SCUBA DIVING IN KOH TAO.......
Still feeling stupidly hangover from the night before, James and I made our way to the pier in Koh Phangan to get the boat over to the island of Koh Tao.
So, there we were at the pier, having just got out of the taxi when I heard someone shout out "Laura Bilecki"! It turns out it was Chris Dogget and his sister Gillian who I know from school! Chris is currently travelling and Gillian was visiting him for a couple of weeks. As they say, it's such a small world!
For the first time in a few days the sun was shining in Koh Phangan and we assumed we'd be in for a nice calm crossing! How wrong we were! Within minutes of setting off (but after James had expressed how impressed he was with the boat with it's air conditioning, comfy seats and plasma screen showing a film) the crew started coming round with sick bags. This did not bode well for the journey!
To cut a long story short the boat journey was HORRIFIC! Within 5 minutes of the boat departing, we were greeted with the biggest, choppiest waves ever! The boat was literally on it's sides at times and it didn't take long before the sick bags were being used! At one point the engine cut out and this made the boat even more vulnerable. I seriously thought it was going to capsize! It wasn't long after this that James and I made use of out sick bags! I have seriously never felt so rough and scared. The journey was supposed to take an hour an a half but was closer to three. It was such a good feeling when I heard the people outside cheering when they saw land.
Once we were on dry land, and after I had taken a few minutes to compose myself after the ordeal, we made our way to Sairee beach with Chris and his gang.
We checked into a quaint little beach bungalow on Chris's recommendation then went out for dinner with Chris and his mates to the nicest (and cheapest!) little Thai restaurant called coffee boat.
Still feeling horrific from the night before and the boat journey, James and I decided to have an early night so headed back to the bungalow after dinner.
Koh Tao is renowned for it's scuba diving and we decided that we couldn't visit the island without learning to dive. So, on our second day there we enrolled to do our open water diving course with Ban's Diving School, who'd been recommended to us by a girl we'd met earlier on our travels. We were given the course textbooks and started the course that afternoon with a 3 hour theory lesson in the classroom. There were about 20 of us in the classroom and it felt like we were back at school in a science lesson!
There was quite a lot to take in but it was all interesting stuff and pretty important in preparation for the next day when we would be putting some of the theory to practise in the swimming pool.
That evening James and I headed back to the Coffee Boat restaurant for dinner before meeting up with Chris and co in the AC bar for a few drinks. Koh Tao is a really chilled out place and all the bars have got a really laid back vibe. AC bar is right on the beach and they put on a fire show for entertainment. It was pretty cool chilling on the beach with a drink in hand watching them put on their show.
We spent the second morning of our course back in the classroom adding to the theory we'd learnt the day before and ensuring that everyone was comfortable with the material we'd learnt.
After class was dismissed for lunch James and I got talking to a couple from our group. They turned out to be the lovely Louisa from London and Rob from Romford who coincidentally both went to Bournemouth uni! Back home in Romford, Rob actually used to live just off the same road as James's "nutty nan"!
After we'd been for lunch with our new friends it was time to put the theory we'd learnt into practise with an afternoon in the swimming pool!
The first task was a swimming test which involved swimming 200 metres then treading water for 10 minutes. It sounds easy but when you've done no form of exercise in the previous 6 weeks it was pretty tough! And yes, I beat James ;-)
Once the swimming test was over and done with, it was time to assemble our equipment. This was not however my forte! We had to put the equipment together and then take it apart 5 times but I was still struggling to know what went where at the end of this.
Once we were all set up, it was time to get in the water. This was where the fun began! Taking the first breath underwater was the strangest feeling ever. James struggled a bit with this, he kept breathing through his nose which caused him all sorts of problems! It got even worse for him when we had to do skills such as taking our masks off underwater. I think it's fair to say that James definitely did not enjoy his first experience of scuba diving!
Kat, John and Steve arrived had arrived at Ban's whilst we were in the pool so that evening we arranged to have a reunion dinner together with Louisa and Rob. And you've guessed it....we went back to Coffee Boat restaurant! After dinner we went to Ban's bar but had a quiet one as we were up at 7 the next day to do our first dive!
Just our luck, when we got up the next morning to do our dive it was hammering down with rain! Despite being nervous already, this only made us feel worse. Nevertheless, as they say, "the show must go on" and we were taken out to Sairee north to do our dive.
James and I were put into a group with 2 other people with Olle from Sweden as our dive instructor.
Once we were all set up, with our buddy checks completed, it was time to go down. Whilst holding onto the rope, preparing to descend to 12m it was the scariest feeling. It all became worth it though when once we were down, experiencing the feeling of weightlessness surrounded by the most beautiful corals and tropical fish. Our first dive lasted 40 minutes and although it was pretty nerve wracking it was an amazing experience.
Later that morning we went to Sairee central to do another 40 minute dive. Since we knew what to expect this time, we were a lot more relaxed and enjoyed it more than the first dive. We did however have to do some dreaded skills this time such as filling our masks up with water and taking our regulators (breathing apparatus) out.
Once back on dry land, and after lunch, it was back to the classroom for the dreaded exam. The exam was to test us on all the theory we'd learnt in the classroom. It's multiple choice but you have to get at least 75% of the answers right otherwise you have to resit. Luckily we both passed!
We took a break from Coffee Bean restaurant that evening and went to the Ban's restaurant with Louisa and Rob on their recommendation of the bbq which turned out to be amazing! Since we were up again at the crack of dawn the next morning for more diving, we had another low key night.
The following day the weather had improved and we headed to and Twin Peaks and White Rock for our final two dives. Since we'd grown in confidence from the first day, we really really enjoyed these dives (even the skills!)
We're relieved to say that we both passed out open water certification which means that we're able to dive up to 18 metres. It was definitely a highlight of our trip and I think it's fair to say that we're now both hooked!
We went out that evening for a well deserved drink (or ten as the case was!) with the rest of our dive group. A dvd had been made of the group diving that day so this was a chance for us to watch ourselves on the big screen. We bought the dvd and I'm sure we'll bore you all with it when we get home!
Diving completed, we left Koh Tao the next morning to head back to Koh Samui where we'd be flying to our next destination of Phuket from.
So until next time, goodbye from the little scuba divers!