Life As A Scuba Diving Instructor On Tioman Island, Malaysia
“Silence. Things that we can’t experience on land. You’ll learn to contain your excitement to yourself, talk to yourself to stay calm down there, it is more like therapy for me.” – Harris Hisham
For the years I’ve known Harris, he has always been a good friend. We’ve lost in touch somewhere along the way but thanks to the advancement of technology, everyone is connected. Now, he is PADI‘s scuba diving instructor on Tioman Island. Whenever I see his postings, I would get immediately attracted by the marine life visuals captured by him. Like seriously, so beautiful! More than that, I personally felt like I learn something new every time he does his postings. Very interesting!
As usual, I wouldn’t want such great content to go to waste. Plus, I think his story is worth telling. His work amazes me and opens my mind to learn more. I’m sure it will give you the same impact as well.
Q: Why did you choose to become a scuba diving instructor? How did it all start?
A: I did my scuba diving license in Perhentian in 2010, it was a birthday treat from my mom! I was a proper city kid, refused to go because I thought it was military training and wasn’t a fan of the beach that much back then! 😀 Even after I got certified, I didn’t think that I would go diving as my seasickness was bad. But then it grew slowly. I convinced myself to go on diving trips and get better at it by following all the instructions found in The Coastal Side blog and I upgraded to Advanced diver a year after that.
It all started off on the final year of my studies in UiTM when I was doing a Bachelor in Sports Management. I had to choose where I had to do my internship and my final year of research. Then I realized that diving is a sport and maybe I could do something about it. Sorted things out, got things done, the next thing I knew I had a week left before I started my internship at a dive center in Perhentian Island alongside my research about scuba diving. I was just on my bed thinking, it would be a waste if I stay on the island for almost 6 months and not upgrade my license, that’s when I decided to upgrade my license to a professional level. After the internship, submitted my research and have been stuck on the island ever since. I was hooked!
Q: What makes you so passionate about your job?
A: As I continue diving, I also learned a lot about the eco-system, the importance of it to our planet, and the economy from the people I’ve met. It wasn’t the diving that made me so passionate, it was the people that I met. They inspired me to be more than just a scuba diving instructor, I am the ambassador of the ocean!
Q: On a typical day, what is your schedule like?
A: My work is usually during weekends and my weekends are Monday-Wednesday. Basically, when people are off for holiday, that’s when I work. 😀 Usually to finish a course, the students would need 4 days of theory and practical stuffs. It is a tight schedule for me and the students. My job is to make sure that they have a good learning experience and most importantly, finish their course by day 4! 😀 It is not as relaxing as it looks. Not to mention, to make sure that they could adapt with all the skills learned underwater, ensure their safety underwater. It is actually a high-risk job!
Q: Have you encountered any difficulties on and off the beach?
A: Yes I have. I will be with the students for 4 days and besides teaching, I also have to find a way to connect with them and give them the best experience on and off the sea. I have to make sure that they fall in love with it by the end of their trip and personally I think that’s the most difficult thing to do in every course. I have to adapt fast and follow their learning pace, try to find other creative ways for them to understand and learn the skills. Regarding accidents and emergencies, Alhamdulillah I haven’t encountered one and will not want to experience it. Panic students are common for us instructors, that is why safety always comes first in the course on where you plan your dive sites and conduct your class.
Q: What are your favorite parts of being a scuba diving instructor?
A: The best part is being able to show them a whole new world that they never imagine before. People always think turtles and Nemos (clownfish) but there are more than just that. It’s a complex ecosystem that we should learn and adapt from, as humans. There’s a lot we can learn from them! Being able to share whatever that I have experienced is priceless!
Q: List 3 of your most precious finds while diving in the sea? (Marine life)
A: Encountered and swim with dolphins in Tioman was one of the most magical moments. Dolphins sighting in Tioman is common but we decided to get random on that day and jumped off the boat to swim with them. It is amazing how these majestic creatures interact with us even without being able to talk to us. It always reminds myself that we are sharing this planet with them.
