ALL RUMORS ARE TRUE. Scuba diving is as amazing as they portrait it. The moment you go under the water and realize that hey I can actually breathe here is pure bliss. A little bit of trivia first. What is common between rock climbing, scuba diving and meditation? The answer is that all three put your right in the moment of HERE and NOW. Meditation achieves it through a patient and diligent practice. Slow, but the most effective way in the long term. Rock climbing does its magic by its sheer intensity. When you look for a next pocket hanging on a 10 meter cliff, there is no opportunity to be lost in thoughts. As for scuba diving, once you go under the water, body sensations become so apparent so you cannot ignore them. It puts you right in touch with your body and makes you aware that actually is going on inside it. Most people are not aware of their breathing in the daily life (are you now?), but underwater there is no way you can dismiss it. Same with tactile sensations, the resistance of water and differences in water temperature create such profound body sensations that you cannot help but to observe them. Plus every sensation you perceive is so vastly different: light, sound, gravity and tactile feelings. No room to be lost in thought here either.
Tropical marine flora and fauna is beautiful here on Ko Tao and as PADI course material states in 10 minutes spent underwater you see more wildlife than in 10 hours in a forest. So true. It is like Finding Nemo, but only in real life. Fish of all colours, shapes and sizes in various flavours of funkiness. Eye-candy all the way. I did scuba diving in a pool in Finland once before and the instructor praised diving conditions in Finland and downplayed diving in tropical countries. His reasoning was that there is so little to see in Finland, so if you see a barrel or something along those lines, you will remember it for the rest of your life. Hmm.. I guess they have to make money somehow.
As for more material remarks, it pays off to shop for the best price at least here in Ko Tao. I paid 9500 baht for the course lured by an online deal, which gave me 300 baht off if I booked it in advance. That includes four nights accommodation. Upon my arrival here, I realized that I could have done it considerably cheaper and with more perks included. The lowest price I saw was around 8000 baht. Two British guys who I did a course with paid 9000 each and that included 6 nights accommodation, free breakfast and one free dive. Same company, same course, just a different deal. I eventually managed to blag free breakfast coupons using the standard “but they told me” technique. Well, at least I had a chance to successfully apply social engineering skills in action. And one last thing, the Finnish Ko Tao Divers appears to be unproportionally expensive comparing to other diving shops. No accommodation included in the price and they even charge for the obligatory PADI material separately. Seems to be the case of paying premium only because it is Finnish.