I arrived on this paradise island as a backpacker at the end of a life-changing 8 month’s traveling around South East Asia and Australia, not knowing that this was actually the start of a new exciting chapter of my life.
During my travels I had had no interest in diving, with people saying “next stop Kho Tao to do our Open Water Course” no thanks I am off to Kho Phi Phi for some more partying. Then I had the pleasure of snorkeling with a Whale Shark on the west coast of Australia. OMG incredible. This is when I knew I had to learn to dive. I need a tank!
I completed my Open Water Course on Kho Tao as this seemed to be the place to do it if you were a backpacker, but the diving hadn’t excited me. I was disappointed after seeing what I had seen on the Nigaloo Reef in Australia. Kho Tao really didn’t offer much in Marine life. It’s famous for being cheap not amazing. So I didn’t get too excited about diving. That was until I dived Phi Phi Ley. Wow FISH. This is why I learnt to dive. I finally got to see NEMO… best 28th birthday present.
As you do on Phi Phi I met a local guy who romanced me so I stayed on Phi Phi for a bit longer and completed my Advanced Open Water Course. After returning back to the UK from my travels to witness my sister getting married I evaluated life and I decided to GO PRO, return to Koh Phi Phi and become a Dive Master. “Am I crazy” I thought “Come on Liz you are an Advanced Open Water Diver with 11 dives”. I did some research and was in contact with my amazing instructor (from my advanced course) who agreed to be my instructor for my dive master training. I was going Pro.
I spent time with my family and friends, sorted out my finances and arrived at Heathrow Airport heading for paradise, Koh Phi Phi. Apart from the Local guy, who was still romancing me over skype, I had one person I briefly knew on the island. As soon as I arrived on the island Libby introduced me to her friends and soon they all became my family.
4 years later we are all over the world but our friendship is built on the foundations of Phi Phi and will last forever. I also became friends with a lot of local people. Phi Phi was really starting to feel like home. Learning some basic Thai and the Thai culture. I got my head down learning to Go PRO with PADI. Just to mention that learning how to dive was going out of my comfort zone so going pro was definitely out of my zone. After 2 months of hard training I was finally there, a licensed dive master, a professional recognized by PADI.
I am not going to lie, it was hard, I pushed myself to my limits and grew as a person. Not only had I taken my first steps on the PADI GO PRO ladder I had become a part of a community on the island and not to mention a mum to four beautiful kittens. Koh Phi Phi is famous for the tragic Tsunami but also is well known on the backpacker trail for its partying, beautiful beaches, Maya beach being one of them, blue waters and its diving. I dedicated my time to diving but there was always time for some partying. With the friends I had made we had some infamous nights out. Come on people let’s just have one drink to close the working day off. As we all know one drink never happens. Two, three, four, oh no I am dancing on the beach in the moon light. DOJO’s became my local bar on the island, drinking the famous jungle juice and their Can Do/Why Not Moto’s.
Many a nights spent there dancing, laughing, chatting and of course drinking. We may also stray a little bit and enjoy a drink or two in Banana Bar, Rolling stones, hitting the beach and ending the night with 9 chicken nuggets with Chilli sauce. Our spare time was not just about the drinking. We would often go to the beach to top up our tans, snorkeling, Kayaking, Valleyball, Massages or just relaxing in your room watching a movie for some alone time. One of the hardest questions of the day would be what/where to eat. This would take hours of thinking and discussion.
There are numerous places to eat on the island but you soon pick your favourites and they become your dining room. The staff knows your favourite drink and you have no need to look at the menu any more. Grand PP Arcade is the top favourite, positioned next to our shop 2. Nut the lady who owns the restaurant looks after us very well and makes sure we are fed and watered regularly. Getting back to the diving. The Adventure Club soon became my family where I worked as a snorkel guide and Dive Master.
I really owe the Adventure Club for growing my knowledge in the marine life we have here on Phi Phi. This in turn made my trips for the customers, not only did they get to see the marine life I was able to share my knowledge with them so they were learning and taking this away with them. Did you know Nemo (false Anemone clownfish) can change sex! My Dad and Lex (stepmum) came to visit me. It was amazing to show them my life on Phi Phi and especially to take my dad diving, most incredible day of my life. I know my dad is always proud of me but this day I really saw it. My daughter the diver… I even had a few tears under the water. I gained my Dads support and could see my love and passion.
14 months on the island and I returned back to the UK to see my friends and family. As much as I love them all there was something missing. DIVING. 3 months later I was back at Heathrow Airport boarding a plane to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo for the next step in the GO PRO PADI ladder. INSTRUCTOR TIME. Another 4 weeks of hard training and I was there. Open Water Scuba Diving Instructor. GO ME! Biggest achievement of my life. It wasn’t hard to know where I was headed for, Koh Phi Phi and the family at The Adventure club. With the comfort of the owner Andrew, The manager Tero, the team, the dive sites and the Reef Ranger Boat I grew into my instructor roll. The pleasure I get out of teaching and introducing people from all walks of life to our underwater world is amazing. After 2 years of instructing I have met a lot of people.
Some people who jump in the water for the first time (with diving equipment on) and just get it, understand it and are natural in the water. These customers are great to have and make your job very easy but it’s the customers that are pushing themselves out of their comfort zone I love teaching the most. Seeing their faces at the beginning of a course full of nerves for whatever their reason, deep water, breathing underwater, waves, self-confidence, the unknown and believe it or not their fear of fish, to their faces after 3 days when they have completed the Open Water Course, something they thought they would never be able to do. It’s the best feeling. 3 days is not very long but I get to see people grow, believe in themselves and gain confidence.
One day I had a girl from the UK who was doing a Discover Scuba Dive, half day experience. She was doing this as she literally couldn’t jump off a boat. Of course she wanted to dive but her main reason was to overcome her fear of jumping in to the open water. I have never seen someone shake so much on the dive deck, she nearly shook herself off the boat. She did it, 2 dives. Two days later she came back to the shop to tell me that she had just come off one of the party boats and had had the most amazing time. she was able to jump from the diving board, enjoy the sea Jacuzzi, and jump from the boat to visit Maya Bay.
So not only had she overcome her fear, she enjoyed diving and the party boat and not being the boring girl holding on to the boat for dear life. One satisfied girl. A couple who I taught their Open Water too later emailed me to say they had a few communication troubles of late and that doing their course had brought then closer. Having to look after each other and to communicate underwater with basic hand signals had helped them once back at home. It’s a great part of the job. Getting to know your students and what diving has meant for them.
For me diving has changed my life and got me out of a negative job back in the UK to living the dream. Being able to do this on Paradise, A little speck of land on this earth is amazing. Living a basic life style but getting so much out of it. Life can be so complex sometimes and returning back to the UK can take its toll. I miss my friends and family at home but this is also home where I have my Phi Phi family. Diving has given me a career, to grow as a person, meet some amazing friends, see some incredible marine life and their habits. An unforgettable 4 years. So here is to the next 4 years. Living the Dream.!
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