Certifiably Pleased : )
Koh Tao Travel Blog› entry 45 of 48 › view all entries
After 3 1/2 days of reading, skill-practicing, and diving, I am now officially PADI-certified to dive to a depth of 18 m. YAY! Tomorrow I plan to do one more fun dive before resting the mandatory 12 hours, then flying to Singapore via Koh Samui.
I signed up for the course through Blacktip Diver Resort, which is at Tanote Bay on Koh Tao. You reach the bay via a super bumpy road from the main town, where the night ferry from Surat Thani docked. After I reached Krabi, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to go to Phuket or Phi Phi, so figured I'd book a bus and overnight ferry to Koh Tao instead. Altogether, I stayed in Krabi about 4 hours and slept a total of maybe 6 between the two nights I spent getting from Chiang Mai to Krabi, then Krabi to Koh Tao. It wasn't very efficient, but I'm definitely glad I did it hehe.
The night ferry left Surat Thani at 11 pm and was much more comfortable than the one Jean and I took last year. I actually got a mat to sleep on this time, AND it was upstairs! Bonus! During the 8 hour ride, I chatted to the Irish girl and English couple next to me, and also spent a few hours playing guitar and eating mangosteen, rambutan, and longans with a couple of Thai men who planned to sell the fruits on the island. We started talking because they also had guitars. I tried to learn a Thai song, but unfortunately our spot right next to the boat engine prevented us from being able to hear anything. One of the men makes jewelry and owns a store on the island, so I may try to drop in before I leave.
On Koh Tao there are a ton of dive companies offering their services, but I loved Blacktip because the people are so friendly, they have a maximum of 4 people per open water class, and the whole place seems super professional and organized. They're also really big on not harming marine ecosystems, so that seemed like a good thing too.
I reached the resort around 8 am, checked into my own little bungalow with shared bathroom, then started the intro course only 2 hours later. I was pretty tired from all the traveling but wanted to make sure I had enough time to complete the course before heading for Singapore. It's also nice because you get 50% off your accomodations if you take a course. Hooray!
I started with the intro course because I wasn't sure if I'd like it or if I'd be too scared to complete the entire open water certification. That first day was actually the hardest, since we didn't have as much training as you get during the formal course. The lady I took the intro with decided not to continue. Also, they started me with a standard size tank which apparently was way too big. I kept rolling around and had a hard time controlling my buoyancy. In fact, the pack was so heavy that I tipped over backwards when I first walked into the ocean, and lay for a couple minutes on my back waving my arms and legs around like some kind of insect. It was pretty funny. They tried to help me up but I couldn't manage it, so the instructor just had me inflate the pack and towed me floating out to sea hehee . . . They gave me a children's tank for the next dive : )
It feels surprisingly natural to swim around breathing underwater, although I sometimes had trouble equalizing the air spaces in my ears. We practiced a bunch of skills like how to help your buddy if s/he runs out of air, getting in and out of your scuba pack while underwater, and breathing without your mask. During our dives we saw a lot of really awesome tropical fish and corals, as well as clams and sea slugs and the like. The biggest fish we saw was a giant grouper, just hanging out behind a rock, maybe 1.5 m long. We also saw some trigger fish, but they were very nice today and didn't try to bite us.
Our instructor's name was Jack, and he's been diving for the past 7 years. He used to be a civil engineer in Bangkok until one day he visited the island, took a dive course, and pretty much never returned. In the past 7 years he's only returned to Bangkok 3 times to visit his mother. Apparently his story is pretty common; many people at the resort only meant to stay a few days but have now been there for months or years, and some are even instructors now themselves! Jack brought a camera for our last day of diving, but I forgot to ask for a copy of the CD. Hopefully I'll be able to catch him again before I leave.
Other than the dive class, I spent my time here just reading, eating and relaxing by the beach. On our side of the island there's no internet access and only a handful of eating options, although we were lucky in that Blacktip had 24 hour electricity. These past few days have possibly been the most relaxing-yet-productive of my entire trip so far, and I'm looking forward to future dive trips with Eva or my brother or anyone else who'd like to be my buddy -- seriously, let me know!
Okay anyway, I'm off. There're only a couple scheduled rides to Blacktip through the day, so I'd like to make sure I get on the last car. I will update more about my SE asia adventures when I reach Singapore. Thanks for reading and have a good night. Bye!