It has been my dream for years to become a diver. I have ever since I can remember wanted to be able to swim along with the fish like a mermaid for longer than my lungs can hold a breath. To truly stay under there, loose myself to the beauty and the diversity, the alien world that hides beneath the waves.
When we booked our flights to Thailand it was my one and only thing I cared for. I wanted to get it done straight away, but circumstances played up and it took until the very end of the journey, two months of travelling, until I finally made it happen. It is the best thing I have ever done. I dont even care that I haven't done it sooner, I am just so happy to finally be able to call myself a certified open water diver.
After asking around with friends and fellow travellers we were clear that Koh Tao in Thailand was the absolute best place to do it. It's the second cheapest place in the world, has some of the best dive sites and a lot of very reputational dive centres. Simon, a friend of James that we are travelling with did his with Sairee Cottage Diving and this is the one we chose as well. They are a little bit more expensive than other dive centres but they have one of the best reputations. Their instructors are all outstanding, their facilities hold high standards as well as their equipment and the lay out of their course. They never take groups bigger than 6 students which ensures that everybody get the attention and help they need.
The owner doesn't care as much for how many students they go through, as the quality of the course and the centre. So me and James payed 11 000 baht each (~£250 or ~2 800 sek). This includes 1 pool dive, 4 ocean dives, all the equipment needed and course material. Since we were two people living together in a room we also got 5 nights of accomodation in our own bungalow with private bathroom and toilet. We were the only two people in our group and our instructor was amazing. We went through the course super fast and felt comfortable and confident the whole time, from our first breath under water to going down to 18 meters in the ocean.
It is a feeling that is hard to describe. It doesnt compare to anything else. The closest I can think of is snorkelling, but even that is nothing like actual diving. The fish think we are one of them and come right up to us. Not scared, not defensive, if anything just curious. It is a feeling of complete relaxation. All you can hear is the bubbles from your breathing, the fish eating corals and the occasional boat driving past somewhere above you. Everything is peaceful, you move in slow motion, notice colours, shapes and aquatic life you never seen before. To be part of this world for as long as 45 minutes is beyond amazing. nothing that can be described, only experienced.
We are both sold on out new hobby and are currently debating whether to pay for the advanced open water course or stick to fun dives for the rest of the trip. The advanced open water includes more skill training, five adventure dives where two of them, the deep dive and the navigation dive is mandatory. We can also choose between a wreck dive, night dive, a bouyancy dive, nitrox dive, multilevel and computer dive, fish identification, photography and diver propulsion vehicle. This course would take two days and cost another 9000 baht. Or we could simply do a deep dive to 30 meters which would allow us to go down to that depth everywhere elss in the world and spend the rest of the time doing fun dives. The main reason we would go ahead with the advanced cours would be to further extend our skills and get the certification. Only a few dive sites in the world would require an advanced OW and to be honest,I have no idea when I will be able to go diving again. Doing any further training I will come back here because of the price and the athmosphere. Maybe one day even become a dive master. To do that you need to have an advanced OW and then be a rescue diver. All up the cost for these certifications would come to 44 000 baht (£1500, 15 000 SEK) and would include 2 months of accomodation, over 100 dives and all the equipment youd need. A great option for who ever wants to escape the normal life for a while and just enjoy diving in paradise.