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While here in Thailand, we’ve realized that we like to be active participants of the local culture and highlights rather than passive viewers. The cooking school was a perfect fit for us because it allowed us to both learn and practice an important piece of thai culture. This explains how we showed up last Wednesday morning on the island of Koh Tao, and left the following Tuesday with Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Certificates to show for our time there.
When we walked into one of the local dive shops in Koh Tao, we signed up for the basic Open Water Certification, thinking we’d hang out the rest of the day and start school sometime soon. Nope. We checked into our hotel at noon and started class that night at 5pm. From then on, we did several hours a day of both classroom time and time at four different dive sites around the island. We learned how to set up all our gear, how to use it (most importantly), and all the reasoning behind why certain steps are taken in scuba diving.
We took the course with 6 other people and had two instructors, so there was a lot of individual attention given to everyone and we all felt very safe. Over the course of the four dives, we went to maximum depths of 12 and 18 meters and learned several underwater skills, like what to do if our mask fills up with water, if our regulator (what we need to breathe) gets knocked out of our mouth, or if we run out of air. I will admit it, I have a huge fear of open water, especially the ocean, and I’ve never felt comfortable in more than a few feet of water, but I kept calm on every dive and never hit the panic button. It was scary, but the consequences of panicking seemed even scarier.
Once we finished the open water course, we looked at what to do next. It just so happened that Matt’s brother and girlfriend already had their advanced open water certificates, so we decided to stay a few more days on the island in order to earn another level of scuba certification. This next level was definitely more intense than the open water. In less than 36 hours, we completed 5 more dives, one down to 30 meters (100 feet), one at night (very creepy), one on a wreck site (creepy, but cool), and two on our own, without a guide and with our own compasses and maps to find our way around the dive site.
As for what we saw while we were down in the big blue, the highlights included barracudas, huge sea turtles, sea urchins, trigger fish (territorial fish that have been known to attack divers; yeah, kind of scary), and tons of other cool fish in all shapes, sizes and colors. We even saw a clown fish and a baby clown fish in their sea anemone, just like in the movie, though Nemo really is quite a tiny fish. The night dive and the wreck dive were especially eerie based on their circumstances and the most useful dives had us finding our own way rather than just following an instructor.
After 9 dives in four days, we were ready for a break, as were our ears and heads. All the changes in pressure left us cloudy for about a day and we took that time to finally enjoy the beaches of Koh Tao. We’ve already left the island, which is always an adventure in itself, and are on to the next leg of our journey in our tour of Thailand. Apologies for a lack of many scuba diving pictures. We have friends that may pass some along to us, but in the mean time we don’t have much to show for our diving other than our ID cards!