Scuba diving is not something that had ever occurred to me. As someone with a great fear of the ocean (as a kid I was even afraid of the deep end of the swimming pool) and as someone with terribly sensitive ears (once again, stemming back to my childhood of constant ear infections), scuba diving didn’t seem like something that I would enjoy.
Then one day in Thailand, a couple was telling me about how they just got scuba certified in Koh Tao and loved it. They told me that it was a lot less scary than people think and the instructors teach you how to pop your ears so that you don’t have any troubles.
I was starting to consider the idea of getting scuba certified- since I was heading to Koh Tao- known for having a lot of dive centers. Then I learned that Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places in the world to get a certification-about $275! Now, I really had no excuse.
Upon arriving in beautiful Koh Tao, I was convinced to overcome my fear of the ocean. Before I had time to talk myself out of it I signed up for the course.
I chose to get my SSI (Scuba Schools International) Open Water Diver certification at Big Blue Dive Resort. I also stayed at their hostel since it is free of you are taking their course (or on days that you dive with them). This resort also offers PADI certifications. PADI is the more popular organization but they are both internationally recognized. I got the SSI certification because I saved money by not having to buy a textbook since Big Blue had some to lend out, but both are equally good options.
The following is a breakdown of my 4 days getting scuba certified:
This started in the evening on the day that I arrived. I met my scuba instructor and group on this day. We watched movies and listened to our instructor teach us about the scuba theory. Nothing hands on yet.
This day started at 9 a.m. We just chilled on the beach while our instructor went over what we had learned so far and gave us a quizzes for each module of the course that we had learned so far.
We then headed to the swimming pool where we took a swimming test. This is literally the easiest swimming test you will take in your life. Scuba diving is actually more about floating than swimming so you don’t need to be a very strong swimmer to get your certification.
Once we passed the swimming test (and everyone did), we practiced the skills learned in theory underwater- starting at the shallow end. The skills we practiced include things like how to clean your mask underwater and how to give a fellow diver your oxygen if they run out. All sorts of things.
I woke up at 7 a.m. and went to learn some more scuba theory. Then we had the written test. To pass you need to get 75% or higher- I passed with flying colours! Then came the fun part- we headed out on the boat for our first dives. I was so nervous and excited!
The first dive that I did was at Mango Bay. I’m not gonna lie- my ears hurt so I took some time getting down in order to equalize. My scuba instructor was great and stayed at the front with me as we decending- giving me tips to help pop my ears and making sure that I was OK.
I also happened to have one of my most embarrassing moments of my life while descending. You can read the full story here for a good laugh.
When I finally made it down to the bottom of the ocean, it was a surreal experience. I wasn’t afraid of anything! In fact, I found it very calming and almost meditative. We practiced the skills that we had learned in the pool at the bottom of the ocean and practiced our buoyancy control. Then we went exploring the reef. I felt like I was floating through a giant fish tank!
When we got back on the boat we drank some water and ate a snack as we debriefed about our first dive. Then we got ready for our second dive of the day. For our second dive we were down for a full hour- which is really rare for people’s first dives.
Once we surfaces my drive instructor was impressed with how much oxygen I still had left- I guess my yoga practice has paid off! It also could of had something to do with how relaxed I felt while scuba diving. It is a completely different world down there and all that you can hear is the sound of your own breathing. Almost no effort is required as you float through this new world around you- an absolutely beautiful experience.
Day 4 had an extra early start. I woke up at 6 a.m. to do two more dives. This is the day that we got to go 18 meters in depth. One of the coolest things that I saw during one of my dives was a sea snake! It was black and white and I saw it sitting on top of the sand at the bottom of the ocean. Then it started unraveling and slithered up to the surface of the ocean for some air.
The best part of the day, however, was when I officially became a certified scuba diver! Now I try to scuba dive whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Since getting my certification I have dove in many beautiful places such as Malaysia, Belize, Mexico and Panama. I have had the pleasure of swimming with many amazing sea creatures such as turtles, stingrays and sharks. Think about how much of the world you want to see – now remember that the world is 75% water! Just imagine how much there is to discover underwater.
Koh Tao is famous for training divers and is the reason a lot of tourists visit. It is a great place to get certified because it is very cheap. As this is a very popular site, it is not as beautiful now as other dive spots due to high traffic. However, your first time diving will always be an amazing experience no matter what so do not let this deter you- I still remember it being an unreal experience!