I’m trying to get caught up on my posts from my trip to Thailand!
For the last part of my trip, I split off from my friends to do my own thing. They wanted to explore the jungle in Chaing Mai, and I was beyond excited to get my diving certification. I’d read and heard so much about Koh Tao, that I decided to just go for it and complete the 4 day Open Water course with Big Blue. I’d had Scuba diving in my mind for awhile, and I couldn’t think of a better place to do it.
So, I set off while it was still dark early Friday morning on my journey from Krabi to Koh Tao. This consisted of a few hours on a bus, and a series of boats. It took most of the day, and I finally arrived in the late afternoon to the pier at Koh Tao. The boats were all really nice and comfortable, with options to sit inside or outside, food, and a relatively smooth ride. When I arrived at the pier I was overwhelmed with all the people crowding around. Thankfully I spotted the guy holding a sign with my name on it quickly, fought my way through the crowd, and jumped in the back of the truck to drive to the dive resort which was only a few minutes away.
As soon as I pulled up my instructor was waiting for me with a drink at the resort bar/restaurant. I quickly filled out the paper work and got checked into my FREE dorm room. The room wasn’t too bad…simple, with air conditioning and a hideous bathroom as expected. But for free accommodation in a room I would only sleep in…it was tolerable. That night I met with the rest of my classmates, and my instructor for the first instruction of the course (intro, videos, etc.) Everyone was awesome…I had 2 German guys and a Swedish lady in my class. It was a small, great group which I was very thankful for as the course went on.
First thoughts on my first afternoon and evening there…Amazing people, good food, laid back environment, gorgeous warm weather, beautiful beach…It was just awesome. Every night there was fire dancing on the beach. It was truly a paradise, and I hadn’t even been underwater yet!
The next day I woke up feeling pretty nervous about actually putting on the diving equipment and going underwater. I really had no idea what to expect…even if it was just in a swimming pool. I was excited though. Everything seemed to be happening so fast. We learned all about how to assemble everything, and all the safety checks. It was all going great. Then we went into the pool and started practicing various skills. It was a little scary at first and took a lot of getting used to, but overall everything was going pretty well. The instructor was super patient with us. Then came my problem which became an even bigger problem that I never anticipated. I’ve never been afraid of water. I know how to swim, and I’ve always felt comfortable swimming in pools, lakes, oceans, etc. But for some reason when we got to the mask skills I started having massive panic attacks. Clearing the mask of a little water was fine. But when I had to completely fill my mask with water, then take it off, put it back on again, and then clear it…It was one of the most terrifying feelings I’ve ever felt as silly as it sounds. I felt bad for holding everyone up, and just could not get over being completely panicked, so we moved on. Everything else went great that day, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to move on unless I mastered these skills.
We ended up moving on, and finished up all the classroom stuff. The instructor agreed to work with me one-on-one early the next morning to work on mastering the skills. I woke up the next day feeling even more scared. I let the fear build up in my head, and I was ready to just give up. I had a talk with my instructor and he told me to take the morning off, and he’d set me up with a private teacher in the pool for the afternoon. I was still nervous, but with the pressure off I was able to relax and enjoy the morning relaxing on the beautiful beach.
My private instructor was an amazing guy named Andy. He was so patient, and friendly and really put me at ease. Within an hour I’d mastered all the skills in the pool and he took me out for a dive right out on the reef from the beach of the diving resort. I was scared, but it ended up being such an amazing experience. Having the one-on-one attention made all the difference. It was exactly what I needed, and I’m so happy that Big Blue was able to provide me with that. My first dive in the ocean was incredible. The time flew by, and I was able to enjoy myself and the interesting fish and coral I got to see. We even completed some of the certification skills necessary to complete the course so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with them all on the final day.
The next day I had to go on three dives to complete the course. It was a long morning, and I saw some amazing things under the water. There were so many beautiful fish, including a school of barracuda and a puffer fish. I thought I might lose it when I was on camera with many other students down there and I had to do the mask removal skill. It wasn’t completely perfect, but I did it without any major problems…mostly just panic! On my third dive I was completely drained of energy and had the worst headache, but I was able to stick it out. Once we got back on the beach I got my certification card, and lots of hugs and cheers from the instructors that knew I’d been struggling and close to giving up. I’m so lucky I was able to complete this course at Big Blue. They were so attentive to my needs, and that really gave me such an incredible and unique experience. I hope I can go dive there again someday. To celebrate I treated myself to an overpriced Mexican restaurant down the road and then napped for the rest of the day. I really wanted to get one more cheap amazing Thai massage before I left, but no massages allowed for 24 hours after diving!
For the final night I had a beach side barbecue dinner with my classmates, and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment. It might sound silly, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and knowing how close I was to giving up I’m just so happy I overcame my fear! I pretty much owe it all to the awesome instructors at Big Blue. I could not have asked for a better experience!