As you explore the ocean more, you’ll tend to focus on macro creatures such as shrimps, crabs, and nudibranch. They are like the pokemons of underwater comes from different colors, shapes, and sizes. Did you know that there’s a crab called Orang Utan Crab because of the hair on its body? There’s also a pom pom crab as the claw covered with anemone that looks like a pom pom. Also, there are tons more strange things going on down there, you have to see it for yourself! 😀
Oh, and of course sharks encounter. People have always mistaken sharks for aggressive and dangerous. There are about 200 types of sharks in the water and only 2-3 of them are overly curious. Of course, they are. They are the king of the sea. If someone enters your home wearing a speedo, wouldn’t you be curious? 😀 They are an apex predator means they are at the top of the marine food chain. What they do is they make sure the fishes stay healthy by eating all the injured fish. When they smell blood, they detect sick fishes that should be cleaned up. Their role is important not just for the marine ecosystem but also to us humans as there are about 1 billion people depend on the fisheries industry for their livelihood. Sharks keep the fishes healthy for us!
Q: Tell us your exact feeling when you are diving in the sea?
A: Silence. Things that we can’t experience on land. You’ll learn to contain your excitement to yourself, talk to yourself to stay calm down there, it is more like therapy for me. Being submerged in water is a feeling that I cannot describe. When we were in our mother’s belly, we were surrounded by liquid so maybe deep inside, water is actually a therapy to everyone if you really spend more time with it and most importantly, trust it.
Q: As a PADI’s scuba diving instructor, how does your class stand out from the rest?
A: I believe that there’s more to it than just Scuba Diving. Diving is like a ticket to explore and learn about the untapped world. Once they become a diver, they automatically become the ocean ambassador and a part of the movement of protecting our ocean! That where I think I’m different from the others. I’m not obsessed with diving but obsessed with protecting the ocean. So my priority is always to educate them about the ecosystem and make them part of the movement!
Q: In your own opinion, what would be an untold story of Tioman Island that not everyone knows?
A: In my own observation, the most sharks I’ve encountered while diving would be Tioman island. So if you are a fan of sharks, Tioman is D place to visit!
Q: As a scuba diving instructor, what are your words of encouragement for first-timers?
A: Diving is like going out on a date, you might like the person on the first date, you might need a couple of dates to like him but also tons of meet up to actually trust your date. That’s how it works in diving, you get to understand the ocean, get to know it by spending time with it more only then you can start trusting it and lastly fall in love with it!
Q: Besides focusing on your classes, are you working on any projects currently?
A: I’m working on a project called Sea Bells. It is a brand that sells ethically made t-shirts and with every purchase, we’ll replant a piece of coral for you! Check out our website at www.myseabells.com or visit our Instagram to find out more about it!
Q: What do you do when you are not diving or leading a class on Tioman Island?
A: When I’m not diving, I’ll travel back to KL to be close to my family especially my parents, wife, and son. On days that I don’t have the time to go back, I’ll bring them with me. People say home is way your heart is and my heart is always with my beloved family.
Q: How does it feel like being apart from your family on most days?
A: I always believe in the Malay saying “susah-susah dulu, senang-senang kemudian”. We just have to think positive and believe in the things that we are doing; the good part is I can always bring them with me wherever I go.
Q: Are there any unforgettable moments that you can share with us?
A: My best moment was when I was diving in the Komodo island, Indonesia. It is rated as one of the best dive spots around the world known as a Manta Ray sanctuary. Got the chance to dive with the school of Manta Rays. Again, every time when I encounter majestic creatures, it made me feel so small and humble, creatures down there always have something to teach us just by learning their character and habitat.
Q: If you could be a scuba diving instructor elsewhere, where would it be?
A: I have a couple of places on my list and most are around SEA. Well, Indonesia to be exact. Diving in Indonesia has a lot to offer and the only way for me to fully experience it is to work there! Places such as Bali, Komodo Island, Raja Ampat, and the list goes on and on! 😀
What a story! Told you that you’ll be amazed!