THE SCUBA CHRONICLES, KRABI, THAILAND
Back in May, I fulfilled a decades old dream by becoming a certified SCUBA diver. Recently, I discovered Aqua Vision, a 5 star PADI dive resort in Ao Nang, a rather touristy beach resort area about 30 minutes by shared taxi (songtao) from Krabi. I met manager Andy, an Australian transplant, and booked a fun dive to Ko Phi Phi. We left early the next morning on their nice fairly large speedboat. The boat is set up very well with tank racks and a small sun deck. Because of its speed, we got to the dive sites before other boats.
We ended up doing three dives off Ko Phi Phi. In between, we had breakfast and lunch. Lunch was served in the bay made famous by the film, The Beach. By our noonish arrival, it was packed with boats and we watched scores of tourists bobbing in PFDs (personal flotation devices) trying to snorkel. Not exactly like the film!
Fortunately, under the water is a much different story. Our first dive had fair visibility of 10-15 meters. A reef shark was spotted in the distance and there were smaller fish, including a lion fish to view closeup.
The second dive unfortunately had terrible visibility. However for the third dive of the day we went down in a strong current and did my first drift dive along a large vertical wall. The visibility was excellent and it was a new experience surrendering to the current and letting it carry you along the wall while you conserved your energy. When we surfaced an hour later, the boat was close by waiting for us. The wall was filled with a great collection of hard and soft corrals, some over one meter across.
I was very impressed with Aqua Vision’s clean and professional approach. Their attention to safety and informative pre-dive briefings added to my overall opinion. Their equipment is in good condition. The boat is well maintained and piloted. The instructors and divemasters really knew their stuff and the area in which we dived.
As a result of this positive experience, I decided to come back a few days later and do my Advanced Open Water Diver Certification Training (AOWD). This would allow me to improve my fledgling skills and extend my diving limit from 18 to 30 meters (100 feet). There was one other participant, Kayla, a diver and snowboarder from Breckinridge. Our teacher was Master SCUBA Instructor Jason. I was given a manual and coursework to do at home prior to the actual required five dives.
Arriving the next morning at 7:30 am, we headed out. Our first dive was the required deep dive to 30 meters. The dive site was the King Cruiser Wreck so this qualified as a specialty wreck dive as well. Visibility was poor at depth but still quite interesting. We circumnavigated the wreck noting the disintegrating decks. At the stern are several toilets, their containments no longer in existence. As the decks are starting to fall in and the top of ferry is sinking, this is a “no penetration allowed” dive.
Following breakfast and our second dive briefing we piloted to nearby Shark point. Visibility was again fairly poor but we were able to spot lionfish and many starfishes as well.
Back on the boat, lunch was served. We rested and then prepared for our final dive of the day at Anemone Reef. This dive a bit over 20 meters straight down provided the best visibility of the day. We practiced our neutral buoyancy skills which are so important in becoming a proficient diver. And we were rewarded with sights of seahorses and moray eels.
On the following day we completed our final two dives in previously unvisited sites off Ko Phi Phi The first dive was a required underwater navigation dive. For the final dive I had chosen the elective Underwater Photography Adventure Dive. We learned and refined many underwater photography skills and I was able to raise my fledgling game to a new level.
Back at Aqua Vision and following a brief written examination, Kayla and I congratulated each other and talked about what’s next. For her it is a return to Breckenridge for the start of the season. For me…well you probably guessed…it’s more diving.