Diving Koh Tao: Fear Is Only as Deep as the Mind Allows

This weekend I completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving course. For the course, I chose to dive on Koh Tao island.

Courtesy of Google images:Actually, TripAdvisor named Koh Tao the top island in Asia for 2015. 😀
To get there, I took an 8-hour bus and a 2-hour ferry ride for around 30 USD. Apparently, I didn’t get the memo that it was monsoon season near Koh Tao, so the boat ride to the island was pretty rough.DSC_0094In fact, there were between 5-10 people puking on the ferry ride over to Koh Tao, which made for a less-than-ideal start to my trip. :/
All smiles before boarding the boat..and before the puke-party began.
DSC_0009I don’t get sea-sickness often, but I also don’t deal well with puke-smells, so I was feeling pretty bad when I arrived.Luckily, my accommodation, Crystal Dive Resort, was very understanding and let me push my dives back, giving me the first day to recover from that experience, and explore the island. 🙂

To start, I took a leisurely stroll along Sairee Beach. Absolute paradise! 😀 IMG_8271😛DSC_0087Neighboring Sairee VillageDSC_0085DSC_0088Not my hotel…just checking out my options for next time. 😉
DSC_0083One popular Thai phrase I have learned since moving here, untranslatable to English, is สบายๆ /sabai sabai/. Essentially it means, “to chill, relax and take it easy.” When in Thailand!

Nothing better than strolling barefoot along the beach. 🙂

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Mae Haad Beach

From the beach, I headed inward, to the southern tip of the island, walking through dense jungle paths, filled with large boulders and towering palm trees.DSC_0023Wishing I had a moped for the steep incline. Feel the burn! 😛
DSC_0018Luckily, it was worth the trek, as I arrived at the stunning Shark Bay viewpoint. Just gorgeous! 😀DSC_0014

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Tree-lined path leading to the viewpoint

After all that walking, I made my way downtown to do some grocery shopping and work on a little homework.

The downtown itself is full of tourist shops and restaurants, and definitely geared towards the scuba diving community.DSC_0033There are almost too many dive schools to choose from, plus it’s also one of the cheapest dive locations in the world. Half the price of most other dive schools. Love it! ❤
DSC_0036On that note, let me explain more about my diving course. 😀

You may be wondering, why take the Advanced Open Water PADI course?

Easy. You get to go on much cooler dives. 😀

Basically, the course trains you on how to dive to a depth of 30 meters underwater, plus how to navigate properly underwater.

These two required dives (deep & navigation) included some book reading and mental preparation for the underwater tasks.

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PADI review at The Coffee House in Koh Tao

For my navigation dive, I had to use an underwater compass, as well as, natural landmarks to navigate a straight line, and also a square.For my deep dive, I learned more about nitrogen narcosis, one of the side effects of inhaling gases at increased pressures, as well as, how to reduce stress and anxiety on deep dives.

Basically, there are physical and mental challenges to overcome when making advanced dives.

Nitrogen narcosis is pretty much like being drunk. You feel disoriented, confused and experience short-term memory loss. No worries, it goes away immediately as you ascend to the surface. You usually don’t even remember what you did at that depth, kind of like The Hangover.11385610_863147347087999_1774427320_nFor this dive, the instructors carried a writing slate, and we were asked to answer simple questions at extreme depths, as a way to evaluate our level of narcosis.
kjcxnvodfSome of the other divers failed to do even the most basic of math problems. Luckily, I seemed to do just fine. 🙂 Anyway, our dive sites for these first two dives included Twins and Japanese Garden.
IMG_8276I had purchased a new red filter for my GoPro online and was very excited to use it for these initial dives.

According to the reviews, red filters were supposed to improve the color-loss that is experienced in photos at certain depths underwater. Red is usually the first color lost, so you are supposed to compensate with the filter.Well, sadly, when I returned home after Day 1 of diving, these are what my photos looked like. 😥

It would make for a nice Valentine’s Day card, but definitely not what I was going for. 😛
G1568076It was a total bummer, since these sites had some incredible marine life, but I learned from my mistake and chose to forgo the red filter on the remaining 3 dives.

