At every chance she gets, Valenice Tiong loves spending her time below the ocean’s surface. The certified diver admits she is addicted to the calm and serenity under water, plus the excitement and thrills of facing a different environment every time.
Living a childhood dream
Finding solace underwater, amidst marine life and coral reefs — Valenice Tiong admitted that she is always excited every time she get to spend time below the ocean’s surface — as every adventure is different from the last one.
“When you’re underwater, everything is slower and very quiet. Much like walking through a vast land, diving gives me the chance to walk the sea bed,” she described the experience.
With pristine waters, Sarawak is a great place for underwater explorations, and Valenice first decided to learn how to dive as she said that it seemed very calming and relaxing.
Last year, the fashion model managed to get herself a diving licence, and she did it in less than a month. While it is better for a diver to know how to swim, Valenice said that the skill is actually not really necessary. This is because divers don’t need to keep themselves afloat. A licence is sufficient for one to go for an underwater exploration.
According to her, one has to pass a theory examination on general knowledge first before going for the practical examination which tests their skills in equipment installation and others.
She also revealed that learning basic sign language is also needed before obtaining a licence. “This is because, as divers, we need a way to communicate underwater. Talking underwater is impossible. So with sign language to inform each other of emergencies, or if problems arise.”
Obtaining her licence allowed her to dive to a maximum depth of 18 metres, and she recalled her first time diving. “Diving is addictive. Once you’ve tried it, you would want to have a go at it again. Things are very quiet down there. There won’t be any sound, only the sound of your breath. Every time I want to ease my mind, I would go diving.”
For those who want to dive deeper, Valenice said that they would need a different licence. “With a deep dive licence, a diver can go down to 40-metre where they can experience a different set of marine life. Ever since I have gotten my first license, I made a point to myself to obtain a deep dive licence, which I would go for soon.”
After the monsoon season ended in March, Valenice has been diving on the regular. She, however, avoids going on wet, stormy days when it is dangerous to go out to the sea. She revealed that there were also times when she dived and had zero visibility. “One time I went down, and I could not see anything. It was because the wave was too strong, and ocean debris were everywhere. After only 15 minutes, my diving team returned and aborted our plan.”
Though the experience sounded scary, Valenice said otherwise. “We were prepared for it, and it was not that scary, to be honest. The only important thing you need to remember is to stick with your dive buddy and everything will be fine.”
Aside from the bad memory, Valenice flashed back to a diving experience where she encountered a turtle. “It was really beautiful, and I went after it! I also saw different corals and anemones. It was truly amazing, and that’s the beauty of diving. No two dives are ever the same.”
Admitting that she still has much to explore, Valenice’s diving experience so far had all been in the coastal city of Miri. Describing her experiences underwater, Valenice said it is like watching the Disney’s ‘Finding Nemo’ in real life.
Another Disney animation that she relates to during her underwater moments is the “Little Mermaid”. Coincidentally, her diving centre had brought in mermaid costumes, and Valenice got the chance to relive her childhood dream of becoming a mermaid.
“I believe most girls would want to be a mermaid. And I got the chance to live it! However, wearing a mermaid costume while diving can be really tiring, because our swimming technique mostly concentrated on our abdominal muscle,” she said.
With the fin intact, she also said that it became difficult to walk underwater. Nonetheless, swimming in a mermaid costume offered her a different experience underwater — as she had to dive without an oxygen tank, and depend solely on her breath.
Missing the ocean every day, Valenice conceded that it is good to be caught up with something enjoyable. “In a way, it helps relieve stress and refocus your mind on something you enjoy.
Hobbies that require some level of physical activities also create chemical changes in our body that help reduce stress.
“Getting a break from the stress at work and doing something you enjoy can rejuvenate the mind and help prepare you to handle challenges in the future,” she added, as she gears up ready for her next underwater adventure.