On first arriving in Koh Tao, Thailand my first priority was scuba diving. I had never been diving before but I knew I would love it, and this was the moment I had been waiting for, saving for and working my arse off for, I was finally in Koh Tao!
I had done some research and stumbled upon a suitable dive school. I had my heart set on this place, from the reviews I’d read online, the fact it was on ‘turtle usland’ and the kick ass t-shirts their staff wore. I signed up for the PADI Open Water course with Sam, my travel buddy at the time.
At first I was nervous, because unlike Sam, I was considering this as a potential career and had pinned a lot of hopes on the fact I would be a natural in the water. I’ve always been a strong, confident swimmer with a fascination with the ocean and the life that exists within it. With the help of our instructor JP, I overcame a slight panic in my first 5 metres of descending into the ocean for the first time, as my mask was taking in water. Thankfully JP gave me the confidence to head back down and once I got past that initial fear. I loved every minute of it and passed the rest of my Open Water course without a hiccup (except multiple ‘beer fines’ for giving a thumbs-up sign underwater).
My first day arrived of the PADI Advanced Open Water course. This time I was riding solo as my pal Sam decided to head off to visit other areas of Thailand. I was confident heading into the water and this time my instructor was Patricia, (for the buoyancy and navigation part of the course). This went swimmingly (no pun intended) as Patricia was very helpful and her smooth Spanish accent put me at ease. I was really building up my confidence and was ready for the 6am deep dive the following morning. Unfortunately, I was suffering immeasurable pain from my right ear and didn’t get any sleep that night.
It took me 5 days to get back into the water, but it was finally time. It was the 30 metre deep dive followed by a wreck dive, nothing could hide my excitement. The wreck dive and night dive were the two I was most looking forward to! The night dive was later that evening around 6pm. As I jumped into the water with my new instructor Nik, I had noticed my breathing was slightly off, which may have been due to the fact there was zero visability! I could barely see my own hand and in terms of staying together as a group? I was following black shapes as far as I was concerned, which could have been anything from my instructor Nik to a large grouper.
I saw Nik disappear into the blue yonder so I was unable to make him aware, I was clearly having a bad time. By chance my dive buddy happened to be Divemaster Jacob, who guided me to the very bottom and I found myself relaxed as soon as my knees hit the sand 30m deep underwater and rejoined the group. I was able to finish off the dive but couldn’t help but wonder why I was having trouble. Then it was time for the wreck dive, and I really wanted this to go smoothly, but yet again 11 metres in, I was having problems descending. Every time I look down I had an uneasy feeling, the visibility had improved as we had moved to a different location but the problem I was having persisted. I didn’t panic although I made Nik aware I was having problems, he was very helpful in calming me and helping me descend but I made a rational decision not to continue and called it a day before I have bigger problems when I delve deeper.
This knocked my confidence slightly but with the help of all the divers at the school and their advice I was able to finish my Advanced Open Water on my 26th birthday by completing a night dive with Patricia shortly after, as well as the wreck dive I chickened out on before!
The reason I was able to finish was from the advice of my fellow divers and now good friends, thanks to all the instructors!
‘My Ups and Downs as a Beginner’ was written by guest blogger Aaron (pictured above snorkeling with a Whalshark).. thanks for sharing your story with Divecompare.com!