Diving = Amazing

Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
Trip End Jul 27, 2010

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Yesterday, I completed my 4 day course on a Padi certified open water diving course. What a great qualification to have, and for cheap! 
I did my diving in one of the best spots in the world for it, and from what I seen I do not doubt that claim. The island that I’m on is called Koh Tao. It’s a popular island to go to, and admittedly there is a lot of diving going on here. Which is almost a shame because I believe it might be having an ecological impact, however here I am contributing towards the slow but steady destruction. Which is a shame..

All things a side, the diving was one of the highlights of my gap year so far. The sheer amount of fish and coral down there is stunning. There is so much life around there, much more than what you’d see in a walk in the forest or a walk in the park. Coral reefs are truly amazing places, and I’d recommend anyone to go and do it if they had the chance (and weren’t afraid of a few sharks/poisonous animals).

The course I took lasted 4 days in total. We got it for 7000 baht or around 140. This was cheap, in fact the cheapest we found. Averagely people would pay around 9000 baht if you decided to pay for it on the island. Accommodation included in the price, Matt and I had big smiles on our faces!

The first day started at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Which was nice because we had arrived on this island very early, after a long drive and a short ferry ride from Bangkok - a good 14 hours away. The first thing we were required to do was all the theoretical knowledge, or in other words the boring stuff. We watched 2 Padi certified movies - American so full of lame slap-stick humour to make the theory a little more bearable. We completed 2 sections (out of 5) in our books that day. There were 7 of us in the group, and the company had promised us that there would be 6 divers per group, maximum. 

So we were split up.
The 4 English guys: Matt, Nick, Toby and I were one group
The other nationalities: A Swedish couple (wow, the girl was hot) and 1 Chinese woman. Who was pretty moody most of the time, and I’m sure I was on of the only persons to speak to her.

  • I did find it quite funny that the English were segregated from the other nationalities, but it worked out for the best, because our group became bestest good friends!

When we arrived on the island there was an annual festival going on. So that night we went out, and got drunk. We didn’t want to get too drunk, because we were warned that hang overs are made a lot worse because of water pressure) and we had a session in the pool the next day with all the equipment. Saying that, Matt and I polished off 3 bottles of (what we thought was cider) rice wine. I can’t remember too much of that night apart from a few moments.

The next day, we went in the pool. We learnt how to set up the gear, which was quite easy and how to clean/maintain/put on everything.
To make sure that you had done everything right we had to check our buddy. There was a pretty good way of remembering it B.W.R.A.F
Here are a few example of how to remember this abbreviation. 

Big Women Require Anal Fisting
Bangkok Women Are Really Fellas
Bring Rizzlas Fags And Weed

B stood for BCD (the jacket you wore)
W stood for weights
R stood for repirator - to see if it worked
A stood for air
F stood for.. I can’t remember :S

Our initial test was to see if we could swim, so we had to tread water for 10 minutes, which was horrible because we were all so hung over. We jumped in the pool and learnt the most important and basic skills of diving. 

  • First: De-fogging your mask - You want to be able to see.

  • Second: Finding your respirator (mouth piece) if you loose it - You want to be able to breathe 

  • Third: Asking your buddy if you can share air (for when you run out yourself) - Important, you want to be able to survive!

Then after that we were just messing around, learnt a few more skills but just generally getting used to breathing underwater and learning how to blow bubble rings. 
After the pool session, we had some more theory with the answers handed to us on a plate.

I can’t remember if we went out the evening or not. Might have just chilled out and continued reading my book called ‘The Game’. Diving does take it out on you, and besides, we wanted to be in good shape for the next day because it was going to be our first dive in the ocean.

