This is a long time coming. I have been home since early July and working again at a beach town retail shop in Ocean City, New Jersey. I'm saving money again for my next adventure, so I don't have much to tell as far as travel goes, aside from a couple of short trips to visit friends in Orlando. Saving seems to be a little easier this time around since the store made me manager. I'll tell you a little about my upcoming traveling plans soon, as I am still ironing out the details. I will say that it will involve diving.....a lot of diving! And speaking of diving, I have finally uploaded my diving compilation video from my time on Koh Tao, earning my dive master cert. Check it out on my brand new Video page! This was my first go at underwater videography, and I was learning about my new camera and white balance, so some clips are better then others. Still, I think it came out pretty well. Enjoy and I'll talk to you soon!!
Over 2 years from the start of my open water course, and 123 dives later, I can finally call myself a DIVE MASTER! It's official - I am PADI dive master #364040! I have to say that the past 6 weeks have seriously been incredible, from my EFR and rescue to dive master courses, assists, leading dives, diving with whale sharks, my 100th....or better yet 123rd dive, and all the rest. What an awesome group of people, and what an incredible life! A big THANK YOU goes out to: - Mario, my instructor for my open water and advanced who got me hooked on this drug called diving 2 years ago. - Lee , my Dive Master course director. I have learned so much from him over the past six weeks and to hear him say he is proud of the diver I have become means the world to me. - All of my other instructors who have taught me so much throughout my assists, but especially Antony and Becky who took the time to really teach me what it means to be an instructor. - All of my fellow DMTs who made the ride so much fun!
I cannot wait to start the next chapter of this journey. It's just a matter of time until I return to start my IDC!
I have completed all of my assists, 3 open waters, 2 advanced open waters, 2 rescue, 1 discover scuba, and 1 scuba review, and I have to say that I have learned a lot about the type of dive professional I want to be. I feel like through my 9 assists over the past 2 weeks I have seen just about everything, from behavior that would be considered harassment in most industries, but is mostly taken with good humor among divers, to teaching techniques I would never repeat to those I would emulate completely. I also had so much fun getting to know the instructors and the students. There is something super fulfilling in sharing your passion with others and seeing that passion blossom in them. Three of the students in my open water groups even continued straight through to the Dive Master program. How rad is that! I also received a ton of great feedback from my instructors, which coming from these guys means the world to me. I can't wait to go to the next level with my training and join the ranks of instructor!!! A special thanks to all of my instructors for being amazing - Lianne, Micky, Ryan, Rich, Becky, Santi, Hanno, Allison, CK and Antony.
My open water group with Becky and Santi...more than half continued on to their advanced open water and one went on to rescue and dive master!
Antony's open water crew....all but one went on to advanced open water, three went on to rescue, and one went on to DM!
Our little diving family showed CK some love on his birthday
Antony ... you are a legend! Dive briefings were awesome
I have decided to take a few days off of my assisting and dive master duties to complete a few certifications that I have been meaning to do for a while now. Thankfully, Ban's offers a 1/2 off discount on specialty courses for DMTs, so BONUS! The first course is a deep diving specialty which will allow me to dive to 40 meters. This should open up some pretty cool wreck dives around the world. Unfortunately on the dive we were battling a massive strong current so we only got to about 31 meters, but that is still technically a deep dive. The second course is Nitrox specialty, which is a special air mixture with a higher oxygen content and lower nitrogen content. Diving on Nitrox lets me stay at deeper depths for longer without reaching no decompression limits. Also, after coming up from these dives I was definitely feeling a buzz of energy, so the higher oxygen content seems to give me a bit of a high....again I say BONUS! The last specially I have really been looking forward to is wreck penetration, which will allow me to go inside of sunken wrecks. This course was a lot of fun, and I have to give a special shout out to Verity, who was an amazing instructor. Of course, I was not allowed to bring a camera on my courses, but the pictures below are from Koh Tao's Sattakut Wreck, which I have now penetrated (no matter how many times I say it, it still sounds dirty), and the last two are of Chumphon Pinnacle, one of the deeper sites around Koh Tao.
