Ever been scuba diving in clear water surrounded by fish and coral? I never had until a few weeks ago and let me just say IT WAS FRIGGIN’ AMAZING! Easily the best travel decision I’ve made over the last few years (and definitely better than my infamous Tour de Horror project).
After a rough January I was feeling used and abused so I decided to head out to Salang, the northernmost village on Tioman Island in the South China Sea. I’d heard many great things about the diving out there and decided this was where I wanted to get scuba diving certified.
What I found was a sleepy little village that used to be a big tourist hotspot 10-15 years ago but has now fallen off the radar, much to the disappointment of the 120-or-so locals who call Salang home — but much to my pleasure 😉
This is one of those awesome hidden spots I almost don’t want to tell you about.
Salang Is A Paradise In The South China Sea
The beautiful but tiny village of Salang has faded from the minds of most travelers to Malaysia. It is one that scuba divers know of and other tourists visiting Tioman hear about, but not many visit. The result is a beautiful reef and plentiful fish that haven’t yet been destroyed by mass tourism.
There are no big hotel chains in Salang, just a few different types of beach chalets for rent. No massive resorts or fast food or even cars, just a wide selection of family-owned food stalls and one place that almost passes for a small restaurant. (Salang Dream, delicious food!)
Getting Your PADI Scuba Diving Certification
Completing scuba diving certification here was easier and more fun than I expected. Five shallow water dives, two free water dives, and a serious of basic maneuvers practiced on the surface (all of which should be common sense to anyone that knows how to swim) and voila! you’re certified. But oh the feeling to be underwater surrounded 360 degrees by a school of thousands upon thousands of first….it was like being in the eye of a tornado! That experience alone made me realize it was a mistake to not have gotten my scuba diving certification sooner.
One big plus of getting your scuba certification abroad instead of at home is you pay only for the course itself, not any of the equipment. This is especially beneficial if you are not certain if you will like scuba diving enough to want to invest four figures in gear and underwater accessories.
Plus it probably helps that I picked an amazing instructor, Grahame Massicks. Originally from London, Grahame has been living and diving in Salang for nearly 15 years and is actually known around town as the Scuba Guru. And after all, how can you not trust your guru?
Whenever we weren’t diving, Grahame and I were chatting or exploring the island, such as our trek to and through the humongous failed “resort that never was” on the edge of Salang. I’ll finish editing that video and the ones from our underwater dives after completing (hopefully) my Rickshaw Run.
So to anyone thinking about getting scuba diving certified in Malaysia, definitely check out Salang and my new friend the Scuba Guru. You can find out more about him, his photographs and diving courses on his site: www.tioman-scuba.com
Finally, let me leave you with a piece of advice. If you plan on shooting photos or videos underwater, make sure to get a red lens filter to help correct the loss of color underwater. I didn’t know this so my footage didn’t turn out near as nice as Grahame’s: