From exploring shipwrecks to discovering the world of underwater caves and caverns, Jet Kong and Chard Min have always been fascinated by the deep ocean life, but it was not until they took their first course in diving is when their passion really took off.
As a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Divemaster himself, Jet was first introduced to the exhilarating underwater adventure back in February 2022.
For Chard Min, the lessons he learned in the first diving course in 2019 have given him a great sense of accomplishment and a new confidence to complete the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver (AOD) course.
“One day while I was scrolling Instagram, I came across a guy, Roihan Ang, diving Sidemount configurations, without hesitation I signed up for that course and that is where my passion for technical began,” he shared.
Since then, Jet and Chard Min have gained several diving certifications and never looked back.
In July this year, the duo decided to further deepen their knowledge about diving further and enhance their skills.
Outfitted in scuba gear, Jet and Chard Min made their way into the flooded mines of Thailand and the Brunei Book Of Records (BBOR) as the first Bruneians to successfully complete the first stage in the Technical Diving International (TDI) Mine Diver Development Programme.
“It all started with a cup of coffee and we decided to step it up a notch and explore the Bo Yai mine with my diving buddy, Jet Ming. Two months later, we packed our gears and met with Por Parasu Komaradat, the IANTD regional manager and Instructor Trainer,” Chard Min shared.
“After a week of intense training in different locations around Thailand we loaded up the truck and drove five hours from Bangkok to the mine in Kanchanaburi,” he added.
According to the 28-year-old, Thailand is a country with a rich mining history, and the Bo Yai mine is one of the most fascinating and challenging sites to explore.
“Located near the Myanmar border in the northwest region of Thailand, the mine was once home to a thriving lead mining operation. However, the mine was abandoned over 30 years ago, and the underground section has been flooded ever since,” he added.
During their Mine Diving course, the pair embarked on a journey to the heart of Thailand’s captivating underwater mines and caves and underwent rigorous instruction and dive tests in the cold waters under the guidance of their Instructor Por Parasu Komaradat.
According to Jet, mine diving is a hybrid of shipwrecks and caverns.
“Just imagine you can have both man-made histories by mankind with the characteristics and environment of a cavern. Blending both elements together in one place. It is pure immense beauty,” Jet said.
“We dove into colder waters, mastered buoyancy control, and navigated the challenges of the overhead environment. Our mine diving experience highlighted the beauty and significance of exploring the depths where nature and human ingenuity intertwine, leaving us with lasting memories and a profound appreciation for the underwater world,” he shared.
On his part, Chard Min said that mine diving is a challenging and adventurous activity that requires specialised training and equipment.
“Mine divers must be able to navigate in tight spaces, deal with low visibility, and manage the risks of confined spaces. To be certified as a mine diver, you will need to complete a mine diving course from a reputable organization,” he further added.
According to the pair, in order to get themselves certified in the first stage of the TDI Mine Diver Development Program, they had to go through numerous techniques and procedures.
“We had to go through an intense training of Stress test, Skill sets, Team Communication, Gas plannings and Mutual trust among dive buddies to ensure we understand the risk of this type of diving and this is only the first level of Mine Diving.” Jet explained.
Cavern and mine diving is quite challenging, but also rewarding, both Jet and Chard Min shared.
“Diving alongside Chard Min and Able Tantipiriyakij elevated the mine diving experience. As a team, we tackled challenges together, relied on each other’s skills, and shared the thrill of exploration. The combined knowledge, support, and camaraderie fostered a sense of unity and made each dive an unforgettable adventure,” Jet shared.
“Mine diving also often involves navigating cold water environments, posing unique challenges. The drop in temperature can affect our physical and mental performance, requiring us to adapt our skills accordingly. Overcoming the struggle of cold water diving sharpened our focus, patience, and determination, making us more resilient divers,” he added
Jet also shared that buoyancy control in freshwater environments differs from that in saltwater.
“The absence of salt’s natural buoyancy can make it more challenging to maintain proper buoyancy. Through practice and adaptation, we will gradually master the art of buoyancy control in freshwater settings,” he explained.
Jet and Chard Min also shared that mine diving challenges a diver to be calm and collected when physically challenged, especially when you dive in cold water.
“The danger of cold waters is hypothermia. You start to shiver, having confusion, drowsiness and eventually, you can’t think straight. And that’s how your true test begins,” Jet shared his personal experience.
“During the dive, my body felt like shutting down as the cold water started to bring down my body temperature and my mind went into hibernation mode which is very dangerous,” he added.
For Chard Min, diving is both a calming and challenging experience for him.
“When you are underwater, you are in a completely different environment than you are used to. There are no sounds, no distractions, and everything is very calm. This can be a very peaceful experience, but it can also be very challenging if something goes wrong,” he explained.
“To be aware of my surroundings. When you are underwater, you are surrounded by a world that is completely different from the one you see on land. There are new creatures to see, new plants to observe, and new sounds to hear. It is important to be aware of your surroundings so that you can avoid any hazards,” he added.
When the pair saw the flooded cave with their own eyes, they were amazed by the captivating blend of natural wonders and history.
“Descending into submerged mines reveals a world reminiscent of shipwrecks and caves, with remnants of past industrial endeavors creating a captivating backdrop. We marveled at the intricate geological formations and artifacts that serve as a testament to the human impact on the underwater landscape.,” Jet shared.
“The walls were covered in colorful mineral deposits, and the water was crystal-clear. We saw the remains of pipelines, machinery, and equipment that had been left behind from the mining era. Everything was covered in a thick layer of fine dust, which we tried our best not to stir up,” Chard Min said on his part.
“We explored the mine for more than an hour, and we were amazed by the endless complex of tunnels that went in all directions. We experienced a couple of small collapses in the side passages, which put the whole team on alert. Some parts of the mine were too fragile to dive, especially on an open circuit,” he added.
“Discovering something this big and beautiful being hidden and forgotten for decades is the sole reason why we train so hard every day,” the 29-year-old further shared.
The friends-duo also expressed their appreciation to their Instructor Por Parasu Komaradatr for the support and cooperation provided throughout the preparation of the TDI Mine Diver Development Program.
“We owe our enriching mine diving experience to the passion and logistical expertise of Instructor Por Parasu Komaradat. His dedication to our training ensured a skillful and memorable journey. We are grateful for his guidance, imparting knowledge, and instilling in us a deep appreciation for the intricacies of mine diving.” they said.
Not only did Jet and Chard Min also hold the national record holder for the first Bruneians to successfully complete the first stage in the TDI Mine Diver Development Program.
“Being a national record means that I have achieved something that is truly special. It means that I have worked hard and dedicated myself to my sport, and that I have been recognized for my achievements. I am grateful and will continue to work hard and strive for excellence in my sport. I hope to inspire others to do the same,” Chard Min shared.
Sharing the same sentiments, Jet said that all it took for them to achieve their goal was a leap of faith.
“It can be scary at first but without fear there cannot be courage. With the proper attitude, training and discipline diving can be safe and enjoyable. There are no limitations and the sky is the only limit,” he elaborated.
On the other hand, when asked about the future, Jet said that he plans on going into Full Mine or Cave Diver course as well as exploring more technical deep diving.
“Technical deep diving involves a lot of understanding how the human body reacts and deals with greater underwater pressure and the gasses chemistry we breathe which is known as Trimix and eventually taking up Scuba Diving instructorship,” he said.
As for Chard Min, he plans on exploring the deepest known wreck in Brunei, southern glory and also aims on setting another new depth record and achievement.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN