Aug 13, 2017

Redang Island, Malaysia

9 (Wed) - 13 (Sun) Aug 2017

Lodging: Redang Pelangi Resort

I earned my basic PADI Open Water Diver certification almost 2 years ago at Ko Samui, Thailand. Earlier this year my girlfriend, Yingjun brought up the idea of getting a diving certification with her other friend, so by making use of that, we plan a trip to Redang during the Singapore National Day period.

Many Singaporeans travel to Tioman for diving, and we just like to be a little special. :)
Well but of course Redang has better overall experience and we chose there.

And so with me and my girlfriend, we have her friend Rousi and her boyfriend Yifeng. As I was already certified, I planned to enroll in the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course while the rest will do their basic Open Water Diver course.

Redang Island
Our bus details
8 Aug 2017 (Tue)
Golden Miles Caltex Station - Merang Summer Bay Jetty
CTTS Holidays
10:00PM (8 Aug) - 9:00AM (9 Aug)

13 Aug 2017 (Sun)
Merang Summer Bay Jetty - Woodlands Checkpoint
CTTS Holidays
12:50PM - 11:30PM

Average return fare per person: S$112.63 (booked through Easybook)

I've been to Redang 7 years ago, and coincidentally this time round we booked the same accommodation as before with Redang Pelangi Resort, located along Pasir Panjang (Long Beach). I guess in terms of price and package, it's got the best value. RM675/person for 4 nights (including breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner) and an additional RM960 for my Advanced Open Water Diver course (RM1,060 for basic), conducted by their dive centre, Dive Redang.

Day 0
8 Aug 2017 (Tue)

The bus journey taken care by CTTS Holidays was pretty messy and intricate. Because they kinda don't have a counter or kiosk by themselves, so they have to "borrow" the Transtar Express Bus Counter for boarding and passenger waiting. And we're only informed about this on the day of departure itself via a Whatsapp message with poor grammar.

Besides, perhaps I was also too naive to think that the bus will go straight to Merang Jetty from Singapore, but apparently there's a transfer to another bus at Larkin Bus Terminal in Johor Bahru. Well but seems that we didn't have any other transport options to Redang so I'd say bearing that was inevitable.

Day 1
9 Aug 2017 (Wed)

Merang Jetty
Despite the mess of how the bus company arranges the itinerary, the resorts in Redang Island would have arranged a reasonable pick up and drop off schedules, eg. generally passengers alight from the bus at the jetty 1 to 2 hours before the boat pick up.

Below are the charges at the jetty for visiting the archipelago before departure (not covered by the resort):
Jetty Fee: RM1
Marine Park Conservation Fee: RM5 (Malaysian), RM30 (foreigner)

The journey to Redang Island took less than half an hour, and once again I reminisced about the super clear water at the shore.

Check in was smooth, and I'm pretty happy with the room condition as well, we got a air conditioned double room with a queen size bed.

Room C12

After unloading our luggages in the room, we're supposed to meet up with our respective dive instructors to arrange our dive itinerary.

I met up with my advanced dive instructor Benny, who's surprised to know that I came to do my advanced diver certification without doing more leisure dives after my basic diver course. When I was asked to setup the BCD, he further commented that I have already forgotten most of the thing (apparently I barely even remembered how to setup a BCD). Thankfully he didn't conclude that I shouldn't be doing advanced now, instead, he wanted to assess my diving proficiency by doing a checkout dive.

Dive #1: Checkout Dive @ Tanjung Tengah

Time in : 14:30 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 15:15 Ending pressure : 120 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 10 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 45 minutes

Hoping that things would go fine, I experienced the same thing as I did in Ko Samui - I guessed it's from me not getting used to breathing by mouth through the snorkel, feeling suffocating and the irresistible urge to ascend up to the surface, not once but twice or thrice. Of course, Benny told me to remain calm in the water and try not to just ascend. After a few tries, yes I finally managed to stay under the water and breath normally. And I managed to perform mask cleaning as instructed, although he later commented that I should lift open from the bottom of the mask, not the top.

