After what seemed an eternity on a bus and ferry from Bangkok, Gillian and I finally arrived at our accommodation on the small island of Koh Tao where we had planned to stay for three nights. We arrived pretty early in the morning so we dumped our bags at reception and went to explore the area so that we could get a feel for the area. We walked along the main tourist walk down towards the main pier that we were dropped at when arriving at Koh Tao. The main walk is overloaded with dive schools and a few bars and restaurants. There wasn’t actually as much bars as we were expecting there to be but we thought this was down to it being dangerous to dive whilst drunk, obviously. When we reached the end of the walk we decided to cut through to the beach and walk back up to our resort. The beach was incredible! It must have stretched for about two kilometres and the water was like walking into a warm bath. I think it was here that we started being told that it was the hottest Thai summer in sixty five years. We walked all the way down the golden sand beach and into our resort and chilled by the pool for the rest of the day. There was a point when we passed out on the sun loungers since we were exhausted from our commute from Bangkok, so we were glad that we had already put on suncream at this point. That night we strolled down to the restaurant at our place and had a nice meal and waited for the fire show to start that we had been told about. This is definitely worth seeing. The fire show consisted of five Thai men spinning coal set on fire to the beat of the music in loads of different ways. One of the guys was so good at it that he could spin the lit coals right next to his face and light a cigarette.
The next day we went exploring the island again and did a small hike up to ‘Golden Pagoda’ viewpoint. We started making our way up to the viewpoint from our accommodation and after ten minutes we were dripping in sweat. I had brought a small towel to wipe ourselves off as we were going up and it was ringing as soon as we were at the top. The hike was worth it though, the views were incredible and it was a beautiful blue ski, clear day.
After making our way down from the viewpoint we were taking more and more notice of all the dive schools and open water dive courses, so we decided to enquire about them. This was nothing that we had even considered doing before coming to Koh Tao but wandering around and speaking to lots of people we were recommended to give it a try. We did lots of research on all the dive schools (there’s more than sixty on the island) and after lengthy discussions about if we should do it or not, we decided to go for it and use ‘Phoenix Divers’. The reviews on multiple websites of the dive school were phenomenal and they had a really competitive price with free accommodation, but we’ll talk about the accommodation later.
The next day we got up and checked out of our original accommodation and into our free accommodation for the next four nights. This was a massive mistake. Walking into our fan hut we were greeted with a double mattress set on top of a wooden base. To the right was our fan which was shrouded under about ten years of dirt and grime and then to the left was our lizard infested bathroom with a toilet that didn’t even flush! You had to pour a bucket full of water down the toilet to manually flush it! But we decided that since we were traveling and on a budget, we would put up with it for four nights and it would just force us to stay out all day. We turned up at the dive school that night and met our instructor, Clarence HG Kugelberg. We found out that night that he had passed the most amount of open water divers in the world, Gill and I felt really lucky that we were being helped to pass our course by such a professional. That night we were to watch five videos on diving and then were told to come back in the morning for more class room work. However, first we had to make it through the night in our hut. When we arrived back at the resort we were greeted by a choir of frogs, and they were so loud. When we got into the room we got into bed and tried sleeping with the covers off of us since it was only a fan room (It was thirty degrees Celsius at night). Turns out it was far too hot and too loud with the frogs outside. For the hours that we lay awake Gillian and I started feeling really itchy. As we turned on the lights we managed to find bed bugs on the sheets and also saw two cockroaches running around on the floor. Never in my life have I walked out of a resort to find new accommodation because the one I’m in is that awful. Luckily we managed to go back to the accommodation we had stayed in previously and stay their for the rest of our diving course. Moral of the story is, don’t take free accommodation!
The following morning we started our classroom work on the dive course and began to properly learn everything there was to learn about diving. I had the assumption that I would jump in the water with an air tank, go down to the bottom, see some fish and that would be it. Our instructor began to tell us that if we don’t time our dives perfectly that Nitrogen bubbles can build up in our bodies and get into our spine and cause paralysis, and that if we drop the air cylinder, the pressure inside is so strong that the cylinder could fire through a concrete building. Cant really say the guy was putting my nerves at ease. Later in the afternoon we were practicing our diving skills in the swimming pool and we managed to get the hang of everything we were asked to do.
The next day we were doing our first open water dive down to twelve meters. We arrived at the dive location and put on all of our dive equipment and went to jump off the boat. Now I’m a confident swimmer, but theres something very unsettling about jumping into deep water with about thirty kilos of extra weight on you. However, Gill and I jumped in and swam down to twelve meters and began swimming round the reef. The reef was incredible and the colours from it were amazing. Some of the coolest fish I saw were neon blue and glistened in the water. I was never fussed about doing my open water dive certificate, but I am definitely glad that I did it. We did two of these dives that day and then did the same again the next day but instead down to eighteen metres! Both Gill and I are glad we did this dive course and would recommend it to anyone. The two of us can’t wait to use it to explore the great barrier reef. After we had completed and passed our course it was a crazy rush to check out and make our way to the ferry port for our ferry to the next destination.
Next stop: Koh Samui