I signaled my “okay” to our instructor Lynsey, lifted up my BCD tube, pressed the button to release the air and slowly started my descent to the crystal clear ocean floor. All around me was life. I felt like I was in a life-sized aquarium. The plants growing on the coral reef were gently waving in the water, and fish of all size and every color of the rainbow were going about their everyday lives, oblivious to our presence. And then there is the stillness. Underwater everything slows down. You can’t move quickly, you need to breathe steadily, you are an observer in a place that is rarely seen by humans, at least so up close. At some point I had a slight fear of the unknown, being vulnerable to a situation I wasn’t fully comfortable with, but remembered I just needed to let go, like most times in life. The entire 45 minutes felt like a beautiful dream.
Photo below from CNN
I always knew I wanted to try scuba diving. My grandmother and grandfather were scuba divers and spent their entire adult lives traveling around the world to dive. My grandmother even sewed “Betty Suits” that were wild and bright colors. I distinctly remember my Grandfather “Pop” wearing a tight leopard print scuba diving suit that my grandmother had made him. I wish she could make some for me and Aurelien. I would have made sure to pick a fabulous pattern for Aurelien (think bright colors and possibly a crazy pattern).
Aurelien: I can’t say that I was always dying to try scuba diving, but it’s always something I figured would be fun to try. Now that we’ve had the experience, I can say that I want to continue doing it as much as possible! Being under water for so long is such a unique experience, and as Anna-Lisa mentioned, being in the water forces you to slow down. I tend to be a bit spastic sometimes when there is a lot to take in, turning this way and that to try to capture everything, so I found that the water forced me to slow down and simply appreciate what was currently in my field of vision.
(photo below from Anti-Gravity’s Facebook Page)
We were very happy with our decision to stay in Koh Lanta and get our PADI Open Water Certification with Anti Gravity Divers. Initially, Our plan was to go to Koh Tao for our scuba diving certification. A few of our friends had told us about how amazing Koh Tao was, and we had read on the internet it was the cheapest place to learn in Thailand. One of our friends even gave us a specific recommendation, Ban’s Diving Resort. They charge just under 10,000 Baht ($300) for the course, including basic accommodations. Our plans changed when we started talking to the owner of Two Scoops (an amazing gelato store in Koh Lanta). A former scuba instructor in Koh Lanta himself, he told us that he liked Koh Lanta’s diving more than Koh Tao and that Koh Lanta would be less crowded and more personalized. This sounded exactly like what we wanted for our first dives. Unfortunately, we were initially turned off by the price, as all the shops seemed to charge about 14,500 Baht ($450) for the course, not including lodging.
Thankfully, Aurelien found a promotion by Anti Gravity Divers which gave us lodging along with the course for 14,990 Baht each. The price was still 50% more than in Ko Tao, but after factoring in the cost of a full day of travel to get to Koh Tao (and the work day we would lose), the nice accommodation that we would get for free (with AC vs a fan at Koh Tao), and a less touristy setting, we decided to stay in Koh Lanta. It was fun, easy and effortless from the moment we sent them an inquiry letter. Dalton replied immediately and gave us all the information we needed. Lynsey, our amazing instructor, was knowledgeable, patient and put us at ease from the beginning all the way to the end.
We spent three days getting our certification; the first day we watched PADI videos, took tests and went over the tests. For our final test we got to sit at the bar at the resort overlooking the ocean and enjoy the gorgeous sunset. We concluded it was the best place we had ever taken a test! The second morning, we learned about the equipment, and did our first short dive in the pool along with a set of exercises to get us more comfortable underwater. We then headed to the ocean for our first open water experience before breaking for lunch. The afternoon was spent on another series of pool tests. We took the next day off because of weather (and a slight ear issue on Annalisa’s part) and then on our last day we hopped on the dive boat and did three dives! Our diving spot was Koh Haa, five tiny, tiny islands about one hour offshore.
The Anti Gravity Divers Center is within the Amantra Resort, so we were able to stay there as part of our course fee. Of course we were given the cheapest rooms that were 50 feet from the ocean instead of 10 feet, but we survived. *wink*. Our room was basic and most importantly cool. The location is a little far from the main restaurants in town, but to get the restaurants it was a lovely walk along the beach until you found a place you wanted to eat at. I enjoyed the 20-30 minute walk on the beach to dinner and back each day. For lunch we would eat at the Amantra Resort restaurant that, like most restaurants in that area, was overlooking the ocean. They had nice simple vegetable curries and noodle dishes.