• An Underwater Experience

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Aug 21, 2017 | Faculty led study programs

A blog post by: Rhiannon Drummond-Clark
(Cover Image: Rhiannon pictured underwater at Shark Bay, Koh Tao, with sea-turtle during trip.)

In February I undertook a four week volunteer reef conservation program on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand.  The island was small and remote, being a two hour boat ride from Koh Samui.  The program had volunteers and permanent employees from around the world, and this meant I worked with people from France, America, Austria, England, and Russia.

The program was physically demanding, but with a great pay-off.  Learning about the marine environment and then going straight out to experience it was incredible.  We’d learn the name of a fish, how to sign underwater, and what the fish meant for the ecosystem.  Then we’d head out and be able to identify it and communicate the identification to the rest of the group, all within a day!

We spend our nights experiencing the local foods and even having a tally of the best versions of our favourite dishes. Then it was on to an hour and a half yoga session run nightly by the dive school.  The yoga was perfectly coupled to diving and helped improve our breathing techniques as well as stretching out the sore muscles from that day’s dive.

(Rhiannon’s images of Chalok, Bay, Thailand, at sunset.)

At first it took some time to adjust to the slow pace of island life, after coming from the high pressure, high pace of Melbourne life.  But once we all leaned into it, it became a very relaxing mentality, which helped us to better cope with the physical exertion of diving daily.

I was lucky enough to be part of a group that swam with two whale sharks (which are the largest fish in the sea and can grow to 12 meters in length!). The smaller one was shy and swam away from our group almost immediately. However, the second, larger one swam with us for about an hour, even very slowly chasing some of our group around, as we suspected it liked the feeling of the bubbles from our air regulators.

(Rhiannon posing underwater at Chun Pon, Koh Tao, Thailand as part of the experience.)

Underwater was a whole new world for me.  Swimming amongst fish, sharks, and sea turtles made it seem as though I was just another creature living in the ocean. The experience has certainly shifted my perspective about how I fit into this incredibly diverse world.

For more information about Study Aboard Opportunities with Deakin please visit our website.

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