We then started to dive around Tanjung Tengah, the nearest dive site from the dive centre, which is also their house reef. Once again, I reminisced on the good old underwater diving memories where I roamed freely, three-dimensionally around the coral reefs and fish.

Benny also assessed my hovering, where I had to maintain my altitude by controlling my breathing, which I didn't really perform very well. We slowly ascended to the shore for review, he said I'm not as terrible, just need some time to refresh the diving skills and techniques.

I was given the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Manual (Version 1.0) and the manual comprises a list of adventure dives for me to choose from. To be certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver, one has to complete a total of 5 dives from the list - 2 required dives (Deep and Underwater Navigation) and 3 other dives of my own choice (see table below).

Adventure Dives Compulsory Chosen
Altitude Diving
Boat Diving
Deep Diving
Digital Underwater Imaging
Drift Diving
Dry Suit Diving
Fish Identification
Night Diving
Peak Performance Buoyancy
Search & Recovery
Underwater Naturalist
Underwater Navigation
Wreck Diving

These are the available dive sites at Redang:

Dive #2: Underwater Navigation @ Tanjung Tengah

Time in : 15:30 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 16:20 Ending pressure : 100 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 11 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 50 minutes

Before going back into the water again, we first simulated the navigation training by the beach, by dragging my feet on the sand to draw a straight line , square (90°) and equilateral triangle (60°), with each side being 10 kick cycles in length, as that's how divers measure the approximate distance underwater. The angle is to be added or subtracted accordingly (180° for straight line, 90° for square, 60° for equilateral triangle) from the direction shown on the compass, whenever each set of kick cycles is completed.

The actual underwater navigation was fine, after completing the lines and shapes, I was asked to write down on the dive slate, the directions that I've checked on the compass on each set of kick cycles (obviously with the first value given, the rest can be calculated accordingly, even if I didn't check the directions).

Furthermore, Benny expected me to dive with him through the house reef which was initially on the right and then he follows me back to the shore. As the reef position was quite ambiguous to me at the deeper water, I tried guiding him back but apparently I was diving towards the wrong direction so he tapped me and asked me to follow him instead. All having said, I basically has completed underwater navigation.

After ascended back to the shore, the other three just started to setup their BCD to prepare for their very first dive of their lives. So in the meanwhile, I was chilling and strolling by the beach, before going back to the water for night diving.

They're finally back after an hour.

Dive #3: Night Dive @ Tanjung Tengah

Time in : 20:30 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 21:25 Ending pressure : 100 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 11 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 55 minutes

Bringing a torchlight and knowing how to use light signals are essential for night diving. The water was cold but bearable, but many will get uncomfortable with the complete darkness in there. There are a few common light signals that an advanced diver should know, like drawing circle means okay, left-right means emergency, a quick beam to another diver to bring attention etc. Besides, I was taught that in the unlikely event of other diver found missing, we will block the light beam from the torch light with our palm and look for nearby light, otherwise dive ashore for fall in, which should be a common consensus prior to diving.

There's one point of time in the water Benny asked me to turn off my torchlight and observe the bioluminescent organisms moving rapidly in complete darkness.

Overall, night diving to me is more boring than day diving as perhaps nocturnal marine lives are scarcer and less interesting. However, I did come across a marine species called flounder, lying flat on the sand, and I tried to touch it, so soft and smooth.

Day 2
10 Aug 2017 (Thu)

Dive #4: Deep Dive @ Terumbu Kili

Time in : 8:30 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 9:15 Ending pressure : 70 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 25 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 45 minutes

Multipurpose Data Carrier
Any dive beyond 18 m, up to the depth of 40 m is considered as deep diving for PADI. It's a morning dive for me at Terumbu Kili, a dive site southwards from Marine Park.

