I have always been interested in nature, in all the ways we can approach it.
And for this reason, I naturally always wanted to be a diver. In 1994, I signed up for a course in Córdoba, but despite attending classes and practicing in the province’s lakes, I couldn’t finish the course and obtain my certification card. I had to wait 16 years to finally have my dream of becoming a diver come true on the island of Koh Tao, located south from Thailand.
During all those years, I got used to snorkeling anywhere I could snorkel, spending hours observing fish and marine life. Snorkeling is easy, there is no need for equipment except for a tuba and a mask. I think I was a little scared of not being able to compensate for the pressure changes in my ears, since I couldn’t successfully do it in Córdoba years before.
That’s why when I arrived at the Koh Tao Diving School in Thailand, I hesitated in enrolling.
I had just finished reading a poster from another diving school that said: “Do you call yourself a traveler? About 70% of the Earth is water-covered. Good luck with the other 30%.” It made me think that I sincerely wished to continue my underwater explorations!
At the school, I talked with one of the assistants. I listened to her while having doubts on whether I should still go through it or not. The deal offered was not bad and the 4-day classes weren’t expensive; there were trips out to the sea on the school’s boats, all the equipment needed, and the manual was included in the price as well as accommodation. I was still hesitating…
I went to the restroom and when I came back the assistant told me that she had already filled the registration form for me, it just needed my signature. Seeing that I had no other choice and that it was a great opportunity I couldn’t miss, I decided to sign the form without thinking too much about it.
I had a very experienced teacher of Israeli origin, very kind and patient.
The other students in the group were from different parts of the world and my diving partner (we always had to dive in pairs) was an American lady named Elena from the U.S.
The first day was a theoretical class. The second day was practice day in the school’s pool. The first time I breathed underwater with compressed air I got scared a little bit; it has been such a long time since I have felt this sensation! The third day, we dove twice at a depth of 12 meters (40 feet).
The most difficult part of the course was removing our masks underwater since at that moment we have a natural tendency to breathe through our nose. We then inhale salt water and we end up coughing, All this is quite inconvenient underwater.
The first time I dove in the pool, I got out of the water quickly, but as they explained to me later, I had to withstand the feeling and carry on, since at a depth of a several meters we can’t suddenly get back to surface without facing the risk of nitrogen bubbles forming in our blood. Luckily, I was successfully able to relax and absorb all those sensations and keep moving. Plus, the professors grabbed us by our life vest so that we wouldn’t get out of the water, needless to say there was no other option but to do it right!
Finally, on the fourth and last day, we dove twice at a depth of 18 meters (59 feet), we took the final theoretical and practical exams and that afternoon, they gave us our PADI Scuba Diving certification! They also showed us videos in which we could see ourselves doing our first dives and exam.
Including these four dives, I enjoyed observing the marine life as the visibility was excellent. Poor animals, I thought, now even the ones in depth of the ocean can’t escape me!
Diving is quite expensive anywhere in the world and during my other travels and I haven’t had much opportunity to practice. I dove a couple of times in 2011 in the island of Cozumel, in Mexico. It was a night dive on one occasion, and we saw various octopuses swimming and changing colors as well as other nocturnal fish.
And of course, I continued snorkeling and saw wonderful things.
Before enrolling in diving classes, I had swum with green turtles, jellyfish and corals in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I had escaped many remoras that wanted to stick to me in Mexico. In Bali, I visited cleaning stations where little fish cleaned parasites off of bigger fish, in their mouth as well.
On these islands I also saw clownfish swimming between anemones and I also saw Blacktip reef sharks and bigger sharks that were approximately three-meters long (10 feet) when I swam alone in the reef. Luckily, I knew that this species doesn’t attack people. I swam through a school of Jack Dempsey fish that kept rotating back and forth.
I spent so much time underwater that at some point I practically felt part of the ecosystem. I think I will continue to dive as long as I get the opportunity to do so and now that I have 100% of the planet to discover.
Author: Helena Arroyo
Translation: Noëlla Moussa