Overcoming Thalassophobia with PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Sabah

Day 13, Sun, 9 November 2014

Do you have a phobia? I’m sure you do. Be it phobia with heights, animals, food or even the darkness, some of you may have a phobia or two. I used to have acrophobia. Each time I am on high grounds, I would be afraid to stand near any glass wall or parapet that allows me to look down, especially when it is really high.

I remembered crying so bad for refusing to take the cable car ride that my aunt and uncle had planned during their visit to Singapore many years ago which I end up waiting for their family at the bottom with my maid. I just hate being hung up high in the air. And especially after watching the worst cable car accident in Singapore back then.

Then when I travel as an adult, I tried the cable car ride but teared up silently and sit still, a few inches away from the door and avoiding too much movement that could shake it during the ride in Genting Highlands and Langkawi. But I love the breathtaking views and so slowly, this is when I begin to conquer my fear. But I think I still need to try on a hanging bridge to see how I am really doing eh? Ironically, when I am up high on a mountain, or an open space view, I am able to tolerate the heights better. I feel calm and relaxed.

But I have another phobia to overcome. After a relaxing day walking around Sabah Park Jetty yesterday, today is the day I will have to fight my thalassophobia.

While I love swimming in the pools, the deep ocean intimidates me in a way that I can’t explain. Especially the darkness as you get deeper and when the visibility is bad as you would never know what is around you. Plus, the thought of sharks or anything bigger approaching out of the blue. So while my adventurous soul can’t wait to try diving, there is a little part of me that is filled with anxiety.

I took up PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP) with Diverse Borneo again. It cost us RM250/pax (based on November 2014 price) all-inclusive. The package includes:

  • PADI Instructor
  • Return boat transfers
  • Jetty Fees
  • Sabah Park Dive Permits
  • 2 Dives
  • Scuba Equipment Rental
  • Lunch & Drinking water at the Island

Excludes land transfer and all other not mentioned above.

The first package I took up with them was for my 2D1N Mount Kinabalu Climb on my Day 10-11 in Sabah. And I choose them again because of their service and price range.

We took the minibus from Tanjung Aru to KK and paid RM1.80. Then a taxi from Centrepoint to Jesselton as we are late and it cost us RM12. We were supposed to meet at 8.30am at next to Suria Indoor Soccer Centre in Jesselton Point Ferry. When we reached, they were preparing all scuba equipments and apparatus while we register. By 9 plus, we depart to Sapi Island.

It was one of the best decisions I have made for I got the best and most patient PADI instructor named, Awie. If you see the photos or watch the video below, you can observe how he ensures that I am calm and comfortable while diving and the way he try to comfort me each time I request to ascend up so that I could keep going. This DSD package includes 2 dives. 1 by the shore and another leisure dive from the boat in the middle of the Sea.

Our first stop is Sapi Island where we will learn skills techniques. Here, we are taught on how to use our regulator, recovering of regulator, clearing of mask, reading depth and air pressure, hand signals and other safety exercises.

Then once we have master the basic skills, he brought us over to our first shore dive where he showed us how to properly use our BCD (Buoyancy Control Device) to inflate and deflate to ascend and descend. As well as important tips such as never ascend or descend too fast as it may hurt or injure our ears and lungs. Also, how to maneuver in the water with our head.

It was during this lesson when my fear gets in the way. I could not calm myself down and I had trouble focusing so I did not continue after a few minutes into it. The instructor tried to encourage me to go on but I hesitate. He then advice me to breathe, stay calm and relax. He told me that it’s alright as I can choose to dive again later from the boat. So Esse went ahead with our instructor while I stayed back on the shore with my head down, fiddling my fingers in the soft sand while feeling like a quitter. I have let myself down and I hate that. I cried a little then sober up.

After their first successful shore dive, we head over to Gaya Island restaurant for lunch. I had sweet and sour chicken which is really nice and a hot horlicks to keep me warm. We have about 2 hours of rest and are free for leisure.

