Start-in-Tioman (SiT) is a premier diving event, the biggest of its kind in Malaysia. Now in its eighth year, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) Pahang Office has been successfully organising this event to put the island of Tioman on the map as the diving spot of choice among local and international divers, including as the getaway destination of choice among sun, sand and sea enthusiasts.
The programme which took place from 24 to 27 August 2017 and was launched by the Director of MOTAC Pahang Office, Dato’ Haji Edros Yahya. In his opening speech, he expressed his office’s great pleasure in hosting the event as an effort to encourage the public to treat Tioman as the destination where they can admire and respect the beauty of the tropical island and waters, including as the spot where diving enthusiasts first learn to dive. Being a diver himself, he finds Tioman irresistible and possesses the charms that attract local and international travellers, including divers and marine enthusiasts due to its diversely rich marine life since it is located within the Coral Triangle, where the Pacific and Indian Ocean meets.
This year’s SiT took a more casual approach by providing divers and non-divers the opportunity to not only savour Tioman’s bewitching underwater beauty but also take in the wondrous above-water island panorama from the peak of Nenek Semukut Hill. By doing so, the programme definitely achieved its objective in instilling awareness among participants and the general public towards the need to respect and conserve the natural environment and biodiversity, not just in Tioman but also worldwide, besides cementing the island’s position as one of Malaysia’s top-of-mind destinations.
‘Promoting’ crafts… underwater
Besides hiking up Nenek Semukut Hill, what makes this year’s SiT differently special was the fact that for the first time, MOTAC Pahang Office worked hand-in-hand with Kraftangan Malaysia (National Craft Council) during the programme as part of Malaysia’s National Blue Ocean Strategy (NBOS), a national initiative that encourages voluntary collaboration among different ministries, government agencies and private sector to deliver projects in high impact, low cost and rapid manner.
Kraftangan Malaysia contributed to the SiT programme by developing an artificial reef in the form of one pole with various traffic signs and directions attached to it. Each sign points the direction to different districts in Pahang that are identified based on their specialty crafts such as Pekan (popular for royal handwoven textiles), Temerloh (wooden handicrafts) and Jerantut (ceramic crafts). Once the pole and signs have been designed, the divers who participated in the programme brought the road sign 100 metres from the beach and planted it on the seabed at the depth of 10 metres.
During the dive to plant the artificial reef, the group of scuba divers also brought along Jalur Gemilang, Malaysia’s national flag, in the spirit of celebrating the nation’s Independence Day.
Turning a cancer fighter’s dream into reality
During this four-day programme, the SiT participants were given a crash course on the underwater world and accompanying marine life, including the do’s and don’ts of diving. More than just classes and a handbook, the participants were also brought to the sea to put their knowledge to test. At the end of the programme, the participants would receive diving certificates and licenses, giving amateur divers an exciting start to their dream to dive elsewhere in the world.
As a result, 20 participants are now certified as open water divers and one successfully received an advanced license.
One of the divers is the inspiring cancer fighter, Zaki Mohd Yamani, who was diagnosed with third stage blood cancer (Hodgkin Lymphoma) in July 2014. This 28-year-old youth from Jerantut, Pahang set a remarkable record last year when he hitch-hiked across Peninsular Malaysia with only RM13, his identification card and driving license in his wallet. His will and determination, as well as his message in spreading the word that getting cancer is not a life sentence, garnered nationwide attention.
As such, MOTAC Pahang Office intended to acknowledge Zaki giving him the chance to turn his dream of diving into reality by including him into the programme and eventually obtain a diving license, which is another feather in his cap. In his speech, the humble yet visionary Zaki thanked MOTAC Pahang Office for giving him such a valuable opportunity and expressed hope that he can help the public to understand cancer patients and inspire more cancer fighters to not stop pursuing their dreams.
Discovering the hidden gem of Tioman Island – Dragon’s Horns
Besides the divers, a total of 24 students from Kota Tinggi Community College, Johor were also invited to take part in snorkelling and learning the basics of safety while being in the water. These students also experienced discovery scuba diving, which is escorted underwater diving for beginners by an experienced diver or divemaster. To most of them, it was their first time in their lives being immersed in the underwater world and marine life, sparking interest among them to obtain their own diving licenses in the near future.
These students also experienced the Dragon’s Horns, Tioman’s hidden gem. It actually refers to the peak of Nenek Simukut Hill with an elevation of 695 metres above sea level. It takes three hours of challenging uphill trek from Kampung Mukut. The name ‘Dragon’s Horns’ is derived from the hill’s geographical granite formation that resembles fantasy-like horns of a dragon. The view from the top of this hill is indeed breathtaking.
Where to Stay
Damai Tioman Resort
Damai Tioman Resort has been the accommodation of choice for the participants of the SiT programme. This beachfront, budget-friendly resort not only has an on-site dive centre, but also a restaurant that overlooks a pristine beach. The resort’s rooms come with private balconies, air-conditioning units, and en suite bathroom with hot water supply. WiFi is also provided to the guests at the resort’s public areas. Sightseeing and snorkelling trips around the island can be arranged at the front desk.
A: Kg. Genting Pulau Tioman, 26800 Rompin Pahang
T: +6 09 413 1442
This article is included in Gaya Travel Magazine 12.5. Read the magazine for free HERE.