The next day we woke at 9 and was in the water by 10. We had gone to a newly opened dive spot, and we were the only boat around. It was fantastic, there were so many fish. The highlight of it all was seeing a big puffer fish*. This was probably my favourite dive our of them all, I don’t know if its because it was my first time or because there were so many fish. It was a whole ‘nother out there and I was in it!
After a good 35-40 minute dive we surfaced. Annoyingly we found out that just behind a rock we went past; a green turtle was there as the videographer told us. I was gutted, if I saw a turtle I’d be happy with my diving. We had another dive that day, but this time no where near as good. It was a busy dive spot, and the visibility wasn’t great. We had to swim around the boat 3 times (to prove that we could swim once again) and the practised a few more skills. For example a C.E.S.A. don’t ask me what It stands for, but it basically means an emergency accent. If you run out of air, you need to get to the surface. You take one long breath of air and start kicking your way to the top. If you hold your breath underwater and accent, you will die. This is because the pressure underwater doubles every 10m you go down. So if you’re at 30m your lungs will have 3x the amount of oxygen in it if you were at sea level. So you need to slowly let it out, to avoid any lung damage from expanding air. You kick up slowly saying “AhhhhaahhhHHaaahahhhhAAAAhahhhahahHHhhhaaaa”
this will save your life and we were being tested on it.

The next day was the last day for me. 4 out of 4 days completed, but we had two big dives ahead of us. Our first dive started at 6 in the morning. Horribly early, so I know that Matt and I didn’t go out that night, otherwise we’d have been screwed! But, we still managed to over sleep and had to be woken up by our dive instructor!

The place we went to was well out, far from the island. We were the first boat there, and our instructor Dave assured us that most of the fish are out in the morning. We were also being filmed that day by a professional who worked for National Geographic, so we were doing lots of stupid stuff to make our video interesting!

Dave wasn’t lying. There were so many fish, everywhere! And there was a maze of coral to navigate through. Because we’re only beginners we all had to follow the instructor, we’re not qualified to go off on our own (and I’m still not despite my current qualification) but it wasn’t a problem, because he spotted all the good stuff. The best thing we saw that dive was a Blue spotted sting ray, it was fantastic. We also saw a  fish that was considered more dangerous than a shark because of its vicious territorial nature. If you saw the banner go up it meant that it was being aggressive. I can’t remember exactly, but It might have been called a Banner Fish or something similar. Fortunately it wasn’t showing us the warning signs, so we just swam away from it.

The next dive spot was at somewhere called Japanese gardens. This was a classic dive spot and there were plenty of other dive boats around. For the video camera I did a front flip off the captains cabin, which must have been about 8m to the sea. Dave said that I almost hit my head on the way down, but I knew what I was doing. It was a perfect flip, much better than Toby’s which turned out to be more of a belly flop. Matt did well too, with a 360 flip?

This was my last dive, and I gave up on searching for a turtle or the possibility of seeing a whale shark.. what my favourite feeling was being surrounded by the common fish which had a beautiful reflection of blue light. There were thousands of them, all in a massive school of them, all swimming perfectly in synchronisation. They got so close to the point you couldn’t see much else, to the point you almost felt like you were a fish swimming with them.

We surfaced and had achieved my 4 dives, and was almost a Padi diver, I was gutted that my diving career had come to an end, but it was all an amazing experience. All I had to do now was complete my final exam and I’d have the certificate. 

The exam was easy, and I scored 91%. You needed 75% to pass, so I was well within the limits. The only thing I struggled on is working out how much nitrogen gets stuck in your body whilst diving, and how much time you have to allow for it to become safe again to dive.

That evening we celebrated big time. We all met down at the bar and watched the DVD that was made for us. It was well done, and nicely edited considering he had around 5 hours to do it in. I would have bought it, but it was 50 and that was money I simply didn’t have. Considered buying 1 between the 4 of us and ripping it, but never got round to it. 

We weren’t the only ones celebrating that night. 2 of the other divers had become DM (dive masters) and it was their initiation night to the team. They had to drink a whole bucket of beer (each) through a snorkel. If you think about it, your nose is covered, so you can’;t breathe so you have no choice but to chug till you finish it. It was craziness, and of course they were both sick on the beach afterwards.

Thank god that wasn’t me, I was happy with my basic qualification.Which means that I can dive up to 18m anywhere in the world - sweet!

*Did you know, like a cat, puffer fish can only blow up 9 times in its life before it dies.
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