Ban's Diving Resort, where I booked my stay based on a recommendation by a friend in NYC (Thanks, Sully!), was at the dock to pick me up and before long I was in the back of their pickup truck, letting my worries roll off my shoulders with the cool island breeze. Check-in was seamless and in no time I was resting in my fan-cooled room off of the diving pool, included when you sign up for one of their diving courses. I was already booked for the Open Water Diving course which takes 4 days and includes 4 open water dives. My orientation was that evening, so I only had time for a quick dinner before I rushed off the classroom to meet my instructor.
(I should mention now - My friend in NYC who recommended Ban's told me that his friend was a dive instructor there, but after a few days of asking around I still have not met the infamous Kevin Laughlin, and no one seem to know who he is?? Regardless, I am glad that I ended up at Ban's and could not be happier with the instructors I ended up with Mario and Stephan.)
My diving group is quite small since it is only a day or so before the wild FullMoon Party on Koh Phangan and most people are gearing up for the all night bash, just 2 Russian born Canadians and another girl from Poland. Mario is our lead instructor and he has been with Ban's for 17 years! When he speaks you can tell how knowledgeable and passionate he is about diving, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be his student. Stephan is a new instructor, serving an internship at Ban's, and is also very passionate about the sport. Our first evening is interesting but laborious. The best part is Mario's lecture, then we have to watch 3 video lessons back to back until about 9PM.
The following morning we meet at 7:30AM, collect our gear and head to the pool, where Mario and Stephan teach us how to prepare for a dive and do a gear check - BWRAF (Bruce Willis Rules All Films) or BCD, Weights, Releases, Air and Final check. Before we know it we are in the pool learning the basics of diving and all catching on pretty quickly. We get only an hour or so to ourselves in the afternoon before it is back to the classroom to finish our studies and videos. Tomorrow we get to start our open water dives!
The next two days we get to do 2 dives a day to a depth of no more then 18 meters. The dive sites of Twin Peaks and White Rock are spectacular, and full of life. We first have to practice our skills, but are usually left with at least 20 minutes to explore the underwater worlds. It is hard to describe how peaceful it is under the waves. Being in an alien world, so strange and unfamiliar, your senses are automatically at high alert. The only sound you hear at first is your steady breadth, in and out, but then you discover the amplified clicking and buzzing from the sea life around you. The shapes,colors, and movement of the coral and plant life are mesmerizing and the plethora of fish life is astounding. Immediately I am hooked. I will never be the same.
We all pass the final exam with flying colors and at first I think I am the only one interested in continuing on with the Advanced Open Water certification, but I am wrong. As I start asking questions, and Mario answers enthusiastically and passionately, everyone is hooked. By the end of our final evening all 4 of us are signing up for the additional 2 day advanced course, where we will be certified to dive up to 30 meters, opening up an whole new world of dive sites all around the globe. I am ecstatic, bring it on!
To be continued...