So, fun fact: Getting certified to Scuba dive isn’t actually all that fun.
When I was planning my recent island hopping trip in Thailand (I’m based in Bangkok ATM), I found out that Koh Tao, one of the locations I was set to go to, is one of the best diving sites in the world. Since I was going to be there anyway, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for me to get the certification I’d been meaning to get ever since I started dating a hot guy who scuba dives (@jrahj- luh you boo).
So, my friend Mei and I signed up for a 3.5 day Scuba course, at the end of which we would be certified PADI divers. I figured we’d spend a few hours kicking around in the pool learning how not to die under water, then we’d be free to swim around with whale sharks, turtles, stingrays etc. etc. How hard could it be?
… As it turns out, pretty hard.
Getting scuba certified is a lot of work. And not that fun. And requires a lot of annoying “exercises.” And doesn’t involve all that much actual diving. In fact, “diver’s ed” is basically the same as “driver’s ed,” except instead of getting a new car at the end you get a smelly wetsuit and a tank full of air.
On the first day of Scuba School, we were ushered into a cramped classroom with 15 other people (there were only 12 seats) to watch three hours worth of the most boringly complicated informational videos in history. There were also all kinds of quizzes which required doing complicated math, and I accidentally spilled soy sauce on mine because I was trying to eat stir fry in class (yeah. I’m that girl). We were there until 7:30 at night, while everyone else we were on vacation with drank wine and watched the sunset.
Day two started with two more hours of videos, followed by a hundred million hours in the swimming pool (realistically it was five hours, but it felt like way, way more.). The video told me I would “never forget the magical moment of breathing underwater with a tank for the first time,” but considering the experience took place in a 3-foot deep chlorinated pool it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal. We had to do all kinds of “skills” like learning how to get water out of our masks, learning how to clear our tanks, and learning how to take our kits off underwater. It took our group twice as long as anyone else to get it all done, which was brutal. We also had to tread water for 10 straight minutes, and I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to do it and would have to give up and go home. The day lasted until 6:30pm (…It was supposed to end at 5) and once again I missed prime wine drinking hours (as well as a full day of beach time) with the rest of our crew.
Finally, day three, it was time to get in the water. But not so fast! There were still two more hours worth of videos. Finally, we got on the boat for our first “dive,” which really just turned out to be more of the same annoying skills in the open ocean instead of in the pool. Because we were so far behind in our #learning, we weren’t able to do a real dive, and basically just went down to 10 meters and back up again without seeing anything. At this point, I had spent 20 hours in dive school and had not seen a single fish.
AT LAST, it was day four, and by some stroke of miracle Mei and I hadn’t quit yet (she tried. I wouldn’t let her.). We managed to make it t0 the dock for our 7am dive time, and then around for an hour because everything else was running behind.
But we made it onto the boat and it was time for our first official dive. We went down to 10M, did more freaking skills on the bottom of the ocean, then swam around for 10 minutes. It was rather uneventful (I’m still not 100% sure how it’s any different than snorkeling) but I did see a bunch of fish, which I was pretty stoked about.
Dive number two was down at 18M, and was way more exciting (and a lot scarier) than dive number one. I saw a stingray and a barracuda and didn’t completely lose my shit. Dive number three was pretty uneventful, aside from the fact that we accidentally surfaced 100 yards from the boat and had to swim very, very far.
TBH, there were moments of the actual diving that were really cool. Like I said, I saw a sting ray and a barracuda, as well as a batter fish and a bunch of little Nemos (erm, clownfish). It was insane to be breathing underwater in the open ocean (way cooler than in the pool), and I was proud of myself for not freaking out. I didn’t panic at all, and was actually a pretty good diver by the end of the 100000 day course.
Here’s what I learned:
- Don’t hold your breath
- Don’t touch the fish
- Don’t run out of air
… Basically what I knew before I went to scuba school.
And also, it’s worth noting that we were the only people on the island of Koh Tao who didn’t see whale sharks this weekend, but whatever. I’m not bitter. I swear.