“My name is Scotty and I will be your instructor” is the last thing I hear before I slowly sink down into this alien world. Tiny little bubbles tickles my face, everywhere I look there is colourful fish going about their day. On Scotty’s command we descent further down and here I am surrounded by massive schools of fish. Diving is one of the best feelings in the world, the feeling of being weightless while swimming through pristine turquoise waters, seeing Nemo for the first time. It only takes 2 dives before I’m hooked, like a drug addict screaming for their next high. A week later and this lil mama is now a certified advanced diver, I will gladly tell you the whole process so you too can channel your inner Ariel. If the thought about going deep down in the ocean scares the shit out of you, don’t worry, I too was scared shitless on my first dive, all the way down to the bottom. As soon as you get a dive or two under your belt, you will be more comfortable and those silly little fears will vanish without you even realising it, because you will be too busy being amazed by the abundant of colourful life that lives under the sea. So here it is ladies and gents!
After a happy islander breakfast, we’re ready for our first lesson at 8.30am. The afternoon before we received some homework to read up on for today’s class. Like the lazy student I am, I did not read everything. A little tips, do your homework, you will be more prepared for everything your instructor will teach you. I were in a group of 6 with 4 boys and us two girls. Scotty takes us up to the pool and equipment room to get us set up. He gives a demonstration on how to set up your diving gear, signs and signals, lessons we will be doing underwater like removing our mask, alternate airsharing with your buddy. Eeh how about no? before I finish that panicked thought “don’t overthink diving” Scotty says. First time breathing underwater is a strange sensation where it’s mind over matter. Your brain will tell you that you can’t breathe even though you are breathing perfectly fine. One at a time we do our lessons, except for struggling a bit with our masks, the rest goes smoothly. After todays pool session we head to restaurant to order lunch, and watch the rest of the academic video. Last piece of information for the day is explained by Scotty to get us ready for tomorrows exam, and to answer any question we might have.
This was the day to actually go diving. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Before go head to the boat we do one last academic lesson before the exam. The exam were really easy, just do the homework and pay attention to your instructor, which you would want to do anyways for your own safety and peace of mind. I scored a 92% with 4 wrong answers, that means I pass! I celebrate with buying my own mask, I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of diving in the nearest future.
First dive site is Japanese Gardens, with a depth of 12 meters. We prep our gears, our group is the first one out so we just stay below and get ready. When diving you always dive in buddy teams, which is for your own safety, in case you go out of air (which you won’t because only losers go out of air) and to make it more comfortable. My buddy is a french girl Marine, who were just as nervous as me. The last check before jumping, rolling, back flipping whatever you prefer into the water, is buddy checks to make sure everything is in place. Scotty jumps in first, and of course I had to be first student in the water. My mind is freaking out, so after 10 seconds of eeh, aaah, nervous laughter and mentally peeing myself I just jump. The thought of doing is more scary then action itself, and like Scotty says “don’t overthink diving”. I was still freaking out in my mind as we were going down, all the way down to the bottom and that fear didn’t go away until dive nr 2. It takes some time to get used to the breathing and controlling your buoyancy, the breathing techniques that will make you go up and down, which is necessary to master before swimming over coral and through caves.
Dive 2 and it just keeps getting better. No more freaking out, this feeling of being underwater is growing on me. This time when I come up I prefer to go back down. And just like that a new human fish is born.
Up bright and early for a morning dive at 6.30 am, this day we go down to 18 meters! No lessons, just fun diving. All open water divers get filmed on their last day of training, and number one rule of diving – be cool. Our first dive site Chumpon pinnacle, and this time I roll backwards into the water like those cool divers you see on TV. Do I feel cool? Yep, I sure do. The visibility is great, I look down and there is fish everywhere! So many colourful fish and that’s not even the the reefs or close to the corals. Massive schools of fish swim around us, I don’t remember the name for most of them but the colours are hypnotising. We go all the way down to 18 meters and I feel jealous of those who are below me who get to see more cool stuff. But this isn’t the end for me, no I am doing the advanced course as well which means I can dive down to 30 meters. Out of our group I was the only one going on to advanced. On the boat back we all applaud each other for now being certified divers, and celebrate with a drink in the restaurant while watching todays footage. Two of the boys, Maron and Joffrey decided to also do the advanced after watching the video. Yaaay! Go team Scotty!
