Sabah #1: PADI Open Water Course

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December 26th 2015
Published: February 16th 2016
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26th Dec: We woke up pretty early, after a late night. I must have been cold with the air-con on during the night as one time when I woke up, the blanket was wrapped around my head. I had a good laugh at myself. I hadn't realised that breakfast was included at the hostel, so that was a nice surprise. It was only toast and jam with coffee, but it saved us a few pennies. We had to be at the dive shop for about 8:15 am. Diving is early business, and I am not used to being productive in the morning, but I was excited and nervous for this. The dive shop was actually really close to our hostel, only about a five minute walk away. I got the impression that Kota Kinabalu is pretty compact. I had some paperwork to fill out when I arrived, just basic info. Then I headed to a cafe in the building to get a coffee to keep me going through the morning.

Once back at the office, we headed upstairs to the classroom. There were four other people doing the open water course with me, a South African family that lived in Borneo. We all sat around the table and our instructor explained how the day would unfold. We would watch five videos, one at a time, and answer some questions in the booklets we had been given. We would then go over our answers and if we wanted to go over anything we were unclear on, our instructor would explain it again to us. Then we would do a small ten question test before proceeding to the next video. There was a lot of stuff to take in, some of it totally went over my head, but the instructor was great and explained everything again and again until it sunk in. We watched the first three videos and then took a break for lunch. I was definitely feeling tired by this point.

I headed over to the huge shopping mall next to the one we were located in. The ground floor was just shops, so I headed down to the basement, why are food courts always in the basements of buildings. There were loads of restaurants down there, I even spotted a Korean fried chicken place. I really wanted to go to one of the two sushi places, but I decided that my first proper meal in Malaysia had to be something more authentic than sushi. I ended up in a cheap Malaysian place called 'Great Delights'. I was gutted that they had sold out of Rendang curry, so I opted for the chicken fried mee hoon, which were noodles. I washed the noodles down with a coffee to wake me up a bit. The food was good and the meal was only 11 ringgits. What a bargain!

Feeling a bit more awake, I headed back to the classroom. The afternoon was the same as the morning. One funny point was that because there was no quiz after the fifth video, we all just watched the video. So we were shocked when our instructor wanted to go through the review questions. We didn't realise that the booklet still had more questions tat we needed to answer. Oops! I did managed to answer the questions pretty well, I retained more knowledge than I thought. Then it was the proper test. I was a bit nervous, but it was fine. We had learnt everything throughout the day, and applying common sense also helps with the answers. I can't remember what the pass mar was, but they do let you get a few answers wrong. Our instructor had shown us how to set up the scuba diving kit, before the test, and I got to have a go after I had finished the test. Because I had been focusing on the test, my mind had went blank on how to set it up. I got there in the end with some help.

It was quite late by the time I got finished, about 6 ish, I think. I headed back to the hostel to meet up with my friend, who'd had a great day out diving. We were starving, so we headed out to get something to eat. We walked along the same streets as earlier. We came across a nice looking Italian restaurant, 'Little Italy', which looked busy and there was a queue outside, too. We took a look at the menu, I think we wanted to try everything! We asked how long the wait time would be and were told not too long, I've heard that one before. However, the waiter then asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside, when we replied outside, he told us that we could sit down immediately! Score! Everybody else in the queue was wanting to sit inside under the air-con. We looked through the menu and decided to split a pasta and a pizza. Since the restaurant was busy, it took a while for the food to arrive, but it was definitely worth waiting for. Both dishes were delicious and we thoroughly enjoyed them. My only regret is that we never had time to go back there and try someone of the dishes that they had on offer. We then headed back the hostel bar, since it was before 9 pm Happy Hour was still on, so we got a set of Tiger Beer and enjoyed those, before heading upstairs for an early night.

27th Dec: I slept really well last night, so I felt refreshed when I woke up. We had a quick breakfast and then headed to the dive shop. After checking-in, we headed down to Jesselton Point ferry terminal. We met up with the others in front of one of the restaurant and then headed over to the boats. We were divided into our groups, and our boat had my group with two instructors and another
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group, who were a day ahead of us. It was good to watch them as they seemed so confident, I hoped that I would get the hang of things like they had. The boat took us about 10-15 minutes away, to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. We pulled up near at Gaya Island. We had our floating test first, which was a great way to start the day, just lay back, relax and stay afloat. Then we had to get our gear on and head to the beach, as this is where we would be doing our confined water dives.

Initially, I found it really hard, as I just couldn't stay still, the waves were making me move about. The water was also a lot more murkier than I had imagined it would be. I thought it would be perfectly clear and still, even though I had read ages ago that visibility wasn't the greatest at this time of year. It was also weird to watch what we had to do without any audio and just rely on hand signals, which of course, I had totally forgotten. I was pretty freaked at first and kept coming up to the surface, I think partly, just because I could. However, once I had calmed myself down, I got through most of the skills fairly quickly, only having to repeat a couple. Our instructors had so much patience, they were so kind and motivating. Everything goes by so quickly, it's hard to remember everything that we did. But I felt confident about practicing the skills we had learnt, even if I wouldn't be amazing at them.

After a little break, we headed back into the water. This would be our first proper open water dive, yikes! I really can't remember too much about it now, as I am writing this so long after it happened. I think the main thing was to try not to freak out too much or injured myself in any way. Our location was Sapi Slope and we went down to a depth of 8 metres, which was nice, not too deep. Our visibility was about 8 metres and we were down for bout 30 minutes, which passed pretty quickly. I didn't really take much notice of what was around me, as I was more in awe that I was underwater and I was actually diving. My descent had been a bit crappy, as I kept floating back up and my ears hurt, so I had to remember to equalise a lot.

