The travel bug. Me, myself and I was fortunate enough to get bitten by this so-called travel bug back in the latter half of 2014, when I packed a bag, moved halfway across the world. It lasted well over a year until 2016 came swiftly around the corner and then I quickly packed my bags and moved back home to try and accomplish a degree (hopefully).
Since then my life has consisted of, Save. Travel. Save. Travel.
Four years later, and I can swiftly tick off, USA, South Africa, Australia, Thailand, Poland, The Netherlands, Malta, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesian islands of Bali & Gili, and the Philippines.
What has really captured my heart after the equivalent time of 19 months with a backpack glued to my back like a second skin?
Having deep sea dived in numerous spots around the world, including Malta, The Great Barrier Reef; Queensland Australia, Gili in Indonesia and Bohol an Island in the Philippines,
I’ve found that nowhere (so far) can compare to Koh Tao. A small paradise island, somewhat isolated in the gulf of Thailand. Anyone that has been to Thailand or not has heard of the partiers dream the ‘Full Moon party’ and having been twice I can say it is a crazy experience. Well Koh Tao is situated just 1-hour boat journey north of the famous Koh Phangan land of the full moon parties and £2.00 Vodka buckets.
In English Koh Tao means ‘’Turtle Island’’ and it certainly lives up to that name let me tell you. No wonder this small island attracts thousands of visitors a year. The natural beauty of the place is close to utopia, both above on the snow white sandy beaches and below the water, with the rainbow coloured fish and corals.
Background check complete, now for diving.
Have you ever put much thought into or considered that there is a whole other world just out of our reach?
With simple breathing equipment, and goggles, a whole other world is at our fingertips. Experiencing the weightlessness while exploring the stunning visuals of the underwater wildlife you are truly immersed and feel like you have jumped into the screen of the latest David Attenborough documentary.
My first visit to Koh Tao, I completed my Open Water Diving course, which is the first diving course to complete, to gain a grasp and learn the fundamentals on diving, you also watch videos before even stepping into a swimming pool, after that you are thrown into the deep end ‘literally’ going to at maximum 18 metres down.
The first time you slowly sink down into the ocean, like that first scene in finding nemo, is pretty surreal. My brain felt like it was going to explode (not literally) but your body is screaming at you to resurface, as it’s the most unnatural thing. Breathing underwater. No matter how many times you silently tell yourself, your mind can’t comprehend how your lungs aren’t gasping for breath, and that you amusingly enough aren’t suffocating.
After my Open water course, the following year I chose to return to Koh Tao complete my Advanced Diving Course.
When they call it advanced they really mean it. On my first dive I was 28 meters below swimming amongst Nemo and Dory, get this… UPSIDE DOWN. Head nearly in the sand kicking my legs like a propeller because apparently practicing being an underwater helicopter is an essential part of buoyancy skills.
If I asked you on the spot, tell me one of your happiest moments in life? What’s your first thought?
Mine? Hands down my first ever night dive. Pure serenity. My 13th dive to date was my first night dive.
Leaving the beach at 8pm to get on the boat while everyone else is popping open there first (or tenth) beer of the night doesn’t sound ideal, but the humming of the boat as it slowly ripples over the calm ocean water drowning out the white noise of the parties on land has a certain calming nature to it.
Jumping back first into the water with a small torch attached to your wrist, sounds chilling, but slowly sinking into the depths of the unknown wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.
Once I was 20 or so metres down, looking up above was a school of stingrays swimming overhead, you would never see this during a day dive. It resembles watching birds fly as the majestically swam peacefully by.
Next, the barracudas, skilful predators they have adapted to hunt at night as the torches from the scuba divers can sometimes stun a fish in a large school. Then strike… ripped to shreds.
Mind blown. (again)
Lastly the bioluminescence. Turning your torch off and diving in pure darkness, the miniscule particles of plankton at touch illumine. It doesn’t feel like you are underwater but high in the night sky. Psychedelic dancing colours of green, blue, and white right in front of your eyes, seems unimaginable to describe without first hand experiencing it. A mix of relaxation and pure joy. It’s completely different to any other form of scuba diving.
Honestly, if given the fortunate opportunity to try scuba diving, without a doubt…
Dive right in.
Alexandra McEvoy is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on: Twitter – @alexmcevoy_ ; Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-mcevoy-111ba5171/