October 15, 2015 4:18PM JST
Hooray! I finally got to dive!
Too excited, I arrived at the dive shop 30 minutes early, at about 11PM. Before diving, we (others were a Malaysian couple and a solo male traveller (the last time he dove was 8 years ago) hailing from Australia I think) gathered into the classroom at around 11:30PM and watched a quick video on diving equipment and diving conditions and finally, we signed agreement and waiver forms. The other group of 4 watched in another room.
I was greeted by Karitha by the time we finished our videos and got to the bench area. I could not bring camera of my own to dive because I needed to be concentrated hard on diving so I really wanted to have videos taken by a professional dive photographer employed by Roctopus by contract. I talked to Karitha but she wanted me to concentrate on the dive. She was hesitant. She said she will think about it after dive and will discuss with other instructors on how it can be arranged, since there are two other groups who also wanted to have videos taken.
By 12PM, we were set off to go to our first dive. I had to set up diving equipment all by myself. Wet suit (3mm short), fins, and weights (3.2kg) were put into the diving bag. The mask was special one. I actually forgot my contact lenses in the CSer PP’s bag back in Bangkok when I did not have space in my bag right before we entered the Grand Palace. I could not wear glasses since the mask was not designed to fit glasses. Since the mask had prescription and it was expensive, Karitha kept the mask for me.
We each loaded our dive bags onto two truck taxis. We jumped onto the back of the trucks and were all excited to start our journey. We arrived at the pier where the Roctopus dive boat was (this was beside the ferry dock) after about 10 minutes of ride. We grabbed our bags and ‘walked’ across a boat to reach our boat which was parked beside the first boat parked by the loading place where the truck was parked. We each were told to move to the bench where we were specifically assigned by our instructors.
Among the instructors assigned to each group, dive master was introduced within the instructors and each instructors and dive master trainees introduced themselves. As the boat was started and was ready to go, we wasted no time. We were immediately told to set up our equipment.
October 16, 2015 10:04AM JST
Since it was one-to-one lesson for me, while most of others were students partnered up with each other, I partnered up with my instructor.
I did not get everything right at the first time. I was still unsure of steps since I only got to put it on and off once the day before. Since other students helped each other, their instructors were probably less certain about their ability to learn quickly, whereas, I was definitely not a quick learner due to the one day delayed.
After the regulator (the mouth piece that is inserted into the mouth and is used to breathe through mouth) was set up with the floating device (floating jacket) and the tank, our instructors introduced the diving site with us and what to be expected for the first dive and what kind of animals we see.
The dive site was called Japanese Gardens. It was located at the island Koh Nang Yuan not far from Koh Tao and could only be reached by small ferries or boat taxis (200 Baht). Koh Nang Yuang was also a perfect place for people to relax on the beach and had snorkeling spots. Many snorkelers from my hostel went there.
Japanese Gardens has total depth of 16m, but the area we were allowed to dive was up to 8m only. The resulting depth that I have dived was 7.6m, which was logged by the logging device that my instructor had on her wrist. It was very beautiful at the bottom. I have never snorkeled before so it was extra amazing experience for me. The bottom was teemed with friendly exotic fish that were not afraid of approaching divers. At one point during the dive, I had an open sore on my left leg. The open sore part had a tiny burning/sizzling feeling. I thought it was probably due to the warm exotic water. I also wondered if it was the Bluestreak cleaner wrasse that was biting it. I later learned that I was right; I asked my instructor and she told me that it was indeed the wrasse biting on the wound.
Bluestreak cleaner wrasse is a species of cleaner wrasse that is very common at coral reef ecosystems. The fish feeds dead tissues and parasites on other fish. Other fish, which are often much larger than the feeders, allow the cleaner wrasse to feed with an exchange for not eating the smaller fish. These events occur at ‘cleaning stations’. My instructor, mentioned that these fish are known as free cleaners. We don’t need toothpaste to clean our teeth!
Once the oxygen supply in my tank went down to about 50-60 psi (full tank is 200 psi and it was about 180 psi when I started), we were ready to go back to the surface. I was following my instructor throughout the dive to make sure that I knew how to dive in the real situation and did not go past the instructor to ensure safety. We had a 3-min stop before reaching the surface level to make sure that we had enough time to accumulate and do not reach the surface too fast as it could be dangerous and lead to potential death if we started from much deeper depth. We swam toward the boat, which was not really that far, as there was no water current (thus, it was the perfect pristine location to dive). I was instructed to take the fins off and used the ladder to climb the boat and get ready for next dive.
During the gap between the two dives, we were provided with snacks and pineapple. I ate the banana flavoured cookie before the dive as I did not eat enough before diving. The cookie itself tasted horrible; I had to spit some out. Pineapple was delicious, but they were not so sweet as the ones we buy in stores in our home countries. Perhaps the pineapples we buy in stores are enriched?
For the second dive, we went to the Twins, which is also known as Twin Peak. As the name insists, the dive location has two large underwater rocks, ranging from 5m to 18m deep. The rating of the dive location is for easy to intermediate. The dive time lasted 35 mins, from 3:10 to 3:45PM. According to my instructor, I have used oxygen quite efficiently and it was quite good for a beginner diver. The fish was similar to the last diving location and I would say the sighting was average with no major unique fish from the last dive spot.
After both dives, we debriefed with our instructors – how was the dive, what was learned, what we were good at, what we need to improve, etc. We got back to dive shop by around 5PM. We got our first log. We wrote notes for the dives we have dove that day and jotted down any key information that needed to be noted. We were invited to go to the bar near the pool to see the videos of dives that the students have completed their dives that day, which was their last day of the Open Water course. This was also the video session of the original group that I had lessons with – the family of three from UK. Since I already saw videos on the first day, I did not go to the bar. When everything was finished and I went to retrieve my belongings, Westy was in the room, at the usual spot where he sat on the sofa and worked. I talked to him about video and he said it was not a problem since there was just a videographer taking videos. He said he will talk to Karitha later and should be good to go the next day I come back for the dive, which was to meet at the dive shop at 6AM.
Since the next day started so early, I decided to just go back to the hostel and socialize a bit and go to bed early, which I did, at 11PM or so and planned to wake up at 5AM.