“Just inhale through your nose and exhale through your nose, continue doing this at a moderate rate and then very soon you won’t even know you’re breathing”-instructions given to us as we got back on the ferry after our 50 minute dive.
Scuba Diving had been on my bucket list for quite some time, so when I got to travel to Thailand, I knew it had to be done and hopefully done right.
Though July wouldn’t be considered to be the most ideal month, I was fortunate I found decent weather. I booked myself a Padi Discover Scuba course with Aussie Divers after referring to some excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. I had pre booked and paid for my dive online, but I was happy to find that the price was as fair as it was going to get and the reviews absolutely true.
I had booked my dives from Phuket (Refer to note later). For 4,050 THB I got 2 dives at Racha Yai along with hotel pick up and drop as well as a pre dive session in the pool. (It is definitely advisable for first time to make time for it)
So, the day before my dive,I was given a one on one instruction session about techniques of Scuba at the head office. In retrospect, I can’t imagine completing the dive successfully if it were not for the pre dive session. (Refer to note later)
The next day, I was picked up at 7 and after a couple more pickups we were driven to the pier where we met our instructors and rest of the group. I was grouped with three girls from Singapore. Emily and Nik were to be our instructors and would have to bear the pain we would turn out to be.
We took our first dive after about an hour and a half into the sea. As first timers, we were all overwhelmed. All expectations were surpassed. The visibility inside the water was fantastic. The water was clear and the sun was shining. We were able to spot(not necessarily recognize) Snappers, Ghost Pipefish, Morays, Mantis Shrimps, Jacks and the ones we couldn’t identify.
We reluctantly headed back up. We cringed at our tan lines and realized just how famished we were. The chef was kind enough to cook vegetarian food for those who had specifically asked for it in the beginning.
After lunch we headed for our second dive at Racha Noi,just a small distance off the first site. This time, we were better prepared than to be overwhelmed. This site was more about corals and they were stunning. At first it was pretty shallow starting from 3 – 10 m, but the hard coral reef slope went through 25 m on the bottom with stag horn coral. There were flat worms, nudibranchs, mixture of sea fan and sea whips.We also found soft corals, fire corals, and sea fans attached to the rocks.We swam around cement blocks that acted as artificial reefs. The reefs really facilitated spotting.
As our dive was coming to an end, we signaled our instructors to stay a little bit longer. But there is only so convincing and dramatic you can get underwater, using only your hand gestures and signals for communication. And up we were.
Here are a couple of things I guess I would tell someone wishing to go scuba diving in Thailand, based on my limited yet first-hand experience.
- For the first timers, a 2 dive tour would be ideal. It is pretty tiring and you feel way too many emotions to be able to process everything. Each dive lasts 45 minutes (It feels way shorter) so in all 90 minutes or more in water is really as much as you’d like.
- It’s a tiny bit more expensive to go diving from Phuket as it is far from the dive site. I would recommend going diving from Koh Phi Phi if it’s in your itinerary (If not, put it down NOW). The diving site is close by so you end up saving on the transfer costs, besides a lot of divers spot sharks, octopuses and sometimes even turtles.
- And for those wondering if it’s a total necessity to pre book, Hell no! You’re likely to get fair prices and in most cases availability in your preferred slots even if you were to just walk into a scuba operator’s office. Just make sure you have a day or so extra in hand. Insist on a pre-dive session.
Sure, we all studied buoyancy and under water pressure and weights but it was this scuba diving experience that introduced me to the concept of time relativity under water-it flies too quickly!