Benny explained to me that at greater depths, signs and symptoms of nitrogen narcosis become more obvious and severe, resulted from breathing gases under elevated pressure. Common symptoms are like impaired judgment and poor concentration etc. So he's gonna give me a calculation test later when we dive down to 25m depth.

As I descended, there's a point of depth that when crossed, the temperature dropped pretty abruptly, there's when the chill came and made me anxious for nothing. It's important to really stay calm and breathe normally no matter what.

A multipurpose data carrier is attached when I was handed the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Manual the previous day, it has a section on it where the diver is supposed to record the color changes during a deep dive. At 25m depth, to my surprise I noticed the first two colors have turned brown, although I knew they were red and orange, but I recorded them as brown as to what I perceived. The reason behind this is that water acts as a selective filter, as we descend, the color will be filtered out one by one, starting from red (as it has the longest wavelength), followed by orange and so on, and violet will be the last one standing.

At surface
Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Purple
At 25 m depth
Brown Brown Yellow Green Blue Purple

Followed by a calculation problem, Benny wrote on his slate 42 + 24 and I was supposed to solve it at 25 m depth. I was stunned for a while, perhaps he's just being nice. It seemed like the assessment for deep diving was done, and so we spent the rest of the dive roaming through the dive site.

Dive #5: Wreck Dive @ Berjaya Wreck

Time in : 10:15 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 11:00 Ending pressure : 50 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 16.8 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 45 minutes

The previous day when I found out there's wreck dive in the table of content, I asked one of the instructors at the dive centre and she replied, "Yes, there's a wreck here". How cool was that? And without much hesitation, I picked this dive as one of the adventure dives to count towards the Advanced Open Water Diver requirements.

I didn't take any photo of the wreck, so I searched the internet, it looks a little something like this.

Image courtesy of

My task here was to not only draw the outline of the ship and its major compartments (reasonably with front and side views), I had to measure the length, width and height of them too. How did I measure them? Again, by kick cycles. If I remember correctly, each of my kick cycles displaces me for 1.2 m, therefore any length or width measured shall be the number of kick cycles multiply by 1.2 m. For height, it's even easier, it's the difference between the depths of one point and another, as shown on the dive computer.

The experience was great. I started to be more able to multitask easier, which to me it helps to distracts me from being overly cautious about my breathing and other fears.

Dive #6: Recreational Dive @ Sharon Stone

Time in : 14:32 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 15:24 Ending pressure : 50 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 18 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 52 minutes

Fish Identification be my last milestone of completing the Advanced Open Water Diver certification, it was however, scheduled on the next day to accommodate the dive centre boat schedule, as they would pick a dive site for a dive session and every diver from the dive centre will follow. It seemed like they planned a dive site with more variety of marine species the next morning, that's why for now I'm doing recreational dive with the rest of the divers, at Sharon Stone aka Batu Cina Terjun.

This time I was finally able to take some underwater photos as I borrowed Yifeng's camera.

Day 3
11 Aug 2017 (Fri)

Dive #7: Fish Identification @ Southern Tip, Pulau Lima

Time in : 8:53 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 9:45 Ending pressure : 50 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 18 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 52 minutes

Yingjun performing back roll entry
Together with Yingjun and the rest, we were on the same boat trip to Southern Tip, Pulau Lima (literally the southern tip of Pulau Lima). I'd be doing my Fish Identification while they continued their training in diving skills and techniques.

To me Fish Identification turned out to be more of a mastery of multitasking underwater, as I was busy taking photos, checking out the fish and identifying them by referring to the fish identification card, and finally write their scientific names (to record at least 10 different species). So basically I was holding the camera on my left/right hand with the fish ID card and dive slate attached to the waist strap of my BCD.

There was a point of time the fish ID card was detached because the carabiner was somehow loose, and fortunate enough I noticed and descended a little to pick it up before it sank further.

Thanks to corals being part of the "fish" ID species, I was able to complete the identification of at least 10 different marine species.

