It was the summer of 2015. I had been venturing around Thailand solo for the better part of a month. I had done everything from feeding baby elephants, to swimming in rivers and talking with monks. Finally, the part came which I was most nervous about: scuba diving.
I had so many fears. What if I was 60 feet down, and choked on water? What if my tank ran out of air, or I got swallowed by a whale shark?
With so many thoughts racing through my head, I represented almost every amateur diver going into their first lesson. The only difference was, mine wouldn’t be in a swimming pool somewhere in the states.
It would be in the warm, turquoise and tropical fish-filled waters of Koh Tao, Thailand.
Once I arrived and checked into my room, I headed to my first classroom lesson.
These were brutal!
Watching a one hour video on a chapter in the book, answering questions, then doing the whole thing all over again- five times.The classroom portion was spread over 2 days, which I was grateful for. Then, we took some final exams and could finally go in the water.
Now came the actual scuba diving.
We met at the scuba shop (we being the instructor and three other new divers) to get all saddled up. This involved about 15 minutes of us putting our tanks in the vests, connecting the regulator (this is the thing you breathe into) and the corresponding safety checks. We also got into our wet suits and were given dive goggles, a snorkel, and a pair of flippers. I already read a review on the best snorkel gear and came prepared with my sets before the dive.
We walked across the beach to the water, amidst many stares and giggles from the general population.
After wading in to about 3 feet of water, we all sat down to put our flippers on. Then, in a circle, we all put our heads in the water to practice breathing with the regulator in. This was one of the more difficult parts for me.
My nose wasn’t attuned to the fact that I wasn’t supposed to be using it, so while my face was under water and I was trying to breathe in, I was subsequently sucking in water through my nose, which was quite uncomfortable. Thankfully, this was cleared up later when I had my goggles on and my nose was covered.
After some more practice, we all put our faces in and swam with our regulars in a line behind our instructor. He brought us about 20 yards from shore, and we all kneeled on the soft sand in a circle. This part was interesting, because the water was only about nine feet deep, so we could see people snorkeling above us.
From here, we did some general skills. This included taking our regulator off underwater and putting it back on.
After being fairly acquainted with this new device I was trusting my life with, we set off for our first dive: in the Japanese Garden. It only lasted about 30 minutes, but it was incredibly beautiful. Sea turtles littered the bottom, blending in among the multitudes of colorful and vibrant coral. Fish taunted us, swimming between our legs and nibbling at our toes. The anemones waved at us, and the sun shone through the surface, illuminating the bottom with a golden glow.
All my previous fears were forgotten, as my mind was overrun with this sensory overload of color. I didn’t even mind how quiet it was. It was peaceful, actually; just listening to the sound of my breathing and my own thoughts racing. I had forgotten how loud we humans can be by the time we reached the surface.
We quickly reminded me, though.
On the walk back to the surf shop, I was still stuck in my own thoughts. Did that experience even just happen? echoed through my brain. Scuba diving felt so surreal and alien once out of the water, but so… natural while I was doing it.
The next few days went by in a breeze. Every dive, we went a litter deeper, a little longer.
We saw more fish and coral, each more exotic than the last. The water was consistently warm, the sun consistently shone, and everything seemed just perfect.
And it was.
I passed my water test and written test and received my scuba certification. This means I can dive up to 18m, or 60ft. Pretty cool. And definitely worth it.
Scuba diving is one of those experiences everyone should try in their life, I believe. It can be discouraging at first, when you can’t figure out how to breathe through your regulator. It can also be scary, when they’re warning you of whale sharks and barracuda.
But the feeling of totally serenity and awe that wash over you when you’re suspended in those beautiful blue waters among tropical fish is so absolutely worth it. I absolutely implore anyone to try it, whether they decide to venture all the way to Koh Tao, or just take local classes.
It’s human nature to feel hesitant at first. We don’t normally think about breathing in our everyday life, and here’s an activity that not only forces us to constantly monitor our breathing, but to change the way we do it.
It’s truly a bizarre concept, but one worth exploring. ~