We came to Koh Tao after Koh Phangan (with a one night layover in Koh Samui to get out of Haad Rin and the temptation of more buckets and late night beach dancing) to see the island and also so I could get my advanced scuba certification. A friend from the Full Moon Party recommended Big Blue Diving Resort (he got his advanced here and said they did a photography dive, night dive and shipwreck dive…sign me up!) so I ran with it. Despite the dorm room facilities (and bathroom…probably the worst one yet) being less than ideal, I’m SOOOO happy with my advanced experience here at Big Blue.
My group was only me and one other guy, Klaus, and we were led by Dive Master Jen. She was great and it actually worked out really well that it was a small group of three diving each day. The advanced certification requires five dives and we elected for the SSI program (over my previous course PADI) so that we wouldn’t have to do homework. Ha! The five dives that we chose were required dives, Deep and Navigation, along with Buoyancy, Night and Wreck. We got to add in photography on the second day with the Deep and Wreck dives as a bonus.
On our first day, we did the Buoyancy, Navigation and Night dives. I quite enjoyed the Buoyancy more than I thought I would and we got to do some fun tricks under water practicing staying level, pivots and our breathing. The Navigation dive is pretty self explanatory, but it was the first dive where Jen left us and I dove solely with a buddy for about 20 minutes.
Then came the Night Dive. I was extremely excited about this because my friend Matt had said it was his favorite dive. Two other guys joined us on the dive and the group opted to take our boat out to the choppier, but better dive site, White Rock. By the time we got to the site I was feeling slightly queasy. We got suited up and in the water (which was extremely wavy and had a bit of a current). By the time we swam to the front of the boat, I was having my doubts. Despite the fact that we all had flashlights, descending into the pitch-black ocean is scary as crap!!! I immediately felt a wave of sheer terror rush over me. Like I couldn’t breathe and was having a panic attack. I came back up to the surface, tears streaming down my face and got back on the boat. I was fully ready to endure the next 45 minutes of my own personal hell as I sat on a small boat in a rocky ocean, crying while the other guys did the dive. But, they came back up and Jen suggested we go to a different dive site where there was less of a current. She also said we could go back but I didn’t want to go back and ruin it for everyone. She really was the best!! She told me that the first time she went on a night dive, she freaking hated it. She said I was a really good diver and knew I could do this. We got to the next site (I quietly gave myself pep talks on the boat ride over) and got in the water. I held onto Jen as we descended down the buoy line and about 5 meters down, I knew I was acting totally silly before. It was AWESOME! A completely different experience from daytime diving. We did a complete blackout where we could play with the luminescent phosphoresce in the water (not as magical as the luminescence at Castaway Island, but still really rad), saw a ribbon tail ray having a little dinner on some sand worms, a harlequin sweet lips, a giant hermit crab (far, far bigger than the ones you got in elementary school), and a puffer fish. Overall I think the night dive may have in fact been my favorite. I was also pretty proud of myself for conquering my fear and going through with the dive after my first freak out.
The second and final day was our Deep and Wreck dives. We did our Deep dive first, descending to 30 meters (100 feet). We completed a Nitrogen Narcosis test and then enjoyed swimming around looking at all the fascinating underwater life. I was realyyyy hoping to see a whale shark, but unfortunately it was not the case. As a kid in the pool, I used to pretend I was a mermaid, so it’s really no surprise that I like diving so much. It’s so much fun to swim around and check out all the awesome underwater creatures. Plus, if I kick my feet the right way, I can still pretend I’m a mermaid. HA! We saw some massive marbled grouper, dancing shrimp, a school of king mackerel, among other things. Our Wreck dive was at the HTMS Sattakut, which was used in the Thai Navy and was intentionally sunk about a year ago to create a manmade reef. The visibility was quite poor, so we couldn’t see as much at the wreck. We swam through the galley and swam on the bow of the ship with one of the ship guns. It was cool, but would be neat to go back on a day where you could see more.
(we made it to 30 meters!!)
(newly certified Advanced Adventure divers – me, Jen (our Dive Master) & Klaus)
I’m now an official SSI Advanced Adventure Diver and the proud new owner of my very own scuba mask. I look forward to a lot more diving around the world! I had a great time diving at Big Blue and would highly recommend it to anyone considering getting certified in Koh Tao. But maybe, stay at Big Blue 2. Oh, and order the chicken fried rice with cashews served in a pineapple. It’s delightful!