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For those of you just joining us, I am recapping, in excruciating detail, my family and friends’ trip to visit me in Thailand over the holidays. It all started when I met my family in Bangkok, after which we hopped down to Koh Tao, met up with friends, and celebrated Christmas. The whole group island-hopped to Koh Samui where I said goodbye to my parents, followed by a quick jaunt to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Koh Pha Ngan with even more friends, after which we finally made it back to Koh Tao to unwind. At the rate this recapping is going it might be over in time for the holidays 2013.

The first of January is, for me, traditionally sacrificed to take-away meals and movies in bed. This year was no different, (read this post to understand why!) except there were seven of us snuggled together in one room, and we happened to be in Thailand. On January second, however, we were finally feeling well enough to emerge into the world. Unfortunately the weather still wasn’t cooperating. Rather than waste my friends’ precious last few days traveling, we decided to brave the rainy sky and rough seas and hopped on a dive boat.

I sometimes think that diving is the perfect rainy day activity- after all, you’re going to get wet no matter what!- but in reality it’s much more fun with sunny skies. I mean, the surface interval (the mathematically calculated time between dives) was pretty much invented for sunbathing, right? No? Something to do with decompression sickness and nitrogen? I was never very good at science.

We managed to have a fairly good time top-side regardless. And how could we not? Mark was bringing our four friends on a DSD, or Discover Scuba Diving,and I was filming and photographing for fun. Discover Scuba Diving is a one day, no certification class meant to be a “taster” for diving, so there are no tests or videos or advanced skills required. My sister, forever traumatized by an aborted attempt at a DSD in Grand Cayman, stayed behind to guard the boat.

Three out of the four were total dive virgins. Steffi, however, did a DSD during our trip to Honduras last year, so she’s now officially overdue for getting her Open Water Certification.

Our “” shot

Sadly, my documentation of this day was severely lacking. First of all, the weather was abysmal. My little point-and-shoot does not handle low-light situations very well, and there’s few situations worse than underwater, which has very little light to begin with, on a cloudy day.

“No problem!” I thought. I just bought this super fantastic used video camera and underwater housing! Well, that didn’t work out so well. First of all I was very unfamiliar with the camera so I wasn’t taking my usual cinematic-genius shots (ha). Second, the battery lasted for a total of like, six minutes. No bueno. So I tried to rescue a few decent photos with editing and put together a little mini-video (at the end of this post). Still, I was bummed I couldn’t use my new found photo and video skills to their greatest advantage in honor of my nearest and dearest!

Anway, back to underwater. A DSD does start with a few skills. You have to show the instructor that you are able to clear your mask of water and remove and replace your regulator.

Once those little skills are out of the way, you can get diving! Some instructors hold onto the student’s tanks and quite literally drag them around the reefs, but with this group everyone was very confident and capable.

Because the conditions around Koh Tao had been at an all-time horrible for ages, we stayed super shallow. This way we had more light and a better visibility. Our first dive was at the shallowest corners of the dive site, and we managed to find decent conditions.

Lucky for us there were tons of fish hanging out in the shallows with us!

Those traveling to Koh Tao and looking to do a DSD without the benefit of a BFF instructor will most likely be hit with a major sales pitch at best or an eye roll at worst. Why? I’ll let you in on a secret: Many instructors hate them! You might even hear grumbles about Dragging Shitty Divers (personally, I find that little play-on-acronym quite clever). Instructors don’t receive any certification credit for taking DSDs, and so they would much rather be assigned a 3-day Open Water Course.  To avoid any upturned noses, I recommend heading to one of the smaller schools on the island where your business will be much appreciated.

By the way, that isn’t the case everywhere. In places like the Caribbean instructors are used to doing DSDs every single day with cruise shippers and short holiday-makers.  But in places like Koh Tao, Thailand or Utila, Honduras…. it’s usually all about courses.

Some people might not enjoy teaching them, but I think a DSD can be the perfect taster to the diving world for those short on time or unsure about making the financial and time investment in a full certification course. Whatever gets people excited about being underwater works for me!

Want to see more? Watch my short video clip of my friends’ DSD in Koh Tao… and get diving.

The price is typically 2,000 baht for one dive and 3,000 baht for two. Recommended small schools ideal for a DSD in Koh Tao are and .

  • wes
    March 28 2012

    That video kicks ass.

    • Meihoukai
      March 29 2012

      Hey! Thanks! Like I mentioned… wasn’t the best conditions and I wasn’t too thrilled with my footage so I appreciate it!

  • Audrey | That Backpacker
    March 29 2012

    Ooooo! I love the look of those colourful fishies towards the start of the video. ;D

    • Meihoukai
      March 30 2012

      Aren’t they great? Those are parrotfish and they are every snorkeler’s favorite fish! I had never seen a big school of them like that. Amazing.

  • Liz
    March 30 2012

    Koh Tao is perfect for snorkeling. I like the view and the blue water refreshes my soul.

  • Jenna
    April 2 2012

    This post has me convinced that we need to do a DSD! (Also I feel so cool using the lingo now). That video has me feeling so excited!

    • Meihoukai
      April 3 2012

      Thanks Jenna! I think you will love it! And you’ll definitely impress the locals when you use the lingo 🙂

  • Heather
    April 3 2012

    The visibility looks pretty good to me in the pics and video! Of course, this is coming from a cold water diver who’s happy with 30 feet of vis!
    What program do you use to edit your video? I’ve been trying to take more video and I love the way you integrated the panning still shots in with the video!

    • Meihoukai
      April 4 2012

      Hey Heather, thanks for commenting! Yes, we stayed in a shallow area where the vis was pretty good. The problem image-wise was more the lack of sunlight. My cameras don’t function very well in low-light!

      I use Adobe Premiere to edit my videos and for this one specifically I forced myself to learn how to integrate the panning shots. Unfortunately its fairly complicated and a pain in that program. However, I did it for ages with iMovie and it does it automatically in that program! It’s called the “Ken Burns” effect. Good luck!