Tag Archives: Underwater Photos

License to Krill (Part Two)

Today is my final day of scuba training! This morning, we would take two more dives in different locations, practicing a different set of skills in each area. We set out to sea early in the morning to our first dive spot called The Pinnacle Rock. It was here that we would dive to our deepest depth yet – 18 meters underwater! Some of the skills we practiced mainly had to do with running out of oxygen underwater and how to ascend properly when you have no air left. Besides that, the dive here was pretty neat. We went along the anchored rope beneath the ocean, equalizing every few feet along the way. I could barely see the ocean floor below me, schools of fish were all around, bubbles were everywhere – I felt a sense of serenity. I was able to perform tasks fine during this dive, like the mask clearing, equalizing and other skills perfectly when no one was watching. I also noticed that I use up a ton of oxygen, more than anyone else in my dive group. I was aware of this last summer in Zanzibar, and it’s still the case now. Whenever Natalie would signal to me asking “How much air I have left in my tank”, my number would always be much lower than everyone else’s – especially the deeper I am underwater. Sometimes it’s so low that Natalie sends one of the dive assistants to resurface with me so I don’t run out of air. I asked her, is it normal that I use so much more oxygen than everyone else? She said that it’s completely fine and that everyone breathes differently. I just breathe heavier than the norm, even outside of the water. Overtime I will use less oxygen, the more I dive.

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After diving at Pinnacle, we sailed to our next and last dive spot, Shark Island. It’s called Shark Island because the huge rock island is shaped like a shark fin.

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This was perhaps the best time to dive; the water was super calm and clear, the sun was shining bright, and visibility was amazing. But it was also here that I was going to have to take off my mask underwater, put it back on, and then clear it. I was a bit nervous because I was going to have to do this on the ocean floor, and if I freaked out, it wouldn’t be good. We descended to the very bottom and Natalie had me watch Viola and the others do it. Piece of cake for them. And piece of cake for me…when no one is watching and testing me! Weird I know. But we went through other tasks, like how to navigate underwater with a compass, and floating at a neutral buoyancy right above the floor. Natalie decided she wanted me to wait until we were about to resurface to do the mask clearing, so first we went on our dive!

I brought my GoPro on this trip, mainly because I wanted to capture footage underwater. But I was told by previous divers that I would need to hire a videographer if I wanted underwater photos. The dive instructors wanted us to concentrate on diving and not fiddling around with a camera, especially while learning. I was disappointed…but there was no way I could leave this without getting some underwater footage! There was no videographer nearby our resort to hire and the one I found costed a pretty penny. Skip that man! I have my GoPro which is great underwater, it’s such a waste not to use. So my plan was to sneak it in with me and use it very subtly and when the instructors weren’t paying attention. I put the GoPro in my wetsuit, snug against my chest. During our final dive, I would casually pull out my camera and record everything while holding it close to my body so it wouldn’t look blatantly obvious. Sometimes, I would tap the others on the shoulder, pointing to my camera, signaling them to smile and wave. I grew a little lax and at one point, Natalie turned around and saw me with my camera. But instead of her signaling me to put it away, she made a full on rockstar pose and resumed guiding us. This let me know that it was okay to have my camera, then I started to record everything!

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It’s hard to describe the sensation you get from freely diving, meters and meters under the sea. As cliché as this sounds, it really is like exploring a completely different world – like a strange alien planet. Except this time, you’re flying through this new world, weightless, and you’re always with other explorers who share the exact same feeling as you do. You never knew exactly what kind of marine life would pop out unexpectedly, or what ship wrecks you would come across.

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It was nearing the end of the dive, which meant it was time for me to clear my mask! During the dive, along with recording everything, I was thinking to myself “What is it that I do differently on my own than when I’m being tested in front of Natalie?” I figured it out! For some very, very odd reason, every time I try and clear my mask with Natalie, I exhale out of my nose…and mouth which results in water flying into my nose. On my own, I naturally just exhale out of my nose when clearing my mask. I don’t know why I do that, but I figured thats the reason. I got to try it when Natalie tested me again and presto! Mask was cleared in one fell swoop. I could literally hear Natalie cheering with joy underwater as she pumped her arms in the water for me! Myself, I was relieved. 🙂

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And that was that! We resurfaced and celebrated like kids! We took the boat back to Sunshine Resorts where the instructors gave us our temporary license (our permanent license will be mailed to us!). Later on, Viola and I went and enjoyed dinner with the Aussies who dove with us at a Thai restaurant down the road. Then afterwards, Viola and I drank away the night with the two Aussie guys at the beach, where we all went for a night swim under the moonlit ocean. The water here in Koh Tao is extremely warm, no matter if it’s day or night.

