We were fortunate that conditions were perfect for our first dive out at sea, but that still didn't detract from a few pre-dive nerves as we jumped off the boat with all our kit on and slowly began to submerge. Nevertheless these anxieties were quickly dispelled as we found ourselves surrounded by shoals of multi-coloured fish and beautiful corals. As cliched as it might sound it really was a different world down there and a totally different experience to snorkelling. Skills completed, we then moved to another dive site, this time reaching a depth of 12m. I was relieved that my ears didn't prove to be a problem having had so many issues with them as a child and we both took easily to the breath and buoyancy control. A great start, leaving us both well and truly hooked and excited for the next days underwater adventures.
The next day we had more skills to complete and our maximum depth of 18m to reach. Sadly however my ears won't so keen to behave this time and I was perhaps slightly too forceful with my attempts to equalise the pressure. The pain was fairly uncomfortable but I was determined to put on a brave face and to continue descending especially looking down at the aquarium beneath me! By the time we eventually resurfaced the discomfort had subsided but my ear felt full of water and i recognised the all too familiar sensation of the re-opening of a slit in my eardrum
. Nevertheless there was no way i was going to back out of the final dive and risk not getting qualified. The fourth site was even more impressive than the ones before and it was hard to know where to look, there were so many exotic fish. Nothing however could have prepared us for when our instructor tapped us eagerly on the shoulders and pointed up towards the surface. Blocking out the light was the gigantic spotted grey body of a 20ft whale shark surrounded by smaller feeder sharks. Although it looked more like a whale than a shark we still looked around for reassurance that we shouldn't be swimming away in fright! However everyone was swimming closer to get a better look so we followed eagerly. Our assistant instructor Alex who has been with DJL for 2 months doing his Dive Masters' had yet to see one despite diving practically every day he'd been out there so we knew we were incredibly lucky to be seeing one on our 4th dive ever. Even when it came round to us a second time it was just as surreal as the first and we all squeaked enthusiastically into our mouthpieces and tried to convey our excitement through diver's sign language! A magical experience we won't ever forget and although my ear caused me considerable pain a few hours later and a doctor confirmed it was indeed perforated, it was still 100%25 worth it and I have no regrets! Now I must make sure it is fully recovered by the time we reach Borneo so we can do our advanced course and see the spectacular marine life that everyone raves about there.
Tao was so beautiful that it was sad to leave and say our goodbyes to the DJL team but the full moon party called so next stop was Koh Phangan.
After the craziness of Songkran in Bangkok, arriving on Ko Tao was paradise. Turquoise sea, bright white sand and palm trees lining the beach. We decided that as the cheapest place in the world to learn to scuba dive we should make the most of our 4 days on Tao by completing our PADI open water diving course. Competition between dive schools was stiff but we eventually settled with Davey Jones' Locker which for anyone planning a visit here in the future we would highly recommend. The price of the course included accommodation (a bamboo bungalow slap on the beach) and a few meals too- bonus! Unlike some of the other schools DJL has its own pool, so after our theory was complete our first experience of using the equipment was to my slight relief, within four walls and only a few metres from the surface. Our English instructors were excellent, very competent teachers considering they were not much older than ourselves but also great fun, and our group was small so plenty of attention was given to us each individually