It’s been a good two years since I got myself certified in scuba diving and this was going to be my first excursion. I have this thing where when I want to do things, I just do it, and think about it later. This time, scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi got me in trouble.
Obviously, given that I’m writing this post now, the story has a happy ending.
It definitely didn’t feel that way on May 17.
Scuba Diving in Thailand: What you Need to Know
I knew one of the things that you absolutely should do in Phuket is to go diving – having my certification meant I can do beginner dives (up to 20m) with a guide. The problem is the fact that I really haven’t done any diving since I got certified. I naively though I could do a quick refresher read on the flight there and pool dives on site.
So there I was at 8AM on a boat sailing far far away from Phuket island. We were going to spend an entire day together and I had the sinking feeling that I was going to do something stupid, drown and not make it home (Dramatic but totally realistic in the grand scheme of things).
I was pretty ambitious too (mistake #2), in that I was ready to do 3 dives that day when I really think I should have done 2 and preserve my energy for the rest of the week.
After a calm 2.5 hour ride on our ferry, we arrived on the first island, Koh Bi Da, south of Koh Phi Phi Lei (the smaller island) to jump to do our first dive. After a quick practice session to make sure I have all the basics down: hand signals down (i.e. to let our guide know if I’m okay or in trouble, etc) and knowing how to expel air from my mask, we descended deeper and deeper into the water. I forgot how much I hated popping my ear as I equalize the pressure (similar to how when you fly on an airplane and swallow to equalize) and seriously thought of giving up right then and then.
Then my instructor told me to look down. I gasped and suddenly all worries and panic evaporated.
I’d forgotten what it’s like to dive (I dived a bit in Punta Cana but it was nothing compared to this) with exquisite, colourful and interesting marine life. There were pastel-coloured fish that reflected light in the most incredible way. We swam past schools of fishes. We saw Nemo and Dory. Fish species of various sizes, curious and at the same time hesitant swum around us and it was just the most unique experience!
The corals! The marine life! We even spotted a reef shark and I felt like having to grab my guide/instructor to point out everything I saw even though I’m sure he sees this everyday.
Looking up at the surface from where I was, I was stunned at how far under the surface I’d gotten. I was on the sea floor! My fins disturbing the sands beneath me.
It was after we surfaced that our guide told me that we’d descended to 30m, 10m past my allowance as an open water diver. Scuba diving is another way of exploring our stunning planet that gives you an exclusive glimpse of the underworld. It’s exhilirating. It’s rewarding.
And once you got over your fear of drowning (it’s kind of impossible in salt water anyways, even with all the equipment and added weight), you’ll realize how incredible it is that we have the planet that we do. And how we have the responsibility to preserve the planet for future generation.
Is scuba diving scary?
I often get asked if scuba diving is scary: from the finite amount of oxygen, diving deep in the water that can often have limited visibility (even at around 3-4pm) and swimming with marine life that can sting, bite and so on.
The answer to that is yes and no. All the risks in diving are something that gets addressed in the training (which is why you have to be certified in the first place and it is recommended you refresh that knowledge every 6 months). Open water diver do need to dive with an experienced guide with a 1:2 ratio (1 guide for 2 divers) so really, most of the risk factors can be addressed with the proper training and preparation.
Have you gone scuba diving?