We headed to Sapi Island for lunch, we had already chosen what we wanted. I had opted for chicken and mushrooms. It was nice to chill, as my ears were pretty bunged up. I was constantly trying to make them feel better not that it worked. The food was fine, good and filling and we could buy drinks from the restaurant or the shop opposite, although they were a bit overpriced. I think we spent about an hour on the island. For our second open water dive, we headed to Gaya Corner. We dived down to a depth of 9 metres and were down for about 43 minutes. I had expected to get better, but my descent was actually worse than my first one! I needed to have extra weight added to me. We practiced four different skills to show that we were competent in them. The boat ride back to KK was awesome! The captain was making the boat go really fast and and were were getting soaked with the sea spray. I loved every second of it, but some of the others did look a bit terrified.

My first day of diving over, we decided to celebrate with a few beers. We headed to the 'Cock and Bull', but ended up at the wrong one first. Well, they are very close together and the first one doesn't really have a sign. We had a beer and a chat, before one of the guides came over to tell us that we were in the wrong place. We headed to the correct place and ordered a bucket of cans that were on special offer for happy hour. We sat drinking beer and watching the sun go down, a perfect end to my first day of diving. We were starving by the time we had finished drinking, so we looked for somewhere to eat. We found a cheap and cheerful looking Indian place, I think it was called 'Choice Restaurant'. I ordered some kind of lamb curry, it is a novelty to be able to find lamb in so many places. We shared an egg roti and garlic naan. The food was really good and I was pleasantly full after. We were a bit tired so headed back to the hostel to relax.

28th Dec: We could skip heading to the office this morning and head straight to the jetty instead. This meant a little extra time in bed, yay! We met up with the others in one of the cafes. Once everyone was there, we headed down to the boats. Our group of five had now become a group of four, as one person had dropped out. We headed out into the sea and went back to near the beach area of Gaya Island, where we had started yesterday morning. First we got in the water and did a swimming test. We had to swim out to a rope in the sea and then back again. We could take as long as we wanted, it was nice not to feel under pressure. After that we got kitted up and headed back under the water to complete some more of our skills. We had been split into two groups. I think it took us about an hour to complete ours. However, there had been some miscommunication as the other group had completed two sets of skills, and we had only done one. So while the others got to relax, we headed back out to finish off our skills. Once completed, we headed back to pick them up and head out for our 3rd proper dive.

We did quite a lot of skills on our open water dive that morning at Fish Feeder. Not all of the skills were easy, I found the navigation one really hard, as I have never used a compass before, so that was difficult. Also the CESA was a lot harder today compared to the practice yesterday and it took me a couple of goes to get it right. We did have to pause as a huge turtle saw by us, I was in total awe watching it go by. It looked so graceful. It made all the hard worth it! After we had completed our skills, we split up. I went with one of the instructors and the family stayed with the other. We swam further and further down. I got down to a depth of 18 metres, which is furthest you can on the open water course. the thought of going to 18 metres is pretty scary, but when I was doing it, it actually didn't seem too bad, as the ocean floor is on like an angle, so I could always see and feel the sand beneath me. I have to say I was buzzing and well proud of myself, when I returned to the surface.

Dive completed we headed to Sapi Island for our lunchbreak. It was nice to chill out for a bit, as I hadn't got a proper break that morning. I had sambal chicken for lunch, which was spicy, but not too hot. It had looked really nice, when someone had ordered it yesterday, but the one I had didn't look as good, it tasted fine though. I washed it down with an iced coffee. It was nice to relax in the sun, but I did keep my wetsuit on as an added layer of protection from the sun. My arms still got burnt though, the sun cream I had bought was crappy, despite it saying it was factor 50. I think I definitely need sunblock not sunscreen.

For our fourth and final dive of our open water course, we headed to Coral Garden. Since we had completed the rest of our skills on our third dive, this one was purely for fun. It felt nice to not have any pressure on. I went down to 18 metres again, it wasn't too scary, but it does take my ears quite a while to adjust and it does get a bit painful. We spent about 40 minutes swimming around and checking out the coral and fish. However, the visibility was really bad, we could only see about 2 metres ahead of us. I did see a lot of stuff though, coral, box fish, razor fish, damsel fish and fusiliers. Then it was back to the boat, to take off our gear and enjoy the ride back to the port. The captain was a bit more careful today (I don't know if it was the same one as yesterday), I was gutted as I had really enjoyed the fast ride yesterday.

After freshening up at the hostel, we headed out for dinner. We had walked past a Hungarian restaurant called 'Chilli Vanilla', that had looked promising, so we decided to head there. It is a pretty small place, but was quite quiet, when we arrived, so we were able to get a table no problem. We spent quite a while looking at the menu, as everything sounded delicious. It was hard to narrow it down to a couple of choices. We had some baba ganoush or hummus for starters, that was lush, I think we had some flat bread and a little pot of veggies to dip into it. For our main meals, we split a chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese and chili chocolate braised beef. The chicken dish was really nice, I'd had something similar at a Hungarian restaurant in Seoul, but this one was much better as it didn't taste like school dinners. While the chicken was really nice, the chili chocolate braised beef was simply amazing! The beef was so tender, and the sauce was chocolaty without being too sweet and the kick of the chili was a good aftertaste. I also had a gorgeous fruity homemade strawberry lemonade.


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