Ep01. Starting the journey to PADI DiveMaster in Indonesia

A view from my classroom

A view from my classroom

As a first in the of a new YouTube series I am hoping to share the process and excitement of not only moving and living on Gili Air as well as becoming a PADI DiveMaster.  

The count down is on for May 2017.

Subscribe to keep up to date with the process! 

 In coming weeks there will be episodes covering what I am packing, where I am staying (and living) as well as the study side of a Dive Master course 

 

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Getting there 

 

The Perhentian Islands are approx 25km off the north east coast of Malaysia, just south of the Thai border.

Flights are multiple times per day from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Biru, the nearest mainland airport. Then it is a 60km drive to the coast with any one of the friendly local taxi drivers. Before you depart KL, it is advisable to call your accomodation on Perhentian and confirm boats are operating to the island that day, particularly early in the season. We were caught out a bad weather front swept through as we arrived and no boats were operating.

Boats are either booked by your accomodation or tickets purchased at one of the local Kuala Besut ticket agents.

The boat ride from Kuala Besut to Perhentian is approx and hour. If the sea is rough be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Where to stay

We stayed on the ‘big Island’ Perhantian Besar at Abdul’s Chalets. Abdul’s afforded the best mix of location, privacy and quality.

Abdul’s has its own ‘home reef’ located within a roped section for snorkelling away from boats. Many other shallow reefs are within a 15 min walk of your front door.

Large parts of the big island are accessible only by boat and the hotel is more than happy to organise for you.

What to do

Anything in the water!

Perhentian is set up for watersports, be it scuba diving, snorkelling, turtle spotting, or relaxing on a beach.

Highlights

Calm water frontage

Lowlights

Not being told by our hotel that there was no boats operating, leaving us stranded in Kuala Besut - check with your hotel (particularly in shoulder season) about access.

Don’t forget to bring

Sunscreen and a towel

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi has the best of both worlds - fantastic rainforests and amazing beaches and watersports. A huge proportion of the island is rightfully protected as a GeoPark ensuring protection and eco management. 

 

How we got there

Langkawi was our first destination after flying overnight Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. A quick transfer to the new KLIA2 AirAsia terminal saw us on our way for a quick 1 hour flight to the beautiful and relaxed island of Koh Langkawi

Things we saw or did

Here are some of the AMAZING activities we go up to:

Day sailing on a 40ft Catamaran with Rampant sailing that included laying about in their jacuzzi net behind the boat or laying in a hammock suspended between the hulls while anchored in a protected cove for lunch. Not to mention the open bar on board. Itis not hard to see why these guys are rated as the Number 1 thing to do in Langkawi by TripAdvisor

½ Day kayak tour of the mangroves within the GeoPark including a visit to limestone caves and the fish ‘farm’ located at the base.

A not to be missed trip up into the rainforest on the Langkawi Cable Car giving you a spectacular view over the beaches and islands.

A visit to the state symbol at Eagle Square featuring a huge Brahminy Kite statue.

How we got around

We quickly compared the prices of hire cars versus a scooter for the duration of our trip. The scooter was the easy option as I was licensed internationally and had ridden a fair amount before. Also it allowed us the ability to park just about any where.

Amusingly while refuelling I did manage to lock our only set of keys for the scooter under the seat. Before full panic over took the situation a young local service station attendant with particularly small hands managed to get his hand under the seat and retrieve the keys. A lesson was had and in future scooter keys will be on a lanyard!

Food we ate

As with most South East Asian countries, I highly recommend eating in small local cafes or tea houses and street food where ever possible. This ensures your tourist dollars stay in the local community as well as would provide you with fresh good local food. Being Malaysia, I could not pass up fresh hand made Roti, the local hotplate cooked bread that is eaten with many meals. Langkawi also has a strong middle eastern population so there is no shortage of abab stands as well.

How we got connected

As with most connected travellers, if there is a connection available at a reasonable speed and reasonable price we will connect. Because we have little need for calling while in Malaysia we chose a prepaid provider that would offer us the maximum data available. We used Internet of Xpax that is a user of the Celcom network within Malaysia. One of the benefits was that should be go over our included data we were provided 3 30min windows a day to access as much data as we could use.

