Watching a crew of divers, including Reuben, cruise along underneath us out at the Surin Islands made Fintan and I want to do our PADI dive certification. So we made a plan to continue south but look out for good places to do it. It's a four day course, and most places in Thailand offer these courses so it's a question of finding a company you trust and think offer good dives as part of the course.
Lonely Planet recommended Wicked Divers in Khao Lak, so we called into the office to see what they could offer us. We were grabbed up by Ploy who helped organise a course for us and gave us the price... we just had to find accommodation for the 5 nights to stay long enough to do it!
We had to drive around town for a bit but eventually found a place, so we hot footed it back to the office to confirm and pay up for the course.
The next morning we had to be at the dive shop for 9am for the first session of study. We had a morning watching cheesy, but informative, videos, then spent the afternoon in the pool getting familiar with all the equipment and the all important breathing underwater.
I had thought that Fintan would be the one to freak out about all this, seeing as he's not so confident in the water... but it was me! He was reassured by all the gear and I was totally panicked and freaking out. I actually said "No, I can't do this, but you carry on Fintan"... Geoff, our instructor was very patient and reassuring and I managed to calm down and get in the water by counting my breaths in and out.
The second day was a bit better, I felt more confident and trusted the equipment and Geoff a bit more! We completed all the classroom and pool stuff, so the next step was to go into the ocean and try it out there! We set off in a longtail boat around to a reef called Khao Nai Yak. We got our gear on and then had to do a very James Bond entrance into the water - sitting on the edge of the boat and rolling backwards into the water! Great fun. We got our buoyancy worked out, then descended - again I had a little panic about going into the ocean and breathing underwater, but I found the counting my breath calmed me enough to descend.
We had to do some "required skills"; flooding and clearing our masks, pretending we ran out of air and signalling to share air, pretending our regulator (the bit that goes in your mouth you breath from) fell out and collecting it again... that kind of thing. Then we swam about and had a look around - the first time I've seen a lobster alive and not in a tank/pot!
Our second day in the open water, we went on a boat trip to the Similan Islands (Island 9). It wwas a glorious day, the sun shone, there was a slight breeze. We got picked up at 7:45 and taken to the pier to board the boat... after a 2 hour trip we arrived and jumped into the beautiful blue water! Again we had to do some skills, but we also got to go a lot deeper... We went down to 17.7m! And we saw some Nemo fish! Lots of other divers saw green turtles, but they were in a different spot to us... nevermind... something for next time!
Back on the boat, we dried off and we were chatting away to other divers when a pod of 8 or 9 dolphins approached the boat and started jumping out of the water! What a beautiful day! We really could not have asked for anything better!
Newly certified, we went out to celebrate that evening with Geoff! Unfortunately, we let the side down - being so tired after the 4 days of study and swimming that we only made it to 10:30pm before needing to crash into bed!