(Malaysia) Can I do Scuba diving without swimming experience at the sea?

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After I returned to Singapore from Indonesia, I left most of my luggage and bicycle in Singapore to go diving in Malaysia. I started cycling since 1st of 2011 without going back home that I wanted to celebrate my 7th year on the road. Also, I wanted to congratulate finishing Asian trip safely. It would be the most expensive activity on my trip that I was not sure to do at the beginning. But I just decided to do it with the excuse of ‘it’s my 7th year!’. I was flying to Malaysia on exactly the 7th year, 1st of September.


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I didn’t know how to swim when I was in Korea. I had learned it little by little from different friends on my trip. Sometimes the hotel or the resort where I stayed had a swimming pool in Southeast Asia that I kept practicing. But I never tried to swim at the sea. I always only stood or sit on the sand near the beach. I was worried about doing it. People said it would be easy that I just went for it. I could see the beautiful island from the plane that I was wondering it was Island I would go diving.


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It was really good to come back to Malaysia. The first thing to do was to eat Malay food.


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The city name was Kota Kinabalu where I chose for diving. I thought it was a famous place. But later I realized the reason I was so familiar with the name of this place was that some guy’s dream was going to Kota Kinabalu in Korean drama I watched a long time ago. I booked the hostel which was a bit far from the city center for it was the cleanest place.
There was KFC near the hostel and I was so touched. All were hearing-impaired staff, which I had never experienced. The world showed a really beautiful thing which I couldn’t imagine sometimes. I hoped I see this kind of place more and more.


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I had checked several diving companies in the city center and I chose the biggest company with the less expensive price compared to others. On day first, I watched the videos and instructor taught on a whiteboard at the end of each chapter.
But from the day first, I was struggling cause I couldn’t understand English well. Many words were not familiar. This activity was very scientific that I had to understand the rate of oxygen and nitrogen, buoyancy, lung activity, and so on. To be honest, I didn’t know what buoyancy means in English, which was one of the most important words on scuba diving. Also, I had to memorize the name of gears. At the end of the day, we had a test. I had not a good result but the instructor let me pass.


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At day two, we took a boat and went to some island. I only saw the video of divers under the water on Youtube but didn’t know there was a special boat for diving. There was a place to put for an oxygen tank and gears were all ready for each diver.
First, we had a test of 10 minutes floating. I tried floating at a swimming pool but it was so difficult that the maximum I could do was only a few minutes. And especially, it was the first time to float at the sea. But it was really easier than the swimming pool. The next was a 200 m (656 ft) swimming test. I had never swum at the sea and even 200 m would be the longest distance I would swim. But thanks to salty seawater, it was easier. I was thinking if I had to do near the beach having waves, floating and swimming would be harder. But we jumped from the boat and there was no wave that it was easy.
My instructor was Canadian girl but she was too strict. When I was worried about the swimming test before, she said “We don’t have time to teach you. If you can’t, you fail.”
At day two and three, she was shouting at me when I made a mistake. I felt failure from day first and her shouting made me really small and nervous. I felt I just went back to school. At the end of day three, I couldn’t stand at her rudeness. I told her “Whatever you say, I am not going to give up. If I fail, I will pay again and pass the test. Stop shouting at me, please.”


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At day four, I got PADI Open Water Diver. My instructor was splashing water at me and teasing “Come on. You do really well today. Why you did worst yesterday.” Actually she shouted to other persons when they made the mistake, too on the fourth day. Maybe she was working as the instructor for a long time and now she was out of patience.


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Before coming to Kota Kinabalu, I heard the water had really good visibility. But visibility was really worse when I had a course. It made me more nervous. I was not sure it’s because of the rainy season or pollution. I decided to move to Semporna for better visibility.


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Before going to the city, I searched for the hostel on a booking site. But many people left the reviews about how the city was dirty although it was not the hostel’s problem. And once I came, I realized why everyone said that. It was the most chaotic city I’ve ever been in Malaysia.


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In Semporna, there was the company from which I got a license, too. But I chose a different company. We went to beautiful island by boat.


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It was the way to go diving that I had to go from back. I was really afraid of doing it at first. But from the second time, I got used to it. But to be honest, I just wanted to jump from front sitting.


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At the beginning, I couldn’t understand buoyancy. (Even spelling is difficult to write!!) I had Buoyancy control device (BCD) as kinda backpack and it had two control buttons. Before jumping to the water, I put pull of air with the button. When I descended, I removed air out with the other button.