But all I could do was walking along the shore, looking over the sea and have a few long moments of self reflection. I ask myself what I want. Do I want to give up entirely or give it 1 more try. Then I ask myself for how long do I want to let my fears have control over me and prevent me from giving myself a chance to explore the beauty of the world below. I sat in silence, with only the sound of the waves and the touch of water on my feet accompanying me. Once I’ve made my choice, I walk back to the restaurant and rest. I felt a surge of confidence flow into me.

When the time come for the second dive, Awie asked if I would like to try again and I agreed. It wasn’t easy. What do you expect when diving during monsoon season? And it so happens that it drizzled abit as we start our second boat dive between Sapi and Gaya Island. Just look at the water in the video. It isn’t helping at all. Yet, I’m glad that though I was still a little scare, I stayed calm and strong.

Having failed at first dive, I took a long time to get comfortable in the water and I keep asking to ascend up while descending down. But Awie would quickly reassure that I am ok and he would ask me to relax. Each I’m ok, we descend further down. It took us about 15-20 minutes just to get me down. Esse had been the stronger member who was able to explore while I struggle. Thanks to him, I got all the videos recorded by him. You can even see the part where I turn 360 degree thinking that my instructor had abandoned me when he was there with me all along. It was funny. But the fear is real.

Finally I did it. We managed to cover a distance and was down at 11 metres before surfacing. I owe all my thanks to this wonderful instructor, Awie and team member who had been patient with me. You guys are awesome! This is a screenshot of what I wrote in my facebook during my failed 1st attempt and another one the next day after my successful 2nd attempt.

Here are some of the snapshots of the dive.

And here’s a video of it:

If you are interested to book with Diverse Borneo, you may book via their website here or go down to their branch at Lot G30, Ground Floor, Wisma Sabah, Jalan Tun Razak, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, 88000, Malaysia or contact them via email or phone numbers here.

***Note: I am in no way affiliated to this company. Hence all opinions and photos are my own. Links provided will not charge you anything as well.

Diverse Borneo Office at Wisma Sabah
Diverse Borneo Office at Wisma Sabah

To those who are afraid of the oceans and seas or deep waters yet you still want to explore life beneath the surface, brace yourself and never let your fears control you. Start learning slowly. It is never too late and try discover scuba diving where you will learn the basic techniques of using the equipment and apparatus. You can even learn it in swimming pools, which is safer. If you never try, you’ll never know. Besides, DSD will not go deeper than 12 meters. So you will still be in a good depth.

I wish you all the best in fighting your fears to achieve your dreams and remember;

“The only way to overcome your phobia is to fight your fears. -lia”

Till then, if you are enjoying my journey, don’t forget to subscribe to follow through my adventures. Thank you everyone!


Lia Schmolphin


Author: schmolphin

BIOGRAPHY Born petite, Liyana or better known as Schmolphin (pronounced as smallfin) in this cyber world was brought to the world in a country known as the small red dot city or ‘Singapore’ to be exact. She has been moving alot within the country – from the north-west to north to east then central. As a child, she's already a traveler in her own mini City. She is always holding on to a full-time job and a freelance job where she ventures into freelance accounting, wedding cards & favours, event executive, wedding deco, and tutoring during her free time. She enjoys learning and growing in every way possible. To stop & breathe, she’d go swimming. To ease her mind & soul, she seeks the beach where the sea comes running & hitting the shores & the wind can just dance on the surface of the Earth. To relax her body, she’ll dance to the beat of the musics played from her own list. No, she’s not a clubber. But a home clubber where she can just dance her heart out! Bowling is what she would do every week if possible. Oh, she just love it. N no, she has never break her bones carrying the bowl.. ^_^ All her life, she speaks in her mind. N they’re always debating. The good versus evil, they say. But it’s what that keeps her wiser each time for she thinks n listens to the small voice inside her before taking any actions. The purpose of this web is mainly to share her travel experiences & reviews or anything related that may be helpful to the next traveler. And most importantly, this web is to serve as a motivation for anyone and everyone to travel even with a tight budget. So feel free to come on board & leave your footsteps by commenting or liking whenever possible for keepsake! =) Xoxoxoxoxoxo; Lia – schmolphin

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