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Minister launches new diving courses, expeditions

Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism, is briefed on equipment used for diving at the Serasa Watersports Complex. – PHOTOS: MUIZ MATDANI

BY Syazwani Hj Rosli

A TOTAL of eight diving packages were officially launched at the Serasa Watersports Complex in Serasa Beach yesterday, by Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Haji Apong, the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism.

A joint collaboration between the Tourism Development Department and local diving operators, Oceanic Quest Sdn Bhd and Poni Divers Sdn Bhd, the new packages will be promoted to local and foreign tourists, along with specialised courses for people of all ages.

The launching ceremony began with the recitation of Surah Al-Fatihah and a Doa Selamat read by the Imam of the Setia Ali Mosque in Pekan Muara, which was followed by a speech from the minister.

There was also a brief video presentation, after which the minister was invited to view a mini-exhibition showcasing several diving activities, including those offered in the new diving packages.

Later in the afternoon, Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali was taken on a tour of Pelong Rock or Pilong-Pilongan island, situated about eight kilometres from the Serasa Beach, and is visible from the Meragang and Muara beaches.

The site is one of the most popular spots for beginners learning to scuba dive and snorkel. There are plenty of dive sites around Pelong Rock, namely Pelong North, Pelong South, Pelong East, Pelong West, Pelong Lagoon, Pelong Ridges and even the lesser-known Pelong Cave. A beautiful rock formation jutting out from below the water surface, Pelong Rock is a protected area ranging from one to 18 metres.

The Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism touring one of the exhibition booths

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism at one of the diving sites

Wong Thye Sing, Managing Director of Poni Divers Sdn Bhd talking to the Bulletin

The Managing Director of Poni Divers Sdn Bhd, Wong Thye Sing, told the Bulletin among the new activities on offer are free diving, technical diving, underwater photography and marine conservation projects.

“Diving has become one of the most enjoyable and popular activities in Brunei these days,” he said, adding that the main highlight of local diving expeditions is the existence of over 30 shipwrecks in the Brunei Bay.

When asked about the challenges in managing a diving company in Brunei, he said, “When we first started, all my staff members were unable to scuba dive. It was challenging.

“Since then, we have made plenty of progress, and have been training locals to become diving guides and scuba instructors. It took several years to achieve, yet we are definitely in a much better position now to do diving activities in Brunei,” he added.

With regard to the potential of the diving industry in Brunei, he said, “We definitely have a lot of space to grow. Whenever we go to places like the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries, some are still unaware of the fact that Brunei has diving activities. So if we can boost more awareness, we can definitely expand the industry two or three times its present size,” he said.

Wong also emphasised on the importance of prioritising marine conservation.

“As the industry is still very young, efforts are being made to expand it through marine conservation, which includes ensuring that the coral reefs will still be around in 10 to 20 years from now,” he said.

The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism has taken steps to protect underwater marine life, including the instalment of mooring buoys around diving sites to allow diving operators to secure their boats and prevent damage to the corals. Also present at yesterday’s launching ceremony were permanent secretaries, deputy permanent secretaries, foreign dignitaries, diving stakeholders, representatives of Royal Brunei Airlines, hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators.

-- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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