Cara and I did a Discover Scuba Dive in Greece and to be honest, I really didn’t like it. I’m not one for water sports in general, especially salt water, and I really didn’t think scuba diving was for me. Cara loved it though, so since then she has been planning on getting her PADI cert. Our original plan was for her to dive in Singapore, but that didn’t end up working out. As time went on I decided I wanted the opportunity to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia when we visit there, so we found another opportunity to get some diving done.
We contacted quite a few dive companies in Cambodia and ended up going with The Dive Shop Cambodia, and we were super happy with our choice. Their main office is in Sihanoukville on the main land, but they do their diving off of Koh Rong Samloem, a fairly large island off the coast. We got signed up for their PADI Open Water Diver course and once in Cambodia made our way to them. We spent 5 nights on the island, and our experiences outside of diving can be found here.
On the day we arrived we were introduced to the other 3 people that would be taking the course with us, got shown to their “classroom”, and seated in front of a small portable DVD player and given our instruction booklets. We then watched 4 movies from PADI, essentially the same thing as if we had done the course online. At the end of each movie you answered some questions in the booklet and you could follow along with what they were showing in the movies. The “teacher” checked in periodically, but all 5 of us were a little disappointed in the first day. The “teacher” did check our answers in the booklets and give us 4 more quizzes at the end of the day that we then went over as a group, but the level of instruction was very low to none.
On the morning of day two we got shown all of our equipment and were taught how to set it up and break it down, which we did multiple times. Then one of our classmates was introduced to his separate instructor, leaving us as 4 divers to our one teacher, Alex (a different instructor than the person who showed us the video). Eventually we made it out onto the beach in our gear and walked into the water to start our confined water dive. According to the PADI plan, there are 5 confined water dives and in each one you do different skills. A lot of dive shops do these dives in a pool, but since we were on a fairly remote island in a third world country, we did them in the bay. In the morning we did dives 1-3 all at once, and in the afternoon we did dives 4 and 5. The first dives went smoothly, and the water was pretty calm. One of our classmates did not enjoy it at all though and decided not to continue the course. We were now down to 3!
After lunch we re-entered the bay, but the waves had gotten much worse and the visibility was pretty low. This made the afternoon’s skills much more challenging, but still manageable and probably taught us a lot more than if we were in a pool. Taking our scuba kit off and getting in back on in relatively rough water was a challenge for sure. By the end of the day I was extremely tired and really not sure I made the right decision in signing up for the course, but we had paid for it and I wasn’t backing down. (Cara’s note: I’m really not a fan of taking my mask on and off underwater. I probably gave our instructor some grief since when he asked me to do this in 8 feet of water I would freak out, spit my reg out of my mouth, choke on a few gallons of sea water, and immediately kick to the surface. Pretty much everything you are NOT supposed to do. This happened about 3 times before we gave up on it in shallow water.) By this time in the afternoon the water for our ‘confined dives’ was extremely choppy. I’m kind of glad we did them in the ocean though, because we wouldn’t have gotten as much realistic practice with current and waves if we had been in a pool!
The next day we went out on The Dive Shop boat for open water dives 1 and 2, where you build on the skills you learn in confined water and practice some of them again, doing things like clearing a flooded mask. As these dives went on I was really tired of being in the water and by the end of the second dive I really wanted to be off the boat. Luckily, Cara is super supportive and she was having a few issues too, so we helped each other through them. The last day you do open water dives 3 and 4, and 3 is really practicing all the things you have learned and 4 is just a fun dive. None of the individual tasks bothered me and I had no problem taking my mask off under water or doing any of the skills, but I still don’t like salt water. Something about it just makes me feel sick to my stomach when I have to taste it, but by the end of our 4th open water dive, that feeling was just about gone. I still won’t say I really enjoy diving, but I’m glad I did the course and I’m much more comfortable in the water now. I am looking forward to diving in Australia, but other than that I’m not sure how much scuba diving will be in my future. (Cara’s note: On day 4 of the course, I successfully removed and replaced my mask in 6 meters of water! Crushed it.) Below: Jeff, Alex (from Manchester), Cara and Tom (from Luxembourg).
Oh, and I was getting into the boat at the end of the last dive I was visited by a friendly, bright purple jellyfish. And by friendly, I mean it wrapped around my bicep and left me a nice burn. Jerk. I didn’t have a camera handy right when it happened, but it swelled up pretty bad and left me feeling pretty rough overall. This photo was over 24 hours later, and it still burned and itched pretty bad. (Cara’s note: They didn’t really have a first aid kit on the boat, so when we got back to the island bar we treated Jeff’s sting with vinegar. Followed by a shot of Beam.)