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!
Wow! I received my open water and advanced certificate in January and these pictures really bring back some memories! I’m absolutely sure that I’ll be back in Koh Tao before too long! Thanks!!
So glad you loved Koh Tao enough to stick around for both courses. Definitely come back for the Rescue course next 🙂
What a dream! That looks so fun! I absolutely love this photo: https://www.alexinwanderland.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/dsd-diving_029.jpg
Me too 🙂 It was a Photo of the Week way back when I took it!
Amazing adventure with such a beautiful set of underwater photos! I am so happy for Olivia.
The pic of Jay defending you against that fish is great 🙂
Haha, great to have someone to come to our defense against those bullies!
Haha the photos are awesome! The one of Jay posing with the anemone made me giggle. Nice to see Olivia rocked it and had a good time underwater this time! She looks like a pro already (that Swish suit probably helps!) That fish Jay is fighting looks like a damselfish, and they’re pretty territorial… might that be it?
YES it is definitely a damselfish… and now I’m embarrassed for forgetting such a simple one 😛
That pic of Jay and the batfish is probably the best of the dive-ham pictures I’ve seen. So funny!
The little black one is a damselfish. There are many varieties and I don’t know what that one is specifically, but we just call them black damselfish. Very territorial little fellas 🙂
And this is exactly why I need to write all diving posts from the comfort of El Patio — so I don’t shame myself by forgetting the name of a DAMSELFISH.
Awesome photos Alex. I am hoping to get some diving lessons in when we get to Thailand, so will be sure to check out Roctopus 🙂
I’ll call them when we meet up and tell them you’re coming so they take good care of you 🙂
Great write-up Alex. Olivia is a natural, we had great fun. Very impressed with your photography too!! some awesome shots
Thanks Mr. Jay! You truly are a great instructor — don’t worry, I won’t tell the cool kids.
Great and inspiring post! First time commenter, long time follower! 🙂
I’ve been following your blog and it helped pique my interest in diving. However, I just had a terrible experience in Grand Cayman when trying to complete my OW check out dives. It’s hard to come back from such an experience so it was really nice to hear about your sister’s success. Can you tell me anymore about her experience in Grand Cayman? Other than the amazing Jay, are there any other places/instructors you would recommend to anxious beginners? Much appreciated!
Hi Diana, Thanks so much for commenting! Always love to hear from those that are reading 🙂
The problem in Grand Cayman was basically all my fault! My ex was a dive instructor and previously in the summer my mom had come down to visit us and we took her diving and it went better than expected. So when my sister and dad came to visit I was feeling overconfident, and insisted we kick out past the shore and further into open ocean. I think that really freaked her out when it came time to drop down! As we were shore diving, we should have simply descended at the shore. Is there a specific place you are going diving and looking for a recommendation? If you’re back in Cayman I know some great instructors there!
Best of luck, hope you get back in the water soon!
I’m trying to get Lucas to get scuba certified! I hate watching him snorkel, while I’m diving. LOOOOOVE these shots!!! You and your sister should be models.
You’ve definitely got to get him underwater, girl! You’d have a built in dive buddy for life 🙂
Wow, Those photos are awesome, I am Planning to visit Ko Tao. Could you please advise on how much time would it take to learn scuba for the person who dont swim well. ? and how much would it cost for pro and for beginner ?
Hey Pratik! I recommend contacting my friends at Roctopus Dive about pricing. There are often special packages for those who go from beginner to the pro level. As for how much time it would take, it’s hard to say without knowing your level of swimming comfort. The standard Open Water course is four days, though. Hope that helps, best of luck!
Thanks for the info Alex 🙂
Hey Alex! I just completed my open water with Roctopus yesterday, thanks for the recommendation, they’re awesome! In fact I’ve relied on your blog a lot for planning my Thailand travels, big fan over here! I know you’re a busy lady but I’m in Koh Tao until Friday and would love to meet up for a drink if you’re able?
Hey Carmen! Just getting to the seven pages of comments that built up while I was away now — that trip really threw my to do list for a loop! What time are you heading out tomorrow?
No worries Alex, I’ve just started my blog and am already finding it hard to keep it up while travelling, there’s always such amazing things you’d be missing if you have your head stuck in a laptop! I’m leaving on the 9am ferry tomorrow, tad early! Am heading to Banyans for a few drinks now, would be great to bump into you there but if not I’m sure I’ll be back someday 🙂
So sorry I missed you Carmen, but glad you got to meet Ian 🙂 Be careful… Koh Tao is addictive! I’m sure you will be back some day!