Favourite places,  Malaysia,  Round the world

Kilometer 33 998: Tioman – on cat mafia and diving insights

A muscular red tomcat with a scar just by his snout and a bitten tail circled around my legs for the fifth time. I took a critical look at my plate: nasi lemak – rice steamed in coconut milk with fried egg, hot sambal sauce and – aha! a few fried tiny anchovies… The look in his eyes was friendly, indulgent even. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed five of his smaller, bony, far less friendly-looking cat bodyguards gathering. I just met the cat Al Capone. I could say goodbye to my anchovies.

It’s an island with human-cat ratio 1:4, monitor lizard-cat 1:2 and monkey-cat 3:4. I don’t know who named it Tio-man and why, as the only reasonable and logical name is Tio-cat. It’s an island that steals hearts with its azure postcard-like lagoons ornamented with coconut palm trees. It’s an island where the locals dive in the morning, sleep in hammocks in the afternoon and hang out with their friends by the sound of guitars or a transistor radio, benefitting from the duty free shop on one of the beaches. The bars play reggae music, one souvenir stall sells colourful sarongs, another one – turtle bracelets. Every other place is a dive shop.




And that’s precisely why we came there: to learn the sport which has immediately become one of our favourites. Mine – because you don’t need to move too much. Piotrek’s – because 5m below sea level the temperatures finally begin to be bearable. Simultaneously, we did a huge favour to Justyna and Marek, who visited us for holidays and who would want to actually lie and do nothing on a paradise beach for four days when you have the opportunity to spend a quarter of your time with a diving text book and another quarter sleeping, since, as it appears, diving makes you tired.


However, the third quarter made us fall in love with it deeply and madly so now be careful and start taking notes, because this is the part where I give you my diving expertise and, I must tell you, before graduating from the course 60% of my knowledge concerning ocean swimming came from Finding Nemo and the other 40% from Finding Dory, therefore you may expect vital life advice.

Dive instructor Adam and his turtles

So let’s put our wetsuits, weight belts, jackets on, let’s check if all valves and gaskets work and let’s go to conquer the underwater world. In normal circumstances, right after you put your face in water it appears that the mask is leaking, it gets foggy, water gets into your nose and it all sucks. Well now, did you know that you can take a mask off under water, readjust it and then blow all the water out of it while only giving it a little push on your forehead? So pretty in its simplicity! Moreover, unlike I expected, salty water doesn’t irritate your eyes. And once you learn how to control the uncontrolled surfacing, everything gets even simpler: if you start going up, even though you don’t want to, you just release a bit of air from your jacket and keep your position easily.

Equipment all ready and set…

Real fun begins when you start to control your depth with the amount of air in your lungs: if you wish to go down, you start breathing shallower and release more bubbles. Important: contrary to what we learn from one of Nemo’s friends, bubbles are not cool and you shouldn’t try to catch them. You can fly high on someone else’s bubbles and one of diving rules is – try not to surface in an uncontrolled manner.

Image result for finding nemo bubbles

Once you’ve mastered all of the above, you can focus on observing the life of the reef. Also here I can share very practical advice with you, namely, how to make all the fish within a radius of a hundred meters come to you. Method tested by Piotrek and rated 5/5 starfish.

What you need to do is go diving from boat after decent breakfast, not too close from the shore, just to spend a bit more time on the boat. The wavier, the better. It’s important to concentrate your eyes on one spot and when the dizziness and nausea hit you, try to escalate the feeling by still keeping your eyes on the same spot. After backrolling into water and reaching the desired depth, you can proceed to the relevant action, which is: puke lavishly into the mouthpiece, clean it with pressured air and voilà! There’s an underwater rainbow of all creatures inhabiting the surrounding reefs literally in your face for private use for several minutes, depending on the size of the breakfast you had.

Note: method tested only in a herbivorous environment.

They will get you.

I’m not sure whether I already convinced you to go diving, so just in case, let me put a list of pros and cons to sum up.


You get to see Nemo and Dory.

You can understand why it’s not cool to throw trash into the ocean.

You get to see a turtle. Or even two.

You can plant your own coral.

You can take awesome underwater pictures.

You can learn how to equalize and never have problems with your ears while flying again.

You get to see … (just put your favourite marine animal here)

You could die. That is, if you hold your breath, go deeper than you should, stay longer than you should and, all in all, don’t follow the general rules and common sense.

You could get eaten by a jelly fish or another voracious creature. Watch out for jelly fish and other voracious creatures.

You could scare a fish, just like the evil diver in Finding Nemo.

You could get cold.

You could never want to come back to live outside of water again.

Do you dive? Let me hear your stories!




I found Nemo!
Work your eyes, there’s a turtle behind me.

Tioman Tioman


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