Published: August 10th 2011August 10th 2011
We woke up at 6:30 for our ferry at 7 in the morning. Luckily the town is small, so we arrived in plenty of time and then were walked a block over to the jetty. We were asked which of the two Perhentian islands we wanted to go to (Kecil- the more “backpacker” of the two) and which beach on the island (Long Beach – supposedly more fun/ more places to stay). Then we were sorted into speed boats for a 30-minute ride out to the island. About halfway through I was pretty sure I was going to learn to drive a speedboat and just ferry people back and forth everyday for the rest of my life. There were 3 women on our boat from an unidentified European country and they didn’t seem thrilled with the jumps and splashes of the boat, but there were also some Argentine and Canadian backpackers on our boat, and we were all having a blast. I said to Joel, “We can just turn around now because we’ll never top that for me.”
When we got into Long Beach, the ferries stop a little ways out from the shore and you have to pay
2 ringgits to transfer to a water taxi that takes you in to the beach. It’s a bit of a scam, but it’s unavoidable and really, that’s only about 80 cents. We actually got in so early that the hostel reception desks weren’t open. We had looked into booking a hostel before we got there, but it was pretty much impossible. Almost every hostel on this island is walk-in. So we ate breakfast on the beach (banana pancakes – yum) and then set out to find a hostel. We obviously picked one at the top of an enormous hill and got quite the workout every time we wanted to go up or down. The cool part about it being up on the hill is that all of their huts have sea views. And it was only 55 ringgits (About $20) a night. They had communal bathrooms, but luckily we were pretty close.
After booking our hostel, we immediately went to sign up for a scuba course. We paid about $80 for about a 3 hour course on Discovering Scuba Dive. Joel would have liked to do more and get certified, but that takes at least 3 or 4 days
and we wouldn’t be on the island that long. First we had to watch this cheesy movie. We couldn’t decide if it was from the 80s or 90s, but it had a lot of montages of people having parties on boats and it would say things like “Fact: Scuba divers have more fun than regular people.” It then used a lot of jargon to talk about the equipment. At the end of the movie Joel turned to me and said, quite seriously, that he was positive that he was going to get certified to be a scuba instructor. I pointed out that we hadn’t even been in the water yet. This was unimportant.
We took our course with another guy named Sam. Also from America (first American we’d met on our trip). Also used to teach English in Korea (first English teacher we’d met on our trip). Small world. But we all had trouble paying attention through the video. After that Sam had to watch more videos because he was actually getting certified and some equipment was broken at the dive shop, so Joel and I took an hour break and went swimming in the amazingly warm and clear water.
After our break, we put on our gear and walked to the other end of the beach to get our oxygen tanks and regulators (the mouth piece, emergency mouth piece, and buoyancy control device [BCD] for floating or sinking). We also had to put on really heavy weight belts to make sure we sunk. Sam needed more weights because he had some difficulties sinking.
Our instructor (Dom from New Zealand) said that this island is the perfect place for scuba because it’s gently sloping so you can slowly go down, and then there are more reefs and ship wrecks further out. We started out in the shallows practicing our emergency procedures, which freaked me out a bit. I was already nervous and now you’re saying there’s a possibility I could run out of air?!? We had to practice what to do if our mouthpiece fell out, what to do if we ran out of air in our tank, and telling our instructor how much air we had left in our tank.
After that we were ready to go down into the reefs. I had some trouble equalizing sometimes (you have to swallow every meter down, which is hard with the mouth piece in). We went down about 10 m and got to see a surgeon fish, a cuddlefish, a moray eel, a few large angel fish, many clown fish in anemones, and these cool clam things. Dom said it was one of the best shallow dives he’d ever done because of all the wildlife we saw (“I’m not just saying this guys…”) We were underwater for about an hour. There were a couple of times I thought “Humans are not supposed to do this. Go to the surface right now.” But I didn’t and I think that with more dives I could really get to thoroughly enjoy scuba diving. As Dom put it, it’s interactive.
We had lunch with Sam, Dom, and Sam’s girlfriend near the scuba shop (though honestly, everything on this beach is so close together that everything is near everything). We got sandwiches and got to pick Dom’s brain a little bit (How did you get into scuba? Well, I was coming home from party early one morning and my friend said “Sign here. We’re taking a course.” So I did) (The worst students? A lot of the Asian tourists sign up for scuba lessons and they don’t know how to swim. Sometimes they don’t know how to float. So they teach that too.)
We spent some time talking to another one of the scuba instructors there. We first interacted with him when we were waiting for our air tanks and he came up and told me that I didn’t look happy and I should be ecstatic because I was about to become an amphibian. I made everyone’s day at the scuba shop when I told him to stop touching me. (Dom – “He needs to hear that more often. He’s got a problem…He’s Brazilian.”) After our dive, we talked to him some more. (Only section highlighted in his instructor’s manual? Sexual harassment. He has the section code memorized). We told him we’re English teachers in Korea. He told us we’re doing a horrible job. He meets so many English teachers from Korea, but none of the Korean tourists can speak any English. We told him their kids can. Just wait about twenty years.
After we took our formality test (True or False: If I feel discomfort, I should just keep going.) and paid, we put on our sunscreen and headed out to the beach. We were out there for quite a while, but my sunscreen must be magic because I didn’t burn at all. We decided to shower and get dinner at about 6 pm. We headed to the highly recommended OhLaLa’s where I got chicken tandoori. I had already had some on this trip, but I REALLY like the curry that came with this one. Then we headed to this bar that had low tables and mats on the beach and played really good music. It’s amazing how many stars you can see from so far out. We tried identifying constellations, but that is not one of my strong suits.