It’s occurring to me that at this rate, I’m going to have about 13 parts to this story. Admittedly, this is more for me to be able to remember, so the copious amounts of information is beneficial to my ever-aging brainparts, so I won’t be offended if you go glassy eyed (if you haven’t already!) and not read. In lieu of that, onward!
We started off this particular day with a review of everything we’ve learned, followed by a 50-question exam on all of those things from the first couple days worth of class. “Class” is pretty broad, by the way, because I was in paradise learning about SCUBA, so the stigma of “class” wasn’t really present…I could have been learning about some mind numbing subject like Accounting or something and been okay with it in this setting. I ended up missing a few, but I passed – as did everyone else in my class – so we were all able to go out into open water! First lunch, then we grabbed all our things and were off for our first open water dives!
I feel like it’s understood, but just in case – “open water” just means not in a pool. We were in the Gulf of Thailand, which is technically part of the Western Pacific Ocean. The first dive we did was in an area on the North side of Koh Tao called Mango Bay. A little side note, but there are something like 54 scuba companies on Koh Tao…when you go underwater, you understand why. So, when we arrived at Mango Bay, I got a glimpse of about 15 or so of those outfits. It’s funny to think back about how busy it seemed above water – with a bunch of big boats hauling people and gear around – but then under water, it was like we were the only people for miles.
Once we got in the water, and swam a bit toward the shore so we could ease down for our first dive, I started to understand why Mango Bay was our first destination. I’m sure there are a few of these areas for new divers, but this particular area was vast, and sandy. If our buoyancy was off and we were dragging ass on the bottom, we wouldn’t be kicking coral or shipwrecks or anything, and there weren’t a ton of fish so we weren’t terribly distracted. Perfect place for a first dive. That said, I was a little intimidated about the whole “breathing on my own under water” thing still, even though I had spent literally the entire afternoon the previous day doing it. Once we started descending, however, all of that kind of melted away because I was freakin’ breathing under water in the ocean! It was cool as shit. Gradually getting deeper into the water, equalizing (popping my ears), and looking around came very naturally to me and I was focused on form and just trying to see Jaws. I don’t know what kind it was, but the first actual live fish I saw under water while diving was a little white fish that was probably 8 inches long and about 5 inches tall and kind of skinny. I remember very vividly thinking “holy shit, that’s a fish.” It was fucking unbelievable.
We scurried around under water for a while – most of us did pretty well, but one or two people had some difficulties. We were all a team though, and at the end of the day we did fine. We were down there for about 45 minutes or so, which was actually a pretty long time especially for a first dive, and it was awesome. Along with just enjoying being down there, we had to do certain tasks that we had learned and practiced so that we can be smart under water. Steve and Nikki gave us dive log books, so we could remember all the stuff we did and since I didn’t remember all the stuff I did – I shall now recite what all we did from said log book: Regulator retrieval (where we took our regulator – the breathing apparatus – from our mouth, threw it away from our mouths and practiced a couple different ways to retrieve it without freaking out), partial/fully flooded mask (where we put a little water into our mask, or fully flooded it, and practiced the right way to get that water out), hover with oral inflation (where we practiced our buoyancy by breathing into our BC rather than using the air from our tank), air share stationary (where we practiced an emergency of one buddy – you always dive with a buddy! until you get to specialty courses – running out of air, and sharing air to stay alive), and a 3-minute safety stop at 5 meters as to let your body start to get back to “normal” after being underwater. All of the above really made me feel pretty damn cool just to be able to do it. I felt like even though we had only done a couple days worth of training, all of it was (literally and figuratively) sinking in, and I felt comfortable.
Dive two was around the bay a little ways at an area called Japanese Gardens. Again, there were a lot of people around, but once we got under water it was a different world. The tasks we did at this dive were: mask replacement / removal (where we completely take off our goggles and figure out how to get them back on), air share ascent (sharing air with a buddy while doing a controlled ascent), and power inflate (similar to the oral inflation, but using our tanks instead of manually blowing it up). Dive time was 37 minutes, and there were a lot more fish in this area which was cool. I seem to remember that it was pretty cloudy, though, around here because there were so many people kicking up sand, etc. Not bad though. The WORST was when we went to the shipwreck – there was next to NO visibility there. More on that later.
Awesome first couple dives to round out day three of open water. The next morning, we’d be waking up early to do our last two dives before becoming officially certified open water SCUBA divers! More later…