Having a year to travel is giving us the time and flexibility to think about picking up some new skills. First on our list? Scuba diving! For years David has been trying to convince me to join him in this adventure. With Thailand’s warm water and great dive sites, I was convinced to give it a go.
We signed up to for Open Water Certification, a three-day course, which would enable us to dive up to 60ft completely independently. The class included 5 quizzes, a pool dive, six open water dives and a final exam. Trust me those three days were not a walk in the park.
If you know me you know I like to feel prepare so I did the majority of course work before I arrived at the first day of “school.” I was very glad I did because there was a lot to take in! After taking the quizzes we put our first training to the test in a pool. The pool exercises were filled with repetition. “Repetition makes good habits” is Padi’s motto. The pool work was completed in 4 hours leaving the open water experience for the following two days.
We were picked up from our hotel at 7:30 a.m. the following morning and headed further south of Puton Beach (on Phuket island in Thailand…it took me a bit to understand). We loaded the boat and after a short briefing we were off (us and 40 other divers also working towards a diving certification or advanced course). An hour into the boat ride on choppy water David was “feeding the fish” while trying to find his sea legs.
Before entering the water we had a check list of skills that needed completing before hanging out with our fishy friends below the surface. These were repetitive skills already mastered in the pool. In no time we were touring the coral.
Our first day consisted of dives around Ko Racha Noi and Ranch Noi Island which are known for calm seas and quiet currents. The dive sites are, however, less exciting than Phi Phi (the next day’s dive) where the waters are more challenging and the underwater landscape more alluring. These first islands were a great place to open water dive for the first time. When the skills were completed the sightseeing began. To be honest, I spent a good share of the dive figuring out how to stay neutrally buoyant. I was afraid I might accidentally shoot up… not a good thing!
The following day we arrived at the boat dock. This time were a bit smarter, having put some Dramamine in our system. This day we headed to Phi Phi island known for manta rays and whale sharks! If you have not seen a picture of a whale shark, stop reading and google it! Whale sharks are gorgeous creatures that have the body of a shark and the mouth of a whale (a gentle giant!). The boat ride took about 2 hours, this time on calmer seas. Unfortunately, it was raining. Since we would be diving close to the island the sedimentation from the rocks decreased visibility from 40 meters (a little longer than a football field) to 3 meters (about 10 feet).
David and I set up our tanks, tested the air, filled up our BCGs and did a giant stride entry into the ocean. The sea around Phi Phi is not gentle and we struggled to stay together while doing our buoyancy checks before descending. Once below we saw a massive coral wall, anemone and rocks that offer shelter to eels. Although the clarity was poor, the rich beauty was still obvious all around us. We plunged into a whole new world we had never had the privilege to explore. Several creatures we had only enjoyed on the big-screen (like Nemo) were now swimming besides us! The sensation of being one among them and swimming in beautiful schools of fish was incredible!
The remainder of the day was spent doing our final check-list to pass the Padi open-dive certification. Some of these test included: emergency assent, removal of goggles, clearing of water, and buddy assist for air. These tests pushed me way out of my comfort zone! We passed the test after one significant scare (I took in water through my nose and felt a tinge of “drowning”). Unfortunately, we were not graced with the presence of a whale shark or manta ray. This is one more good reason to return to Phi Phi, in hopes of seeing one of those magnificent creatures.
Tip: If you’re considering getting your open water certification, do your homework. Find a dive school you are comfortable with and set up your schedule ahead of time (we went with with Love Diving Phuket – they were awesome). In hind sight, I would have had an extra day between the two open water trips. The days were more tiring then expected.