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Diving Part 1 - Open Water Course, Koh Tao

THAILAND | Sunday, 20 August 2017 | Views [113]

Leaving the park was terrible! Everyone cried, no one wanted to leave, even though all of us where exhausted. We got our last cuddles in with Duckie then the bus took us back to Chiang Mai. We checked into a guesthouse and headed out for drinks. It was the hubby's sisters last night so we went to see the night markets and wander around. We had a lovely night and got a bit drunk then set her off on her journey home the next day.  

Back to just the two of us it was time to head South! We had been excited about South Thailand since the beginning of our journey. We had visited Koh Samui and Koh Phangan before and Koh Phangan was where we got engaged. But our first stop was to be Koh Tao. 

Koh Tao is known for its cheap scuba diving. Apparently the second cheapest place in the world to learn how to scuba dive. The hubby has been desperate to dive forever, and after a shark dive experience at an aquarium he has been practically obsessed. I, on the other hand, was not so keen. 

Vast open water scares the living daylights out of me, and the depth makes it worse. I've experienced diving once before about 10 years ago on holiday in Cyprus and I spent the whole dive holding the instructors hand!! 😐 I had agreed to attempt the Open Water course to show willing, but I wasn't doing more than that! The husband could do the Advanced on his own!! 

We arrived in Koh Tao in the evening and had booked accommodating at the dive school as part of a package. Seemed like a good idea at the time but the room was roasting with just a fan that wasn't the best. Thankfully the shower was great so that was a bonus.

 

Day 1 was purely theory. The course only had 4 people (us and another couple) so it was relaxed and I felt a little more at ease that I wasn't going to embarrass myself in front of too many people. We spent all day in a meeting room watching dvds and completing work books before taking tests on every section of information. It was a lot to take in but the crucial bits of information were pretty straight forward.

 

Day 2 was a pool day. We were fitted for kit. Given wetsuits, mask and snorkel, fins, weight belts, a bcd, regulator and a tank. We're we're shown how to assemble and test all of our kit working in a buddy team and then set off to the pool. All of the basics were taught in here and it was a full on, intense day. We were in the pool by 9:00, stopped for about 40minutes for lunch and didn't finish until 3:30. Sounds average but with all the kit, in and out of the water, being terrified and still learning to breath without using my nose was absolutely exhausting!

By the end of the day everyone had shown competency in all of the skills needed..... except me. I hadn't been able to take my mask off and breath without it. You have to be able to remove your mask and replace it, remove it and swim without it, and remove it and breath for 1 minute. For some reason my brain found it impossible to allow me to breath using only my mouth. I kept filling my nose with pool water, coughing through my regulator then freaking out and dashing to the surface. Well the problem with that is when you're 20meters under water you can't just pop your head out and catch your breath... Shit! 

It took me another 20 minutes or so to master the skills. I couldn't stop myself from taking a deep breath in whenever I was going under, it was just instinct. The instructor made me squat so just my mouth was in the water, then my nose, then my whole head. I was still freaking out but was managing to control it better. I actually managed a whole 2 minutes without my mask. So apparently that meant I was good to go diving in real water.

The hubby on the other hand had nailed it all pretty much first time, he took everything in his stride and didn't seem fazed by any of it. He loves the water, he loves everything about it and is fascinated by everything you find in it. We stop at every pond to check if it has fish, he will watch them for ages. He was so excited to get out on the boat. Although by the end of the day his eyes were red raw from the chlorine and he practically passed out straight after a shower. 

 

Day 3. We're going diving!! Well, not straight away. First we had to complete some more test papers and learn how to use a compass under water by walking around on the beach. 

After lunch it was time to gear up and get on the boat. We filled our kit bags and waited for the signature "Boats are ready" call. We waited. And waited. And waited. 

Then I freaked out. I had to leave the bar where everyone was sat chatting, all excited about the dive. I had to take a break, because I was about to have a melt down. I had a little cry, a bit of a panic, then decided I wasn't go on the dive...

Then had another little cry thinking about how much of a wimp I was being, then decided to go...

Then cried again because I was still petrified. 

Brilliant start. 