Now, since the remaining 3 dives were electives, I chose a night dive, wreck dive, and a fish identification dive. 😀

Night Dive

For the night dive, we left the dock around 7 PM and dove at a place called Junkyard, which was honestly, just like it sounds.
G2599143Lots of junk had been purposefully sunk near the shore as to create an artificial reef for growth of new coral and marine life.

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Car parts, dumbbells and a toilet. 😛

For the dive, I was paired with this Chinese man, who didn’t speak any English. :/G1988510Luckily, diving hand signals are universal, but this was also my first time doing a backwards roll off a long tail moving boat, fully geared up.
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I managed to push back my apprehensions and conquer any mental doubts.

I’m sure glad I did. What a beautiful sight! 😀

Diving in the pitch black was absolutely incredible! We were given small flashlights to hold as we searched the ocean floor for fish and other marine critters, and at one point, we turned off our flashlights and waved our arms though the water.

The motion of our arms stirred up the phytoplankton, which caused them to illuminate under water, almost like fireflies. 🙂  So beautiful! To end the dive, we swam all the way back to the shore at night. Near the shallow shoreline, there were quite a few crabs hiding near the rocks. One tried to snip at me, but he wasn’t fast enough. Hah. 😛

I’m still glad we swam back, since the nighttime beach views were absolutely stunning. ❤

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Wreck Dive 

The HTMS Sattakut was commissioned by the US Navy in 1944, and involved in three WWII battles, including the battle of Okinawa and the battle of Iwo Jima.

After being purchased by the Royal Thai Navy, it was purposefully sunk in 2011, in order to create an artificial reef and attract more marine life to the area.
Mission accomplished! 😀knc coidfvThe ship is currently teeming with groupers, butterfly fish and shrimp, and covered in an eerie dark green moss.
lkfmv,,c.kThe surrounding waters are murky and visibility is low making for quite a spooky dive as you slowly swim across the main deck, through the tight compartments, and peer into the abandoned captain’s cabin.cspklfksfdlnlkjlbmcorecklckmThe highlight of the dive is the 76mm cannon gun, located at the bow of the ship. Fire in the hole!
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Fish Identification Dive 

For my last dive, I had originally planned to dive at a site called Chumphon, located 45 minutes from the main island of Koh Tao.

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Boat ride to Chumphon

Unfortunately, when we reached the site, the conditions were pretty near monsoon-like, as the boat violently shook from side-to-side, knocking many divers across the deck floor, fully-geared. :/

We reluctantly made the jump into the water, and began to surface swim towards the buoy line. After kicking for nearly 30 minutes, fighting the strong currents, I told my instructor that this was honestly a little stupid. :/

I like diving, but these conditions were dangerous and safety was my first concern. She agreed and we decided to abort the dive. Instead of Chumphon, we went back to Junkyard for my fifth and final dive. 🙂

The conditions at Junkyard were great, and it gave me the chance to appreciate the marine life and the coral  that I had difficulty seeing during the night dive.

Absolutely stunning! 😀
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Clownfish family

After that dive, I officially became an advanced open water diver, and will receive my certification card in the next few weeks. 😀

Although I encountered some physical and mental challenges during this diving course, my long weekend on Koh Tao was a beautiful escape from the city, and I could easily see myself returning in the future, for another taste of island-life. 🙂

DSC_0100
Leaving Koh Tao on the Lomprayah Ferry

Now we have a full week of Christmas celebrations planned at Assumption College.

This Catholic school is sparing no expense, as they are currently building a life-size manger scene for the Christmas play at school tomorrow.

Can’t wait to tell you all about next time. Until then, enjoy your week everyone! 😀

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2 thoughts on “Diving Koh Tao: Fear Is Only as Deep as the Mind Allows

    1. That’s great you’re a fellow diver as well. 😀 What has been the best diving experience for you thus far? I am always looking to check out new diving sites. Take care. 🙂

      Like

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