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Published: January 13th 2010
I reached Ko Tao in the early hours of the morning after being crammed below deck of a fishing boat overnight, and as soon as my feet touched the ground it began to pour. I went into a restaurant for some breakfast as I waited for the rain to calm. The entire reason I traveled to this island was to go diving, as this was one of the best places in the world to do it. Or at least it once was, as unfortunately word of mouth had made it more popular which meant the coral reefs were suffering from overuse. I walked around for a while and made my way to Sairee Beach, the main beach of the island, and began shopping around for a diving place. After talking to a few people I heard that Sairee Cottage Diving had a great reputation and worked with smaller groups as opposed to some of the bigger shops. I decided to take the open water course and get my basic certification, and accommodations were provided to me while I did that. It wasn't cheap by any means, but it was a lot cheaper than taking the course anywhere else. And this was
also a big reason that divers come here. Ko Tao was a gorgeous island with amazing scenery all over the place and white sand beaches. It was a lot quieter than many of the other islands around the region too, and attracted different types of tourists, those that wanted to dive as opposed to the loud and obnoxious party animals that headed to most other islands. I saw Muay Thai Fighting as well, Thailand's official sport and brutal full contact violence, it was intense with some decent fights on the card.
I began the course later that afternoon and the first day was only theory. My instructor was a Thai named Mee and had quite a few dives under his belt. We were in the whole classroom setting and watched instructional videos and stuff. There were two others in my class, Chris and Jim, both from England. The next morning there was more theory and that afternoon we did our first dive, albeit right on the shallow part of the beach just to get the feel of breathing under water. At first it felt really weird and uncomfortable but we learned to control our breathing and before long it
became second nature. Even in these shallow depths we still had colourful fish come right up to us. We practiced many skills underneath and then wrapped it up for the day.
The second day we went on an actual dive to about 10m below for a half hour and it was awesome. The coral reefs around this island are superb! Very colourful and with so much life. We did another dive soon after. The following day we did two more dives to a max of 18m below and then our written exam for the certification. At this point I was liking it so much I decided to continue and do the advanced course which was another five dives over two days. The other two guys in my class continued too. This time we focused on specialties such as improving our buoyancy by doing drills under water and practiced navigating and plotting courses with a compass. We did a night dive which was eerie as we only had our flashlights as we sunk into the black depths. Many fish just floated about, asleep, and I coined them zombie fish.
Another specialty I chose was underwater photography, and it wasn't
easy. I had to learn to control my buoyancy and use the light that was coming from the surface. I first tried using the camera during our deep dive which was a mistake as it was too early in the morning and we dove to 30m below, leaving very little light reaching the bottom. The second dive however I stayed at only about 10m and swam around colourful coral so I got some better shots. Thus ended the advanced course and my certification. Next thing I'd love do is dive into a shipwreck.
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