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Conquering Water Phobia with Scuba Discovery at Redang Pelangi Resort

The treacherous monsoon season has finally rolled past us. As we were still in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan, this was one of the best times of the year for an East Coast island holiday for non-Muslims. Targets: Redang, Lang Tengah, Pulau Kapas, besides Perhentian, all located off the Terengganu coast.

Redang Pelangi Resort, Redang Island, Terengganu
Redang Pelangi Resort, Redang Island, Terengganu

Being between projects, our plan was to spend a week in Redang, just lepak-lepak, santai-santai. You might be surprised that as a non-swimmer, I do enjoy my beach holidays. Imagine lazing on the hammock, people-watching while the breeze caresses my face, and being lulled to yet another lazy afternoon nap by the symphony of crashing waves. Messy hair, why care?

On such trips, non-swimmers usually end up being the ‘bag guards’. I was prepared to assume the role and would willingly do it, as it meant that I wouldn’t have to go into the water.

Redang Pelangi Resort at night
Redang Pelangi Resort at night

This beach holiday turned out to be vastly different when yours truly was offered a ‘Scuba Discovery’ opportunity by our host, Redang Pelangi Resort.

inside Pelangi Dive Centre
inside Pelangi Dive Centre

Although suffering from water phobia, I have done my fair share of water activities over the years, such as riding on the Banana Boat, Evo Pro 3, GX 4, and the most thrilling of all, Flying Fish.

Read: Asian Water Sports Village, Puchong

Additionally, there were white water rafting, jet skiing, including kayaking, just to name a few activities off the top of my head. Getting into the water was never easy. Even though we always went through a water confidence initiation rite, in the middle of my activity, I would always mentally question, “Dang, what have I gotten myself into?”

Despite all these experiences, scuba diving was new. I would be fully submerged, unlike the rides where I was only on the water surface, with a risk of being thrown into the water.

briefing by dive instructor Teng Jan Shir
briefing by dive instructor Teng Jan Shir
dive instructor Teng Jan Shir demonstrates how to get into the sea at chest level, and kneels so that the water is above head
dive instructor Teng Jan Shir demonstrates how to get into the sea at chest level, and kneels so that the water is above head
dive instructor Teng Jan Shir demonstrates how to form an O with the lips over the regulator
dive instructor Teng Jan Shir demonstrates how to form an O with the lips over the regulator

Breaking mental barriers underwater
At the Dive Centre of Redang Pelangi Resort, one of the diving instructors, Hann (Kyle Foo), was assigned to me. However, before I agreed to my assignment, I interrogated him kaw-kaw to have a mental picture first of what to expect from this ‘Scuba Discovery’. Luckily, Hann was patient and answered all my questions.

Hann briefing a Scuba Discovery newbie
Hann briefing a Scuba Discovery newbie

As a disclaimer, he also said that if I suffered from water phobia, there was nothing he could do about it. However, the bottom line was whether I wanted to take up the challenge. And if I wanted to proceed, he would be there for me, one-to-one, to ensure that I would be safe.

My, I never had that many butterflies in my stomach before. You should have seen my constipated face. Most importantly, I mustered enough courage and turned up at the Dive Centre at the arranged time.

Just breathe
Before getting into the water, Hann gave me a 10-minute briefing on what I should do.

The main point was to keep breathing… through the mouth. It sounded easy, but it could get pretty challenging because we have been conditioned to breathe through our nose since birth.

air tanks and other diving gear
air tanks and other diving gear
air tanks are ready
air tanks are ready

Besides being told never to hold my breath while underwater, I was taught the techniques of:

1. clearing my mask from being flooded
2. clearing water from my mouth
3. ear equalising
4. hand signals

Once I understood these instructions, it was time to suit up. As this was just to ‘try scuba,’ I was not expected to know how to suit up by myself. And then, with the heavy air tank on my back and fins in my hand, it was time to take the longest walk of my life, on hot sand to the shore.

