Scuba diving was something that I had wanted to try for a very long time, but just never really got up the guts to do it. In my research for this holiday I had been reading a lot of travel blogs that were new to me, and discovered the blog of Alex in Wanderland. Her stunning underwater pictures from her dives and the enthusiasm and love that she speaks about diving with, really inspired me to finally take the plunge (so to speak!) and make it my mission to try scuba diving for the very first time on this holiday.
I knew that I wanted to go with a PADI centre, as Ash has his Open Water Certification through PADI and I figured it was best if we both went with the same company. I didn’t have the time to do a full certification (an open water course takes 3-4 days, which would have left us not time for any other sightseeing) and I wasn’t 100% sure how I would go scuba diving so didn’t want to commit to a full course just yet.
I’ve never been a really big swimmer, as having grown up in an inland town meant that most of my swimming was done in a pool. I’ve always been a bit cautious around the ocean, so I was a bit concerned that may get the better of me. I’ve only really learned how to snorkel in the last few years (which I now love!), so going on a scuba dive was a really big step for me!
I had done a small amount of research before our trip as to the dive companies in town and read some reviews, but I hadn’t set on a place as I wanted to speak to the people in the shop and feel comfortable. I had also heard that a lot of dive shops aren’t that fond of taking people on discovery dives, and instead will try and talk you into a full course.
Luckily, the first shop we entered, Scuba Addicts, made us feel comfortable right away. Tim (the owner) was in store, and when I asked about a discovery dive he didn’t even blink. After chatting to him for a little bit about how it would work and our options, we booked in for a dive to the local islands around Ao Nang for the very next day!
Bright and early the next morning, we were picked up at our hotel by Scuba Addicts, and taken to the shop in the main street to meet our dive instructors and sign in. There were only 3 other people coming along with us, 2 who were certified and one other on a discovery dive like me. We were greeted by Tim, and introduced to Remy Dielemans and Bang Geow who would be our instructors for the day. Remy would be looking after the two of us on discovery dives, and Geow was going to take the certified divers. We were soon back in the van and off to the harbour to set out in a longtail boat for the local islands.
On the boat trip, Remy took us through everything that we would need to know for a safe dive. We learnt skills such as how we would replace and clear our regulator, retrieve it if it was knocked out of our mouth, and how to clear our mask. We were also taught some of the standard hand signals that are used underwater to communicate. I really struggled with some of the hand signals as a thumbs up for me (being Australian) automatically means ok, but underwater it means that you want to go back up to the surface!
Once we arrived at the first dive site, we donned our wetsuits and flippers and jumped in the water. Remy suggested that it was easiest for us non-experienced divers to put our buoyancy vest etc on while we were already in the water, which he assisted us with. Now it was time to put into practice the skills that we had learnt on the boat in the water with a skills test. Remy took the other discover diver first, as this was her second discovery dive so she was familiar with what to do. She completed hers quickly, and it was soon my turn.
The first skill I had to demonstrate was to go underwater (Remy was controlling my buoyancy so that was one less thing I needed to learn), take my regulator out of my mouth, replace it and clear it so I could continue breathing through it. The first go at it, I surprised myself and managed quite easily! We surfaced and Remy asked me to try it again, just to double check that I had it down.
The second time around, I managed to easily replace my regulator once again, but then I panicked. I don’t what happened, I was just suddenly overcome with fear and rushed to the surface. I think it just hit me that there I was breathing underwater, with only an oxygen tank to rely on. I had a couple more tries, but just couldn’t get over the fear. Remy was so patient and explained that it was normal, reassuring me that it can take a few tries to become comfortable with being underwater. I didn’t want to hold up the other discovery diver, so offered to stay back and try again on the second dive. Remy suggested I snorkel around in the water using my regulator, and getting used to the entirely alien sensation of the dry air filling my lungs underwater.
Whilst I was doing this, the qualified divers who had started on their dive with Geow had returned to the boat to see where we were. Geow offered to stay with me while Remy took everyone else diving around the reef. He had seen me snorkelling with my scuba gear, and was determined to help me have a successful dive.
Stay tuned next week to see how I went on the remainder of my discovery dive!