Early morning, and I get off to a very bad start with just how I’m feeling. My body has decided to betray me in the worst way – but thankfully not so bad that I can’t go through with the dives. Though when on the boat, one of the German girls decides she’s not up to diving and stays on the boat instead. Arrive at the beach at 6:45 in the morning (after downing a stupid amount of pills, ibuprofen, motion sickness and a nasal decongestant) and collect my gear, and head off to White Rock – the most popular dive site on the island due to the regularity of turtles and whale sharks that appear here.
Didn’t see either, but did see an astonishing amount of fish. The colours were more muted than I expected – the deeper you go the less colour you see – but there were fish of just about every colour and shape you could imagine. Triggerfish, barracuda, parrot fish, damsels, angel fish – while swimming around the rock Per would point out various sites or fish for us to gawp at, and entertained himself by flicking hands at the Christmas worms (colourful little plant-like things that shoot into their homes whenever they feel a presence near them – really entertaining for such a simple thing).
Here we had to do some minor exercises. Time to get water in the mask and see if we could remove and empty it in the ocean. By this point though everyone had this trick down pat (getting water into ones mask is a fairly common incident) and moved onto buoyancy control again. This is by far the hardest trick to learn – you want to be neutral buoyant in the water, meaning that if you stop swimming you’ll stay exactly where you are, but this requires you to master both your weights in the air in your bc, otherwise you’ll float up or down instead. And of course you further down you go, the more the air in your bc is compressed so what works at a certain height won’t work when you go up or go down. This nobody was mastering quickly – supposedly you learn with time, but I was constantly dropping a little too close to the floor.
Before we dived again, everyone was essentially dragged up to the roof of the boat for a courage test. This dive was being filmed, and some of the dive masters wanted us to jump off the roof of the boat. I haven’t jumped off anything this high since I was a teenager, but after watching several girls freak out before finally stepping off, I figure I have to at least convince my group to go and jump off. This brief moment of bravery was slightly scuppered by the fact that I shrieked like a banshee all the way down (much to people’s mockery later). Did at least get the 3 swimming members of my group to follow me though.
Our next dive was at Twin Peaks, a dive site near 3 peaks (don’t ask why its not called Triplets, nobody knows). This dive site was just as colourful and interesting as White Rock, and close to the depth we would limited too. Also, in this part of Koh Tao there is a very special resident – the only 2 clown fish in Koh Tao. There used to be a lot more, but now there’s just the 2 of them living in the anemone, and Koh Tao is desperate to protect them. Even have a circle around the plant to make sure nobody gets too close.
The final exercises here were above the water after the dive, where we had to prove we could remove our bc’s and then get back into them – just in case something went wrong and we had to take them off after a dive. This can be risky as you’re still wearing a weight belt, and if you ever let go of the bc you’ll be dragged under by the extra weight. Thankfully everyone performed without a hitch, and the four of us who dived were declared divers. The girl who didn’t still needs to do 2 dives before she can be qualified.
When we were back on shore, Per promised our dive cards would be ready tomorrow afternoon, and helped us fill in our new dive logs, which we’ll be expected to use to fill in every dive we do as to show our progress and experience during our dive careers. One of the German girls ended up leaving her log, not to anyone’s surprise – I’m not really sure why they had been diving in the first place, they really didn’t seem interested in it at all.
I had been considering cancelling my plans and staying a little longer on Koh Tao to get my full license, but I’m feeling so miserable I realise doing more diving would just make me resent learning it at all, so decide to stick with my original plan. However, since I want to get my dive card I’ll need to leave later than planned for Koh Samui. Book to leave early afternoon, and spend a good chunk of the day in my bedroom packing and catching up on some recovery sleep before heading out to the bar to watch the videos of the dives.
These were for sale for 1500 baht, and had it been good I was tempted to buy it. However our videographer had been allocated to 2 groups, and spent a biased amount of time with the other group. They’d managed to see quite a few more interesting things than us, including a stingray and a shoal of barracuda – so our group only popped up every now and then. Really didn’t seem worth it at all – pity because all the stuff on the boat she filmed was great.
After the videos, Per warned us to stick around, as some of the diving trainees (people following our teachers) were going to graduate to ‘dive masters’ tonight after an initiation party that was well worth seeing. They’d given it a Disney theme, so decided to stick around.
Nights like this confuse the hell out of me. I don’t get sexual lingo and alcohol fueled ‘fun’ is a foreign concept to me. As such I spent a good chunk of the evening staring at people who were doing ridiculous things while everyone around me burst into laughter and wondering what exactly I was missing. Most of the jokes were crass and obscene, and seemed to consist of just making the dive recruits do stupid things. Only stuck around as once it got started, some of the challenges were actually pretty funny, like ‘Find Nemo’ – where the guest stars were blindfolded and expected to go bobbing for apples…only instead of an apple it was a very large fish head. Another was where they were expected to act out Lady and the Tramp were a hot dog (this was a very popular event).
Thankfully, once it was over and the hideous alchohol consumption tripled, I was able to slip out and just walk along the beach and appreciate the quieter part of Koh Tao. The beach is still full of people, but its mostly fire peformers and floating lanterns, which is far more up my street. I’m going to miss Koh Tao, but not so much the nightlife.