Dive #8: Recreational Dive @ Sandy Bottom

Time in : 11:36 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 12:18 Ending pressure : 50 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 21.6 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 42 minutes

If you ever visit Dive Redang's dive sites overview, they begin the introduction of Sandy Bottom with "This is one of those dive sites where you either love it or hate it.", I go for the latter. LOL~

It's literally a sandy bottom at over 20 m depth, with barely anything other than sand. The only thrill was dodging jellyfish as I ascended for the 3-minute-safety stop with another dive master.

Dive #9: Recreational Dive @ Pulau Paku Kecil

Time in : 14:26 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 15:06 Ending pressure : 50 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 18 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 40 minutes

This dive site is located on the east side of Pulau Paku Kecil, a very small island not very far away from the east side of Redang Island. I was glad that for this dive, I was able to join Yingjun and the rest.
Buddy pair 1: Javin, Yifeng
Buddy pair 2: Yingjun, Rousi

Yingjun and Rousi behind their instructor

Blue ring angelfish

This is Yingjun, seemingly kneeling on Rousi's shoulder

This is the pennant coralfish (also known as longfin bannerfish).
Does this fish remind you of Gill from Finding Nemo?

Well they are of DIFFERENT species.
Gill is actually a moorish idol. Take a closer look at their tail color.

Ocellaris clownfish

Sea cucumber

Caesio teres (also known as yellowtail fusilier)

And guess what we found during our dive - a sea turtle! (with a couple of remoras clinging to it)

Ascending for safety stop

It's 4pm, Yingjun and the rest continued with their open water diver course final review and exam with their instructor. Basic Open Water Diver course is actually more taxing than Advanced Open Water Diver course in terms of workload due to the theoretical portion of it, apart from the basic skills and techniques to begin with. In other words, I had significantly more free time compared to them, similar to any other days, I spent my time relaxing, taking my own stroll and taking photos by the beach.

One cool thing about Redang is that almost every resort has live band performance at night. This definitely boosts the liveliness of the beach paradise.
But one song that's definitely oversung there - 浪花一朵朵. LOL~

Day 4
12 Aug 2017 (Sat)

Diving hand signal 'OK'

Dive #10: Recreational Dive @ Terumbu Kili

Time in : 8:58 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 9:36 Ending pressure : 100 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 18 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 38 minutes

Similar to the last afternoon dive, I was gonna dive with Yingjun, Yifeng and Rousi, but this time with the following buddy pairing (couple buddy pairing):
Buddy pair 1: Javin, Yingjun
Buddy pair 2: Yifeng, Rousi

The dive site was Terumbu Kili, same dive site where I did my deep dive.

The dive started fine, until a point of time when some mild current began to kill the fun and moreover, be disastrous. We were gradually drifted away by the current and not being able to dive towards the instructor as we intended to.

The instructor Hann turned on his torchlight so in case we lost visibility of his location. I held onto Yingjun's hand with my right hand and my left hand onto a rock. Yifeng gave Rousi a push so that she could reach Hann and then we lost him as he got drifted away. While knowing that we just lost Yifeng underwater and that Rousi anxiously signaling that he has gone missing, Hann calmly led the remaining three of us to ascend for safety stop and then to surface.

Despite Rousi's apprehension, Hann merely asked that we remain calm. A boat came to pick us up, and, Yifeng was already on that boat. After expressing thankfulness, we learnt that Hann heard the boat passed by at the surface, likely to pick Yifeng up when he ascended by himself after he was drifted away and lost us even after attempting to search for us. It seems legit that an experienced diver's sphere of awareness is expanded to the extent beyond a normal diver can expect. So obviously when typical divers like us sense danger, we channel all our attention only to ourselves and nearby buddy or objects.

We're lectured by Hann that we are to remain calm and make sure we ourselves are taken care of before attempting to take care of others. In other words, don't act heroic when we're incapable of doing so. He further highlighted that this normally happens for couple buddy, as these buddies often prioritize protecting each other because of the relationship in place.

All in all, we're grateful that Yifeng was safe, sadly this was a short 38-minute-dive because of the incident.

