Location: Koh Tao, Thailand
The last two days have been absolute diving bliss. I decided to do my advanced open water course with a dive outfit out here on Koh Tao, an island off the east coast of Thailand. I followed a belly feeling that Big Blue Diving was the right dive outfitters for
me and I am so glad I did. My dive partners and my dive master were absolutely lovely people and we had some really memorable dives together. The price ticket for the whole experience was a larger sum than I had planned on putting towards diving in Thailand but it was well worth it. Not only did I raise the level of my certification, I received a new dive card that I can now use as my main dive card for the remainder of my trip (a huge relief because my old dive card is at home in CA). In addition, I was able to improve some of my dive skills while exploring beautiful reefs. All for a ticket price far lower than I would find back in the states. All in all a really great decision.
The first day we did a buoyancy skill dive where we had to swim through hoops, straight, upside-down and loopy loop (not easy by the way), using our breath to control our trajectory. We did a few other skills to hone our buoyancy control before coming back in because the visibility was terrible and we had just about run up on our air. The next dive was a navigation dive and my dive buddy, Matt, and I did rather well following our course though at the time we didn’t think so. It only became apparent when we stumbled across an anchor line that we had followed the course just fine. We continued on to find the correct anchor line and having some extra time and air explored a short out-and-back trajectory before completing our dive.
The last dive of the day was a night dive, and possibly one of the loveliest night dives I have ever experienced. We entered the water just at sunset and the sunsets on Koh Tao are legendary. In order to reach the buoy line we had to swim directly east. Floating on our backs as we kicked we had the most incredible view of the panoramic painting spread out before us. The golden orange light of the setting sun splashed off the water, dousing the ripples in the same vibrant colors that danced across the sky. We dipped down below the deep blue surface just as the sun sank below the horizon. Diving at night sounds at first like a terrifying venture but there is still something so comforting to me about being held by the inky ocean. A different array of creatures prowl the night waters, massive barracuda, neon blue spotted rays, and black and white stripped sea snakes. These sea creatures might sound menacing but they are beautiful and so graceful and they leave you happily alone as long as you pay them the same courtesy.
At one point in the dive, our dive master Dan had us gather on the sandy floor and turn off our flashlights. This was so we could take a moment to let the full weight of the night envelope us as well as to allow us to see the phosphorescent plankton that surrounded us. Every time we moved, our hands would paint a bright green trail of little glowing plankton. The plankton looked like bright green sparks flying this way and that in the wake of the current created by our hands. I tried moving my hands in the forward weave pattern of poi dance and they trailed behind, glowing like a streak of green fire! We then lifted off the sand and swam for a short stretch in the dark waters, the glowing plankton dancing in our wake. At the end of our dive, when our heads broke the surface a glittering blanket of stars greeted us. So many stars!! I had forgotten how much I missed their presence, traveling and living in cities for the previous weeks. We lay on our backs as we kicked back to the boat and admired all of our favorite constellations and even the distinct arch of the milky way. Just a most incredible and memorable dive.
The next day was a full day trip out to a dive site called Sail Rock, considered to be the best dive site off the eastern coast of Thailand. It is a favorite due to the reliably clear waters and the greater likelihood of seeing large sea creatures due to its deep sea location, far off from any other island. Our first dive was clear and beautiful above 24 meters but below this point, where we were to do some deep water nitrogen narcosis tests at 30 meters, the water was thick with silt and algae, creating just terrible visibility. One of my dive partners began to have an anxiety reaction due to the bad vis and the nitrogen narcosis effects so we aborted the exercise and rose to a more shallow depth to complete the dive. In between dives we lounged on the boat, letting the excess nitrogen in our blood gradually off gas through our breath, until all at once a loud commotion began in the water and on another boat. Something big had been spotted! A WHALE SHARK!! Just about anyone who owned legs began tearing around the boat, snatching up masks and snorkels here, fins there and then diving recklessly into the water to catch a glimpse of the great fish.
I was a little late diving into the water and I kicked fast to catch up with the crowd, breathing heavy into my snorkel. My legs burned but I kicked hard and fast, determined to see the whale shark. As I approached the throng of snorkeling onlookers I began swimming on my back to catch my breath. Some men on a near by boat were hollering and pointing right at me and it took me a moment to realize why. As I turned around and dipped my head just below the surface I saw the enormous shimmering form of the whale shark swimming directly at me. It came right up to the surface, so close to me I felt like I could reach out and touch it. One of my dive partners was floating next to me and I almost reached out to hold his hand. The moment of grace was that powerful. Time seemed to stretch as the shark slipped gracefully by and then vanished into deeper waters. The brilliant blue spots on its back, glittering in the light, were the last of it to disappear.
We kicked around on the surface for a while longer, hoping the whale shark would return. And it did, briefly but only in deeper waters at the level of the hovering scuba divers below. Soon it was time for our second dive and we entered the water eagerly, hoping this time to swim with the shark with greater freedom of movement. Sure enough, halfway through our dive as we explored around sail rock, the beautiful graceful form of the whale shark came into view. We spotted him directly below us and I called out mentally to the fish, calling it beautiful, sister, most elegant creature of the sea. The next moment the shark was rising towards me, seeming to recognize my call and respond by coming to me to show off its iridescent, glittering skin. Again it slipped by me so close I felt I could touch it, and so graceful and slow I felt like time had stopped. There were so many divers all hovering around it, it nearly had no place to swim, but it never seemed to feel threatened or afraid. It just glided this way and that, seeming to enjoy all of the attention.I have never had a dive where I felt the presence of such a powerful and graceful creature such as this whale shark. We were so lucky to have seen it as it is still quite rare to catch sightings of them. Earlier that day, on the way to the dive site, our dive master's fiancée announced confidently that we were going to swim with a whale shark that day. I thought to myself "Okay, lady. Whatever you say. But I seriously doubt it." Goes to show just how wrong I was.
A fiery fairy who has set off to explore Asia and discover new things about the world and herself. The journey is one to fully realize her strength and an unwaivering faith in her personal power.