Life would be very boring if we plodded along every day staying securely within our own comfort zones that we all have built around ourselves. I think that, occasionally, it is good to push these boundaries by doing something that scares/challenges you.
For those of you reading this who know me well, you will be surprised by this next statement. I am scared of swimming in anything that isn’t a swimming pool. Why is this surprising? Well, I’ve been known to do open water swims back in the UK as well as an occasional triathlon. I took this up partly for the exercise and partly to confront my fears. These days I’m not as scared as I used to be when I swim in the sea/lake. I was, however, still scared of going beneath the water.
The idea of scuba diving is scary; having to learn how to take out your air source and putting it back in without gulping a load of sea water, taking off your mask and putting it back on your face filled with water, shipwrecks, jellyfish, seaweed, not being able to just bail out and fly up to the surface when needed. All of this, to me, is scary!
So, with all these fears in mind, I signed up to do my open water PADI course in Koh Tao. After all, I don’t want these fears to dominate me and stop me doing something that I might enjoy. I wanted to go down there and see all the really cool fish, I knew I would enjoy that.
The first few dives were pretty daunting. There was getting used to putting the kit together and making sure it was all ok, working out how to step off the boat making sure my hands didn’t fly instinctively into the air rather than hold the weight belt, mask and regulator. Equalising my ears was the worst bit. I found it much harder than the rest of the group to do this. Fortunately, my instructor was very kind and patient with me so gradually I found it easier as I worked out what was the best way for me to clear my ears. It turns out that the actual skills I had dreaded most, taking off the mask and taking out the regulator, weren’t that bad in the end.
Come the end of the four dives required for open water course I still wasn’t feeling particularly confident. At this point I could have quite easily walked away and never done scuba diving again. We had got talking to a lovely couple who are qualified dive masters over the previous few days. They offered to take us out the next day for some fun dives to help build my confidence. I am so glad we took them up on this offer! Doing the fun dives was a lot easier, you could focus on just enjoying it, watching the fish and not thinking about practising skills. At the end of our afternoon with them I was ready to sign up for my Advanced Open Water course! My confidence was back and I was having a great time.
The Advanced Open Water consists of two compulsory dives: Navigation and Deep Water. You can then choose what the other three dives will be. We went for: Peak Performance Buoyancy, Wreck (might as well keep pushing the comfort zone further…) and Night dive (yep, keep pushing those boundaries!). All of these went well, except the night dive when all but one of the torches (including all the spares) failed so we had to surface and do a massive surface swim which is a pain when you have a big awkward tank strapped to your back. At the end of the Advanced Open Water I was well and truly hooked on scuba diving. I had transformed from a nervous diver the week before to someone who could go down unaided, maintain my neutral buoyancy and preserve good amounts of air in my tank where I was nice and relaxed.
After this we did a few more fun dives, the highlight being on our penultimate dive when we got to see a Green Turtle which was amazing! In all we clocked up 15 dives, saw loads of fish and had a great time with the relaxed social feel of the dive school. Our initial four night stay in Koh Tao became nearly two weeks. We will definitely be going scuba diving again in the future and I think it might be worth investing in an underwater camera if we do, we have zero photos from our diving which is a bit of a shame.
Other than scuba diving we didn’t do a lot, I generally needed a nap after diving as I was so tired afterwards! The dive school was quite social so we ended up hanging out with people from there. We also had one amazingly lazy day chilling out next to an infinity pool which was nice. It was very hard to leave Koh Tao, it was a great place for us to stop and enjoy a few weeks in.