I would always suggest buying local sim in each country as it is astronomical the chargers providers from home charge to roam - much less use data. The website below is full of crowd sourced information relating to costs and access in each country.

http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com

Interesting facts

The entire island of Langkawi is tax free. There is no tax on luxury cars, alcohol, chocolate etc. Think a whole island duty free. Frankie was able to purchase 1lt of Vodka for the equivalent of AUD$10.00

East Timor - Getting there

The view from my former house

 

Further to my recent post on my 6 months in Timor during 2008 here is a look at the rapid changes around transport, specifically Getting There.

 In 2008 there were extremely limited ways of reaching East Timor.

  1. Either flying from Darwin to Dili with a turbo propeller 15 seat aircraft at an extremely prohibitive cost of something in the area of $700aud each way.
  1. Air Merpati from Denpasar (Bali) at around $370aud
  1. Overland from West Timor – while cheaper, this process was hazardous as well as the border was commonly closed or disrupted

Now in 2014 I have discovered the following

  1. Air North now flys an newish small jet – Embraer 170 for around $550aud  Darwin – Dili
  1. Air Timor  Singapore – Dili  $370USD
  1. Sriwijaya Air – Denpasar (Bali) – Dili 2,200,000 IDR – approx $200-250 AUD
  1. Overland as above

Visitor / tourist visas, as with 2008 are available as visa on arrival for around $30usd for 30 days.
East Timor uses the USD for notes and Timorese coins.

 

While I was living there Comro Airport / Dili international

Airport was a dual Military & Civilian airport with UN flights, Australian Military and commercial airliners arriving often.

 

 

The view from my former house

 

 

6 Months Timor-Leste

I was fortunate enough during 2008 to live in Timor Leste for 6 months for work. Timor Leste – Leste meaning east in Tetum, the local language, really was a turning point in my life. I spent a majority of my time in the capital Dili, with only the briefest jaunts out of the city limits, usually on work business. Looking back, the lack of further exploration is one of my biggest regrets I am seeking to remedy with a return trip possibly in 2015. During my time in TL, I was also fortune enough to learn to speak Tetum to a conversational level. Sadly my reading and writing Tetum isn’t up to scratch.

In June 2008 when I arrived the the President, Jose Ramos Horta had been shot in an attempted assassination only a few short months earlier. After the briefing work had given me about what to expect they made it sound like I was going to an active conflict zone. However what I encountered could have been further from the truth.  Sure if you wanted your electricity to operate without question and in turn your air conditioning; if you wanted your milk fresh; your meat shrink wrapped; your fruit and veggies from mega farms then possibly TL isn’t for you. If however you handle never going over 40km/h in your car, never obeying a traffic light, coffee strong enough to melt the spoon, grass so dry and tough that will stab your shoes  - TL most certainly is for you. I tease.

Looking back, I can not think of a many negatives about the country while I was there – apart from not being able to drink the water from the tap. Over the coming weeks I will be making posts about my time there, sharing stories and experiences. If you would like to read more, keep an eye on this link, it will be a central point of all my Timor Leste posts.

A massive 6 months!

SAMSUNG CSC

Starting around Sept 2013 I finished a 6 month rotation to Darwin, where I found a new found love of jogging and exercise.  I was lucky enough to meet great friends and go  to places I never would have the option of going to if it was not for work .

 

Read more about my time in Darwin here

Almost as soon as I arrived back in Canberra we were off again. Thanks to my  amazing partner lead me on a tour of his incredible country – Myanmar. We spent an unforgettable 3 weeks traveling the lengths and breadth of this nation. Even after all the sights and experiences his FAMILY was the true highlight for me. His mother’s warmth and care, his father’s intelligence and willingness to share and ask questions about my life too. 

A more in-depth write up of our time in Myanmar is here
 
Then the “ experience “ of meeting my parents in Kuala Lumpur and catching up with my good friend Ron who then joined the four of us traveling to Redang Island (Palau Redang) off the north east coast of Malaysia. It was the second time Frankie and I had been to the Lagoon Redang resort. After the ferry ride from Kuala Terraganu on the mainland over to the resort (where my father’s sea sickness came to a head) and check in, the island is really just a water sports playground. 
All expenses paid apart from alcohol and diving services. After snorkelling every day and also trying SCUBA I was HOOKED. The resort is a PADI accredited resort which means they have instructors and Dive Masters who can facilitate everything from the minimal training ‘Discover SCUBA’ right through to your ‘Dive Master’ qualification. Frankie, Ron and I decided finally we would try the ‘Discover SCUBA’ – which is essentially being kitted up and thrust under water. 
 
