My mum and I had been travelling around Thailand for about three weeks, enjoying the beautiful weather, the idyllic islands, the pampering massages and the numerous, to us unknown, types of fruits, when we arrived at the island ‘Koh Tao’.
We stayed at a lovely resort, where we had our own little bungalow and were entertained at night by the sounds of crickets and frogs. As it turned out, a diving-school was situated at the resort. Discount for all guests! My mum fell for it straight away. I, however, was skeptical. I had seen too many National Geographic episodes, and my imagination regarding sharks was too rich to venture myself into diving lessons. Nevertheless, my mum was determined. She had spoken to the owner of the school, and according to him this particular diving school was ‘the cheapest in the world’, and classes could even be taught in Dutch. I still wasn’t convinced, but, because I had little faith in the practical skills of my mother, I felt a responsibility to accompany her and if needed, to save her.
So off we went, diving into a new adventure; a four-day diving course! We signed a contract: the diving school wouldn’t be liable if something would happen to us. However, we were ensured that if we listened to the instructor carefully at all times, we had not to worry. Unfortunately, the instructor wasn’t Dutch, but Flemish, with a strong accent, difficult to understand, and a quick ‘no bullshit’ way of talking. Nevertheless, he taught us some lessons about all possible dangers that could occur, and sadly we understood: oxygen toxicity, decompression sickness, lung overexpansion injuries, ruptured eardrums, nitrogen narcosis, air bubbles via the bloodstreams into the brain, coma, a painful process of dying…death.
My fear of sharks disappeared instantly after hearing about these disasters, apparently things could be much worse! However, I wasn’t too pleased when he addressed the sea-creatures topic either. There was one deadly snake in the sea, and being bitten by this snake would result in a very painful death… however, not to worry, ‘there is only one in this bay!’ Uhum..
Also, there were some black fish in the bay, that would attack everyone, and always. But, not to worry! If we’d just stick out our flippers, they would bite that instead. Oh, and sharks? Nah, usually they wouldn’t be around. There is just óne baby-shark in the bay. Great.
The next day we started our diving lessons in the swimming pool of the resort. We had to inflate our vests before we would splash into the water with our diving equipment on, and were meant to form a neat circle around the instructor. However, my mum had inflated her vest a bit too much, and couldn’t stay balanced. Her oxygen tank was pulling her back, and she was swinging back and forth around the pool. A hilarious sight to see for our fellow students, however, I personally was too occupied with not drowning myself. Our equipment was loaded with lead weights, and me, being a daughter of my mum, couldn’t get the vest to work either. Annoyed, our instructor helped us. We had to quickly start with all the exercises. And practicing each exercise only once, should be enough…
The instructor had mnemonics for every exercise, however, because of the stress and panic I was feeling, I usually forgot these straight away. The signal for ‘asking your buddy for oxygen if you threaten to choke’? No idea. My mum wasn’t doing too well either, her underwater glasses would fill up with water, and because the exercise in which we had practiced how to empty the glasses had already ended, no attention was paid to this by the instructor. Instead, we had to move on and practice how to find our oxygen tube underwater. My mum whirled around, swinging her arms above her head, but she didn’t manage to find her oxygen tube in practice. Too bad, we had to move on to the next exercise.
The day of our big adventure, the open water dive, we didn’t feel prepared at all and I could barely say a word all morning. In pairs, we had to help each other put on the equipment. The instructor didn’t double check whether we had done everything right, and when I asked him whether I had opened or closed my mum’s oxygen tank, he mumbled ‘open to the left, close to the right.’
But… I had turned it upwards?!
At the buoy, we had to descend from a rope. We went down, meters into the deep water. Unhappily, I sat on the bottom of the sea, trying not to panic. Cause after all, we had been taught that ‘panicking is life-threatening!’.
My mum gestured to me the ‘everything OK?’ sign, and I signaled back ‘more or less’. I think that was it for her, she signaled me to follow her, and against the will of the instructor we slowly, very slowly (you know, in case your lungs or ears burst) swam up to the surface of the water. We decided that our diving-adventure had ended. Our instructor exploded with anger and told us that we shouldn’t and mustn’t stop!
However, our adventure was over, diving wasn’t what you’d call ‘our thing’. Instead, we enjoyed snorkeling for the last couple of days in Thailand, and had a fantastic time without any stress. In the end, you visit Thailand to relax. Koh Tao is a beautiful island which I would definitely recommend to anyone for relaxation and the ‘perfect getaway’. It has white sand and palm trees, and the bay is wonderful for spotting fish, and maybe for diving… if you’re into that kind of thing!