05.08.2013 - 08.08.2013 35 °C
Over the last few days we have been busy completing our PADI open water dives. We booked this with Cham Island Dive Centre for $350 each and the whole experience has been fantastic. The first day we arrived at the dive centre at 9am. The first morning was spent going through the theory and safety associated with diving. We watched videos, did quizzes and read our information book. We were the only students so we had the full attention of our instructor Raphael and he was great. Really relaxed but informative and we really enjoyed learning about something new. Once we had learned all the basics we had lunch and then went to a lush four star resort on the beach to put it into practice.
We learned how to set up all our gear, check the safety of it and put it on. The equipment on the surface is really heavy, there is the wetsuit, a buoyancy jacket, a tank and weights. We then slipped into the pool and breathed under water for the first time. The first time was quite scary and we didn't quite know if we should trust it. We learned all afternoon different skills we might need in different situations. We learned to swap between our snorkels and regulators, share air in case we run out, we learned the different hand signals and to take off and clear our masks of water under the surface. It was really good but it was more difficult than we imagined. Raphael assured us that it is easier in the ocean as people are more buoyant in the sea than in fresh water.
After a nervous night of revising and test completing we were picked up from our hotel the next day at 8am for day 2 of diving. Chelsea was really nervous and when we arrived at the boat and it was full of people she was even more nervous as we had picked Cham Dive Centre as we didn't want to dive in a big group to learn. Our minds were put at ease by Raphael; we were only diving with two other people, Raphael’s friends who were experienced. He briefed us on the boat that we were not going to do any exercises on our first dive because he just wanted us to experience what it is like and to get a feel for diving. He said we would swim to around 9 metres and go through a cave. Chelsea face must have looked alarmed so he reassured her that if she didn't want to go when we got there she could just tell him and we didn't have to go.
It took around an hour on the boat to reach the island and it was lovely.
The dive centre provides free coffee, tea and water, breakfast muffins and bananas and the journey was smooth. Once it was our turn to dive Liam was excited but Chelsea was really nervous. We put all our gear on and Liam jumped in. Chelsea stood on the edge and the Vietnamese boat crew said 'step off', she hesitates so they said 'step off' again and pushed her in. They don't give you a second to think about it and get scared which is good. In the water Raphael signalled for us to go under and everyone did, Chelsea had trouble, it seems she is really buoyant. She let all her air out of her buoyancy vest but was still rising up so Raphael put big rocks in her pockets.
Under the water was beautiful and much more amazing than we thought. We had read a lot about the visibility in Vietnam being bad and the life being damaged and over fished but it was gorgeous. There were hundreds of different types of bright colourful coral and all different type of fish swimming amongst it. We could see up to 8 metres and saw all sorts of different fish, really bright colours. The highlight was the cave. As we approached Raphael asked Chelsea if she wanted to go and Chelsea decided yes. She was enjoying it a lot more than she thought and her nerves had gone. The cave was amazing it was big huge rocks that had fallen on each other to form a cave that we swam through. It had natural light and all the walls and floor were covered in coral with little fish hiding amongst them. We dove for around 50 minutes on the first dive and the only problems we had was Liam’s pressure in his ears. As you descend or ascend when you dive you have to equalise your ears by popping them so the pressure inside is the same as outside. Liam had a problem equalising his every time he reached 3 metres or 9 metres so he had to go up a bit and keep trying until it worked.
When we came out on our first dive we were really happy and had loved every minute of it.
The boat set off for the second dive sight so we thought we would have a while but within twenty minutes we had stopped and were at the next sight. We were not nervous for the second one and Chelsea had to have adjustments to her weight belt. Before we were both wearing 6 kilos but Chelsea is really buoyant and she had to wear 7.5 kilos. We jumped in and descended and under the water were totally different. It was like an alien planet with weird colourful, oversized mushrooms covering the floor that had long luminous antennas coming out of them. It was amazing and we swam around looking at all the corals. There were a lot more fish on our second dive and they are beautiful, really bright colours and patterns. Chelsea went down to 20 metres with the instructor as she had no problems but Liam had to wait at 12 metres as he was having trouble with his right ear again. At 20 metres it changes, it gets a lot darker, colder and the visibility it a lot worse. It was the only part of the dive that Chelsea says she got scared on. After the dive had finished we did some exercises in the water, clearing our mask of water, taking off our equipment and putting it back on and sharing our air. We really enjoyed both dives a lot more than we expected.
