Those of you that follow our Facebook page will know that one of our big things to do in this trip was learn to dive. As this is a once in a lifetime trip we were able to justify the frankly astronomical cost of learning in the Similan Islands (one of the top 5 dives sites in the world) . This blog post is split between mine & Steve’s very different experiences – the reason for which will soon become obvious! Either way, we both felt that Wicked Diving were a great company to be spending our hard earned cash on.
We had chosen Wicked for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they trained you in small groups, secondly, they eco credentials were solid. Finally, a proportion of the money you spend with them goes to local community projects, which in an area like Khao Lak where the Tsunami devastated families and people can only be a good thing. They sponsor a local orphanage, and teach local kids to swim for free. Some get to learn to Scuba Dive for free also, and can qualify as instructors.
So onto the Scuba learning/diving
I say we learnt to Scuba dive but in reality, I managed the 1st 2 days of the classroom and pool, aced the test (obviously – I’ve always been much better at theory than practice!), and promptly had a breakdown in the pool at 2metres depth. Between nerves and a head cold Denise in a very understanding way suggested I take the next day to rest and I could still qualify with the dives in the Liveaboard. She had total confidence in me and was convinced that my issue was confidence based as some of the other people in our training group were basically fish and I was just a normal trying not to drown. Her positivity was the only reason I got back in the water in scuba gear ever again
However when I got my scuba gear on the next morning my knees were actually knocking together I was so scared.
I wish I could have repaid Denise’s faith in my abilities by manning up and being able to do it, but it turns out my brain is just not designed for being under water, and no amount of having a word with myself made any difference. I lasted a whole 9 minutes and that was how long it took me to get to 5 metres depth.
So I basically had a lovely cruise for 3 days whilst Steve learnt to Scuba Dive. Despite not actually learning to Scuba, I had a great time (seasickness 1 day not withstanding) met some really nice people, and by choosing Wicked Diving, I so felt that we were giving something back to the local community. I’ll leave it to Steve to tell you all about diving..
So firstly, we both got food poisoning in Bangkok. As we had to get to Khao Lak to start our open water diving course we had no choice but to get a 12 hour overnight bus there, feeling like crap and having double dropped Imodium to keep things civil.
The good news is it worked. The bad news is, well, it worked a little too well, so we basically spent the 3 days feeling terrible barely able to leave our room and eating dry toast.
Anyway, we were just about okay by the time we were due to start the course. Though Sarah then came down with a cold ( I think it was a sign)
The course was split into 2 sections. 2 Days classroom and Pool work then 2 Open Water dives. We would finish our course on the 3 day Liveaboard where we had the opportunity to dive a further 10 times.
The pool work consisted of a swim test (not usually an issue but after 5 days of no food or dry toast, more difficult than it should have been), and the basic scuba skills we needed to survive in the open water. The classroom work involved videos and discussions, followed by a multiple choice exam, which I just about scraped through despite my old school habit of not reading the questions properly. I was feeling pretty confident after the 2 days and looking forward to my 2 dives the next day.
That is, until I woke up in the morning. My confidence had completely deserted me and had been replaced with me completely bricking it.
There I was, trying to hide it from the other people on the course as we headed out, but I needn’t have worried because as soon as I was in the water the nervousness disappeared and I realised that the prep I had done in the pool meant I was completely comfortable.
Our instructor, Denise was brilliant and the dives went really well as we proved all the skills we had learnt in the pool but this time 10 metres below (very weird but very cool).
That evening we set off on the Liveaboard for the Similan Islands. I completed my Open Water certificate over the next few dives which meant I could really concentrate on enjoying the rest of them. Also, as the only novice on the boat (Sarah had decided it wasn’t for her by this point), and with the next least experienced having 50 dives, I had Denise all to myself. This worked out really well as I still had a few things to work on, though all the divers assured me that it would all come with experience
I can’t overstate what a brilliant instructor Denise is, by the end of the 3 days I was doing totally alien scuba skills like they were 2nd nature and it meant I was really able to enjoy my later dives.
And what a place to pick to learn, though since I’ve been told I’ve totally ruined myself for diving anywhere else. The Similan Islands are stunning, with an amazing array of fish everywhere I looked. The water is so clear, and so blue, and there are some beautiful things to see there. Between the dives and the boat there were plenty of photo opps like these
I also have to mention the crew and the boat itself. The crew were awesome, and worked really hard for us all, providing some amazing food. I loved the bean bag chill out deck and every boat should have one!
So thanks again to Wicked Diving, and Denise for a unforgettable trip, and thanks to the other divers for all their advice. Especially thanks to a German lady called Tamara who let me pinch cigarettes off her the whole time after I’d stupidly left mine behind.
You can check out Wicked Diving at http://wickeddiving.com