I arrived in Thailand at the end of March 2011 armed with my PADI Open Water certification and a mere 7 dives under my belt. After a Scuba Review dive with terrible visibility off Koh Tao, I did the Enriched Air Nitrox specialty course and then the Advanced Open Water course at Buddha View Dive Resort, with PADI instructor, and friend, Robert Scales.
For my PADI Advanced Open Water Course, I chose to do deep, navigation, peak buoyancy, night and, of course, photography as my adventure dives to complete the course.
Everything went smoothly, and I did not feel the effects of nitrogen narcosis during the deep dive segment. I was fairly nervous about doing the night dive. Diving in the dark, where you can see only where your light shines was hugely intimidating for me. But surprisingly, I found it to be very peaceful and even relaxing. It was probably my best dive experience off Koh Tao.
So, just like that, 3 days later, I was an Advanced Open Water Diver! Yes!!
So… The whole purpose of doing the Advanced Open Water course was to do a three day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock with Eden Divers in Khao Lak. Our experience with Eden Divers was better than I could have imagined. Never having done a liveaboard before, I was unsure what I should expect, but this far exceeded my expectations!
We chose Eden Divers because of the small number of people on the boat. The Sea of Fantasy can take up to 13 liveaboard guests plus crew. We were not interested in going out on a massive boat with 30+ people, where you would constantly be running into people while diving. 13 seemed like it would be a much better and intimate experience. So, we splurged (just a tiny splurge) and booked ourselves one of the two air conditioned master cabins on the ship. Awesome!
The trip included 5 amazing meals a day, coffee, tea, drinking water, fruit and snacks, and you could also purchase soft drinks and beer on the ship, or bring your own. You could do up to four dives each day and if you were nitrox certified (which I now was), the nitrox was included at no extra cost. And to top it all off our guide, Fariborze, was amazing!
Diving courses were also available on the boat, as each guide is a certified instructor. So, for example, if you didn’t have your nitrox certification when you boarded the ship, you could upgrade your knowledge and skills while on the trip and do your dives on nitrox. We had one fellow guest who had started her Open Water course a couple of days before the trip, and she completed it on the boat and decided to also do her Advanced Open Water and Nitrox courses on the boat as well.
The crew on the boat was nothing short of awesome! Our rooms were cleaned and made up each day. The meals we ate were super tasty. The deck crew below, helping with our gear thought of everything before we even had a spark of an idea in our minds. We barely had to do anything except climb into our wetsuits, strap on our BCDs and jump in the 29 celsius water! Awesome!
So, on to the fun stuff! What did we see….??? We woke up on the first day to a tornado/water spout! Very cool! We did 11 dives over 3 days and saw all kinds of crazy creatures: lion fish, dancing shrimp, many giant moray eels and barracudas, many different nudibranchs, trigger fish, box fish (one of my favourites), black spotted puffer fish, porcupine fish, groupers, travellys, the biggest lobster I’ve EVER seen (I’m probably evil for wanting to see it on my plate…), sea horses, harlequin shrimp, ghost pipefish, trumpet fish, jans pipefish, spider crabs, leopard sharks, napoleon wrasse, bandit sea snakes (very poisonous), stone fish, scorpion fish, honeycomb moray eels, and that just scratches the surface! Of course we saw all of the more common creatures like clown fish, anemones, urchins, corals, etc. The two things I was really hoping to encounter were the manta rays and a whale shark, but they did not reveal themselves to us on this adventure. It just means I will have to keep looking and finding many other critters in the process!
So as I stepped off the ship, I now had logged 24 dives in my log book, and I feel much more confident underwater.
It’s funny… when most people look out at the ocean, they have no idea of what lies beneath. There truly is a whole other world on this planet that we share, and I have not even scratched the surface with what I have seen. I could get used to being on the water more. A different view each time you look out, and a new world to explore each time you jump overboard. Doesn’t sound half bad. I could get used to that life.
A HUGE thank you Eden Divers for an amazing experience in the Similan Islands! Thank you Fariborze for being a brilliant guide! And thank you Robert, for being my instructor and dive buddy throughout our Thailand diving adventures! The trip was truly amazing.