It was an incredibly intense four days with so many highlights for a new diver; take your pick, and forgive me for listing far too many – it really WAS that good!:
- Similans – awesome kick-off for certification day – Dolphin Queen was off to Elephant Head Rock (big currents and big boulders – not for us in diver ed.) so, decked up in full scuba gear, had a long, bouncy ride on the zodiac to Donald Duck Bay (no, really) for our final skills test.
- Koh Bon – dropped off the boat into a nasty bay of dynamite fished coral, instantly disappointed. But, from the desolation a small ledge drops down to a vertical wall – down to 18m and a world of difference awaits – hanging upside down at max depth, looking straight up through layer after layer of marine life to the sunshine and the surf crashing on the rocks, No camera could take it in – priceless.
- Koh Tachai North – chilled out drift dive along sandy reef, tons of coral, posing for underwater photographer Soren (whilst trying to pretend you’re not). Suddenly, the coral disappears, boulders emerge, a current kicks off and we’re away on a roller coaster going the wrong way. Surfacing after the safety stop, it was a matter of putting the head down and digging deep to get where the zodiac could see us.
- Koh Tachai South – night dive – putting the torches to our chests to block the light, then waving our hands through hundreds of little blue bio-luminescent balls – awesome experience to be underwater after dark.
- Koh Tachai Plateau – bored with the small creatures, I happily scanned the deep blue beyond us and came up tops – a leopard shark coming to the plateau to be cleaned, who took one look at us and buggered off sharpish.
- Boon Suung wreck dive – for three days we’d been warily avoiding lionfish sitting on rocks (touching one is meant to be like putting your hand in burning oil – I’ll pass, thanks), but drop down to the wreck and there are loads of them bloody swimming around! – my head was spinning exorcist-style trying to work out where the not-so-little buggers were.
Ultimate highlight would have to be the first dive at Richelieu Rock – a seamount in the middle of the sea which pokes just a metre or so out of the water at low tide. This would be a live drop – the captain motors in towards the dive site before flipping the boat around and sounding the horn – GO! 20 impatient divers behind you in the queue, so negative entry – the idea is you jump with your buoyancy device deflated and sink like a stone to clear the entry point and get the hell out of the surface currents – serious adrenalin kick to start that dive.
As intense as the diving was for us novices, the atmosphere and set up on the boat was very chilled. Three lovely, lovely Thai ladies cooked amazing food for us and three equally nice Thai blokes ran the boat deck with military precision – every time I struggled to get into my BCD or put a fin on, they were there to sort me out. And, as the trip progressed, even the Captain chilled out a bit. The problem was one of interpretation and understanding – we thought we were on the ultimate dive trip, but the Captain was actually on a fishing trip annoyingly interrupted by some stupid farang wanting to go diving – every other time the engines stopped we’d get twitchy thinking it was wetsuit time, only for the Captain to rush past us on his way to the rod and line he’d been trailing off the back.
I could complain, but then he pulled in a giant mackerel (think almost 1m) and 30 minutes later the wasabi and soy came out for the ultimate fresh sushi session.
Note: As you can see from the photo captions, we had a very talented photographer with us on the dives - Soren Egeberg - his pics were worth every penny he charged. Cheers Soren!