The Koh Tao festival is a two day event held each year to raise awareness about caring for the environment in and around Koh Tao and the seas beyond. Basically the entire island, locals and farrangs alike, get involved. All decorations for the event are made from recycled materials, there is music, food, games, and a Mr and Miss Koh Tao competition where local businesses and dive shops put forth contestants dressed in costumes made from recycled materials. Not much more to be said about the event, but it was fun to be involved and nice to see the island coming together for a good cause.
Hanging with some of my favorite students from a course I was assisting that week
This was an entire room and furniture made from plastics
This post is coming far too late, but the issue it involves still deserves attention because there are still people and friends of mine suffering the consequences of mother natures wrath. Several weeks ago, as I am sure most have heard, a massive earthquake of 7.8 mags occurred just outside of the city of Kathmandu in Nepal. Thousands of people all across the region were killed, injured or in some way touched or affected by this tragedy. World heritage sites were destroyed. Beautiful, centuries old temples and buildings reduced to rubble. Anyone who has followed my journey knows that it started in Nepal, where I spent the first month of my backpacking experience exploring the cities, national parks, and trekking trails all across the country. I fell in love with its history, beauty and simplicity, and especially, along my trekking route in the Annapurna mountain range I made a connection with a special group of people who became like family to me in our short time together. I spent about 14 days with OneSeed Expeditions amazing crew of 2 guides and 3 guides in training, and 5 other fellow travelers. I knew from the moment I stepped off the trail that I had made a special connection with each and every one of these people. There is just something about being in the wilderness, pushing yourself beyond your limits, surrounded by the most profound natural beauty you can imagine that can turn a bunch of strangers into a family. I have kept in touch with most of these people to different degrees thanks in large part to facebook, but it was not until this recent tragedy that I truly understood how my trail family has truly touched my soul. When I received news of the earthquake my stomach was in knots. I just couldn't imagine a world without these wonderful, kind, beautiful people in it. The thought of them being injured or killed was making me sick to my stomach. Thankfully, Facebook has a tool which allows people in disaster zones to check in and let their friends know they are safe. Within days I got an alert from Facebook with a list of my friends that lived in Nepal. Two had already checked in. Over the next few days a few more were confirmed safe, though they were trapped in the Everest region by avalanches triggered by the earthquake. A week later I received a note from the owner on OneSeed confirming that all of their employees were safe, but that many had lost family members and homes. I was so relieved, but also incredibly saddened and guilty that I could not do something for them. A couple of days later there was another message from OneSeed. It stated that they had been mistaken and one of the guides in training from my team, a young, shy, sweet kid from a small, cliffside village, had not actually been confirmed alive. I was devastated, again, until finally a week later he was confirmed alive and well. The level of relief I felt at this news was incredible. Again, I am so happy that my Nepal family is safe and sound, but still many have suffered the trauma of this event and are still suffering day to day as they cope with loses in their families, and of their homes and possessions. Some of the FB messages I saw in the weeks after the disaster nearly brought me to tears as I saw grief, heartache and despair from people once so full of hope and happiness. I am happy to report however, that I have more recently seen that hope begin to return as they begin to pick up and rebuild their lives. Many of my very fortunate friends are lending their support to those in need and it has been beautiful to see the spirit and ingenuity that I knew could never be completely shaken from these very strong people. It has made me love them even more. So I end this post with a plea to lend whatever support you are able to Nepal in their time of need. If you have a trip planned to Nepal or were ever thinking of going, they could use your patronage now more then ever, so do not cancel your trip. If you are leery over which relief organization to support I am reposting this message fromOneSeed Expeditions .... I trust their integrity and judgement completely, so if they stand behind Global Giving as a reliable means to donate to recovery efforts than they must be on the up and up...... For those interested in supporting immediate relief services in Nepal, we recommend GlobalGiving (http://www.globalgiving.org/p…/nepal-earthquake-relief-fund/) for their commitment to transparency and efficiency. Learn more:http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm
As part of the dive master program here at Ban's we are required to participate in at least 5 beach or reef clean ups. So, just about every Wednesday I am walking up and down the beach picking up after disgusting people that think it is okay to throw rubbish all over our beautiful island and ocean. I really don't mind it, in fact, I find it rather gratifying, which is why I continue to show up every Wednesday even though I have far surppassed my 5x requirement. Today I got to participate in my first reef clean up, and together roughly 30 of us picked and disposed of over 60 kilos of trash from a local cove. I removed a fishing net that was spread out across the ocean floor. When I rolled it up it was about the size of a basketball. Its things like this, carelessly left in our oceans, cut loose from fishing vessels, that whales, turtles, and so many other marine creatures get caught in and die because of. Someone once told me about a dead sea turtle that washed up on one of Koh Tao's beaches. When they cut it open they found plastic twisted up in its belly. It's unreal the way some people treat this beautiful planet we are so lucky to call home. Every week I am incredibly saddened by the amount of rubbish we find, but happy that I am able to do any small part in cleaning up other ignorant peoples mess. So I send out a simple plea to anyone who may be reading my tiny blog.....please, please, please dispose of trash in a responsible way. Our oceans are incredible, other-worldly places that can and should be enjoyed, not trashed.