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It was really funny that I had to remove the air out as well during ascending, because airbag (BCD) was expanding when I went up as pressure changes.
I could go down a maximum of 18 m (59ft) with Open water diver license. The tank was a mixture of 20% oxygen and 78% nitrogen usually. During ascending, there must be safety stop at 5 m (16ft) for at least 3 to 5 minutes to remove nitrogen from the body.
The scariest thing was that I was going up too fast one time during the course because of failing buoyancy. Luckily, I removed air out before touching the surface and I went down again. That was worse memory during diving. If I reached the surface too fast without a safety stop, I had to go to the chamber room to balance oxygen on my body.


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The more I went down, my ear was blocked that I had to keep doing equalizing. One of the reasons I shouldn’t do diving while having cold was that equalizing is hard.


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One thing I must do was spitting on my glass to prevent moisture before descending. One of the most useful things from the course was to clean the glass underwater; Just put water in and out. But it was quite difficult skill to learn at the beginning.


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I had lots of seawater on day two during course cause it was really uncomfortable to breathe with the only mouth. Also, there were different train such as hold breath without a regulator, removing the mask and wearing again, and so on. Many people said to get a diving license was easy. But for me, it was quite difficult. Maybe because I was not familiar with seawater?
On the left at the picture, two people were together led by one guy, which was called discovery diving. It didn’t need a license. It was more like sitting behind at tandem bike that it would be easier. But there would be no fun to control.


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They called Fun Diving when I went diving with a diving master. Literally it was really fun. I didn’t need to worry about the instructor pointing me out every mistake. It was really relaxed that I could enjoy underwater finally without being nervous.


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The visibility was better than Kota Kinabalu. Imagine how visibility was worse there during the course. Another reason I felt so hard for getting a license was bad visibility.


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Eventually, I could enjoy watching the fish.


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After first diving, we went back to the boat.


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I could do diving maximum three times a day. After having lunch, I had to wait for the next diving. I couldn’t go diving as soon as possible cause I had to control nitrogen on the body. Scuba diving was the most scientific activity I’ve ever done that I did love about its science.


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I went underwater for second diving with diving master again.


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It was amazing to swim next to the turtle. Usually, one diving time was 45 minutes to one hour. It depended on how much people spend on an oxygen tank. If one of people had a tank under some amount, all people must ascend together. So it was really important to breathe regularly although I felt excited.
There was the most amazing thing was I could control buoyancy by breathing. When I inhaled, my lung got air and I ascended. When I exhale, my lung had less air and I descended. How amazing!!!!
If I repeat of inhaling lot and exhaling little, then I would go up fast. Then the buoyance bag would expand and there was acceleration that it goes up too faster because of different pressure. When I had this accident during the course, it was horrible. I couldn’t see my instructor and buddy that everything was going far from my view. It was like the space movie that the astronaut’s line from spaceship was cut and astronaut was kicked away far in the space.
Scuba diving was totally different from other activities I enjoyed such as running, hiking, cycling, and climbing. During diving, I must calm!


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I learned different hand signs underwater. One of the things was warning about triggerfish. During the second diving, my diving master shook his body like having panic suddenly. But he calmed quickly and we kept moving to watch fish. After finishing diving, at the boat I asked him what happened. He said he was bitten by triggerfish cause fish was hidden at the place he passed. At that time, I was right next to him that I could be the one bitten. But he said it didn’t happen often that I didn’t need to worry about it. It was quite deep cut that he bled a bit lot after coming up to the boat.
But the good thing for him was he found an expensive mask during diving. I hope the person who lost it fell it from the boat, not during diving.


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After second diving, we had break and went third diving.


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Interesting thing was he didn’t worry about attracting the shark while having an injury. I was curious that I searched about diving during the period but surprisingly it was safe to do it. Shark was just dangerous at the movie but not here during diving.


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Definitely my favorite fish was Nemo. The real name was clownfish.


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The time went faster under the sea. Fun diving was already finished that I had the picture with the diving master.


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I chose the same company I had a license for another fun diving.
Actually I had an unpleasant experience at the previous company. There were other diving masters and tourists on the same boat. One of diving master made a sexual joke. Actually at the office, before signing, I asked there would be any risk for sexual harassment and office staff told me all of them got the education of it that I didn’t need to worry about it. But it happened by another guy. Also, another reason was that I was the only person doing scuba diving and other tourists did only discovery diving and snorkeling. So I felt I was more following their destination. The last reason was my money was missing on a boat during diving. I just carried little money for buying food though.


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This company was really big that they ran hostel on the island and had a big deck at the front for scuba diving gears. Maybe it would be a bit better to stay on the island than a chaotic city.


