Diving In Koh Lipe

When I was 13, two significant things happened that have stuck with me over the years.
The first, was that I very nearly almost drowned, and the second was the first time I ever tried scuba diving.

It’s not a memory I revisit often, but tiredness, cramp, and a childish passerby who thought it’d be funny to dunk me beneath the water left me struggling for air, and as a result, struggling for months to regain my confidence in the water. It wasn’t until our local community and police station began hosting ‘SNAP active’ that things changed.

‘SNAP active’ was an exercise initiative to get teenagers off of their bums and out socialising.
It was held at our local leisure centre and consisted of many different activities – rock climbing, trampolining, and on the one occasion that I went, scuba diving.
I had never thought of scuba diving before that point.
I was young and it was something that I had seen on the TV but not realised that I was actually capable of, but after months out of the water and safe in the knowledge that I would have access to a tank of oxygen, I signed myself up.

It was more of a tandem dive, and it wasn’t what I expected it to be, but then with TV as my only reference, I didn’t have much to compare it too. But the feeling I got beneath the water was incredible.
I felt free of any fear and happy that I was pretty much a mermaid now.

Fast forward 9 years to my move to Thailand.
When we first arrived S and I had a talk about things we wanted to do whilst we were over there.
Mine pretty much consisted of five things.
Eat ALL the food, visit Thai temples, ride a tuktuk, see an elephant and the one I was most desperate to do: Get my open water divers certification.

We researched the best places to learn to dive, and then planned a trip to Koh Tao.
Unfortunately the overnight train left me feeling very ill and so our plans of underwater adventures were put on hold. Right up until the moment we got to Koh Lipe.

After discovering Koh Lipe on the internet we knew it was the place that we wanted to dive.
Gorgeous waters, amazing beaches and located on a marine park, so you knew that the ocean was cared for.
So after arriving at the island, we all but skipped to the Koh Lipe Diving centre to book ourselves in.

Unfortunately we couldn’t take an open water certification as it required one more day than we were on the island for, so instead we booked ourselves a discover scuba day with two dives.

Koh Lipe Diving is an amazing company that I would definitely recommend.
From the moment we walked through the door we were taken through everything that we would be doing.
We booked our dive, got measured up, tried on our wetsuits (S put his on backwards lolol) and left ready to return the next day to dive.

I barely slept that night.
I kept silently asking myself, what have I booked myself in for? What if I forget how to swim? What if I run out of oxygen? I must of been stirring because S woke up in the night, gave me a little peck on the cheek and told me to stop overthinking because everything will be ok.
And it was.
The next day we hopped aboard a long tail boat and rode over to the dive boat.
The first stop was above a wreck that part of the group needed to dive as part of their advanced course, and it was a stop I was grateful for because I got to watch and relax as everyone happily disappeared into the blue.

The next stop was our turn.
The boat stopped in a 12m deep patch of water which was just a few metres from the shore of a nearby island.
Our group was made up of 3 people. Me, S and our instructor Kristen.
The plan was to swim over to the shallow parts of the shore, so that we could practice signals, what to do if our oxygen got low and how to clear our masks if water got in, but after slipping on my wetsuit, having five weights slipped onto my waist and putting on the oxygen tank, (which was pretty dang heavy) I realised that I could barely walk with all of this weight, so how on Earth was I supposed to swim?
We walked over to the edge of the boat, filled our jackets with air, and one by one everyone stepped in.
Head up, hand over regulator and mask, step in.
It was all so simple, yet each time I tried to step into the water I felt as though I was stepping into a brick wall.
I couldn’t do it.
Science and logic escaped my brain and I kept thinking if I stepped in I would just sink to the bottom, which looking back seems ridiculous, but at the time it made perfect sense.
Approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds later I took the plunge.

We swam to the shore and practiced signals, purging our regulators, clearing our masks and generally getting accustomed to life under water.
I accidentally knelt on some coral (don’t do this, it’s itchy), and with that we were off.
As we stood upright in the water and our jackets deflated lowering us into the blue, it was like entering a new world.

Schools of fish swim around you, never stopping, just manoeuvring around your body as though you were all but a temporary obstacle. Corals stand colourfully against the soft sand and plants gently sway in the current.

Silence surrounds you broken only by the sound of your own breathing and bubbles race to the surface as you exhale. And as you glide through the water and sit upon the ocean floor looking up at the light dancing upon the surface, you realise that all of your worries were unnecessary, and that when it comes to diving…

There’s not a single feeling like it.

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