Diving, diving and more diving
Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
63Trip End Aug 05, 2007
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Yes, that's right. We're still on Phuket Island in sunny southern Thailand where the weather continues to be perfect. The first part of the week was spent at the beach swimming in the shallow water to keep Nathan's ears dry. Good news, the infection is gone and he can hear me again.
In the last three days we have completed 10 and a half dives (more on the half dive later). The first 3 dives were done on a day trip from Phuket - while the last 7 (and a half) were done on a two-day liveaboard boat to one of the top dive sites in Asia - Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. The boat we chose was a German-run operation called Sea Bees (www.sea-bees.com).
As you can imagine, it was very efficiently run, the pickup and all the dives were on time. We had our own designated English-speaking instructor/guide named Florian (from Switzerland - as have all our diving guides/instructors). All the others on board were German, but most of the dive briefings were done in English. Of course the tour director/leader, Estephan, joked that his "Bavarian English" was so bad that nobody would understand.
Nathan here: this guy was hilarious. His accent was great (like Arnold - California Governor, actor) and he had this funny way of saying that everything under the water was aggressive - including the tiny cleaner shrimp. As if...
Tara here: The boat we were on had only been in the water for 2 months so everything was brand new and looked it. The place was spotless. With only 10 divers, a crew of five and three instructor/guides, it was a real treat to stretch out in the sun after each dive and relax with a mango fruit shake (no beer while diving).
Nathan here: True to form, I stuck with an ice cold coke. Ah. As you can imagine, the dive industry in Thailand is simply huge and there is lots of competition. We had been told that there are over 120 dive operators in Phuket alone. There are simply a ton of boats to choose from. Some are real cattle cruisers, in other words, boats packed with so many divers that you can hardly move. Come dive time, everyone is bumping into each other and chaos reigns. Not much fun but you get used to it. There's also a lot less time between dives because the boat is trying to get back to the dock on time. Prior to the liveaboard, most of our dives were like this to some degree. Well things were completely different with this boat. The dive deck seemed bigger than my first apartment so there was plenty of space to get suited up. What's more, we averaged 1.5-2 hours between dives so there was plenty of time for the body to continue releasing the nitrogen it absorbed during the dives. The service was simply all class.
Tara here: Yes, every thing exceeded our expectations, we saw reef sharks (black tipped and silver) and a manta ray, thousands of fish in schools, big and small. It really is just another world. Nathan even did his first night dive. Lots of lobsters and it is just so peaceful underwater at night. Funny story, as most of you know Asian tourists are renowned for traveling in large groups and snapping many photos of just about everything. Well, we found out today that the same applies underwater - let me tell you - there was a boat of Japanese tourists diving at one of our dive sites today and they had twice as many cameras as divers under water! Most of them had one on each arm with big extending light attachments. And the funny part was none of them could dive worth a damn! It was too funny!
Nathan here: A quick word about the half dive which was supposed to be the seond dive of the liveabord trip. We dropped into the water at our scheduled dive site and proceeded to descend only to find the visibility to be horendous - less than 1.5ms which posed serious safety issues. So the dive was quickly cancelled. Our dive computers showed that the experience lasted a total of 8 minutes and we reached 12m. Not much of a dive.
Prior to the liveaboard, Tara and I completed an enriched air course. The theory part was no problem although I must admit that Tara scored a perfect 100% on the exam while I came in at 96%. We then completed two dives with nitrox - 32% and 36% oxygen respectively. Without getting too technical, the main advantage to diving with enriched air is that it decreases the amount of nitrogen the body absorbs when at depth. This a good thing because too much nitrogen can lead to decompression illness which is just not nice. Enriched air has its own considerations but most people here swear by it, especially when diving several times a day over an extended period of time.
Our first nitrox dive was to see the King Cruiser wreck, which was originally a catamaran-style car and passenger ferry in Kobe, Japan before being purchased by a Thai company to be used as a passenger ferry between nearby islands and Phuket. In May 1997, the ferry struck Anemone Reef (another popular dive site we've been to twice) and it sank nearby. Although there were over 500 people on board when she went down, no lives were lost and now the wreck remains as an underwater attraction in the Phuket dive industry. Of interest, there are many who believe that the sinking was deliberate. Apparently this area was "missing a wreck" for scuba diving so the theory goes that the captain was "bought" to wreck the ship. Hard to imagine but the captain is apparently in jail in Phuket.
The wreck is 85 metres long by 25 metres wide, and has four decks with large passages and window holes. The wreck is resting in an upright position at a depth of 32 metres - deep but still manageable. This is a good example of why Tara and completed our advanced training so we can dive to this depth. Although it's only been 10 years, the wreck is heavily rusting and many sections have collapsed. As a result of the rust particles, visibility is not great and, at most, is 10-20 feet at the bottom.
Our second nitrox dive was to a nearby reef and, again, the experience was great. The nitrox really extended the amount of time we could spend underwater and we both felt a lot less tired at the end of the day.
On virtually every dive we see every kind of tropical fish imaginable. I won't bore people with names at this point because we don't have pictures to match - not yet anyway. The few I'm attaching were taken from our camera. I'll be the first one to admit that taking a steady pic underwater is pretty tricky unless you have something to hold on to. Thing is, touching coral is not good so I've had to really work on my buoyancy control. I'm progressing but wait until you see our friend's pictures. No comparison. His pictures really do justice to the scenery we've been enjoying. Jim: you'll be interested to know that he takes his pics with a G7 like yours so you may wish to think about getting a case...
So we've completed a total of 17 dives in Thailand. We're certainly not finished yet. At this point, we're trying to decide where to go next and a liveaboard to the Similan Islands is high on our list of things to do. Also want to continue our dive training with a rescue course so we'll see if things can fit in the time we have left here in Thailand. Although at this point, I'm willing to sacrifice a few weeks in Malaysia to continue diving here. I know, it's tough having these choices to make...
N & T.