PADI Open Water in Ko Tao

This is my 100th post for LoveLaughLiv! Milestone, guys, milestone…

Our digs at Crystal

Our digs at Crystal Dive Resort 🙂

 After the horrendous boat journey outlined in my last post, we arrived at glorious Crystal Dive Resort in Ko Tao ready to go  to collapse and so headed straight for our new digs. In a picture perfect exotic garden, filled with an intoxicating mixture of butterflies, bird calls and the occasional thai chicken strutting about was our little basic bungalow. Nothin’ fancy by most peoples standards, the room had a fan, double bed, tv that refused to operate (who needs tv in paradise anyway?!) and a little bathroom complete with cold shower, sink and eco-style loo. Just like my room in Jodhpur, a couple of Geckos had also claimed the property for themselves which was excellent as they eat all the mozzies.  The room did just about everything it had to and considering it accommodation comes free with your PADI course, I had no complaints. Even better, our little raised seating area seemed to be a prime spot for local cats wanting a snooze. Hello Kitty!

Purrrfect.

Purrrfect.

 Ko Tao is the place to learn how to dive in Thailand. Packed with lots of dive resorts and shops, ranging from smaller ventures to huge complexes complete with various different amenities, the island somehow manages to avoid being overcrowded whilst simultaneously screaming ‘GO DIVE!’ from every rooftop. On this premise, we chose to do our PADI open water here. Crystal Dive Resort, described as ‘the Meryl Streep of dive resorts’ by Lonely Planet (I HEART Meryl Streep) and coming strongly recommended by my good friend Henry, it was a natural pick. Located on the slightly quieter Mae Haad beach, its only a five minute walk to the strip on Sairee Beach and is an eco-conscious, British owned venture.

On our way out to our first dive...

On our way out to our first dive…

Coming straight from the slightly paranoid ‘oh-my-god-a-killer-shark-could-be-anywhere’ attitudes of West Australia, where helicopters regularly cruise  beaches checking for any naughty selamorphia who dare come within a gazillion miles of the shoreline, I think its fair to say I was slightly paranoid about bobbing around in the middle of the sea by Ko Tao. In Australia I discovered a fear of sharks I never even knew I had (thanks Steven Speilberg), always making sure there was at least one person further out than me when swimming (usually Simon, sorry!) and coming to the very logical conclusion that I was more likely to outrun a shark than outswim one. Dolphins have even swam nearby and instead of thinking ‘wow this is amazing’ my thoughts went a bit like this : ‘if there’s dolphins then there could be sharks nearby too #shsbqcj#@***!!’. Cue me swimming/running/paddling back to shore at lightning speed. I am officially even more of a coward than I already thought I was. I don’t wish any harm upon sharks, I don’t agree with culling them, I just simply don’t want them anywhere near me either.

Si rocking the wetsuit look for AW2013

Si rocking the wetsuit look for AW2013

 So when the time came to take the plunge for our first dive, after two days of cheesy PADI DVD’s, exams and going for some lovely and very educational dips in the pool with our fantastic instructor Jenny, I was super excited but still living with the little voice in my head that warned me of my imminent death. Instead of just dismissing my fears (which, according to statistics guys are very dismissable, cows kill more people than sharks do on a yearly basis) Jenny very calmly just helped me focus on the task ahead and explained that if there was anything that was possibly going to eat her, there’s no way she’d be going down there either. A lady on my level!

Our first dive site: The beautiful and serene Mango Bay

Our first dive site: The beautiful and serene Mango Bay

Where can I sign up for a mortgage on one of these beauties?

Where can I sign up for a mortgage on one of these beauties?

 That said, once we were underneath the water the view was incredible. Our first dive site was Mango Bay, very picturesque on the surface but I can honestly say I have never seen anything like what I saw underwater in my life and I half expected a David Attenborough voiceover to come on at any moment. It’s mindblowing how so much diverse marine life is constantly going on underneath the surface and we hardly ever see any of it. Highlights of our first dive included angel fish, bat fish, barracuda, sea cucumbers and a whole plethora of other magnificently stunning organisms I couldn’t even begin to remember how to name (Jenny taught us using picturecards) along with plenty of coral. We also did plenty of skills sessions to make sure we’d grasped the whole diving thing! One great thing about Crystal is they make a real effort to preserve and even nurture the reef. Obviously everything is eyes only but they have also created artificial reefs elsewhere to lessen the strain on the existing coral.

The hammock on the Crystal Dive Boat was great after a morning of trying to pull yourself back on board in the waves.

The hammock on the Crystal Dive Boat was great after a morning of trying to pull yourself back on board in the waves.

 The next day saw us dive in slightly choppier waters at Twin Peaks and White Rock (cue small freak out from moi followed by multiple cups of tea) but we also had our own lovely underwater cameraman accompanying. It was a such a fun day (Melanie and Wouter who were also in our PADI group were great company both on and off the course) and the highlight for me had to be seeing a yellow spotted sting ray as well as an large leopardy-looking eel (eternally chic) who decided to swim right past me. The Christmas tree worms also provided endless entertainment – if you waft water in their direction they quickly disappear! The fish are so unphased by your presence its unreal and cleaner wrasse have absolutely no issues coming and giving you a nibble (or ten). The only one to watch out for was the triggerfish, who can get a bit territorial and bitey (the divesign is like a shooting gun). Other highlights included dougying (dancemove, google it) on the ocean floor and also swam through lots of bouyancy rings in Crystal’s very own Bouyancy World (imagine a big playground under the sea and you’ve pretty much got it). With each dive I felt more and more confident, it all seemed to end too soon!! Before we knew it we were all PADI Open Water certified , armed with our newly updated logbooks and sat in the bar watching the clips from all the days shenanigans with lots of Chang (we all came to the conclusion our group was the best, naturally).

Celebrating becoming PADI Open Water Divers.

Celebrating becoming certified PADI Open Water Divers back at Mae Haad.

Ko Tao.

Ko Tao.

 I’ve definitely got the diving bug thanks to Crystal and I would strongly recommend anyone to take their PADI Open Water certification with them if you’re ever in Koh Tao. And no – I didn’t see any sharks… although now I kinda wish I had. Maybe next time 😉

 Over and out,

 Liv xxx

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