Koh Tao, Thailand
I was allowed to sleep in today (since the academics portion was completed and most of the staff had gone to Sail Rock in the morning and the next boat would not be leaving until the afternoon), but eventually I got out of bed, showered, dropped my dirty laundry off at the front desk, and paid for an additional night at the bungalow. Then I bought some munchies and drinks at a nearby mini-mart for lunch before walking over to the dive shop. I got there by 11:30 and my instructor then went over the dive plan for today. Yesterday I had completed all the confined water exercises, but now I would have to do the open water exercises (mostly all the same stuff) at a deeper depth (about ten to twelve meters deep). When it was time to leave, the other students and I loaded up the remaining equipment and then ourselves in the back of the truck (two of the female students were Swiss . . .). We then drove to the pier and loaded up on to our rental boat (every Sunday the dive shop goes to Sail Rock in the morning with their boat and they don’t return until 14:00; so in the afternoon, they use a rental boat for the other divers). We then departed the port and headed back over to Nangyuan Island, to the Japanese Gardens, where our boat was to remain for the entire afternoon.
Once our boat was parked above the Japanese Gardens, my instructor and I put our equipment on, performed our buddy checks, and then jumped in to the water (Note: today and yesterday a military-looking boat with “Royal Thai Police” was in the same vicinity – possibly there to enforce public decency standards?). We then descended along a line (at 13:34), down to the middle part of the Japanese Gardens; almost immediately we came across a small Hawksbill Turtle who was feeding off the soft coral and not at all frightened of us; we then reached a maximum depth of twelve meters before finding a sandy patch of seabed to perform our exercises; first I performed taking the regulator out of my mouth, finding it, and putting it back in; then I practiced the mask clearing skills (partial, half, and fully flooded, as well as removing and replacing the mask); I had some trouble clearing the mask of water (it took a few tries), but I managed to complete each exercise without any need for resurfacing. My instructor, now proud of me (and probably proud of herself as well) then led me up to five meters depth, where we performed a safety stop for three minutes (to help prevent decompression sickness – caused by nitrogen bubbles in our bodies getting caught in our tissue, spinal cords, or brains); she also deployed a signal marker to alert boats that divers were surfacing; then, after our safety stop, we followed a guide line and ascended to the surface (at 14:02), performed some exercises on the surface (buoyancy compensator removal and replacement, weight belt removal and replacement, etc.), then climbed aboard our boat, took off our gear, and then waited at least fifteen minutes before our next dive.
After our break on the boat, we put our gear back on (with new air tanks), conducted our buddy checks, and then jumped inn to the water. We conducted a free descent down (at 14:44) to the west wall of the Japanese Gardens and swam around for over half a hour; we did not perform any exercises during this dive, so I just admired all the wildlife there was to be seen. We reached a depth of eighteen meters and eventually it came time to ascend again. We stopped for another three-minute safety stop at five meters, during which, I deployed the signal marker; then we both ascended and reached the surface (at 15:16). We climbed aboard the ship, took off our gear, and then took a break in between dives again.
Before our last dive for the day, my instructor went over the dive plan with me; then we donned our gear (with new air canisters), performed our buddy checks, and then jumped in to the water. We conducted another free descent (at 15:41) to the seabed below, achieving a maximum depth of fourteen meters. We swam around the east wall of Japanese Gardens and saw an abundance of wildlife (e.g. Black Spotted Pufferfish, White Eyed Moray Eel, Scribbled Filefish, Harlequin Sweetlips, Beaked Coralfish, Six Banded Angelfish, and lots of beautiful coral). We then found another sandy patch to perform some exercises, where we conducted two neutral buoyancy tests and also practiced sharing our regulators (we took turns simulating we were out of air). Then we began our ascent, making sure to conduct another safety stop at five meters; once the three minutes had passed, we then simulated that I was out of air and conducted an ascent with me breathing off my instructor’s alternate air supply. We then surfaced (at 16:18), climbed aboard the boat, and took off our gear.
I had now completed all the requirements and had become a certified open water diver through SCUBA Schools International (SSI); my instructor had my certification card on the boat with her and immediately presented it to me once our gear was off (not bad since twenty-six hours ago I had severe doubts that I would be able to achieve it during my time in Koh Tao). I then relaxed on the boat and took pictures while the rest of the students and staff boarded the ship. Then we went back to the pier, loaded up the trucks, and then drove back to the dive shop where we cleaned our gear. My instructor then presented me with a dive log booklet and she helped me fill it in with all the data recorded on to her dive computer wrist-watch. Then I decided to stay on Koh Tao for a couple days longer to earn my Advanced Adventurer certification (might as well do it now, while I’m getting used to diving, where I can have the same instructor, and since (from what I’ve been told) Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to dive and earn diving certifications – I also get ten percent off by doing the Advanced Adventurer course right after the Open Water Dive course with the same dive school). We worked out a plan for tomorrow and then I left for the day. I walked back to my bungalow and typed out some journal entries before searching out a place to eat. I ended up at another Italian restaurant and I had garlic bread with mozzarella cheese, a pasta with Italian sausage chunks, and an iced lemon tea that tasted like a mocktail (there wasn’t any alcohol in it, but for some inexplicable reason, they put sour mix in to it). Then, after I was good and stuffed, I walked back to the bungalow to type out more journal entries (I had gotten behind because of my focusing on the SCUBA diving course) and then I went to sleep.