A gorgeous day!
We are on a boat, heading to 2 dive sites in the Andaman Sea, for the 1st day of diving in our advanced scuba certification course. The course consists of 5 different dives over two days. Today we will do 2 of them, the wreck dive and the underwater naturalist dive.
We had been picked up at our hotel by the dive shop’s Tuk Tuk, and then driven 30 minutes to Chalong, at the south-east corner of Phuket Island. Phuket is the largest of the many islands in Thailand, slightly bigger than Barbados and slightly smaller than Singapore. Then we boarded a boat for the 90 minute trip to the dive sites. On board, we met some great people – Maricar from San Francisco, John from Manila, and Vani, who is also doing his advanced certification course, from Richmond Hill. Azad, a Kurd originally from Sweden, who has lived and taught diving on Phuket for five years, is our instructor. Azad has brought his underwater camera so that we will have photos of today’s dives.
The Magic of Wreck Diving
We jump into the water and descend along the mooring line, and the magic of diving is upon us. The sensation of floating, with friends but alone, only the sounds and sights of the ocean, is true freedom. The 1st dive is at the site of the King Cruiser, a car and passenger ferry that rammed a coral reef in 1997 and slowly sank, with no loss of life. This wreck is clearly exactly that – a ship underwater; it has quite a different feeling from the Liberty wreck in Bali, probably because the Liberty was sunk 60 years ago, and was so coral encrusted that it was not evidently man-made. There is abundant life everywhere as we swim the around and through the hull. In addition to the usual, angelfish, groupers, sweetlips, we see numerous lionfish, and a pufferfish that has been startled by something and so is scurrying to hide, but at full size. The immediate and dramatic changes in water temperature as we move about the wreck are quite surprising.
After 2 hours on the boat between dives, in which there is a surprisingly good (this is a dive boat, after all – the norm would be more like a cold sandwich) Thai curry and lots of conversation with all our new friends, we go back in for our 2nd dive. The boat has moved a few hundred metres to Shark Point, and Azad promises us that we will see at least two kinds of sharks. We do – a nurse shark and bamboo sharks. Bamboo sharks, while apparently sharks, are so cute – they don’t get longer than about 50 centimeters, and they don’t like people. To see them, we have to peer into their hiding spaces, floating upside down. We also see some barracuda, scorpionfish, and some white-eyed moray eels.
For each of the 5 dives in the advanced certification, there is a written test, and the answer to one of the questions for this afternoon’s dive, of how humans provoke attacks underwater, includes either assuming the fish are friendly or have human characteristics, and also, to the contrary, believing that they are inherently dangerous. It is so different underwater – you get so close to the fish without them appearing concerned that it is easy to assume they are friendly: on land, you could never get so close to wild creatures without provoking defensive reactions. Even the dangerous fish, such as the lionfish and the scorpionfish, do not react when Azad swims quite close and takes their photos (unlike Balinese temple monkeys).
The day is perfect and gorgeous as we head back to shore!