Our main reason for coming to Koh Tao was to do some diving. I’ve wanted to learn how to dive for a while now. After our epic journey to Koh Tao, we were tired and a bit discouraged. However, after speaking to Robin at Sairee Cottage Diving, we signed up to start the course that night with some theory and 3 chapters of homework!
The next morning we began our classroom theory with Robin and then got taught on the equipment by Neil. After lunch we jumped into the water with our gear at Mango Bay to do our confined dive with all our mask and emergency skills. We had to be able to do a full mask clear underwater and take the mask off and replace it as well as removing and replacing our regulators. We learned how to emergency ascend and had to practice air sharing. In the evening we watched more theory videos and had to complete chapters 5 and 6 for homework.
The next day we headed out to Aow Leuk on the boat for our first dive! It was very exciting to head out and prepare our own gear on the boat. Near the dive site we got instructed to get into our gear and do a buddy check.
Bangkok Women Really Are Fellows.
Buoyancy – Weight Belt – Releases – Air – Final OK
Then we plunged into the warm water and completed our first dive at about 9.5m. Before swimming over coral, we had to complete some of the mask and regulator skills at a depth beyond 5m. After doing a few skills, I noticed Emma panicking next to me. I didn’t know how to help and let Shaun deal with it. He told her to calm down and made sure she doesn’t soar up to the surface in panic. I must admit that it was odd knowing I am depending on my SCUBA gear to survive and the air started to taste really dry and cold. I felt a shortness of breath too. Shaun calmed her down and we proceeded with our dive. For a minute there I thought that this will be it for Emma, I’m very glad it wasn’t. Our second dive was much the same with more skills and beautiful coral! We entered the water “Dead Mexican” style, falling onto our backs. When we returned we had to fill out our exam.
The following day was already the last day of our Open Water course and dive three was our deep dive to 18m. I was really looking forward to going deeper. We did this at Chumphon Pinnacle. The conditions were choppy as we dove down. Soon we could see a whole underwater mountain range appearing right below us, full of schools of fish and coral. This was the moment when I was hooked. I love diving! The last dive was a little shallower at 11m around Twins. This time we entered James Bond style – with a forward flip, poor Emma landed flat on her face and lost her mask! Neil was playing with a clownfish marked as Nemo on the dive map. He has his own circle of rocks surrounding his home of soft coral.
At night we got our cards and all passed with 100%. We went out to celebrate that night with the instructors. We had a few beers at a few bars, Emma had some laughing gas in a balloon and we ended the night at the Cabaret with a ladyboy show. Surprisingly pleasant! After that I spent some time trying to Skype home and check my email out the front of our resort as there is no wifi in the room. Then two lassies on a motorbike drive past, “What you doing?”, “Checking my emails.” They ride off. About 5 minutes later they are back and stop. “What you doing?”, then one of them jumps off and sits next to me. “What you doing?”, “Checking my email.”, to which she replied “Wanna boom boom?”, “No thank you.” Off they go.
We didn’t have enough after the Open Water course and the same day signed up to do our Advanced Open Water course. This should give us more confidence and more importantly more diving and less theory!
The next day we started our advanced course with Neil and Shaun. We ran through the dive briefings and a little bit of theory. Our first dive of the day was the Perfect Buoyancy dive where we learned to control our BC and breathing. We swam through loops, touched weights with our regulators by just breathing. This was a 58 minute dive and we weren’t allowed to touch the sand! So much fun. We even did a swim through the square without a mask and eyes open. Surprising how well you can see under water, everything is a bit blurry (like a box blur for the nerds). It doesn’t hurt at all.
The second dive was our Navigation dive. The guys took us down at Twins and swam around a bit. Then we got a map of the dive site and had to use our compass to navigate back to the buoy line. Easy right? Well, on the boat, Neil asked which one of us will be in charge and surprisingly Emma pointed at me without hesitation. This dive site is roughly 50m by 50m, I had a map, a compass, clear visibility, army land navigation skills – I have this in the bag. Then underwater at 120 bar of air, Neil waved goodbye with a huge smile. It is then that Emma stopped trusting me and I stopped trusting me. She wanted to look at the map, we pointed in a few directions and used sign language to have a classic map reading argument. Finally I started to stress a little bit and told Emma to calm down and picked a direction, holding the map and compass perfectly in front of my face. We swam past the first pinnacle and reached a bit of sand. The same again. At this stage I just wanted to end this dive. I was fairly sure where I had to go, so I started to kick in that direction. Then, there in the deep blue, we see a buoy line, presumably the right one. Emma is instantly relaxed and tries to tell me that she’s proud. We surface at the right buoy line. Mission success, however the bickering about direction continues much to the amusement of our instructors.
