If you want to learn to scuba dive, any guide book will tell you Koh Tao is THE place to take the plunge. So, despite having visited some beautiful reefs already on our trip, we decided to wait and lose our scuba virginity on the celebrated island. We learnt at Big Blue Diving School and had an amazing experience – I could not recommend them more. We initially planned to complete our open water course and then move on to Khao Sok. However, we loved it so much and couldn’t bear the thought of leaving without a few more dives, so we have decided to stay for the advanced course. This is a brief overview of my open water course. Unfortunately I don’t have many photos, as I’ve been pretty busy trying not to drown!
Our diving group
We arrived on the island after a slightly rocky ferry and a rep from Big Blue was waiting at the pier to meet us, as we had already booked online. The first evening was orientation so we settled into our dorm and then watched some intro videos. We had ‘homework’ for the first two nights, which was some reading and review questions – not the most exciting activity, but necessary. It also feel good to exercise my brain after a few months away from academia!
The next morning we went straight in the pool. There were four of us in a group with our instructor which was a really nice size. We were shown how to set up all the gear and, wetsuits on, in we went. We learnt all the basics and did some skills including underwater mask removal and air removal. I was definitely not a fan of mask removal. I felt slightly panicked in the pool and then freaked out more about how I would feel on actual dives. Luckily my fears were unfounded! I quickly realised that the majority of problems I could face diving would be mental rather than logistical or physical. After drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate to warm up from four hours in the pool, we did some more theory work in the afternoon and then set about revising for our test the next day.
The morning was exam time and I began to feel like I was sitting my a-levels all over again. In actuality, it wasn’t that bad. Having gone over the theory the night before, the test was straight forward and I passed pretty easily. That meant the afternoon was back to diving – this time, in the big wide ocean. I loved diving in the sea and found it strangely less scary than in the pool – probably because I wasn’t anticipating the real thing, but was just enjoying myself. Koh Tao is so beautiful and, even though the visibility wasn’t great for our dives, the corals looked amazing and we were surrounded by so many sea creatures. On the ocean dives we practiced more skills like mask removal and air sharing and I slowly became more comfortable with these.
On the final day, we headed over to a new dive site and went in for our final dives of the course. By this point I felt pretty confident setting up my equipment and I was calm in the water. The best part was diving amongst all the fish and exploring the reefs. I began to get the hang of buoyancy skills and balance (although I definitely still have a long way to go). It was amazing how much we learnt in just a few days and how much my confidence grew over the course. In the evening we celebrated achieving our certificate at the bar and watched a film of ourselves underwater. It was a great way to end the course (even if I had a banging hangover the next day).
Scuba diving has been my favourite activity of my trip so far and I would definitely tell anyone visiting Thailand to learn in Koh Tao. I am now certified to dive almost anywhere in the world and can’t wait to explore oceans internationally.