Panicking underwater
Only those who suffer from water phobia will understand how scary it can be when the water level is above the head. Yes, we know that the water was shallow. We know that with the air tank and a dedicated instructor, we will not drown, but when anxiety overcame us, all the techniques we learned earlier just flew out of our mind.

I had to give Hann the ‘thumbs up’ sign to ascend. He was concerned and asked me what happened. I replied, “Panic attack!” My squinty Chinese eyes must have appeared as large and round like 20 sen coins!

He calmed me down, and after once more making him promise that he wouldn’t let go of me, we descended again. Actually, he couldn’t let go of me as I was the one holding on to him very tightly! Although I had already forgotten the techniques, he showed them to me underwater, and I just followed his steps.

After what felt like a long while, he gave me a fist bump, which signalled that he was satisfied with my progress and we were good to proceed.

dive instructor Rodson with a diver
dive instructor Rodson (R) with a diver
a diver getting ready
a diver getting ready
suit up time
suit up time

Do we need to know how to swim to scuba dive?
The answer is no, but it does help to boost one’s confidence.

With fins on, I just needed to paddle while holding on to Hann’s arm. Basically, he guided my depth and direction. After a while, he wanted me to let go of his arm, asking me to hold on to some of the tube attachments instead, while he held me by the air tank hook on my back.

I relaxed enough to enjoy the marine life while concentrating on my breathing. I managed to swim with a turtle and got circled by a battery of young barracudas. What an unforgettable experience! The colourful fishes swam near, and I tried to catch them in my palm. Undeniably, it was an optical illusion because while they seemed near, they probably were still quite a distance away.

While underwater, a thought crossed my mind that this vision could also be easily achieved by going on a virtual reality tour of the sea without having to go INTO the water physically.

time to get into the sea
time to get into the sea
a long walk on a burning hot beach
a long walk on a burning hot beach
in the South China Sea
in the South China Sea

Wrong signal
After what seemed like a long time, anxiety started to build up in me, and I signalled to Hann that I wanted to quit by slashing my neck. The correct signal was supposed to be ‘thumbs up’ for ascending. Slashing of the neck meant running out of air or something as dire. Hann must have been taken aback by my signal, since he did not teach me that! HAHAHA

dive instructor Hann with Emily (yellow fins) during Scuba Discovery
dive instructor Hann with Emily (yellow fins) during Scuba Discovery

Hann told me to hold on for a bit longer and guided me to paddle closer to the shore. After a while, I felt the heat of the sun hitting my back. Yes, we were nearby and could easily walk back to the beach.

Imagine if Hann had allowed me to ascend when I wanted to. I would have panicked when I saw that we were still quite a distance from the beach. How would I get back on land?

Video: Conquering Water Phobia with Scuba Discovery at Redang Pelangi Resort

Achievement unlocked
All in all, I had a wonderful experience in scuba diving, even though it was just to a depth of 7 metres. If I may say so myself, it was quite an achievement for me to take on this scuba diving challenge despite my water phobia, and for 38 long minutes to boot!

I only dared to do it because of the support of friends and a dedicated instructor (Hann), with another dive instructor, Rodson, as a backup, trailing behind us. Thank you, Redang Pelangi Resort, for this opportunity and your team of experienced dive instructors in handling a difficult guest like moi.

Would I go for another dive? Maybe, but only after I have learned to swim.

going deeper still
going deeper still

Would I recommend Redang Pelangi Resort as an ideal Redang beach resort? Definitely. And if you are afraid of water and yet want to try to conquer your fear, you should look no further than the Dive Centre at Redang Pelangi Resort. You will be in safe hands. I am living proof.

Pelangi Dive Centre diving services and courses
Pelangi Dive Centre diving services and courses

Redang Pelangi Resort
Add: 2A, Jalan Syed Hussin, 20100 Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia.
Tel: +609-6242158
Fax: +609-6235202
Email: reservation@redangpelangi.com
Web: https://www.redangpelangi.com/
Facebook: RedangPelangi

With love

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