I have always loved the ocean. Even as a baby… my mom tells stories about how she just could not keep me out of it. She would let me crawl just until my hands touched the edge of the water, then scoop me up and plop me back down under her umbrella. I’d crawl right back down to the water… Fast forward a few years… In college, I dreamt of continuing my education to get a masters in marine biology (it wasn’t too far of a stretch considering I have a degree in plain-old biology). So to say I was excited to get my Open Water Scuba Certification in Koh Tao, Thailand is a bit of understatement. I envisioned myself being a graceful aquatic natural, having this connection with water my entire life and all. Koh Tao is supposed to be one of the top places to learn to dive, and what could be so hard, you just put on the gear and pop in the water and swim around!
I was so so wrong, not to mention vastly disappointed… I was terrible at it. And breathing under water does not come naturally, at least to me. There was never a graceful moment. Ever. After learning theories in the most beautiful classroom I’ve ever been in at Alvaro Diving…
…they took us out on a giant boat. I thought to myself: “this is neat, we can learn more from the boat and see how the dives are done in between!”.
Wrong, again… We loaded ourselves up with a crap-load of gear, and the instructor jumps in the water. FROM THE BOAT. I panicked a little… what if I sink? What if all my gear floats away? What if I hit the ladder on the way down and completely embarrass myself? One thing I’ve learned in life: less thinking, more doing. I jumped in.
Over the next several dives, I got marginally more comfortable with breathing underwater. I did have one moment, on the bottom of the ocean floor, where I nearly had a panic attack (I don’t always have the best timing). Since I wasn’t interested in dying down there, I somehow managed to calm myself down and eventually made it safely through the rest of the dive. After that, I nearly quit.
But I saw it through, and, somehow, having that moment helped me have more confidence diving. Lucky for me, the very next day, something magical happened. It will always be among the top moments in my life. We were swimming along a gorgeous coral reef, when a large school of barracuda suddenly surrounded us. Their shiny silver bodies sparkled reflecting the sun’s light as they closed in around us, darting around here and there. For a few seconds, I forgot about breathing, buoyancy, oxygen levels, all of it. It was as if time stood still… I was utterly and completely in the moment. That sealed the deal for me and diving – I was hooked.
The only day I felt comfortable doing something besides trying not to suck at diving, the visibility was 5m, so my underwater photos are beyond terrible. I promise to do better next time (in Indonesia!).
There are a few things about diving that I wasn’t expecting (besides being flat-out awful at it). One is how spectacularly quiet it is underwater. You can hear yourself breathing through the regulator, and that’s about it. It becomes almost meditative. The second is how much aquatic life could care less that you are there. The only thing that ever paid attention to me was a ferocious little moray eel. Lastly, it is freaking difficult to smile under there. Or communicate at all, for that matter. One little upturn of your mouth, and you’ve got a mask full of water.
I’m so excited to go diving again in Bali, Indonesia! Fingers crossed I do better on both the diving and photography fronts…
Looking for everything else we did in Thailand? Check out our Thailand Roundup!