Dive #11: Recreational Dive @ Pulau Ling

Time in : 11:35 Starting pressure : 200 bar
Time out : 12:13 Ending pressure : 100 bar
Safety stop : 3 minutes Max dive depth : 17 m
Weight used : 3 kg Bottom time : 38 minutes

This was our very last dive at Redang. Although 3 of them had completed their theory exams prior to this dive, they haven't performed the Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA) yet, they will therefore be taking the opportunity to perform CESA during the final ascent of this dive.

Hann reverted to the original buddy pairing:
Buddy pair 1: Javin, Yifeng
Buddy pair 2: Yingjun, Rousi

During the dive it happened that I wanted to disturb the clownfish dwelling around the sea anemone so I extended my hand towards the anemone but didn't actually touch it after all. So obviously I didn't know anemones sting until Yifeng told me when we're back at the surface, and luckily I wasn't physically in contact with that anemone earlier.
What a shame that I didn't register this even after watching Finding Nemo.

It seemed like a pretty bad day that we experienced mild current during both of our dives. At the end of our dive, Hann tied a rope to the base on one end and the other to the surface marker buoy (I supposed), so we all know where to dwell upon when he guide the 3 of them to perform the CESA. Yifeng was the first one, Yingjun and Rousi were a little away from that spot, so I was just hovering on that spot for a while before I realized Yingjun and Rousi have already gone out of my visual reach.

I guessed they were drifted away by the current, while I was worried, I believed they'd be fine, and I followed Hann to ascend to surface. Thankfully, they're on the boat already when the boat came to pick us up, because they're wise enough to ascend themselves after the attempt to relocate us has failed. What a day, really.

They have finally completed all the requirements to be a Certified PADI Open Water Diver. The rest of the day was ours.

Their dining hall where we had breakfast, lunch, tea break and dinner

Pasir Panjang Beach

Yingjun and I went for snorkeling (free of charge because we're their diving students) before evening at the southern side of Tanjung Tengah, somewhere in front of Redang Beach Resort. It's a favorite snorkeling spot to see baby sharks, and we did see a few, which appeared for a few seconds typically because they just swam so fast.

Redang Pelangi Resort

Their diving instructor, Hann

I have a stargazing app on my iPhone called SkyView® Lite, which always comes in handy when I'm at somewhere relatively free from light pollution. That night, I opened the app and found out that the Galactic Center of Milky Way was located in the direction of southwest at some elevated angle.

I quickly grabbed my tripod and set it up near Tanjung Tengah. Astrophotography always takes time due to long shutter settings and the long shutter noise reduction, however after a few tries, I managed to snap some starry skies and of course, the Galactic Center of the Milky Way!

Left: Vega (α Lyrae) | Center: Altair (α Aquilae)
ISO-800 12mm f/3.5 50sec

Galactic Center of the Milky Way
Center: Sagittarius Constellation | Right: Saturn | Lower right: Antares (α Scorpii)
ISO-800 12mm f/3.5 60sec

Alright, I was pretty noob, 60sec was probably too long. But can you believe it? That bright thing slightly to the right of the Galactic Center was Saturn!

Day 5
13 Aug 2017 (Sun)

It was certainly a remarkable trip for us. I enjoyed my stay at Redang Pelangi Resort. I only spent RM1,635 (~S$520) in total for a 5D4N stay with the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course package, with a total of 11 dives. On top of the required dives, the rest of the recreational dives were free of charge for students who signed up for their open water diver course because their dive centre encourages students to gain more diving experience. Totally worth the money.

That's all folks. I'm looking forward to our next diving trip.

If you're planning a trip to Redang, do check out Redang Pelangi Resort for their affordable accommodation and snorkeling/dive packages.

For more photos, please check out my photo album Redang Island, Malaysia on Facebook.

Javin Tham, MSc, PMP, PMI-ACP, CSSBB Musician | Engineer | YouTube Coverist

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