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Open Water Dive course

Alvaro, Koh Tao Island

Day 1

Leaving for Chalok beach was an easy affair as we got ourselves a taxi which dropped us off at the 7/11 and we walked a short while to collect our room key from Taraporn restaurant who owned the rooms and worked with Alvaro. The bungalow we got was very basic and was a far cry away from our previous digs but it was to be expected especially when it came free with the open water dive course.

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After settling in we made our way to Alvaro and decided to chill out before starting our course and explored the area that would potentially be our home for the next week or so should we decide to further our dive certificates. We had time to have lunch and I succumbed to my reservations and got the barnet trimmed (which didn't take long). With a new hairdo and a welcomed relief from the heat we strolled back to start our course.

To begin with we opted to watch the video that SSI had put together and it was a good job we did because it took the best part of the early evening to watch all the chapters. The video itself seemed a bit dated but easy to follow and afterwards we were loaned the text books and given some homework (which felt a bit odd) and so we made our way to the small beach by our digs to catch the last bit of sun that we missed watching the video and decided to get all the questions answered so we were ready to go for the next day.

Here are some diving signs...

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Pleased that we finished our homework we went for dinner at Taraporn which is perfectly situated on stilts that go out into the sea. The dinner was tasty and as we took in the nightlife across the bay we tested each others knowledge. Already without even getting in the water we were talking the lingo and gesturing the signs.....we couldn't wait for the next day!!

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Day 2

Today was going to be our first experience of S.C.U.B.A (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) see we did learn something!! Having met up with Steve our instructor, the first thing we needed to do was learm about the equipment and how to put it together. During this time we met up with Peter, the other member of our group, and in an instant we had became part of what we would all fondly name "Scuba Steve's Diving Squad". Peter was a lovely guy from Canada who had learned Open water before but had done it 15 years ago so a refresher was recommended by the dive school, which I thought was good because even if you have taken it it shouldn't be assumed that you still know what to do.

After trying out the gear and assembling and then dissembling it we moved to a classroom to go over more important information regarding safety and the physics of diving. Despite wanting to jump in the water I was glad to have the spoken lesson before as we got to have some Q & A during it which helped diffuse any concerns we had. At this point my impression of Alvaro and our instructor was very good and I was pleased that we took the time to research the right school.

We finished the lesson in time to get lunch and be ready for the afternoon dive session. Before we left we made sure all our equipment was the correct size and was working properly and then the team started to ferry all the bags to the boat. It looked as though it would be a full boat judging by all the bags but once on board the boat I was pleased that there was plenty of room for all even though it was a smaller boat than other dive schools.

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As we made our way on the boat Steve told us we would be heading to Mango bay to start our training in shallow water to get a grasp of the equipment when submerged and also to practice emergency procedures, buoyancy techniques and communication under water.

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The boat ride was pretty quick and we pulled into the bay and started our first buddy check of many to come. Steve was a funny Liverpudlian guy and throughout the course he would crack a joke to ease the learning process and one of which was made on how to remember the procedure for checking your buddy.

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He taught us the phrase

"Bangkok Women Really Are Fellas"

(Sarah mistakenly heard Really as Rarely due to Steve's strong Liverpudlian accent. She didn't own up to not getting it at first but I soon realised she was saying it wrong, which was funny when the penny suddenly dropped! Doh!)

Taking the first letter from each word it matched up with

B - BC
W - weight belt
R - Releases or the straps on your jacket
A - Air (quite important this one)
F - Final ok - Do you have your mask and fins? (Or as Sarah kept saying goggles and flippers to Steve's dismay)

Jumping into the water with all your gear was an odd experience as you went from being weighed down to being able to float on the surface with your BC inflated. The technique we used was the giant stride which is pretty much as it says on the tin, I had thought that we would do the fall backwards into the water but that I think would be for smaller boats and experienced divers.

We swam into shore to the shallow waters to start our training and almost immediately we were surrounded by a school of sergeant major fish. Bonus!! There must of been a 100s of them and would have loved to have stayed and watched them but we had to get to work.

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During this dive we learnt...

-What do if your mask fills up with water
-What do if your regulator falls out of your mouth.
-What to do if you run out of air and communicating with your buddy to use their secondary air supply and ascend together.
-How to control buoyancy using slow breathing.
-How to do the sitting Buddha.
-How to take your weights off and on in case of emergency
-How to use your regulator if the air is free flowing
-How to take your BC off and on when on the surface.
-Experienced how it felt if air supply was finished (we had to put a lot of trust in Steve for this one as he turned off our air supply underwater!)
-How to sign underwater how much air we had left.

It was an exhausting day taking in all the information and a nap was welcomed on our way back (I was only signalling the time honestly )

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We also managed to get some sun on the way back and noticed a familiar sight of Amanjirah in the distance which Sarah managed to zoom in on from the sea.

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The diving fever had got us and we were excited about the next day as we start to see more of the marine life.

