Big Blue Diving - Koh Tao - Thailand - Where is your favourite place to dive Erin?
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 10:41

Where is your favourite place to dive Erin? Featured

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As a diving instructor, I get asked a lot of the same questions. One of the most frequent questions I am posed is,
“Where is your favourite place to dive?”
I am probably asked this at least once a month – which is a lot when you’ve worked in the industry for years! It’s one of my least favourite questions; not because I don’t have an answer, but because I have too many answers!
I don’t have a favourite place to dive.
Instead, I have favourite dives. Dives that stick out in my memory like a warm, familiar glow. A lot of these warm, fuzzy memories include “firsts” – my first octopus, my first shark, my first turtle. I suppose you could say that I’ve lost my “scuba virginity” to a lot of marine life!
I may decide to tell the story of how the first turtle I ever encountered underwater swam directly up to me and floated motionless in front of me, looking me in the eyes – he held a much better hover than I could at that time!
I can still see the wisdom in his ancient eyes. We stared into each other for what felt like an eternity, but for what was probably only seconds. In this moment, I felt that we completely understood each other. That we were connected by nature. That we were nature. It was truly magical.
I may tell the story of a night dive, where a Caribbean Reef Octopus was feeling particularly photogenic. She was more than happy to hang out with our group and put on a colour changing display for us. This was my first experience with marine life changing colour underwater.
I may instead go for the time I dove with a pod of wild dolphins. I was so overcome with awe, that I couldn’t pull my eyes off of them, despite the fact that I was terrified. Hundreds of dolphins, racing below me! It was entirely overwhelming. Within my awestruck mind, my only thought was that to get in their way would be like getting trampled by horses. To date, that is probably the scariest awesome thing I’ve seen.
I may instead decide to tell my student about how absolutely terrified I was of sharks when I started diving. How I made my Open Water instructor promise not to show me a shark. How after my Open Water Course, I begged and begged for him to “take me to where the sharks live.”  
After doing a classic spit-take with his coffee, in a very amused way he responded, “I told you, we really don’t get sharks here. Did you think I was lying?”
Without pausing, I responded, “Of course you are, it’s a ********* ocean, they’re everywhere! You’re an instructor, you know where they live! And I want you to show me.”
Somehow, two days later, we found my first Blacktip Reef Shark. As we rounded a patch of coral on the drift dive, we came face-to-face with the beauty. Spotting the shark simultaneously, we turned to each other, high-fived and happy-danced elatedly. Like my instructor had promised, sharks weren’t scary at all – they were magnificently beautiful.
 Most likely though, I will tell my most recent “favourite dive” story. This one took place a year ago on Koh Tao. I’m a certified solo diver and on this perfect day with bright skies and calm, flat seas, I had the day off of work. I decided to do what anyone in love with diving would do on a day off – I jumped on our morning boat which was headed to Chumphon. I brought my gear to dive solo: pretty much two of everything (you are your own buddy, so you’d better have a spare SMB / Mask / Computer / Tank / Etc. if anything goes wrong).
As we were pulling up to Chumphon Pinnacle (an incredible, deep dive spot), the Captain received a radio message, “whale shark on the dive site.”
Elated, I checked and double-checked my gear. I had seen more than 20 whale sharks by this time, but I had never had a chance to solo with one. This had been a personal dream of mine ever since I certified as solo.
I had no trouble finding the gentle giant. Well, not that giant, probably about 4 meters, as we tend to get the juveniles here. She didn’t seem to mind the divers taking pictures of her and staring in disbelief.
But then she saw me, alone amongst the schools of other divers. And she seemed to get a playful gleam in her eye. I like to imagine that she thought,
“Hey, you’re alone, and I’m alone. Let’s play!”
And with that, she started to follow me! I flipped onto my back and swam away to give her the appropriate distance. But she kept coming. I turned off to the left – she followed. She sped up, and I got the feeling that we were playing chase. We must have completed at least one and half full circles, before I decided to cut sharply into the center of our circle. She continued to circle me.
I was alone inside her circle.
She was alone in her circling.
About a hundred divers were stuck outside that circle, looking on in envy.
That was the best diving day of my life.
So far…
As I sit here writing this, our morning boat has just returned from Chumphon Pinnacle. I know they’ve reached land, because inside the office, I can hear the jubilant returning war-cry of our divers, carefully planned in unison as their long-tail touches the beach:
“WHALE SHARK!”
I smile to myself, thinking that quite a few people have just added to their personal “favourite dive” stories.

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