Koh Tao: Wonderful world under water
Mis à jour : 3 déc 2019
Getting my PADI open water diving certificate had always been one of the main things on my bucket list and out of my comfort zone at the same time. Many people I had met recommended me to get the certificate in Thailand, where you get both a cheaper rate and a stunning view under water. Most people recommended going to Koh Tao, an island South East of the Thai mainland, so I did some research, compared several places and ended up choosing for a three day course in Koh Tao for 11.000 Baht (around 330 euro). Here is a summary of my experience.
Day 1 Overwhelming theory and the magic of breathing under water
After catching my train just in time, I arrived in Chumphon, from where I would leave to Koh Tao. The sleeper ferry from Chumphon to the island was supposed to arrive at 5 am and the first day of the course was going to start at 8 am. It was a tight schedule, but it would be possible. Unfortunately, I arrived at Koh Tao 90 minutes earlier, at 3:30 am. Still tired, without enough time for actual sleep, I decided to stay awake. I spent my time meditating, reading, playing games on my phone and writing some articles for the blog. At 5:30 am it was getting harder to fight the fatigue and I went for a walk until 6 am. At that time restaurants were opening and I was able to have a royal, energetic breakfast. I started to read 'The mountain shadow', the sequel of Shantaram, which I had finished during the long night.
Eventually I headed off to the dive center. I was a little nervous and excited at the same time. After filling out paperwork, I quickly learned that before any real diving began, we first have to wrestle through a ton of theory. Two and a half hours of almost non stop information challenged me to stay awake. As I fought the drowsiness, I realized how much crucial information I was being fed. The abundance of information, along with the fatigue did not strengthen my confidence for the actual diving, which would begin after the theory. Before lunch we had a look at the equipment, threaded water and tested our swimming skills. Some beautiful Thai vegetarian noodles later the real diving could begin! That is to say, in the pool. No ocean diving yet on the first day. We learned different skills by ourselves or with a buddy and with each step I slowly gained more confidence. Instead of dreading the new way of breathing I started to enjoy it. I was happily moving around under water. We finished at 6 pm after a very long day. The three of us all felt tired but satisfied! We were ready for the next day, where we would go diving into the ocean for the first time!
Day 2 a whole new world to discover
Day two started with some more theory in the morning to make sure we were ready for our first dive in the ocean. In the afternoon we motor to a good beginners' location to discover a whole new world under water. Once we are all in, we descend until 12 meter. The views were amazing. It was a whole different world. We saw colorful corals, plenty of different species, swimming carelessly around us, and even a giant turtle chilling close to the corals. Besides these amazing things we got to witness, we also practiced the skills from the pool in open water and added some new skills. There was still a lot to think about during the dives. We would have to equalize to get rid off the pressure, hover buoyantly, trim our position, stay with our buddy and watch our smartwatch to check speed, air and maximum time under water to avoid too much nitrogen in the body. It was again a lot of information to absorb, but for some reason, everything went smoothly most of the time. After a great afternoon session we were ready for the next day. The final day where we would have our theoretical and practical exam.
Day 3 Going all the way
It was D-day! Today we would have a 50 question theoretical exam and our 18 m dive to get the last skills and be fully certified. Before the exam we learned more about emergencies, prevention and the physics of our body. It was an interesting session with some shocking facts about possible deaths under water. Before we could let it all sink in, the exam was announced. We were all a bit nervous, but had no choice but to dig in. The exam felt easier than expected and I managed to make only one mistake, with the easiest question actually. We were allowed 12 mistakes, but each member of our team, Sofie, Ben and myself did very well, with no one having more than three mistakes. After being theoretically ready, we had lunch and headed out on the ocean for two more dives. We learned some more skills, for handling emergencies, navigating under water and planning a dive trip. It's actually a lot of fun. We were all way more confident than two days before and the marine life kept on amazing us. We even go sneakily to 19 meters depth when we were supposed to go to 18. After the dives, we filled out the necessary paperwork and then we were officially PADI open water certified divers. Now that it was official, it felt real and amazing.
Koh Tao was a wonderful island to be at and being under water opens up another perspective. It is fascinating to see this kind of anarchy of thousands of species function beautifully. James, our instructor and Ben and Sofie, my buddies were all amazing and made every uncomfortable step way more comfortable. A great team matters a lot! With yet another skill gained, I left the island satisfied!