Day 3

In the morning we had another classroom session where we learned about how we calculate your decompression limits so as to avoid dangers such as the bends. In order to do this your create a dive plan which maps out your depth and for how long you will be at that depth so you can then calculate how much residual nitrogen you have had before your next dive. As we had gone through the books in our own time and had lessons with Steve it was time for the exam!! Fortunately we had studied for it properly and both passed with flying colours (Sarah got 92 and I got 88 out of 100). With a sigh of relief we headed off for lunch again to our regular haunt which was the french cafe Cappuccino and waited for the afternoon.

As soon as it got close to dive time we got ourselves over to Alvaro HQ, checked gear and jumped on the small boat to our dive boat like we had been doing it for years. The dive site we were going to on this day was called Aow Leuk, which was a secluded bay that only had one resort on its beach but was know for having good visibility, perfect for practice dives.

It didn't disappoint. With the sun beaming down on the waters surface the blue lagoon type shimmer of the water was inviting us to jump in as we approached the bay. Before we did we got in our groups and Steve instructed us of his plan of the dive which is pretty crucial so that there is no confusion when you are in the water, and he also gave us a intro into what marine life we might find. At this point he told us about the famed triggerfish who had been known to attack divers who enter their self determined territory. A little concerning but we were reassured was not a common experience.

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We did two dives on this day which had a maximum depth of 9metres, we glided past coral and were able to see:

Weigels butterfly
Long fin banner fish
Pink anemone fish
Xmas tree worm
Re breasted wrasse
Prawn goby
Indian boat fish
Parrotfish

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It was so much fun!!!

After the dive we were introduced to a fella who had earlier jumped on to the boat with some boxes and at the time I didn't think anything of it. It turned out he was trying out his version of underwater masks that meant you could walk on the seabed. Once we saw the set up we realised that it was a bit comical, only because you had to wear this ridiculous squared mask that fed you your air and as you submerged the trapped air would stop any water flooding around your face. The mask itself is quite heavy making it quite cumbersome when getting in and out of the water. It was very 1970s futuristic type demonstrations that sprang into my mind when I saw it in action, and of course we had to give it a go. It was free for starters! We had a laugh dancing on the seabed and doing slow motion running.

I think the guy was starting up the franchise in Koh Tao, so he got us all to pose for pictures which I guess will go on his website.

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It was quite fun to try out but no way as good as diving, mainly because you had very little freedom to move around because you had a tube attached to your head which was fed from the boat keeping you alive. Sarah and I didn't get any pictures but we did get some of Steve having a go.

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That night we basked in our new found love of diving and chilled out at the local bar to our diving school called Babaloo. The fire lights and fire dancers added to the chilled out vibe that we were becoming accustomed on Chalok.

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Tomorrow would be an early start!

Day 4

By this point we were into a routine as we knew what needed to be ready before leaving for the dive boat. The early start didn't matter because we were both raring to get into into the water. We had two dives on this day and the first was the furthest away from Koh Tao at a place called Chumpon Pinnacle. During the dive plan Steve told us that this site was considered one of Koh Taos best due to the type of marine life and also the visability being superb. We were excited at the prospect of possibly seeing Whale Sharks or Barracudas!

This was going to be our deepest dive yet at 18 metres so a slight apprehension was natural but we Buddy checked, giant strided and descended in no time. We unfortunately didn't take a camera with us due to wanting to concentrate on learning the dive techniques but to put it simply, it was Awesome!!!

Despite a large amounts of divers we still managed to glide our way around the pinnacle with ease and was able to see loads of fish and I even saw a Large Barracuda which I tried to signal to Sarah and the others but they were ahead of me and by the time she turned round it was gone. It was quite funny because I was waving my arms like a lunatic but Sarah had no idea. They had to take my word for it as it was the largerst thing I had seen and made me think what would be my reaction if I saw a even bigger fish like the whale shark!

Unfortunately we didn't get a sighting of the largest fish in the ocean but we did get to see:

Yellow fin barracuda (smaller than the large one I saw!)
Golden trevally
Blue Ringed Angelfish (My favourite) the colours on this one are just mesmerising.

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There was plenty more schools of other fish and the coral was more colourful this time.

Dive 2 of the day was at Green Rock, again going down to 18m. This would be Sarah's first sighting of the famous triggerfish which I didn't get to see but her and Peter were excitedly chatting about it when we surfaced. The best thing about diving is that at any given time you could get a sighting of a fish you have never seen or think you wouldn't see, so you are always up for getting back into the water. Knowing that I hadn't seen the triggerfish that day didn't matter because I knew we would have more dives to come.

When we finished our last dive we were certified Open Water Divers!!!! Thanks Stevo!!

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We had enjoyed our lessons with Steve so much and the vibe at Alvaro was perfect so we signed up for the Advanced course and extended our stay at Taraporn that same day! We were hooked!

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Stay tuned for more tales.

Dan

Posted by doyledan 02:39 Archived in Thailand

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