March 5, 2001 Ko Phi Phi, Thailand
I did two beautiful dives today. Yesterday I decided to have C be my teacher and go for the Open Water Advanced PADI certification. It give me a chance to relearn the things I once used to know, as well as all the new stuff that has happened in the last 20-30 years. In diving, that a lot. This would all be well and good and could be done just about anywhere at anytime, but this is special: C is my dive master guru. He is not an overworked dive master doing his job. He is diving because he loves it. So he freelances as a diving instructor, working with Hippo Divers.
The first dive was my "Deep Dive". In scuba speak a deep dive is going below 60 feet (18 meters). That is the limit where you don't have to worry about decompression on a one tank dive. The deepest I've been is down to 120 - 130 feet at the Blue Hole in Belize. It was a macho trip and all that, but I'm not a fan of going deep just to say I've been deep. Usually there isn't much to see the further down you go. The light is less and the colors get absorbed on the way down so what you see is more monotone. Because of the pressure a lung full of air at 100 feet uses up four times as much air as a lung full at sea level; twice as much as a lung full at 33 feet. So your dive is shorter the deeper you go.
The dive boat boat dropped C and I off at the deepest corner of Bida Nok. Bida
Nok is an uninhabited (by man) island just south of Ko Phi Phi Leh.
That is the island, also uninhabited, where the movie The Beach was shot. Our dive plan was to descend to the deepest depth there of about 90 feet and then slowly work our way clockwise about half way around the island where the dive boat would pick us up. It was so nice to be diving with just C and not part of a group being led on a tour. I could explore whatever I wanted for as long as I wanted, dive tables permitting. I spotted an octopus who wedged himself into a hole in the coral where you could see him but not doing anything. It made me realize how special it was when I was snorkeling off of Spencer Beach in Hawaii and a saw an octopus just a couple of feet below me and was able to just lie still on the surface and watch him swim from coral head to coral head landing and walking over it looking for prey. He did the changing colors bit for me four of five times before I decided to swim on.
Bida Nok is a very nice dive. Lots of coral and quite a few fish.
We had lunch on the boat in Maya Bay. Veggie fried rice for me. I had a ham and cheese baguette when I went out to Bida Nai with Hippo divers before. I would say it was better. Mostly I graze on the fresh watermelon, pineapples, and bananas that are always available on the dive boat along with water. Diving really spaces me out and it nice to have time to relax and think and chat with the other divers before the second dive.
My second dive was the Navigation Dive. It was fun learning and practicing how to navigate underwater with a compass. I did three exercises at the beginning of the dive. The first was to swim while looking only at your compass, in a given compass direction for 20 kick cycles (one kick with each fin), then reset the bezel on the compass 180 degrees and come back 20 kick cycles in that direction and low and behold you should find yourself back where you started from. Naturally I did. The second exercise was to go out and back 30 kick cycles on a given bearing, but this time using physical reference points as well as the compass. The third was to go in a square 25 kick cycles on a side. Then we were free to go exploring.
We spotted a leopard shark sleeping on a sandy patch of the bottom. (I'm writing this sitting at a table on the edge of the beach at Charlie's. It is 8:42 PM and the wind has picked up and lightning is flashing between clouds approaching from the north. I think it is time to pay for my beer and go get some dinner. I think I'll go to the Italian place Captain Uchino (Captain Hook) for a pizza or whatever sounds best.
(Paul, the dive master who talked me into going with Hippo Divers. Lunchtime in Maya Bay.)
I have order the A Stagioni Pizza, mozzarella, tomato sauce, ham, mushrooms and artichokes along with a Singha and a bottle of water.
Getting back to that Leopard Shark lying on the bottom sleeping. He was about seven or eight feet long. The only motion was his gills opening and closing. Somehow you can't help but want to wake him up and get him swimming, but we both maintained a respectful distance and let him sleep. Later in the dive we found a nice big rock with a lot of pretty coral and fish. We must have stayed there for a good 15 minutes, staying very still and breathing so as to maintain neutral buoyancy so that we could just float in in one place and get to know the neighborhood a bit. It was a beautiful experience. Basically meditation. Thinking back on it I've gotten the idea of inventing a new meme: meditation diving
(Lisa, an English actress, had hired C as an instructor. One of the fun things about diving is that you share an adventure with other people; it makes it easy to become friends. Check out the orange starfish)
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