 

Finally I dragged myself back to the group and we headed across the beach to the pier. Once we were on the boat we got straight into setting our kit up then headed to the top deck for a register and dive brief. Our 2 dive sites would be Japanese Gardens and Junk Yard. I leapt from the boat about as gracefully as a baby giraffe and immediately panicked. There was no need to panic, I could breathe, I could see and with my bcd inflated I could float. But I was in open water. And it was bloody deep. 

Our instructor gave the signal to descend and we were off. And it was fine. And I could breathe. And I was calm. It took me a little while to slow my breathing right down and I had to concentrate on it, but once I was below the water everything switched off. The noise of the boat, the unsteadiness of the surface, the awkwardness of all of the kit. We were practically weightless and just floating around the ocean. 

 

We spent around 40 minutes under the water and it was brilliant. We saw so many different types of fish and coral. The colours looked almost fake. 

At one point we were practicing buoyancy skills, our instructor pulled a 360 and stayed waving and signalling for us to kick towards him. We moved as quickly as we could until he told us to stop, then he gave us the signal for a Trigger Fish. We all spotted it. It was a Titan Trigger Fish. It was just hovering in the water, we hovered with it for a minute or so before the instructor signalled to move, and move fast. When we surfaced he told us the trigger fish will sometimes attack divers and if it's fin is up you should move away quickly. This guy had his fun up so we had to get away from it. 

By the second dive I had relaxed a little bit. We spent another 40 minutes exploring and completing the skills we had been taught in the pool. This dive site was partly artificial. The dive school had invested time into placing items for coral and marine life to thrive on. They have a gym (literally a set of gym equipment underwater) metal frames in the shape of different animals, bikes, even a toilet!! It's placed there to encourage coral growth, and it's working. 

While we were weaving through the metal frames we spotted the cutest little yellow box fish. It was tiny. And apparently there are some resident divers who have been looking for the box fish for a while, and we were lucky enough to see it on our first dive at the site.

 All was going well. Until our instructor told everyone to head for the boat while he took me back under to practice taking off my mask. 

PANIC!!!! 

We only went a few meters down so I just kept reminding myself we were right at the top and amazingly I took it off, put it back on and cleared my mask first time without a problem. Back on the boat I was quietly proud of myself and hubby was keen to find out how I had done. Thumbs up all round. 

 

Day 4 we headed out first thing in the morning. Another 2 dives that were meant to be at Twin Peaks and White Rock but the water was terrible. The boat was rocking all over the place and waves were crashing up the side of us. During the decent of our first dive the other girl diving with us disappeared. We looked up just to catch her fins heading for the surface. She had gotten sea sick on the boat and been sick during the decent. She panicked and took off for the top! She dealt with it far better than I think I would of, she just took a minute to calm herself, cleaned her kit and started again.

Once everyone had descended it was time to do the actual mask drill. At depth. And just for extra encouragement, we were being filmed too. No pressure. 

My turn, I ran through it in my head, composed myself, focused on my breathing ...... and nailed it!! First time round, mask off, mask on and mask cleared, no dramas. 

We spotted another Trigger Fish, a juvenile yellow box fish and and a blue spotted ribbontail ray. The hubby was like a 5 year old. He was so engrossed in what was going on he didn't pay much attention to the rest of the group 😂

By the time we got back on the boat a decision had been made not to go to White Rock because of the crap conditions so we headed back to Japanese Garden. We used this dive to focus mainly on some skills and maintaining buoyancy.

During the 2 dives of the day we had another diver with us. She was recording everything to make a little film for us to buy. We weren't sure we wanted it. It was pretty expensive, but we played a bit for the camera and had some fun. It actually helped me to relax a little, focusing on something other than my breathing.

When we got back we had a little bit of paperwork left to fill in then time to shower and change before heading to the bar for our film premier 🙄 the footage was actually really good and we couldn't help but want to buy it. We managed to get a discount between the 4 of us in our group and it was worth every penny! 

That was it, our Open Water Course was completed. The hubby was already booked onto his Advanced Open Water, and somehow I had been convinced I could manage it too.... this could be a disaster!

Tags: amazing, crystal dive, dive school, diving qualifications, experience, facing fears, koh tao, new skills, scuba diving

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