That night we did dive 3, which was the night dive. I really didn’t know what to expect. As a child I was afraid of the dark and even as an adult I used to have a bit of a fear of open water. Hmmm. We leave on the boat as the sun sets and Neil briefs us on the night dive. A few differences to day diving, mainly dealing with darkness and how to handle our torches. Then we plunge into the water just as the sun is setting to slowly adapt to the low light underwater. As it gradually gets darker, it gets more and more amazing. Sleeping fish and rays, all kinds of life and schools of fish that only light up when the torch beam hits them. This is a wonderful experience and the best thing I have ever experienced. We do a blackout and watch the phosphoresence in the water.
Slept like a baby that night.
The next morning we met up at 7am for the day trip to Sail Rock, one of the best dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. We only needed to complete 2 more dives to complete our advanced course, but for the extra fee, we got to go along to the day trip and finish the 2 training dives and get a fun dive, plus breakfast, lunch and deco beer! Yes please.
It took about 1.5 hours to get to Sail Rock and we had strong current. Our boat was about 4 boat lengths from the dive site so we jumped in and started to swim into the current. This was very exhausting and the see was choppy on top of that. Then reluctantly, Neil decided to dive to 5m and swim underwater, hopefully with reduced resistance from the current. We drop to 5m and start swimming. The current is still very strong and I can feel myself really burning through the precious air in my tank. My heart is pounding and I can’t see the rock. Just open water all around me and down into deep blue. 10 minutes of dive time until I see a faint rock rising straight out from the blue. We swim around and drop into a chimney starting at 5m and ending at 18m. I dive in head first and equalise all the way down. Already, the swim was worth it! We keep dropping until we reach the bottom of the rock at about 25m and then swim into the thermocline and rest at about 30m depth. Neil shows us his packet of chips, which is totally crunched up and then Shaun cracks an egg and we watch as the yolk stays in a perfect round shape due to the pressure. Then we play some ping pong with it. The temperature here is much colder and then suddenly I feel a bit funny. I get an uncontrollable smile and start to really focus on the yolk. All I want to do is play with it and take it back up with me. We do the reaction test (Lionel surface: 18s / 30m: 18s – Emma surface: 17s / 30m: 25s). I definitely got Nitrogen Narcosis or “Narced” down there and it was an unreal feeling. We begin our ascent. I’m still tripping and we swim into the 31 degree warm water again. I’m just 100% gleeful, swimming with the schools of Batfish. I don’t lose the feeling until about 22m. We circle the rock and slowly ascend. Then at 5m we do our safety stop and swim to the boat. For the course we have to learn to use the drop tank. Emma first, she swims up to a tank of oxygen dropped at 5m depth and sits on it, then turns the air on and starts to breath from the secondary. The buoyancy and current bring her up about 3m and she’s inches from the boat’s hull. It looks insane! I’m so proud of her. A few months ago in Melbourne she was afraid to get water on her face in the shower and now she’s hanging to air 5m under a boat in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. Bravo. Same story for me, I also nearly banged into the boat, it was very choppy.
A short break later and we get our next dive briefing. Our last training dive for the Advanced Open Water course is a dive on Nitrox. We have a 31% / 69% mix, which means we increase our dive time at depth and instead of 10 mins it is almost double at 25 mins around 25m. Awesome. The longer down there the better. We drop in and swim into the current, this time heading out from the dive site to secret pinnacle. This is a deeper, less popular pinnacle and littered with schools of fish. We see Giant Groupers, Schools of Batfish, Large Barracuda, Giant Triggerfish and heaps more.
After Massaman curry for lunch, we relocate and have about 2 hours of surface time. Then we do our fun dive with Shaun at South-West Pinnacle. Max depth 21m and we stretch the dive to about 45 minutes. This felt a little more relaxed as there was no instructor and no new equipment or things to remember. We had to watch our own air and otherwise could really enjoy the dive and watch the beauty of the ocean. I did see a fishing net draped over some coral and a few dead fish trapped in it and it really upset me. The dive film crew brought it up with them however.
I can’t believe it is all over and we now have 10 dives in our logbook.
I absolutely love diving and already have a passion for it. This is not the end for me. Who knows where this takes us?