Everybody then got on the boat and it took us to Cham Island, to a beach for lunch. Lunch was great, grilled fish and meat, noodles, seafood, rice, salad and fruit. Unfortunately it had started to rain so we sat and had lunch and then came back into town. All evening Liam researched information on equalising and practiced as he said it was the only thing stopping him from enjoying the diving fully.
The next morning we were up bright and early ready to be picked up for our last day but the hotel received a call from the dive centre saying they had cancelled as there was a storm at sea. We were a bit disappointed but spent the day relaxing, walking around town and drinking in cafes.
For our lunch we went to a lady we had seen set up in a few places in the town.
She serves BBQ pork skewers served with salad, rice paper wraps, herbs and spicy sauce. It was delicious and we sat on the tiny chairs in the street making our own wraps, it was delicious. It was nice but we were eager to do our last dives.
On our last day we were picked up at 8am and taken to the boat. Raphael was not on our boat so we were instantly nervous. To add to this the sea was horrifically choppy. The boat kept leaving the water and slamming back in. Chelsea did not take this well, she was really nervous and for some unknown reason as she has never before got sea sick, was the first to vom over the side of the boat. A nice diving instructor came over and gave her a motion sickness tablet and said to lie on your back with your eyes closed to stop it so she did and it worked. She was ok for the rest of the hour journey. The rest of the boat however was not. Chelsea had started a vom extravaganza and loads of people then started to be sick over the sides of the boat. The worst one being someone from the top deck being sick over and it splashing next to Chelsea so she got someone else’s sick on her shoulder….. It’s safe to say she was not happy. Everyone was briefed by their instructor apart from us so Liam went to check the board and ask. Raphael was meeting us at the site as he had stayed on Cham Island so we were relieved.
Once we had arrived the sea had calmed and Raphael briefed us on the dive. We couldn't wait to get of the horrific boat and into the sea. We were diving with four other people as one of the instructors had being ill on the boat over and we were going to be diving to 15 metres. We were paired off as it is always essential you dive with a buddy in case you have any problems and in we went. The sea was very cloudy and you could only see to around 5 metres. In the shallower depth of around 5 to 7 metres it was ok but the deeper we go the harder it was to see. At one point we lost one of our group as they had not stayed together with their buddies and Raphael had to surface to find them. There were a lot of good things to see on the third dive and even though it was cloudy it was different again to our other dives. There were so many clown fish nestled in their sea corals and they came out to see what was going on. We saw lots of big barracudas and really colourful small barnacles on rocks that sucked themselves in as you swam over them, it was great. Liam’s practice must have paid off as he didn’t have any problems with his ears.
The fourth and final dive of the course was soon after. We dove with the same group and went down to 18 metres. Down at 18 metres the visibility was less than 5 metres and extremely murky, you could see the small organisms and silt in the water as you swam. It is colder down at 18 metres and darker, a lot different to swimming around the shallower corals. We went through another cave that was enclosed and you had to make sure your buoyancy was constant so you didn’t hit the roof. As we came out of the cave we came across a big group of sardines. After diving for an hour Raphael sent the group up to the boat and we practiced our final skill. We learnt how to swim to a compass bearing and then go back under the water. We took it in turns and it was hard to control your buoyancy while you were constantly looking at your compass but we did ok.
On the boat we were really happy and the sun was shining. We went to the beach and had lunch and sat relaxing on a beautiful beach for an hour.
On the way home we went through our final exam with Raphael and got 100%, we were qualified divers!! We have to go to the office tomorrow to pay and fill in our paperwork to get our certificate, and our PADI diving card delivered.
We have enjoyed the whole experience so much and have loved every dive we have done. We picked Cham Island Diving because Chelsea was nervous and it had such good reviews on the quality of its assessors and we are glad we have done it here. It was a quiet spot to do it, rather than the packed islands of Thailand and even though the underwater world may not be as vivid we think it is a perfect place to learn. We were the only people on the course and had full support from our assessor who tried to push our limits all the time but was one hundred per cent supportive and fun.