Having been there for the two week program, it has been a fantastic time full of new experiences, impressions and growing knowledge!
The lectures on biology and ecology have been great fun and an opportunity to become more aware of marine life and how to help preserve it. Learning all the different corals, fish and being able to tell them apart has been amazing for me particularly as previously, although I have a passion for diving, I didn’t KNOW what I was actually seeing down there – how terrible is that??!..
Me, being a musician and working in a completely different environment, I must admit, initially had me a bit worried that I might not tag along with the biology and ecology studies. But with Katie, our great and fun instructor – always patiently answering recurring questions…- learning the material became easy! It was truly interesting and inspiring listening to her telling us more about her passion, marine biology and marine preservation, and she made it become our passion. You might think,’…ohhhhh so much theory…’, but in fact the “studying part” isn’t really strenuous. It’s more learning by doing! Aside from the lectures and before the actual survey dives, we would have “learn” dives where everything would be pointed out to us until every last one of us was able to tell the differences between the various corals, fish etc. And as Katie loved mentioning: “It’s not a beach holiday, guuuuys”…..
It’s not, because you’re studying and helping out with things which have to be done; but in another way it is! Being surrounded by pristine beaches, smiling faces and the ocean, how can that not be a beach holiday?? The locals are so friendly and when volunteering they don’t see you so much as a tourist but much more as part of their everyday life and integrate you into their world, the island life!
We always had a bit of free time where we were able to do what we wished to, visiting newly made friends, walking around Tekek, sunbathing or just staying around Katie’s welcoming Tioman Dive Centre, surfing the Internet and chilling out to the sounds of the waves…. I would occasionally use the time to do my obligatory daily flute practice hour, just to pretend that I am keeping in shape!…
So what more would you want to get out of a holiday? Getting to know the culture, the people, doing something with purpose and having fun doing it!! For me it has been the ideal formula and I have been enjoying the satisfaction of removing COT’s (crown of thorns starfish) from the reef, and measuring and surveying marine life.
Chilled out evenings in the local Cabana bar (playing a fantastic Jam session there with the locals Sham, Dan and Chot), hanging out with the great staff (Katie, Nina, Rosie and Benita), my fellow volunteers and locals, having interesting conversations, feeling the relaxed island vibe, enjoying great beaches, palm trees and hiking across the island on a beautiful jungle trail. Well, I couldn’t imagine any better holiday!
A big thanks to the 4 ladies of Tioman Dive Centre, especially to boss Katie! I had such a fantastic time!