Asia / Malaysia / My Travels

Dayang, Malaysia: How I Got My Open-Water PADI Certification Even If I Do Not Know How To Swim!

“Alang-alang menyeluk pekasam, biar sampai ke pangkal lengan.”
(Since you happen to put your hand in a container full of pickles,
might as well dip your whole arm in the container.) – Malayan Proverb

Pulau Dayang, Malaysia | 2010


When I was still living in Singapore in 2010, my friend, Mark, invited us to get Open-Water PADI Certification with him in one of the diving schools in Singapore, the Gill Divers. I said no at first because for obvious reason –


Surprisingly, from what I remember and not to tarnish Gill Divers’ reputation or anything, they have told me that I do not need to know how to swim to pass the exam, as the objective of diving is to sink and not to float. Yeah, I know it’s crazy to believe them because I am telling you, on the course of passing my certification, you do need how to swim, lol!

Well, at first, my friend Mark offered to teach me how to swim before the practical exams. He tried but along with all the people who tried to teach me in the past, he failed too, haha! And since I gave in to peer pressure already by enrolling myself with this certification, I had no choice but to go on and finish the course.

After I passed the theoretical exams ,we still have a pool session in Singapore before the actual open water sessions. At the pool sessions, there were 2 skills that you need to pass that requires you SWIM:

1st skill is to be able to swim 300-meter long. As swimming doesn’t have to be pretty as long as you finished the 300-meter in any way you want, you will pass this skill. So I asked them to place me beside the gutter, and this way I can hold on to the gutter and rest when I am running out of air already, lol!

2nd skill is be able to float in water for 10minutes. I do not know how to tread in water, I backfloat for 10 minutes haha! My friends were telling me I am cheating but the examiners allowed me, so what? Lol! Needless to say, I passed my pool session skills tests.

With my dive buddy, Shiela.


Now I am one exam away from getting my PADI! Gill Divers booked out open-water session in Pulau Dayang, Malaysia. Apart from Tioman Island, Dayang Island in Malaysia is one of the divers’ go-to-place especially those getting PADI certifications from Singapore – it is close and it is cheaper. As we are only doing this over the weekend.

From Singapore we took a bus going directly to Mersing (around 3hrs travel), and from Mersing Ferry Terminal we took a ferry going to Pulau Dayang. They booked us to one of the divers camp resorts in Dayang, the Dayang Blues Resort.

It’s a cottage accommodation with very basic amenities. I stayed in the same room as my friend, Shiela, who will be diving buddy for the trip. We arrived quite late on Friday night from a long trip, so we just rested and sleep for the next day’s open-water sessions and exams.



The next day, it was raining! :(

Since the “show must go on”, we all got up early and got ready for the sessions even if I knew it will be more challenging. Despite the hazy underwater I was still able to pass the skills they required me to do. Except for one – to be able to unstrap the oxygen tank underwater and strap it back.

With this skill, that would mean the time between unstrapping and strapping, I won’t be having oxygen and will require me to float or swim for few seconds! I struggled of course because I sink everytime I unstrap my oxygen tank because it was too heavy.

Raining on the day of our exam!


When I realised that I was the only one left in the group that who could not do it that ever one was looking at me already with pity, I knew I won’t be able to pass it anymore. My dive master, Mark Senior, stopped the exam and I thought that was it, I failed.

But as soon as we arrived back at our camp, he again asked me to go with him at the seashore where perhaps the water will be shallow and not as deep as earlier. I got pissed off honestly because I thought I failed already and I do not want to struggle anymore and feel that feeling of drowning again!



I do not know what happened but while I was doing this skill, I was too angry I was able to do it! As soon as we got up in the water, he congratulated me for passing I couldn’t believe what I just heard! How did I do it? I don’t know too, haha!

Anyway, as I walked towards the whole group, I gave all of them a thumbs up, meaning I passed, and every one cheered up hahaha! They opened a can of beer for me and we all partied that night! I can’t believe too that –



The shore where I owe my certification, lol!


I can’t say that you can get your PADI Certification even if you don’t know how to swim, because I guess I just got lucky with mine. But if you want to try your luck, I will say go for it as well, you’ll never know what you’re missing unless you try, right?

As the Malayan proverb says that if you happen to put your hand in a container full of pickles, might as well dip your whole arm in the container, because the ripest pickles sink to the bottom. If you are going to do something, you might as well go all the way!

Celebrating over our last sunset in Pulau Dayang

One thought on “Dayang, Malaysia: How I Got My Open-Water PADI Certification Even If I Do Not Know How To Swim!

  1. Pingback: Tioman, Malaysia: A Paradise Not To Be Ignored | heart & sole

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