My experience scuba diving in Koh Lanta, Thailand
So last week week I passed my PADI Open Water Diver course and I got to go diving in arguably some of the best locations in southeast Asia. As I referred to in this previous post about diving, completion of the course was threatened by something that plagued my childhood and has now crept in to my adult years; motion sickness.
If you have ever suffered from any kind of sea, car or air travel sickness you will no doubt sympathise and now possibly already be feeling a bit dizzy having been reminded of the ailment. Within twenty minutes of a two hour boat trip I was so sick I was vomiting (a surprisingly unusual symptom of motion sickness) and couldn't keep any food or water down for most of the day so made the decision not to dive, bearing in mind I'd not yet dived in open seawater. Admittedly on the disastrous day in question the boat was rocking and rolling so high and so hard that most of the boat crew, diving instructors and my poor fellow passengers were various shades of green by the time we reached our destination, Koh Haa. Luckily for me there was a beach within snorkeling distance so I marooned myself on this blissful stretch of dry land and waited for my balance to return.
The decision was made to delay my next attempt until the weather and seas looked calmer and until I'd been to a local pharmacy for something stronger than what I took previously. And three days ago I boarded the boat again and I am happy to say the rest of the course went swimmingly, pun intended.
Diving is a surreal experience to say the least, even for somebody who loves swimming and has snorkelled many a time. The sensation of being deep underwater and having beautifully colourful fish swim all around you is of course expected to be a foreign one and yet it's more than that. It's almost other worldly, but conversely at the same time I found myself feeling like it was all perfectly normal and at times I forgot I was underwater; or maybe that was the nitrogen narcosis talking.
Based on the experience that I had, and mostly due to the fact that one of their staff members held my hair back and stroked my arm as I vomited, I would like to publicise who I learnt to dive with. Go Dive Lanta is a Thai owned company but they have instructors from all over world. From the moment we signed to the time they handed me my PADI Diver Card, the staff were friendly, helpful and made all aspects of the course incredibly easy. I have been guilty of thinking that because Thai people are so relaxed, they aren't always 100% on the ball. I was wrong; Go Dive Lanta were both incredibly efficient and incredibly relaxed. There were many occasions when they went the extra mile like when their lovely staff member Oh was incredibly sweet and looked after me when I was sick and their driver was also very considerate when he made a special journey to our accommodation one evening to return a bag I'd left in his car. At the risk of running into Oscar speech territory, I should also mention my instructor, Juan, who was consistently patient, encouraging and understanding but above all a bloody good teacher. He actually freelances for a number of the diving companies on Koh Lanta so if you are ever in the area and fancy learning how to scuba dive I'd be happy to put you in touch. And if you also want to learn to scuba dive one day be sure to check out this post that lists all the scuba diving gear you may need.
Before I let the post turn into a photo gallery of photos we took and some taken of us by others, I'd also like to add that of all the outdoor activities or sports I've ever learnt or spent considerable time doing, divers are by far the most relaxed, most welcoming and most unassuming bunch of people I could ever hope to mix with. (More photos on my newly born Flickr page. Add me as a contact and I'll return the favour and will be sure to have a butchers at your photos.)
Frances M. Thompson
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