Due to some requests, I've decided to add my trip report here. This was written for my non-diving friends and family so some things are spelled out.
With only 10 dives logged, I was invited to go on a liveaboard in Thailand by Kim, a fellow diver who lives on Kyushu. With my new obsession with diving in full swing I couldn't refuse. I logged 14 more dives before the trip but was one of lesser experiences people on the trip, but not the least.
Day 1: Sightseeing around Phuket Island.
We rented a mo-ped and zipped around Patong and the surrounding towns. Traffic is crazy but I think its a little better than China. We went to visit Jamie at his shop Sunrise Divers to meet and thank him for planning the trip and also to get me a wetsuit (The only thing that I hadn't bought in my recent diving equipment splurge). Then we just relaxed by the pool waiting for our pickup. It was a pity that the pool was so chlorinated is could've disinfected a hospital. Paulo and Steve, our dive guides for the week, greeted us and loaded us in the van to meet the other people on our trip. Once on Colona VI, we had a run down of the boat and diving procedures for the trip and then watched the small fireworks display which blessed our coming trip as we left the harbor.
Day 2: Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Koh Haa.
Paulo was our guide for the first day. Our first dive was at Hin Daeng. It was my first time diving with my new BP and harness set-up and camera so it was a new experience. (Now that I have got used to diving with the BP&H, I can't recommend it enough. Diving without a weight belt and the weight distribution is fantastic). Some of things we saw were moray eels, bat fish, nudibranches, pink and red anenome fish and a lions mane jelly fish. The only downfall of the dive was having my camera set in the wrong mode (the only one that is unchangeable underwater) and the razor plankton......OUCH!
Dive 2 was at Hin Muang and we saw a lobster, nudibranches, scorpian fish and cleaner shrimp. To our surprise 2 mantas turned up at the end of the dive. Divers went everywhere! The divers that were out of the water donned their fins and masks and tried skin diving to get a decent view or picture of them. Many divers who were still underwater went in hot pursuit.
Dive 3 was again at Hin Muang. Steve and Paulo decided that we would stick around where the mantas had arrived and it proved to be a fantastic idea. All other boats left and what resulted was 4 huge mantas swimming around us for an hour - no other group in sight. The current was really strong which made most people hang on the mooring line for the dive. A pinnacle covered with anemones sheltered those of us not on the mooring line from most of the current. The mantas kept on circling by as the pinnacle was a manta cleaning station. Watching the mantas get cleaned was great to be but I think the mantas liked the attention from us too. Apparently they left the area after we left the water. Definitely memorable.
Dive 4 was at Koh Haa and a sunset dive. It was a nice relaxing dive. Anemone fish, spotted and hexagonal patterned puffer fish and porcelain crabs. It was my first time to dive 4 times in one day so I was pretty tired by the end.
Day 3: Bida Nok (Phi Phi Island), Shark Point and Koh Dok Mai.
Today we dove with Steve and the first dive was at Bida Nok at 7am. We saw different kinds of soft corals, lots of puffer fish, a few table corals and scorpion fish. Dive 2 at Shark Point was cut a bit short by me losing my buddy. I looked behind waited till I got his attention and thought I saw him following but the next time I looked back he was nowhere to be seen. I was pretty worried so went up to see if he had surfaced. He had. Phew! Lesson learned. Dive 3 was at Koh Dok Mai which is a dive along a wall. My favourite part of the dive was a huge open cave area. There were heaps of life in this area. Very nice dive.
The dive at Koh Dok Mai was the last of the trip to the south so we headed back to Patong where we had a few hours to relax on land before joining the boat again with a new group of people. I had decided to do my Nitrox certification so while everybody was rushing around getting settled in, I studied a bit.
Day 4: Anita's Reef, East of Eden and West of Eden
We traveling through the night north to the Similans, where we were told the visibility would be better and it was. There wasn't as much stingy plankton around either. The dive at West of Eden was awesome for one reason in particular. I spotted a leopard shark!!! I was so excited, I am still surprised I didn't use all my air right there and then. I tried to get the attention of everyone in my group but because I had nothing to make noise with, so most people in my group missed it. Only Iggy, turned around to see why I had stopped and saw it too. I couldn't stop smiling for the rest of the dive which in my case is a big problem as my mask fills up with water. The rest of the dive was very enjoyable. It was an interesting site as there are opposing currents.
After finishing the dive at West of Eden we headed to Mooring Bay where we were given the option of going ashore or staying on board and doing a bit of snorkeling. I went ashore and walked up the the lookout with Nuna and Kim. It was a beautiful view but man it was hot! When we returned to the boat I went snorkeling with Nuna and we watching a very cute turtle grazing.
Dive 4 was a night dive at Mooring Bay. It was interesting but there wasn't much to see. I felt very Indiana Jones-ish exploring around with torch light going everywhere. The only notable thing I saw was a huge parrot fish and the beautiful reflections of the boat lights. With different diving groups crossing over each other, we had an interesting time keeping tabs on our group. We lost a few people by the end of the dive but not to worry, they got back to the boat safely.
Day 5: Rocky Point, Koh Bon West Ridge, Tachai pinnacle and Koh Bon.