Frankie and Ron could not get get more than 10cm under the surface before pulling the pin. I managed to get all the way through the experience – roughly 15mins getting to a depth of 5.5m. I was so excited to be doing it I forgot to actually take my GoPro3 from the dive bag on the beach before getting in the water. 
 
Back in KL the ‘experience’ of travelling with my parents again reached crescendo with the all important family yelling match in an international airport. Don’t be shocked. Its rather common for my family. We get over it faster than our words echoing around departures. 
 
  
 
A more in-depth write up of our time in Malaysia is here
On return back to Canberra I started in a new role with a new team in the a new office. 
 
 Not long after our return from our big overseas adventure we decided to start thinking about buying a house. When I say thinking, we looked at one and brought it. A 2br, split level east facing townhouse. Requiring 5% down in Nov 13, and the rest in around Nov 2014. Perfectly suited for what we needed. Also keeps my NBN dry. 
 
 
 So because I am swimming in cash *COUGH COUGH* I then booked my PADI Open Water Dive Course. 
 
 I nearly didn’t get to do the course! 
 
The doctor was worried my lungs were almost not up to the minimum capacity. But don’t worry, I managed to get over the line. 
 
 The first weekend was half theory and half practising in the pool! I don’t know about you but I am never lucky when it comes to being partnered up in anything sporty, usually picked last. Well there was this one mega cutie on our group – and for once guess who I was partnered with!! JACKPOT! He was a great guy, sweet and innocent of the ways of the world. It wasn’t until the pool technique practising that my inner filter turned off. I couldn’t stop giggling when our instructor was inadvertently saying things with MASSIVE innuendo such as “ right team lets get under water, get on our knees and have some fun’ I looked at our assistant instructor with my ‘trying not to laugh’ face – which is hard in full mask and regulator in your mouth’ Sadly his mouth was level with the water and it caused him to inhale and cough with the biggest smile. The laughs only continued.. 
For those that are not divers, there is a requirement to learn how to tow your buddy should they become fatigued or injured, this cryptically is called the ’Tired Diver Tow’ which involves you laying on your back and your buddy laying between your legs face up, you hold their tank and kick – pushing you both forward. I simply said ‘ I don’t open my legs for every one this easy, buy a boy a drink first sailor’ He too could not control his giggles The second weekend was the in water component, unlike the current Australian government immigration policy, as it was under water rather than on water I can talk about it. The first day was 3 dives at 6m practicing skills we learnt in the pool. The second day was at a site called Toll Gates – read about that bit here
 
 
 

All was going well, a little too well.

 

I was getting ready to finally sell my maxi road scooter – 500cc – on consignment with a local dealer.
 
 
 
 
The fates intervened again. I was crossing an intersection with a green light, I stopped as a cyclist crossed my path and was collected right in-between my passenger front and rear doors. Causing $6000 worth of damage. I am insured however the insurance company is still ‘determining fault’ hmmmm. 
 
 
To top of a roller coaster of emotions. I was voted by an overwhelming majority to lead my employers Gay & Lesbian Network. A total of 1/2 of the overall votes came to me. A lot of pressure is now on me – some will say ‘its just a volunteer thing, no extra pay, why bother’ – It is important to make changes, drive the changes. You can’t do that from the outside.

 

If this was the last 6 months, I wonder what the next will bring.

Hopefully you will also see some changes on the site coming soon. I hope you will enjoy.  As always, please like, comment or subscribe.

 
 

New Toys

Since our last holiday a few new electronic toys have been added to my pack.

  • We sold our 2 x GoPro 2s
    • Replaced them with 1 x Go Pro 3 black and 1 x Go Pro Silver.
  • Sold our Spot Tracker
    • Replaced with a Delorme InReach 2 way GPS tracker / communicator
  • My underwater point and shoot was lost during our trip to Penguin Island, off the Western Australian Coast.
    • Point and shoot replaced with a combination of my iPhone 5 (now in waterproof LifeProof Fre case) and my new Samsung NX1000 Mirrorless 2/3rd DLSR
  • iPad 2 given to my partner as I updated
    • Updated to iPad Mini