Did you ever consider to do a diving course? I would like to share my diving experience! Especially with those who are curious but still scared of it. Usually fear comes from a lack of knowledge. I was always scared that something could go wrong during the dive, either the air will finish in the tank, i can not surface or a shark will cut my leg/arm/head. At one point I decided that diving is not for me because it is too dangerous and closed that chapter of my life.
However, last week, I was lucky to meet the owner of one of Koh Phangan’s dive centers, Victor, who everyone calls Vic. With his charm, charisma and an exciting speech he convinced me to reconsider my attitude and give myself a chance to dive with their team at least once.
So I could not refuse.
This is the story about my first diving experience.
We all met eachother at 8am in Reefers lobby/office. We were supposed to go with a group of students and instructors all with different educative levels, I was the only one without any experience. It took us about 20 minutes to get everyone together. A nice guy from Reefers’ team helped me with all the preparations. We chose the right sizes of the suit, rubber shoes, flippers, mask and other things that I was going to need during the dive. I was already pretty excited, but also still a bit worried.
So we all got together, sat in a taxi car and went to the Chaloklum pier where the boat with the captain was waiting for us. We all jumped in and the Reefers team loaded everything aboard. It was time to go!
It took us about 40 min or so to get to the point which is known as Sail Rock, the best diving spot of the area. The weather was perfect and we were served sandwiches and soft drinks by the Reefers team and we had some time to relax before the arrival. I had a chance to look around and make a few pictures of the boat, of the vibrant captain, of the team and the group of students.
When we saw the diving point, my fear started to rise. I even started to think that cancelling was a good idea but Vic did not give a chance for my mind to go in that direction. He came with the training book and explained to me how I should act under the water wearing the diving suit and managing all the equipment. He also showed me all the signs that divers are using for underwater communication.
It looked like I understood most of it but I can be slow in processing new information so I was still worrying. Again I did not have much time for that as we arrived at Sail Rock and it was time to go.
Before we put on all the equipment on Vic explained the functions and ways to use it. Vic told us that we would dive together with another guy who had done it only once in his life.
The rest of the group looked pretty confident with what they were doing and they were also able to explore the deeper points without help from the instructors but still under their careful supervision.
Our first mission as beginners was just to try to walk with flippers and all the heavy stuff on us. I would say I felt the same like people walking on the moon probably would have felt like. This made me laugh. Weighing each step I got to the spot from where I should jump down from the edge of boat and into the water. And that was just the beginning!
As Vic said I should pinch my nose with my right hand and hold the plummet on a weight belt with my left hand then jump. I closed my eyes and stepped down. A few seconds passed. I am alive!
I tried to swim with all the equipment on me. It was not so easy but still possible. Slowly, slowly I reached the diving spot with the flag.
While I was training to swim and breathe with the air tank, the rest of the group had already disappeared under the water.
OK! The time had come! It was one of the most impressive parts of the journey: The underwater training.
When we were on the boat Vic showed us three ways of using the regulator that air comes out of as well as what to do when water got into your mask. So, then it was time to try it for real.
How does it look like? You and the instructor go a few feet down and practice it. Then if everithing is fine at the end, you show "OK" signal, if not, you show the special signal and point to what is exactly wrong (air, ears, mask).
Why was it so impressive for me? Well, I will try to explain. First, because you are learning a new way of communication, second, it is all happening under the water and third, you are breathing with an air tank. You can not say a word. You just need to watch and remember.
Here I would like to mention that it depends on the instructor how fast you understand and get used to a new language and to a new world. I was lucky I got the right one.
The next difficulty was to learn how to deal with the pressure. The deeper you go, the more pressure you are subjected to. You should stop every meter, pinch the nose and swallow (similar to the way you do when you are in the plane) and also equalize the mask . Once you do everything correct, a new world is open for you! Enjoy!
Since I was being held by the instructor and did not have to think much about how to move , I had the possibility to watch.
Look! This is a school of barracudas just passing us. This plant looks like it is alive. Every piece of a rock has its variety of inhabitants. It is all like one giant organism. I got lost with that for some time but soon it was time to go up.
We spent around 30 minutes under the water and went 12 meters deep. That was what Vic told us right after we surfaced. Sounds serious. Could not believe it was so easy. It was time to breathe out and swim back to the boat.
It was Lunch time so we had the opportunity for a rest and some relaxation before the second dive. It was also time for sharing our impressions of a new experience.
The group looked very excited. Some of the guys were looking at the pictures that they just took. Some were showing and explaining what exactly they had seen.
After some rest we began to prepare ourselves for the second dive. I felt pretty confident and that caused me to make few mistakes. What did I do? I forgot to equalize the mask properly and got mask squeeze. What is mask squeeze?
“Mask Squeeze is the condition that occurs due to incorrect equalization of the air pressure inside the mask causing the outside pressure at depth to push the scuba mask to a divers face resulting in bursting of the small blood vessels around the eyes.
The condition is caused when a diver fails to exhale into the mask during descent to equalize the pressure within the mask. Most divers will pay attention to equalizing their ears, but will often not even notice their scuba mask pressure increasing as they descend often not realizing the effects until after they surface.”
So take that into your consideration!
The way back went very quick for me. For half of it I was sleeping on a sundeck and the rest of the time watching the sea, talking with the Reefers students about the best diving season, and looking at the pictures that they captured. Everybody was tired but at the same time looking satisfied and happy.
We arrived to Reefers Dive Resort around 3pm and all the crew separated into small groups. Somebody sat at the bar with the laptop, some were watching and discussing pictures and videos with beers in their hands. The others continued with the diving theory lesson. For me the day was finished.
It was really sad that I did not have the right underwater camera with me to make a couple of pictures of all that beauty that I saw under the water. Even if I had brought it with me, it would not have been possible for me to use it because I was more concentrated on how to breathe and how to move in underwater conditions. I saved all the pictures in my memory and I believe that it will make me complete the course in a nearest future.
Five years have passed from the moment of my first visit to Koh Phangan and I have by now enjoyed a lot of the entertainment that a tropical island usually offers. Diving was on my “maybe-one-day-I will-do-it” list. It is good that I finally gave it a try and I highly recommend it to everyone who is enquiring about underwater life. There is nothing to be scared about when you are with professional support. A wonderful world is waiting for you past that point of initial fear.