First day on advanced, I feel confident and happy. I’m well hydrated and I have the buoyancy under control. We need some more lessons before going out, like how to use a dive computer to monitor our ascent and a dive compass for navigation. We do a practice run on the beach following the compass. Seems easy enough, note to self, ask more questions instead of getting cocky. My mask started fogging up when we jumped into the water, the further we go down the more crap our visibility is. I can barely see anything, and it’s getting uncomfortable. The water gets colder and by the time we’re at the bottom I can only see 1 meter in front of me. I almost land on a sea ulcer (imagine a big spiky needle pillow) and starts flapping away crashing into the other guys haha. Scotty comes and help me position myself. When you dive down to 30 meters, most people will experience what we call narcosis. It’s best explained the feeling of being drunk, people who don’t drink or smoke will feel it more strongly than others, aka me. Let’s just say my narcosis was not fun. I actually freaked out, I forgot everything about how my dive computer worked, while everyone else were swimming up I stayed at the bottom because I thought my computer told me I couldn’t go up. All I saw was yellow which means slow down. Joffrey saw me on the bottom just staring at my watch, while I couldn’t see anyone. I almost started crying freaking out on how the hell do I get out of here, not knowing everyone were right above me. After what felt like forever, which was probably just 2 minutes, Scotty comes down and pulls me up. I was in no real danger, my instructor were there the whole time, but it can be really scary. For me it was. When we got back to the boat I were still a bit shaken up, but after a while I felt more embarrassed that I hadn’t payed proper attention to what my instructor had said.
So a lesson to everyone myself included, don’t get cocky. Or you will be that idiot who stayed at the bottom while everyone else goes up. Causing stress not just to yourself but also for everyone else. What’s the number one rule of diving? Be cool. I was not cool haha.
We did two more dives that day, navigation which went OK because my buddy forgot how the compass worked. And the last dive was night dive. That was really cool! We saw some blue spotted ribbon tale rays, or tiny stingrays in other words. I were a bit scared because I’m scared of the dark, but that was no biggie. It was fun all until I was feeling a bit unwell. I thought it might be because I ate too much, but when we got back to land I felt worse. Everyone on the resort had the stomach flu at one point, so it was something that was going around. Including me. I spent the night in the bathroom and had to skip the next days dive. Which kinda sucked because we were supposed to go wreck diving. And I really wanted to do that too, my only option was to wait for two more days until Friday. So I did, I spent the days walking on the beach, catching up on my reading and getting properly hydrated. I finished my advanced course with another instructor, Stefan. And did a celebratory drink in the evening with the rest of the instructors and dive masters. After one week I was finally a certified advanced adventurer. If I can do it, you can too. I’ve loved it so much that I haven’t wanted to leave this place. Yesterday I did fun diving, we swam through caves and I saw my first turtle! It was so cute! I’m already planning my diving bucket list with whale shark being my number 1. My plan was to leave today, but when the dutch boys came back, Maron and Joffrey, I couldn’t resist staying for another couple of days to dive some more. So yeah I will be staying put in Koh tao little longer, doing some fun dives. and enjoying lazy beach days. I’m trying to convince Maron to join me diving in Borneo, Malaysia, which is supposedly one of the best dive sites in the world.
So there you have it guys, diving is amazing, and please don’t do like me and wait until your 25 to do your first dive. There is a whole world of unexplored magical places you can only discover of you dare to enter the water. Have an amazing day, I know I will, right next to all the colourful fishies.