Our next destination, and my favorite so far in the Gulf of Thailand, was Ko Tao. The reasons for liking it more than the other islands are simple: it’s smaller, it’s easier to get around, and the beach is beautiful. It’s also very famous in the diving world. Many people come here to get certified (it is one of the cheapest and easiest places). It’s sort of like the Disneyland for divers on a budget. Therefore, the island seems to be more alive, there are always people coming to scuba, and of course all the divers are amazing people, right!? ;). Unfortunately, like the long waiting lines in Disneyland, the dive sites are crowded, there is a lot of boat traffic and most spots are overfished.
Diving is one of our favorite adventure activities. The combination of colors, shapes, sizes and life creates a surreal underwater world. I remember my first time like it was yesterday. The first breath under water felt very odd and unnatural. It was a strange feeling knowing that my life was completely dependent on my equipment and my buddy. Little by little, I started to relax and enjoy it. Soon after I grew to love it! It took me a couple of dives to feel completely comfortable, and even now, many dives later, I still have much to learn.
While in Ko Tao, we dove twice at Sail Rock. The highlight was seeing many huge tunas and other large fish. We challenged our buoyancy going inside several swim-throughs giving us some excitement along with a few scratches from the coral. It was entertaining, but doesn’t top our Indonesian scuba adventure. I have to thank our dive master Gramps for providing the pictures you are looking at.
Being comfortable while diving is the key to really enjoying it. We have learned some of these things the hard way. For novices or those new to scuba, here are some beginner recommendations from us: (keep in mind these are just our thoughts, we are by no means experts, always consult your dive master)
– Go to the best diving shop. Now-a-days you can find reviews and comments online about almost anything (Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet are two websites we use). Take advantage of that and go to the best diving shop, wherever you are. It may not always be the cheapest one, but it will most likely have the best dive masters and equipment.
– Tell everything to your dive master. Communicate the number of dives you’ve done, the places you’ve been, the level you feel you are, any past problems you’ve had, everything! Even if they don’t ask. Also make sure you feel comfortable with him or her. Follow your gut. Always keep in mind that your safety is your responsibility! Believe me, it will make a difference in your experience.
– Get to know your buddy. Ask about their diving experience and share yours. Practice underwater communication. Remember, you are relying on this person for your life in case of an emergency!
– Know your equipment. ***This is very important*** Set up your gear yourself and always do a buddy check. Verify that everything works perfectly. Also make sure your gear fits you well, not too tight, not too loose. Clean your goggles with soap, toothpaste or your own saliva to avoid fogginess.
– If your ears hurt while going down. This has happened to me a couple of times until I found out that I wasn’t equalizing enough. By equalizing I mean blowing air while holding your nose. Now I have learned to take my time going down, not too fast, and not too slow. While going down I equalize on every other breath. If it still hurts, I go up just a little and continue equalizing. Then continue going down.
– Don’t get lost from your dive master. Awhile back Adam and I dove in Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It was my first time after I was certified in San Diego, CA. The group was only us and the dive master. I don’t know how it happened, but within the first 15 minutes our dive master disappeared (or we disappeared). W continued our dive for another half hour at least. When we came out of the water the dive master was waiting for us. He was furious! He was screaming at us and so mad I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Lesson learned, don’t lose your dive master, and if you do, surface to regroup.
– Snorkeling is also fun. It is worth mentioning that snorkeling is also an excellent option. We have snorkeled with whale sharks in Bahia de Los Angeles, Mexico (Baja California) and hammer-head sharks in the Galapagos Islands. What you see below the water depends on where you are, but mostly depends on how lucky you get!
SEA you next time 😉