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If I had more time here, I would continue my training for my advanced license which would include diving during the night and going through ship wrecks. Exciting! But, for now I have to put a hold on that because Viola and I were headed to another island called Koh Phangan.

There’s a full moon ahead…

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An Asian Vacasian

After a full week of teaching, taking care of orphans, helping the disabled, and working in the hospital, twelve of us volunteers decided to hit the road to Mui Ne beach. We woke up early Friday morning and took a sleeper bus about six hours to the east coast. This was my first time in a sleeper bus and in case you aren’t familiar with it, it’s essentially a bus with long seats that recline all the way back so you’re able to sleep easier. I really enjoyed it! However, if you are way over six feet tall then I don’t recommend it.

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The sleeper bus.

We left HCMC around 8am and arrived to Mui Ne around 1:30pm. The bus dropped us off at a resort called ‘Lotus Resort’. I was a bit skeptical because the place I booked is called ‘The Lotus Village’ but we walked into the hotel anyways and were instantly amazed by the beauty of this hidden paradise. As the others “oooh’d” and “aaaah’d” over everything, I went to go check us in at the front desk. Turns out they couldn’t find my name under the reservation because this is the wrong hotel! I booked for Lotus Village…not Lotus Resort. Crazy bus driver.

No worries though because our actual resort was just 4km down the road. So we hopped on a taxi and before you know it, we were there…The Lotus Village Resort. I liked this place much better. Imagine an oasis full of palm trees, staircases made of marble, and plush lounge chairs covered with umbrellas made of leaves and straw. In the center of this oasis is an infinite pool that lit up at night. An oasis surrounded by bungalows, with bathtubs made of slate and some of the softest, coziest beds in town. The China South Pacific was just a few meters away from the resort. So close, that at night you can hear the waves crashing into the stone walls of the village. Near the pool was a full service bar, concocting fresh cocktails and fine delicacies to enjoy as you basked underneath the sun. Yes, this was absolute paradise. It reminded me of my stay last summer in Zanzibar with my team in Tanzania.

The Lotus Village
The Lotus Village

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Our bedroom. Very cozy.

The twelve of us split up into three rooms. Lucy, Tom, Sophie, and I shared one room. Allison, Addie, Shantai, and Lex shared another. Peter, Nancy, Shane, and Steffanie (Whirral, U.K) actually stayed in a hotel just a few meters next to ours in a hotel equally as nice. But our pool area was definitely better, evident by the fact that they would always come to our pool instead of theirs! No problem by us. As a matter of fact, the first thing we did when we arrived at the resort was jump into the pool! This is where my GoPro came in handy.

Underwater rumble!
Underwater rumble!
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Peter swimming by for the camera.

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Sophie and Tom
Sophie and Tom
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Steffanie!

After a little fun, a few of us walked down the beach to see what Mui Ne had to offer along the coast. There were tons of seaside bars, restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Along the way I spotted shacks that offered kite and wind surfing lessons. I would like to try kite surfing sometime before I leave Southeast Asia so be on the lookout for that! We looked for a place to eat later and found a hippie restaurant down the street, by the suggestion of Shantai. Food was nice; not enough to fill this guy up though!

Later on that night we played in the pool some more. As the others went into the whirlpool to play a game of “Never Have I Ever”, I went into my room to check on some things and in the process, I accidentally fell asleep. The bed in my room was just so cozy and lush. Besides, I don’t really like playing that game anyways. 🙂 I am glad I got to get some sleep relatively early because the next day was action packed! After one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in awhile, Steffanie and I spontaneously decided that we wanted to jet-ski. So thats exactly what we did! 20130702-155434.jpgThis was both of our first times ever on a jet-ski and that became evident when we overturned the jet-ski not once, but twice!

Oooops...
Oooops…

I drank so much salt water from falling into the ocean so many times, I thought I was going to be sick. Tom strapped my GoPro to his chest and swam out to see to try and capture some photos of us but I didn’t even notice him because water was constantly splashing against my face. At one point, Steffanie and I both fell into the water while the jet’s engine was still running. The jet went around in wide circles before it finally came right back to us. Thankfully!

Oops sorry didn't see ya there Tom!
Oops sorry didn’t see ya there Tom!
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Me and Steffanie

The day just started and jet-skiing along the coast of the South China Sea was just the beginning to what turned out to be one of the funnest days here in Vietnam yet! Stay tuned!