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Taking the road less traveled Spending a year in five continents to embrace my "inner turtle", to live simply, and to avoid being shark bait!

Dive course #2: Advanced Open Water Diver, part 2

THAILAND | Sunday, 26 February 2012 | Views [718]

Scorpion fish, very hard to tell apart from the rock it rests on!

Scorpion fish, very hard to tell apart from the rock it rests on!

Having endured the embarrassment of being lost, I returned the next morning for the next two dives. The French couple in my class didn't seem annoyed that their dive was cut short when I got lost, but then again I don't know French.  The first dive that day was at Chumphon Pinnacle, a 30-minute sail from Koh Tao. The conditions were excellent that morning: calm water, great visibility, and only a few other boats were there already. The focus this time was on deep diving, thus we went to the maximum 30 meters, and I could definitely tell a change in water temperature. It was a fantastic dive!  The instructor was very knowledgeable in marine life, so I learned about more species this time than during my Open Water course. We saw flounders (they have leopard prints), scorpion fish (great camouflage when resting against a rock), huge schools of barracudas (we stopped to let them pass because the schools were so dense), and boxer shrimps, in addition to the ones I already learned such as angel fish, butterfly fish, long fin banner, and clown fish.  This was by far the best dive so far.

The next dive was a wreck dive at a site named Satakut. The wreck was a purposely sunken navy boat named HMS Satakut. The boat had quite a history: it was a US navy boat used during World War II and saw action in Japan. After the war, the boat was bought by the Thai navy. When the Thai navy retired it not too long ago, the Koh Tao diving community decided to buy and sink it, so it would create an interesting dive site, to build a new environment for fish and corals to settle and flourish, and to alleviate the crowds from other dive sites. It took a few tries before the boat would sink and stay as desired, and now the boat has stayed successfully as it should for over a year. The boat was medium size, 48 meters long, with a gun still in tact on the deck. The visibility wasn't great and marine life hasn't flourished yet, but it was still interesting; we swam through the control room, pretended to shoot the gun, and wrote our initials on the algae growing on the side. 

After the dives, we had more lectures in the afternoon, then rested to prep for the night dive. Oh yes, diving at night in the dark waters, with only flashlights to guide us. Different types of fish become active at night, so the odds of seeing new ones was high. We set sail just before sunset so we could gear up when there was still sunlight. Night diving wasn't so different from day diving, except we could only communicate with one hand instead of two, with one hand holding onto the flashlight, and needing to point the flashlight at the one hand when signaling.

We jumped in after 7 PM once it was completely dark. My biggest fear was losing the flashlight (we all had our own strapped around the wrist). It was scarily dark even with it, and at first I could only focus on my instructor's fins so I would not lose sight of him, didn't want to be lost again!  Once I adjusted to the darkness and calmed down a bit, I looked around and noticed all the amazing marine animals around. The instructor knew exactly where to find a sea turtle; since turtles actually breathe on land, in order for them to stay underwater, their heartbeat would slow way down while under water, almost like they were hibernating, so if you knew where they rested, they were easy to find. The instructor led us to a huge rock with an opening at the bottom, swam upside down (I am still working on that), and pointed his flashlight to the side of a sleeping turtle, my second sighting! Also similar to my very first dive, we saw a few blue-spotted sting rays; they seemed more alive at night. We saw more schools of barracudas, more angry trigger fish (but stayed farther away), and even glass shrimps even though they were almost transparent. We dived to 15.5 m and stayed for almost an hour (it was one dive instead of two so could dive longer). It was quite an unforgettable experience, although the worst part was getting out of the water, I never felt cold the entire time on Koh Tao until that moment!

Five dives done and my certification to advanced open water was complete!

Tags: advanced open water, koh tao, night dive, thailand, wreck dive

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