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There were local people living together on the island.


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It was time to do fun diving again. I heard sometimes they put the boat underground on purpose cause it attracts lots of fish as time goes.


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Today water visibility was quite good.


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I could see more turtles.


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I was curious about how difficult to fit there.


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After first diving, I borrowed snorkeling gear and looked around.


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It seemed I could see more fish here with better visibility. Maybe it was another good option to do.


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I was slippery around coral and got scratch. When I went up to the boat, it was bleeding and painful like having cut from paper. The scratch was a bit deep and remained for a while. I got the scar on the leg after a few months.


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After stopping bleeding and having rest, I went diving again. I was not afraid of shark coming because I already saw the previous diving master went diving after getting an injury.
This time I could see turtle closely.


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And more fish


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Actually I saw lots of turtles. This diving was the best in my memories cause it had the best visibility on my diving and the plants on the ground were amazing.


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Plants were moving like dancing that it was gorgeous to watch.


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There were so many things to watch under the sea.


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And hello to my dear friend, Nemo.


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I thought turtles were weird just like cats. By the way, on the right of the picture, coral looked like a big fish.


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Actually my dear friend was turtles cause I was very slow at eating, preparing, writing, organizing, and so on in my real life since I was a child. Surprisingly, I was fast at running though.


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After diving, I had to write a dive log with my buddy and diving master. I wrote about dive number, date, location, diving location underwater, dive time, visibility, water temperature, and fish name. It was my next favorite thing after diving cause I did love organizing things with numbers and names.
I had very regular life while my diving vacation. I repeated only three things, diving, eating, and sleeping. I became so tired that I went to bed at 7 pm and I woke up at 6 am for going diving. It was different sports that I must be healthy to do. So whenever I was tired, I went to bed. That was always 7 pm.


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At the next day, I went diving again. If I compared underwater with cycling life, snorkeling was like cycling in the city that it was good to enjoy around. Scuba diving was like cycling around the world that it was more adventurous and fun. But it needed to be braver.


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One thing I learned during the license course was DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING. It was actually the same rule on the land when I went to Serengeti safari tour in Africa; Don’t bother wildlife but only watch. So I was surprised actually there were many videos of people touching fish and others during scuba diving on Youtube.


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Sometimes I saw really unique fish.


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So many different life underwater.


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Definitely, it was amazing to watch closely lots of fish moving together.


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Very unique life on coral.


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who poo here?


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Some fish was hidden.


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After cycling the world over seven years, I thought I had seen a lot. But that was actually only about the land. There was a new world under the sea. I couldn’t believe I missed it that it was another beautiful world too.


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After diving, we went back to the hostel and there was a lunch buffet.


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After eating, I went diving again.
Here life was really simple. Eat and Dive.


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My diving master told me this was really rare thing to see. The color of body was changing like digital light.


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The thing on the center of the picture was some kind of sea horse. Sometimes life underwater was more incredible than overland.


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It was called Chocolate chip sea star. What a sweet name!
I really liked diving that I decided to get a higher license which was called Advanced Open Water. I could go only 18 m (59ft) with Open Water diver license. But I could go under 30 m (98 ft) with Advanced Open Water. There was really famous diving place called Sipadan near. But they only allowed to the people having Advanced Open Water. As I heard, someplace had limit for Open Water. So I decided to get a higher license now.
My new instructor was not that strict, but he made some sexual jokes. I asked him he should stop it cause it’s like sexual harassment. I was having a course with a middle-aged European guy. When we were all together, he acted like a gentleman. Later he told European guy that he was really a family man having two daughters. Hmm……….
Actually, I would like to recommend if you were a solo female traveler, it would be better to make the male friend to go diving together in Malaysia.


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It was different from Open Water course that I just went down from deck for the course with the instructor. Advanced license took only two days and it was a bit difficult but still easier than Open Water course and I made a new record of 30 m (98 ft).


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Unlike other people, it was really difficult to learn at the beginning for me. So, my joys after getting license were much bigger than other people. Definitely, I was really happy to find a new world under the sea.
My two weeks of vacation was just finished. It was time to go back to Singapore and prepare to leave for going to New Zealand.
I hoped I got a chance to do diving soon again.

Vacation Note
Days in Malaysia =14 Days
Expenditure in Malaysia = US$ 1,131


Vlog of scuba diving in Malaysia

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1 Comment
  1. congratulations! I am also not a good swimmer, not have enough confidence to go to swim in the ocean, but i did my scuba diving course and get the certificate

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