pimple-like red bumps. I recently found out it was called a swimmer's itch and since I've been previously exposed to these parasites, I'm now allergic to them. Oh well, next time I'll just make sure to wear fullbody wetsuit.