It's the moment we've all been waiting for... I finally jumped in the water with a tank of air strapped to my back! Lot of good it does me though, I'm still coming up at the end of every hour-long dive with half a tank left. No actually, yesterday I came up with over half a tank so I surfaced, purged my regulator as a joke, and said "ok now it's a dive, I got through half a tank."

Where to begin? We've been diving for the past four days now and even at that there's just to much wonder to describe. We're diving with a school called Big Blue, because that's where all of Fletch's friends work. There's about a thousand dive shops on the island so it seemed as good a reason as any to dive with them. Our first day we signed up for the morning dives. Wow, they really do mean morning here. We had to meet at the dive shop at 6:30? Which is ever so slightly brutal when you're on vacation.

They have a different way of getting out to the dive sights here on Koh Tao. Everyone has a gear bag, and all the guests, up to 30 or so and and all of their gear are loaded up onto a little longboat and taxied out to the actual dive boat. So you go out about a minute our two, then switch over to the big boat, which is where the captain lives and has an air compressor and supply of tanks on board. Then you sail out to the actual dive sight. I'd hate to be an intern here. They have about ten times the grunt work we had at Subway, having to constantly load and unload everyone's gear from one boat to another.

Chumphon Pinnacle.

Our first dive sight was Chumphon Pinnacle, which was about a 40 minute boat ride away. Before we even got in the water I already felt free, wearing nothing but my 3mm suit. None of that silly laying two 7mm over each other. It's so nice to be able to move! And to not feel like a whale covered in blubber, and to not have to wear 20 lbs of weight just to sink below the surface. We jumped in and the water was oh so warm and beautiful, and there were fish everywhere! Schools and schools of every fish imaginable. We definitely didn't have this many fish in Roatan. You sink below the surface into that magical wonderland and just want to break out singing A Whole New World from Aladdin. It's just such a liberating experience, weightlessly zooming around in three dimensions, exploring the mysterious foreign world that sits beneath the surface, with nothing but the calming sound of your own breathing to interrupt your thoughts. I've missed this more than I can say. Every time I experience this it becomes more and more impossible to imagine going back to living in a land-locked state.

Green Rock

Just look at that amazing luminous purple bulb of anemone. You know those scenes in movies where they trip on shrooms and suddenly everything is so beautiful and electric? That's what it looks like underwater, no drugs necessary. Our second dive site of the day was Green Rock. They are very creative with naming their dive sites here. About half of them are named (insert color) Rock. This was Green Rock. This was also the nudi dive. No, not nude dive, nudi, as in nudibranchs. Some divers get really obsessed with nudis. I never understood it. Yes they are pretty and come in all colors of the rainbow, but come on, we're talking about a flatworm sometimes no bigger than your fingernail. It's a teeny tiny little worm. Big deal. That was before I ever saw one in real life. Our divemaster pointed out my first ever nudi and oh my gosh was it amazing. It's like a little tiny cupcake decorated by a fashion designer. You just can't have a cupcake and not be happy. Pretty soon I was spotting them left and right, more excited by each one than the last. Nudis galore!

Laem Thien

On our second day of diving we were already over the morning dives and signed up for the afternoon dives instead. It's pretty sweet because they go twice in the morning, and twice again in the afternoon, unlike Roa where we only ever had one afternoon dive. Our first sight of the day was an obstacle course of swim throughs. I love that stuff. Swimming through and around and under things is like being a little kid at a playground all over again. I have some awesome video footage but you all know the drill by now, the internet here barely even allows me to upload pictures. No video for you. So this prickly cactus looking thing from hell is apparently called a Crown of Thorns. It looks like a sea urchin with 50 arms and moves like a starfish. Oh yes, it moves. This was waiting for us stuck to the wall of a particularly tight swim through. It's their way of making sure you have your buoyancy under check here.

Lighthouse Bay

This was the sort of dive that makes me miss being a divemaster. I'm pretty sure I found everything on this dive. Our divemaster is an awesome dude, and does a fantastic job, but he definitely seems to prefer the little micro stuff like nubis. I mean we were swimming along through Lighthouse Bay, and I bring up the rear of the line and instantly spot this stunning little ray covered in blue polka dots. You have no idea how excited I was. I've never seen anything this cool before. Well, maybe I have, but I've never seen this particular cool thing before. It's so pretty! A little farther away I sense movement under the brim of a mushroom coral and peek underneath to find a porcupine fish. Cutest fish you ever saw with these great big puppy dog eyes. Really fun dive.

No Name

This was the strangest dive I've ever been on. I keep saying ever, don't I? Dead serious this time though. We had a different divemaster, and he lead us around this site called No Name, which really wasn't anything spectacular. After about 25 minutes, he asks us all how much air we have left, and satisfied, told us to follow him. We started swimming against the current over a sandy patch, and just kept going and going and going. I have to say, I got in a hell of a workout, because 25 minutes later after fighting straight on current we finally arrived. We were all asked once again how much air we had left, and then he signaled us to start our three minutes safety stop. Why? why did that just happen? Oh but it wasn't over. Because these sights are so popular, numerous dive boats will be at a single sight at once, and with only one mooring line, what they end up doing is mooring up to the back of the next boat. Well we come up from this crazy dive and have to start swimming all the way to the end of the line of boats, which took another 15 minutes. So yes, strangest dive profile ever. But on the plus side I realized I don't even need a wetsuit here, the water is that lovely. Now I'm just diving in my 3mm vest.

This was a porcupine wish we found and I was afraid he was dead, poor baby. I mean look at the way he is wedged in there on his side and his eye just was not moving. After the dive we asked our divemaster about it and he said, "Oh no! That's just the way they sleep!"...