aboutWe are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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the scuba saga
koh tao

Video from our last dive; it's a bit long but fun to watch - especially Patrick's James Bond dive

The panic began about eight minutes into my first scuba diving experience in the Whitsundays.  The world looked strange and blue and dark and then water entered my mouth when I forgot to press the button on the regulator.  I couldn't control my movements and felt my knee scraping the coral.  My heart raced while my mind admonished me, "You don't panic.  You don't panic.  Ever.  Remember, you don't panic.  When everyone else gets nervous and scared and irritable, you stay calm and cool." 

View from Haad Tien

Haad Tien Resort

Apparently, my mind wasn't in control because my stomach did somersaults and I grabbed at our instructor and frantically signalled that I had to go up.  We reached the top and I spit the regulator out, thankfully breathing clean fresh air.  "Do you want to try again?"  The second time, I lasted perhaps ten seconds underwater while Patrick and the other two divers stood looking up at me. 

Shark Bay Koh Tao

Shark Bay, Koh Tao

Patrick came back on the boat, ecstatic, "It was so easy.  We touched a sea cucumber and saw sponges and sea anemone.  I can't wait to do it again."  I shot him evil eyes while explaining how I freaked out.  "But, you never panic!  I'm so sorry, hon.  Maybe we can try it again at the Great Barrier Reef."

Whitening, Koh Tao

View from the Whitening Restaurant, Koh Tao

The Great Barrier Reef was even worse.  Hyperventilation was a word that I understood but had never experienced.  Hyperventilation is not pleasant.  Furthermore, hyperventilating into a supplied air regulator is particularly unpleasant.  I lasted in the water for thirty-five seconds and then made my way out, found a snorkel, and decided to stick to what I know.

Koh Tao

Sairee Beach at twilight

I debated and debated and debated whether I should try to get my Open Water Certification in Koh Tao.  In the end, my stubborness won out.  I simply refused to let my nerves get the best of me.  But, just to be on the safe side, we chose Buddha View Dive Resort, because they have a 4-day course (as opposed to the typical 3-day course) for those who need extra time in the water and allow people to pay only for the days they take the class. 

Fire dancers at Koh Tao

Fire dancer at Sairee Beach

We were sitting in three feet of water on day 1 in the small pool at Buddha View.  Three feet.  There is simply no point in panicking in three feet of water so I did well on that day.  But, day 2 was a terrible, terrible day.  My fin came loose and slipped off my foot as I worked to remove my BCD---the vest that keeps you buoyant and floating---and I started freaking out, hyperventilating, because I was scared that I was going to drown.  This, of course, was nonsensical; I am a good swimmer but panic tends to trump common sense, as it turns out.  Patrick came and held me up and Thea, our patient and fun instructor, kept me calm and talked me through the whole BCD replacement.  That night, I cried like a baby.  "I can't do this.  I just can't.  I am going to quit."

Fire dancers at Koh Tao

Fire dancer at Sairee Beach

In the morning, I woke up and I decided to try one dive because I had already come this far and, today, we would actually get to see fish and do a "fun dive."  I jumped in the water and everything coalesced.  I don't know exactly how it happened but my cool, calm, adventure-loving personality took over, strangled the panic, and squashed it into a tiny ball that sits in the back of my stomach.  All of a sudden, I loved scuba diving.  I loved every second in the water, swimming around, floating with fish right in front of my face, and just inches above coral. 

Haad Tien Beach Resort

Haad Tien Beach Resort

And, now, we are scuba divers with a whole new world to explore.


Buddha View Dive Resort

Buddha View Dive Resort

Koh Tao certifies more divers than any other location in the world because the dive instructors are fantastic, competition is intense, and it is ridiculously cheap to get certified.  Certification runs about 9600 baht (about $300 USD) which is a steal compared to the $1000 that a Jacksonville, Florida dive shop was going to charge us.  Visibility at dive sites is mediocre and we have done better snorkeling in  Hawaii and the Caribbean but the quality of instruction is worth the trip.  Koh Tao, itself, is a beautiful island with some excellent restaurants and chill beach-side bars.  Whitening Restaurant churns out giant grilled prawns, delicate Thai curries, and tasty pastas on the beach close to the dock, the perfect location to watch the day turn to night.

We loved Buddha View Dive Resort and highly recommend them for three reasons: (1) they are located in Chalok Baan Kao which is the quiet side of the island and much less busy and touristy than Sairee Beach; (2) the dive instructors are uniformly amazing, fun, and funny; and (3) their 4-day course is perfect if you are nervous about diving because you work through your fears at a slower pace.  We thought the rooms and resort were beautiful and loved our stay.

Haad Tien Beach Resort

Haad Tien Beach Resort

On our last two days in Koh Tao, we splurged and spent $75/night for a room at Haad Tien Beach Resort.  This is our favorite beach resort EVER --- better than anywhere we have stayed in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Florida, or Hawaii.  If you go to Koh Tao and have a little extra money, book a room here.  In addition to beautiful grounds, the resort has somehow managed to convince the wind gods to grant them a 24-hour breeze.  When the rest of the island was blisteringly hot at noon, Haad Tien felt cool and comfortable and we spent all day lounging on the oversized beds.  The $75 bungalows are cute and comfortable but there are also exquisite $300 luxury bungalows that have every amenity imagineable and sit right on the ocean.

