Invited Into The Pilot´s Cabin

11 October 2012, New Straits Times Press Release
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I FEEL nervous as I board the Berjaya Air Dash-7 48-seater airplane heading for Pulau Tioman. I remember my father, an aviation instructor, telling me that a small airplane is much harder to operate than bigger ones such as the new A380 which has a state-of-the-art controller. With his words in mind, I brace myself for takeoff and to my relief, it does so smoothly.

After eating a packet of salted peanuts, I try to take a nap to calm down. However, a stewardess approaches to say that the pilot has requested that I join him in the cockpit.

Wow! What a surprise! As I follow the stewardess, many questions are running through my head.

Then the cockpit door opens and I see a high school friend, Mohamad Fadzil Abu Latip (now Captain) in the pilot’s seat. It’s a pleasant surprise and since we haven’t met for about seven years, there’s a lot to talk about.

We chat for an hour until it’s time for touchdown and he asks me to stay and experience the landing upfront. The fact that Tioman Island Airport is one of the world’s top 10 most dangerous runways scares me even more.

Other airports on this list include John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, which requires pilots to take a circular approach with only 8km of visibility, and Courchevel Airport in France which has slanted snow-flanked runways.

Despite Tioman Airport’s reputation, no crashes have happened here before and I am excited at the opportunity to witness a landing from a pilot’s cabin. This may not happen again so I buckle up and try to relax.

It’s a beautiful sight. The island is surrounded by blue waters and its land is mostly covered by lush tropical rainforest with misty, gigantic mountains protruding into the air. The golden sandy beaches are dotted with palm trees.

Located in the east coast of the peninsula, Tioman is touted as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. But looking at it from the air doesn’t calm my nerves. I get more jittery when I can’t see the landing strip!

The plane seems to be heading for the mountains when suddenly, Captain Fadzil and his co-pilot make a sharp 90-degree turn and I see the runway. Both pilots are positioning the aircraft to align with the runway. When the plane touches ground, they have to make an abrupt stop because the very short runway ends at the edge of a cliff.

We land safely. It has been terrifying yet it is truly the best flying experience I’ve ever had.

After saying goodbye to both pilots, I walk down to the arrival lounge, smiling broadly.

THE ride on a long, open-air passenger trailer from Tioman Island Airport to Berjaya Tioman Resort is quite exciting as not only can I see the greenery and the villagers looking relaxed outside their homes, but I can also breathe air that smells fresh.

Unlike Kuala Lumpur, the island is almost traffic-free except for some motorcycles. Actually, most people on the island go around on bicycles.

The resort sprawls across tropical woods. Its Malay-style architecture makes guests feel like they are in a serene village.

My Superior Chalet in the front courtyard has a private balcony with a garden view. Spacious and cosy, the room is tastefully designed and equipped with all the modern conveniences, including individually controlled air-conditioning, TV with in-house movies and a mini bar.

Those who prefer a more luxurious stay can opt for the Junior Suite.

A snorkelling trip at Pulau Renggis is a must for visitors in Pulau Tioman. The tiny forested rocky island is a 10-minute boat ride from the main island and is popular as it has beautiful corals and other marine life .

Before we leave, the guide gives a quick safety briefing and provides each one of us with a snorkel, mask, life jacket and fins.

After a few minutes’ swimming in crystal clear water, we are surrounded by colourful fish. It is amazing to swim among them.

Pretending to be a mermaid, I have so much fun playing with them. I can see colourful corals underneath the clear sea water. But increased human activities — such as over-fishing, coastal development and pollution — are threatening marine life especially coral reefs.

Through the Berjaya Cares Foundation, the resort works with Malaysian Nature Society on a rehabilitation project known as Restore Our Awesome Reefs! (Roar!) to help restore Tioman’s coral reefs.

Another attraction at Berjaya Tioman Resort is the food at Sri Nelayan. The dinner buffet spread has both local and international cuisine but what excites me is the fresh-from-the-ocean seafood especially crab and giant squid.

Also delicious are fried noodles pizza and apple fritters with ice-cream.

The Sunken Pool Bar at the swimming pool offers great cocktails and other beverages, as well as snacks.

To catch the sunset, we head for Beach Bar. It’s worth the wait as the sight is truly breathtaking.

Coriander Seeds Restaurant serves Thai and Northern Indian fare while Matahari Restaurant (open only for dinner) serves seafood.

Those who want to learn scuba diving can take the Padi-certified diving courses offered by a diving school just around the corner from the resort. Professional divers conduct the lessons, which include the Discovery Scuba programme for beginners. Advanced lessons are also available.

Instructors will brief you and teach you to use scuba equipment on the ground and later guide you in the water just off the beach. Scuba diving is not as hard as you may think. You don’t even have to be a swimmer but you do need confidence and know how to control your breathing.

The resort is also a haven for golfers as it has an 18-hole golf course which is the only international championship golf course on the island.

Golfers will enjoy swinging their golf clubs here amidst a spectacular scenery of the greens on one side and the glassy turquoise sea view on the other.

For total indulgence, Ayura Spa, set against the serene backdrop of the mountains, offers many pampering treatments such as Ayura Signature Massage, Aromatherapy Massage and Deep Tissue Massage. Calming facial treatments will keep your skin soft and supple with Nature’s Recipe Facial, Purifying Facial and Aromatheraphy Facial.

An ideal destination for a romantic retreat as well as family vacations, the resort ensures guests get a feel of the relaxed island lifestyle. But there are also many activities to enjoy — water sports, beach volleyball, jungle trekking, island hopping, sunset cruise, kayaking and more.

There are also tennis courts, children’s playground, game room, cybercafe and bicycle rental facilities.

Whether you sit back and relax or get drenched in sweat as you enjoy many outdoor activities, the resort makes for a great getaway.

World Ocean Day
BERJAYA Tioman Resort recently organised Tioman World Ocean Day to strengthen conservation of underwater life and educate people on the importance of coral reefs and marine life to the ecosystems. This was in collaboration with Malaysian Nature Society, Shark Savers Organisation, Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia, Scuba People, Berjaya Air and Berjaya Cares Foundation.

The efforts include dive clean-up by 50 divers to remove sea debris and Crown of Thorns from coral beds, the launch of Restore Our Awesome Reefs! project, the signing of corporate pledge “I’m FINished with FINS” and a turtle conservation workshop for children.

The Roar project aims to educate the local community about the amazing corals which support a productive and biologically rich environment.

The project also involves the use of Biorock technology, a scientifically proven method to enhance the growth rate of corals, increase their resistance to environmental stresses and re-establish devastated marine ecosystems within a short time. This method has been successfully used in other places like Pemuteran Bay off the north coast of Bali, Indonesia and Koh Samui, Thailand.

Courtesy of New Straits Times