Our group of friends saw the adverts for cheap dives to Hantu with Leeway, and inquired about the possibility of diving at the Southern Islands. For $80 for 2 dives, we thought that was a fair deal.
We were getting unusual instructions before the actual trip. One friend who is OW certified was not allowed on the trip, although the dives there were in the 5-10m range, and about 15-18m for the wreck. These dives are well within the certification limits of an OW diver. On further questioning, we were told an OW diver would not be able to handle the dive at the wreck because his regulator could get pulled off by fishing lines, and the currents there might be strong. I thought it was a strange instruction as there is no AOW course I know of that taught you how to handle fishing lines pulling off your regulator. But at the point, I thought the request was fair enough, and may be a good indication that a local DC took divers safety seriously, so we went along with the operator's decision.
Our group of friends were all experienced divers, so we opted for self dives. However, we were made to sign an indemnity form. Strangely, Leeway said they could not give us their indemnity form, and we had to source for one ourselves. Fortunately one of the divers in our group was an instructor and he helped us to produce and print out our own indemnity forms.
Our friend who organized the trip was also made to do all the coordination work to get information out to all parties, and to help collect payment for the trip. It's a small point, but isn't the dive shop's rep supposed to be doing the coordination work? I was even told that she was told that she would be held responsible for all the divers as she had organized the trip.
On the day itself, we were told to be at West Coast Pier at 8am. All of us were early or on time, but we were kept waiting for 1 full hour with no clear communication of why the boat was late, or what time it would get there. The boat only got to the pier after 9am. Upon boarding, there was no apology offered from George, the owner/captain. It's the least anyone can do after keeping your customers waiting for a full hour in the sun I think.
The tanks on the boat were secured in such a way that it was awkward and near impossible to sit on the benches on the 2 sides of the bum boat. So the lucky divers got to sit in the limited seats in the shade where there were no tanks, and the rest had to sit up front in the sun. There was no boat briefing, and no dive briefing either from any of the Leeway staff.
On reaching the dive site, the boat took a painfully long time to anchor. Granted, currents were strong that day, but it pained my heart to think that we were dredging the corals in our first marine park with the boat anchor. Some of us were fully geared up in our wetsuits and BCDs and waited for 20 minutes or more in the hot sun for the boat to anchor, move, anchor, move repeatedly. One of our divers was even asked to go down to tie off the anchor.
After our first dive, we had to wait 3 or more hours for our tanks to be refilled by the on-board compressor. Even then, one of the divers had less than 50 bar in his tank after his cylinder was supposedly refilled. Another diver repeatedly asked for the o-ring on his leaking tank to be replaced as a leak was observed on the first dive. Upon jumping in, he realized that the o-ring had not been changed and the tank was still leaking.
The incident that sticks strongest in my mind was the second dive. We were told to descend and ascend on the line, which was the line tied to the boat anchor. When we went down, we discovered the anchor had actually been dropped on the wreck itself, and punched a hole through the wreck. Two of our divers had to help pull the anchor out.
When it was time to surface, we searched for the line where we thought it would be, but could not find it. So we shot our SMB and ascended. Halfway through our ascent/safety stop, I noticed the anchor hanging in mid-water and was in the process of being pulled up, and it was dangerously close to my buddy's leg. We immediately swam away from the anchor. Our feedback to George was met by nonchalance, which was very troubling.
I thought this was very dangerous. We were asked to surface on the line, yet the boatman pulled the line when there were still divers in the water. Furthermore we had shot an SMB and still the anchor (which had very sharp points) was pulled up knowing there were divers in the vicinity.
On the journey back, it started to rain, and the seas got a bit choppy. Some of us had already changed out into dry clothes. However, the boat was steered left-right-left-right, and every time it was banked sharply, a wave of water would come crashing over the side and hit everyone and everything. By the time we got to the pier, I could squeeze a cup or more of water off my previously dry clothes. I don't think it's too much to ask to captain the boat in such a way so as not to completely drench all your customers on the ride back.
Lastly, the boatman parked the boat 45 degrees to the pier when we were disembarking and unloading our bags, and we were asked to jump. At that point, the whole experience was feeling so absurd it was almost funny.
I will let the other divers fill in on their own experiences.