Discovering Scuba Diving on Koh Tao? I did that long ago! But when my lil’ sis was in Koh Tao, I knew I needed to get her underwater. Our first attempt a few years ago in Grand Cayman didn’t end so well — Olivia panicked and never made it below the surface.
I was pretty anxious for things to go better this time, so I handed her over to Roctopus — my go-to dive school on Koh Tao. They signed her up for a one day try dive — there’s no certification involved, but its a no-pressure way to see if diving is a good for you! And of course, I tagged along as photographer.
Liv had one non-negotiable point — she would only dive if she could borrow my Swish Suit wetsuit. Fair enough. I had a new Roxy top I was pretty excited to rock.
While Olivia and her instructor Jay went through some skills on the surface, I descended into Japanese Gardens — a popular shallow training site. I was grateful for the depth, or lack thereof, because it allowed my camera to capture all the bright and vibrant colors.
Soon I turned around and to my amazement, Olivia was waving and smiling at me underwater! I was so happy to have avoided the disaster of her last attempt, I squealed into my regulator.
While Jay and I had agreed I’d keep the shutterbugging to a minimum on the first dive, Olivia was so comfortable that we forged ahead. I love this shot of Jay trying to demonstrate to a very confused Olivia how to pose with the sea anemones.
They both ended up doing a fair bit of modeling for me, like when Jay had to defend us against this territorial little fish — a fish whose title embarrassingly escapes me.
To be honest, experienced divers don’t really consider Japanese Gardens to be the most exciting dive site. But I was overjoyed when we spotted this baby scorpionfish hiding on the ocean floor!
With the first dive complete, it was Olivia = 1, Dive Panic = 0. Victory!
And after a very short surface interval — we didn’t go too deep after all — we were hopping in for our second dive at Twins.
Feeling even more confident underwater, Olivia demonstrated the escape artistry of shy Christmas Tree Worms — with the wave of a hand, they seem to disappear!
Normally I’m the last to spot anything underwater, so I was patting myself on the back pretty thoroughly when I found this moray eel.
And the discoveries kept on coming — sea slugs, colorful butterfly fish, and beyond.
Eventually Jay took over camera duty so Olivia and I could get a few photos together.
With my Grandma Joyce’s 80th birthday around the corner, we wrote her a birthday message on an underwater slate and later sent her the photo. She said it was her first ever underwater birthday greeting!
And I got the camera back in my hands just in time to catch a few rogue batfish — my absolute favorite — swimming through.
Before we knew it, it was dive over. But not without a little bubble-ring-blowing-on-the-safety-stop first!
Olivia, I’m so proud of you — I can’t wait for you to do your certification someday! Jay, thank you for being such a fantastic and patient instructor. And Roctopus — thanks for rocking.
Do you force your family members to participate in your favorite hobbies like I do? I think it went quite well!
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I'm a New York native who left my home to explore the world slowly and thoroughly. I love photography, scuba diving, and reading guidebooks to countries I have no immediate plans to visit. Read more on my About Me page.