Every week a group of DMTs walk the beach collecting trash
On our way to the reef clean-up
Pre dive group shot
Don't throw your trash in the ocean...or else!
Vilde and me collecting trash on the ocean floor...Vilde found a wallet....empty
I rolled up a fishing net laid out across the bottom of the sea...it was about the size of a basketball....I feel really good about getting that thing out of the water
Post dive group shot
Team DMT....saving the ocean one dive at a time
More than 60 kilos of trash collected at the end of the day...what a fantastic accomplishment
I've completed all of my course work and testing and have officially started the assisting portion of my dive master criteria. Over the next few weeks I will need to assist an instructor on 1 discover scuba diving course, 3 open water courses, 3 advanced open water courses, 1 scuba review, and 1 rescue course. On top of that I will be doing at least 6 leading dives, where I will be leading certified divers around our beautiful dive sites. It should be exciting and I am eager to get started.
FYI - The following pics are not taken while I was assiting....bringing a camera is strictly prohibited when you are in charge of student safety
I don't know how I was lucky enough to have happened upon Ban's diving 2 years ago, but the longer I stay here the better I feel about my decision to build my dive experience and career with such an excellent company. Ban's is the largest single diving operation in the world (if my sources are corect) and while founded by a foreigner, is now owned and run by a Thai woman...pretty incredible if you consider that women in this country are still supressed in many ways. The resort is also at least 70% self sufficient. They organically grow all of the fresh produce they serve in their restaurants. All shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and cleaning products they use are made by on-site chemists who use fermented fruits and other organic ingredients. They have a shop where electronics are serviced and fixed to be reused. They organize beach and reef clean ups and personally sort and recycle everything and send it to a recycling plant on the mainland. They also collect the human waste from all over the island and use it to fertalize all of the non-edible vegitation around the resort...which makes the resort pretty smelly around 4:30-5:00 in the afternoon, but I'd rather put up with it here than in my oceans. It's really a pretty spectacular operation, and I should know because I've taken the ECO tour of the resort not once, but twice. It's just really nice to see a company work so hard to protect the environment around them, and in the process they are helping their own business operations....funny how that works.
Taking the Bans Eco tour
Hydro green houses...the organic vegtables grow faster than normal soil grown plants
Vegitation from around the resort is put through a shredder and put through a turning process to create a rich soil base for growing crops
Electronics andmechanical items are either repaired or reused.
Fermented fruits are used to create soaps and cleaners.
Human poo used for fertilizer....sounds gross, but this is a small island, where else is it supposed to go?
Today I was sitting around with some friends waiting on the afternoon boat to do a couple fun dives when our DM group was approached by one of the instructors who needed someone to take pictures of his discover scuba diving course. The job paid 500 THB, or $15. I of course jumped at the chance to hone my underwater photography skills, and earn a little cash while I was at it. There were 4 students in the class and they ended up doing 2 dives. I had such a fantastic time on both dives, taking pictures of the students and marine life, just snapping away. I had to unfortunately use the dive shops camera, so for a while I wasn't sure how the pictures were coming out, but in the end I got some really great ones, a little more then 300 shots in total. Now I want to take a photography specialty course and maybe try to do this professionally. The course here is about 55,000 THB and pretty intensive, so I won't be able to afford it this time around, but definitely next time! I think I may come back to Koh Tao in 2016 to do my Instructors course, so perhaps I will do that course as well. In the mean time I will try to take my camera on as many dives as possible and work on my skills. The new task I've set myself is to create a compilation video, so I'll post that when its completed. Below are just a few of my favorite pictures from the 2 dives....enjoy!