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November 21, 2006 05:16 AM

Murky Waters and Even Murkier Dive Companies

BANGKOK, THAILAND - After a stint on an all night bus, we've landed ourselves into what seems to be the middle of everything; the centre of the universe.

It's hard to believe that just yesterday, I was standing on a sandy patch of Ocean more than 30m (100ft) underwater trying to complete simple dexterity tests in order to prove to myself, and the outrageously tattooed Aussie Dive 'Master', that I was indeed suffering the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis.

Except for a vague light above me, we were completely in the dark. Ko Tao is renowned for having some of the best visibility around. However, crystal clear waters weren't on the docket for me that day; recent rain and seasonal currents make the island one of the more ordinary spots to dive during the off-season. Hence the reason they have an off-season in the first place. And part of the reason I signed up for the deep dive rather than the normal 18m (60ft) descent I'm actually qualified to do.

Some of the other divers had some 'trouble equalizing' as we we dove which in my experience is a colloquial used for 'I'm too scared'. They resurfaced along with the other 'experts' on the dive. So in end it was just me and the Dive Master in the murky darkness at the very bottom of a giant pinnacle stretching up to the sky.

I, in my futile attempt to prove to him that I actually could finish the nose-touching sobriety tests I completely ignored him as he focused his attention on something behind me. It wasn't until he eventually pressed his hands above his head in a mock fin; the internationally recognized sign for Shark. I whipped around just in time to see the back end of a large (2.5 - 3m) shark disappear into the inky blackness. I assumed, incorrectly that it was a reef shark; a treat to see on these dives. Brian and I missed our opportunity to see hammerheads while diving in the Galapagos and I was happy to not have been let down.

It wasn't until 30min later as we reached the surface very very slowly in order to avoid all the nasty symptoms and side affects that affect deep divers (like me), and we started talking that I understood how close it came. "This close," he said; showing a gap of no more than 30cm (1ft) with his hands.

Apparently the reef sharks that the divers in Ko Tao see never get bigger than 2m (6ft) long. This shark was bigger than that by at least a metre. I've cruised Wikipedia looking for something that matched what I saw, but I never will amount to anything in the world of identifying species. The Aussie Dive master has spent far too much of his hazy drunken life in the tattoo parlour to be able to identify anything other than the most obvious of Kangaroo's. All the others were smoking cigarettes and drinking beer in the boat at the time of the sighting.

I guess I'll never know what species of shark it was. I'd like to assume that it was some sort of man-eating species and I narrowly escaped death. I'll also be lengthening the shark just a little every time I tell the story from here on in. It is after all, just another fish story.

In the end I learned a thing or two about picking and choosing the right dive school. These guys were cowboys. Un-organized and at least a little bit careless. So careless in fact that they forgot to charge me for the dive, I didn't realize until we arrived in Bangkok. In Thailand, where Karma rules, I fear it'll turn out to be an unlucky thing. The few thousand Baht I saved may haunt may not have been worth it. If I really tried, I'm sure I could figure out how to get in touch with them and find a way to pay. It's just that the extra money feels so nice in my pocket. Besides, they nearly killed me.

Note: The lack of photos is due to the fact that I thought I lost my camera again and didn't actually take any pictures of the dive trip. It's not that I'm forgetful, it's just that my hiding spots are sooo good. The island is spectacular though.


Carolina said:

Glad you survived the death-defying dive, you sub-aqua rebel, you!

But OMG, I can't believe you've lost your camera AGAIN! What are you like?!


November 21, 2006 07:03 AM
Carolina said:

... or thought you'd lost it anyway!

November 21, 2006 07:04 AM
Jonathan said:

No pictures, huh? Well you made up for it with a heck of a lot of text. I guess a picture is only worth 727 words.

November 21, 2006 10:31 AM
Martin said:

Holy mackerel, a shark!! A real near death experience, Ryan 'Steve Irwin' Henderson! Keep up the good work...

November 22, 2006 03:43 AM
matt said:

amazing man ... when you have time, keep 'em coming.

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