Today we were back diving with Paolo and the first dive was North Point of the Island affectionately known as Island No.9. There were heaps of cool swim throughs in the rock formations. Dive 2 was at West Ridge at Koh Bon. On this dive there was a feeding rock where there was an abundance of fish of different species and colours. You could've stayed there the whole time taking photos. Unfortunately I didn't get any decent photos of this. Dive 3 was a great learning experience and for me a very fun dive. There was a strong current on top so we used the anchor line to descend (pull ourselves down) and once on the bottom there was a huge surge. Once I relaxed and realised it was better to hover than to try and hold onto stuff, I really enjoyed myself flying around like a plane. I think some of the other divers thought I was crazy. I got to see a fair few things on that dive including multiple scorpion fishes and different varieties of anemone fish. There was a leopard shark but I didn't see it very well. At the end of the dive one of the guys ran out of air and borrowed some of mine. This doesn't usually happen but I was glad to be in the right place at the right time.
The last dive of the day was an afternoon dive at Torinla. It was my first dive of Nitrox (which for those of you who aren't divers it's air with a higher percentage of oxygen that normal air). I definitely like diving it as I didn't get a slight headache as I sometimes get diving. Some say this is from the nitrogen build up.
Day 6: Richelieu Rock and West Ridge
Diving again with Steve we dove our first three dives around Richeleau Rock. This is a very popular spot and because of this we were in the water around 6:30. The highlight was .... seahorses!! A brown male, a yellow female and yellow female baby. We also got to see nudibranches and moray eels. At the end of the dive I managed to pull off a air ring like Otis (my instructor from Okinawa)!! It's a pity I can't do them consistently yet.
Inbetween dives Steve (not dive guide), Iggy and I had a bit of a cool off. We jumped off the top of the boat which probably wasn't a great idea in my bikini but I didn't lose it (completely). Who would've known that I am scared of heights!?!? Paolo and Ann also joined us for a bit of a swim after our jump. It was nice to have a swim without all the scuba gear.
The last dive of the day was at West Ridge. There wasn't anything as exciting as the seahorses ath this site but it was still a very relaxing dive.
Day 7: Elephants Head rock. Shark Fin Reef
The first dive was at Elephants Head Rock with Paolo. This dive site has interesting boulder and rock formations so we were able to do multiple swim throughs. Interesting things we saw were anemone crabs and a huge barracuda. Apparently this barracuda has a huge mean streak so we warned to be careful of it. The second and last dive of the trip was at Shark Fin Reef where there was huge slab rock formations. We saw lots of trigger fish, puffers and anemones.
On our last safety stop, our group decided as a farewell to all inflate our markers. It's usually only one. We all got a bit of a laugh out of it.
We then had to wash all our gear, pack our cabin up and say farewell. It was such a fantastic trip. I will definitely do one (or many) again. Once on land I had the worst sea legs!
Day 8: King Cruiser, Anenome Reef and Shark Point - Day diving trip
Jason and Iggy from the liveaboard invited me to go out on a day trip with them so because I seem to not get enough of diving and I had my gear, I went.
The day started a bit stressfully. Our pickup was really late and then once we made it on the boat we found out none of the equipment we had hired had made it on the boat. Luckily there was some spare equipment on board that we could use.
The first dive was on a wreck of a ferry called King Cruiser. The visibility was bad and there was only a few fish. The good thing of the dive was I got my fingers cleaned by the cleaner shrimp. The bad thing was I lost my group. I probably didn't do the right thing by waiting a full minute at my exact position as I was inside in the wreck. I thought it better to get to open water in case something went wrong. I now know that it is much more stressful for the buddy with the group that the one who got lost. Anyway the guide was... in short.. very angry with me which is fair enough, but I didn't think it was too professional that for the other dives I became invisible even though I was always right there. I'm just glad I didn't get short on air or have any other problem. Even Iggy and Jason noticed I had completely disappeared from the guide's radar. ANYWAY, the next dive was at Anemone Reef, the visibility here was a little better. We saw lots of different coloured moray eels and nudibraches. The third dive was a Shark Point. This was a really nice site. We saw a group of baby eels (10+), 2 nurse sharks, scorpion fish, nudibranches, ghost pipe fish, banded shrimp and at the end of our dive, heaps of barracuda swimming along the surface.
After the diving Iggy, Jason and I went out for a bite which ended up being a huge meal of Austrian food and some drinks.
Please note: This day was booked via a different shop than the liveaboard. NOT Jamie.
Day 9: Sightseeing
On the last full day left in Patong Kim and I took at tour which took us off Phuket Island. We saw a buddha, monkeys, bats, floating villiage and James Bond Rock. It was a great day. We met 3 people from Ireland who were great quality.
It was a great trip all up and if money permits I may head back that way again. I was glad that I could experience both a liveaboard and day trip in quick concession. The difference in Thailand was amazing. Well it was in my experience. I can't recommend the liveaboard enough. The people on board Colona were great. The guides were friendly, helpful and cool to hang out with, the Thai captain and cooking staff were friendly, the two boat boys were a great help when getting on and off the boat and the food was awesome. What more could you ask for?!