03/15/2010 16:25
That video's so awesome! As a scuba fanatic, I'm so happy you stuck with it, Akila!! It is scary at times but super rewarding overall.
Camels & Chocolate's recent blog post: On Newsstands
03/15/2010 17:10
Wow- this is amazing- I've always wanted to learn how to scuba dive, I've snorkeled a ton before but have been so nervous to try scuba diving! Thanks for sharing your story and I love all the pictures!
03/15/2010 19:05
Yay! So proud of you! Welcome to the world of Scuba! We miss Koh Tao :(
Manali + Terry's recent blog post: Melbourne | Australia :: Jucy Campervan Review
03/15/2010 23:08
The mere thought of scuba diving terrifies me. I'm impressed by your determination. I know that must have been extremely difficult, but you won.
03/16/2010 09:43
Congratulation and kudos to you for sticking with it! I don't know if I will ever try scuba diving. The thought of floating in the ocean is already scare me.
Amy @ The Q Family's recent blog post: Getting to Know Kissimmee (Again)
09/07/2010 03:15
scuba diving is probably something I will never find strength to try( I adore reading about it and especially watching the pictures and videos, often imagine what I'd do if i were there...I'm a connoisseur in theory already! but when it comes to practice...well, I just can't overcome the fear( glad that you managed to and experiensed that. it's probably amazing! who knows, maybe someday I'll be able to do it as well;)
09/09/2010 23:23
if you love to diving...do not miss koh tao :)
10/08/2010 04:54
All the above places and beaches are fabulous and ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling activities blessed with beautiful sand and clear water for visitors.
02/28/2011 08:51
Man, I envy you soooooo much... you went scuba diving... that is soooo coooooool... i wish that i manage to do that one day... i would really like that... The most exotic thing I did until now is swimming in the Niagara Falls.
02/28/2011 08:51
I would fear for my life swimming in the Niagara Falls. Scuba diving and checking out the reef, now that's a totally livable experience
04/22/2011 15:57
Wow! The idea of scuba diving really freaks me out, so congrats to you for getting over your fears. I'm glad you enjoyed it once you relaxed a bit.
09/17/2011 18:10
This resort looks fantastic! We felt the same way in Krabi. We splurged for excellent service and when I say splurge, I mean about $60 a night! :) The relaxing and trips to the nearby islands were a highlight of our trip.
04/14/2013 07:14
Interesting. I had a similar experience in Malaysia when I first tried diving. I can breathe well and not freak out under water, but trying to remove and replace the regulator, or the mask, or any of the other safety things they test on made me irrationally freak out! Since then I have refused to try again, and we are probably going to skip Ko Toh because of its focus on diving. I give you credit for trying it over and over. Never say never, but it will be hard for me to try again, and invest more money in it.
04/18/2013 19:24
Amber, I do still occasionally get a little panicky about scuba diving but I love it, too! I do think that Koh Tao isn't as great for its beaches as some of the other islands and it's much more focused on diving so it might be a good choice to skip it.
06/11/2013 16:03
Congrats, Buddha View is one of the best shops on Tao. Glad it finally worked out for you...
06/13/2013 16:19
Thanks Anika!
08/08/2013 19:56
Good for you! So glad you overcame your challenge. I've never been diving before and it is one of those things I haven't had a strong desire to do so I've never attempted. I do always think the pictures are beautiful though!

This resort looks fantastic! We felt the same way in Krabi. We splurged for excellent service and when I say splurge, I mean about $60 a night! :) The relaxing and trips to the nearby islands were a highlight of our trip.
09/20/2013 16:39
I hate to admit that I somewhat have a fear of the ocean. Not of sharks (if one came at me, I'd just punch it in the face)... but of being swept out to sea and having to live the remainder of my life like Tom Hanks on an island in the middle of nowhere. Congrats on the dive! Perhaps one day I'll muster up the courage. BTW, great pictures of the fire dancers (yet another thing I won't be attempting to do anytime soon).
12/04/2013 07:11
Good to hear that you stuck with it! I've tried scuba diving, but I've only experienced the panic parts, so I just stick with snorkeling.
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12/04/2013 07:11
Thanks all! I am so so happy I stuck it through because I love scuba diving now --- plus, I absolutely refuse to let my fears get the best of me.

Jetpacker, I laughed out loud when I read your comment! This is the exact reason why we stick to calm ocean waters --- usually.

Matt, Buddha View Dive Resort put together a video for the whole group because we had a professional underwater videographer with us on our last day. I edited it to make it just of me and Patrick using Sony Vegas Movie Studio. Glad you liked it!
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12/04/2013 07:11
Lori - isn't it nice when splurging is just $60! It is amazing how our perspective on money changes with the conversion rates.

M.Hunter - my mother, who is deathly afraid of the ocean and drowning, just completed a $20 introductory dive in a pool at her local PADI center. I was almost as amazed as she was that she not only completed the dive, but enjoyed it too! I think the key is a change in the state of your mind and then little steps. I think if you ever try it, you will thoroughly enjoy it.
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12/04/2013 07:11
awesome video. How did you get such a good underwater video?
03/31/2014 13:44
Recently visited Koh Samui and dived 'The Rock.' Glad your now hooked! Enjoyed your article and photos!
07/14/2014 15:11
Thanks RT! Diving there is so much fun. We miss diving in those beautiful warm waters.
05/29/2015 23:12
Great for you!!! I'm still collecting courage to even start scuba diving, maybe because I'm not a very good swimmer to begin with. But reading your post is quite inspiring, from panic to loving it, that's quite a thing! =) Maybe one of these days I'm gonna go get that diving license and explore a whole new world underneath us.
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