At Coral Grand Divers, we have the most experienced Thai dive instructor, Mr. Gat. He has more than 8,000 dives in his life from the Andaman sea to the Gulf of Thailand within the past 17 years. Let's dive into his thoughts on the living.
Q: How did you get your 1st dive?
A: Well, I grew up in the diving business family in Phuket. We have a liveaboard boat, but I was always in the office, not on the ship. One day in my early 20s, I got so bored that I grabbed the diving equipment and went scuba diving with them on the boat for the first time in my life. I needed to learn how to do it, but it did not keep me away from the fantastic world under the water. I was blown away by the fish and the coral. I was more excited than scared down there, seeing other living things under the water.
Q: So, after that, the Open Water?
A: The morning after that, I started doing my Open Water and Advanced Open Water, followed by DiveMaster Course in one roll. I finished everything within one year after my first dive.
Q: When did this happen, and how many dives did you have by that time?
A: It was in 2002. I became a dive instructor later in 2004. I collected about 200 Dives already. I went diving every day by getting on the boat with them as a dishwasher, not as the owner's nephew.
Q: When did you move to Koh Tao?
A: I moved to Koh Tao to work with Coral Grand Divers in 2005. It's the only place I have been working with on this island. I have been diving for 17 years now.
Q: Please tell us your favorite spots to dive around Koh Tao.
1. "Chumphon Pinnacle" - This dive site has many things to see! I have been diving at Chumphon Pinnacle for almost 1,000 dives, but I can keep going back to discover something I have not seen around the area. I don't know if I could go through all of it. There are so many angles of rocks, so many holes to swim through, and so many living beings to see. The Chumphon Pinnacle dive site amazed me every time.
2. My second favorite dive site is "Sail Rock" or "Hin Bai" in Thai. There are many kinds of fish, living beings, and corals under the water. It is so pleasant looking at them.
3. The other one is "Hin Wong Pinnacle." It is a strange underwater geography full of exotic-looking coral reefs and peculiar fish living on the ocean's sandy bottom. This dive point is uniquely impressive. You can only finish exploring around some in one dive as well because there are so many sides to see. I have always enjoyed scuba diving in Koh Tao.
Q: What motivates you to go out and dive other than it's a part of your job?
A: One part of it is the students. I want to teach them many things I know so they can become good scuba divers. Second, the gadgets! The world changes so fast that there are so many new diving gear technologies to use. Even though I already have so many thousands of dives, diving with the latest diving gear is exciting. And, of course, underwater photography. Back in the day, I was teaching the whole time and did not get the chance to use an underwater camera. There came the days I had to take photos of people, aquatic animals, locations, and others. Can you believe that everything has changed after I see the underwater world behind the lens? It has been a significant turning point in my life.
Q: How did underwater photography change your life?
A: Whatever you want to capture the photo underwater, you must know more about them. To capture the perfect moment, you must research their nature, habits, gestures, location, depth, weather conditions, and geography. I have learned so much more about nature from underwater photography.
Q: What is your favorite thing to see under the water?
A: They are called "Seamoth." They are ancient aquatic animals with a thumb-size. The head part looks like a sparrow head, the body part is bumpy like the crocodile, and the tail is similar to the seahorse. They are considered a kind of fish, but they have legs. They do not swim, but they can walk with wings. They are also the rarest thing to see and hard to notice.
Q: Mr. Gat, what was the most exciting dive in your thousands of dives in Koh Tao?
A: It happened last year in 2018 at Chumphon Pinnacle. It was time for everyone to head back to the boat. Two divers were swimming at the surface, I was down in the water behind him, and then a 6-meter-long whale shark with a hole in his head, I remembered it very well, appeared behind those two on the surfaces. At the same time, there was another whale shark down there at 10 meters depth water level with me. He was a beautiful 10-meter-long whale shark. It was pretty amazing seeing two whale sharks in 1 dive.
Do you know what is sad about this story? The hole in that whale shark head. It happened because a human touched him, and a bacterial infection caused the hole in his head. So, don't touch anything under the water.
Q: How has Koh Tao changed in the almost 15 years you have lived here?
A: Koh Tao has changed a lot, especially the environment in the sea, like everywhere else in the world. Many conditions cause it. The environment has changed, but the culture has mostly stayed the same. Koh Tao is still fun and relaxing, as always.
Q: How do you feel about diving nowadays?
A: Same as the first day I started diving. I always feel the same. Diving gets me every time, going down under the water. Everything is still beautiful, the fish, coral, and other things. They are always amazing to me. I will keep diving as long as there are coral reefs and fish and the ocean has salty water.
Mr. Gat laughed and smiled comfortably. While he was walking me to the parking lot of Coral Grand Divers, he told me that diving had turned many people into calmer and more relaxed people. He stopped to say hi to a Japanese instructor who had just returned from diving, "No Seamoth nor Seahorse for today," the Japanese instructor said. Mr. Gat smiled again and wished him a good day.