Richard Smith, Dive Instructor at Tanjong Jara Resort in Terengganu, Malaysia gives us an insight into Luxury Diving in Malaysia
From March to October, the deep waters of the Terengganu Marine Park come to life, offering a perfect window onto untouched coral gardens and rare species of marine life. And with over 20 stunning dive sites surrounding the main island of Pulau Tenggol, the protected area provides both an unforgettable introduction for beginners and a wealth of underwater adventures for experienced divers.
Although small and compact, at less three kilometres long and two kilometres wide, the steep and rugged cliffs of Pulau Tenggol form a spectacular canvas for diving and an ideal hideaway for the tropical underwater world. Bright corals and vivid nudibranchs provide the perfect backdrop for the wealth of colourful marine life, with every species imaginable in residence; from giant double-headed parrotfish, yellowtail fusiliers and sea turtles, to eagle rays, black-tipped reef sharks and barracudas.
An impressive array of giant rock and boulder formations offer an underwater obstacle course for the experienced diver, whilst those looking for a more restful experience can simply let the current glide them over the reef, accompanied by curious batfish or enormous schools of hunting trevallies.
Q: Tell us how you got involved with diving as a career?
Richard: I’ve always worked with people throughout my previous jobs. I worked with young people in Scotland as a youth and community worker, and as general manager for a recreational centre in London. This gave me the experience and ability to get on with and work with people from all aspects of life.
I decided to take a ‘Gap Year’ from University and do some travelling. I first travelled to the Gran Canaria and this is where I found a dive centre that offered the Rescue and Divemaster course in exchange for working for them for the summer.
I have since then worked in dive centre in the UAE and Thailand where I did my Instructors course, before going to Australia. I have now been at Tanjong Jara Resort in Malaysia for five a half years.
Q: What water sports activities are available at Tanjong Jara Resort?
Richard: Currently we offer diving and snorkel trips to Tenggol Island. Tenggol Island is one of the best kept secrets in Malaysia for snorkeling and diving. The crystal clear water, diverse marine life and abundance of coral formations offer a truly beautiful sight for those who visit.
Q: What level of basic experience would someone need to take the test to become a PADI qualified diver?
Richard: There is no basic requirement except they must be able to swim.
Q: How long does the PADI course take and what is the cost?
Richard: The PADI Open Water Diver course takes four days to complete with one and a half days allocated to theory, half a day in the pool and two full days doing four open water dives at Tenggol Island. The cost of this course is RM 1,600. We can send the books in advance to cut down the theory section of the course to just half a day.
Q: What are some of the things you have seen whilst diving in Malaysian waters
Richard: I see Turtles 99% of the time. Between the months of July and October I regularly see whale sharks as well as the occasional manta ray. The diversity of both coral and fish life are outstanding at Tenggol Island. The life around the island is getting even more diverse and Trevally, Jacks and Barracudas are becoming more and more common as they scour the reefs for food. With Tenggl Island being located at the edge of the central coral triangle, there is more diversity in the shoals of colorful fish than almost anywhere in the world.
Q: What does the PADI accreditation allow someone to do?
Richard: The Open Water Diver accreditation allows someone to dive at a depth of up to 18 meters with anyone who has the same, equivalent or better qualification. You can walk into any dive centre and go diving. For the majority of people it means that they can get the most enjoyment out of diving because they don’t have to limit their depth as they would if they did not have a license.
Q: I understand that diving is not allowed at certain times of the year, can you elaborate on this?
Richard: During the wet season on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, the sea can be quite rough, so dive season usually ends on the 1st of November and resumes again on the 1st of March.