Koh Tao 1: The Case of the Scuba God
Trip Start Mar 01, 2005
16Trip End May 20, 2005
The animated 39-year-old is bursting with energy that belies his age, but the Scuba God proclamation remains a tough title to swallow off the hop. Though I will admit I'm no expert in Greek Mythology, I believe most gods possess rippling abs, flowing locks of hair and a commanding presence. This man, who would be entrusted with our safety against the evils of nitrogen narcosis, decompression sickness, and even drowing, was working on recouping a six-pack likely lost more than a decade ago and wore a hat to protect his balding head from the sun.
But as our dive instructor at Ban's Diving on Koh Tao, Thailand, Anthony Griffith's boisterous nature and brimming confidence had a calming effect on his latest group of disciples
Almost everyone in the course was easily under 30 years of age and Griffiths knew his audience of "Mermaids and Mermen" well. He may have crossed the lines of cheesiness with his titles, but he struck a good balance of humour, stories and important information in both his lectures and conversations. The title Scuba God didn't neccessarily spread like wildfire as I'm sure he would've enjoyed, but he did a masterful job of creating nine new Open Water scuba divers.
Koh Tao is an island in the Gulf of Thailand renowned for its clear waters, sandy beaches and relaxed scuba culture. Originally used as a detention centre until the 1950s, a pardon from the King brought all of the prisoners back to the mainland and opened up the island for new settlement. An adventurous pair of brothers sailed through the choppy pass soon after and kick-started settlement with their families. The island's name actually means "Turtle Island," though the reason for that isn't completely clear. One given reason is that the island looks like a turtle... but it doesn't. Another more plausible possibility (besides a distinct lack of creativity) is that the shores and waters of Koh Tao used to be packed with turtles who used the relatively unused island as a breeding ground. Now it is a booming hub of construction and resorts, not to mention two 7-11s, some great bakeries and a variety of international flavours to taste at a number of restaurants
The nature of our visit wasn't to see the turtles, though I'm sure they're nice and would've made some great pics. We were there for the incandescent coral, exotic species of fish, to swim with the sharks, and witness the Underwater Kingdom. Despite a run of poor visibility at some of the better dive spots, enough sections cleared up to give us glimpses of the beautiful flora and fauna that existed in this different world neither of us had visited before. Both Twin Peaks and White Rock (two dive sites which oddly refer to an area with three peaks and a rock that's more green than white) have exceptional reefs shallow enough for beginner scuba divers and had enough breaks of visibility to leave some spectacular underwater vistas that are still etched in our minds. We swam through schools of fish that darted to-and-fro in uncanny unison, drifted sideways through canyons of coral brimming with life, and had our toes nibbled on while snorkelling in the shallows of a secluded beach because our striking lack of colour made us look like the white bread thrown to the fish from the overarching restaurant. Whenever we managed to find the hyped visibility, we were amazed at the amount and variety of life bursting forth from the coral reefs.
By the end of our time on Koh Tao, the scuba diving course and snorkelling trips had created a radical change