(Feb 10th 2013)
1 week and 13 glorious dives later we’ve run out of time here on Koh Phi Phi and are preparing to make our way up to Khao Lak tomorrow to board our floating home for the remainder of the trip. We’ve had a very eventful week here with a few misadventures along the way! But before I get to those…lets talk diving!
Here in Phi Phi with Blue View Divers we dive off of longtail boats – its basically a wooden skiff that’s been set up to hold tanks in the middle with a re-purposed car engine on the back for propulsion. It’s a wet’n wild ride; nothing stays dry! To enter the water you either roll off the back (1 person from each side at the same time so the boat stays balanced) or just toss your kit overboard and hop in after it. We’ve done 4 days of local sites – meaning around the nearby islands of Phi Phi Ley and the Bidas (Nai and Nok). The sites are gorgeous, full of anemones and soft corals, positively bursting with life and color! It wasn’t uncommon for there to be so many schools of fish they literally obscured our views of the reef…pretty awesome problem in my books! Our surface intervals were spent touring through Pi-Leh lagoon and having lunch on the beach of Maya Bay (where the 1999 movie The Beach was filmed). It’s such a beautiful spot there, and will forever hold a special place in my heart, as it is where Warren surprised me with a proposal. I was so dazed and distracted by my newly engaged status I don’t remember a single thing from the second dive that day after he popped the question!
The other 2 days diving were spent venturing further out to sea to dive at a place called Koh Haa – literally “5 islands” with a lagoon in the middle. It was a long boat ride out and back but it was a fun day full of donuts, diving, sun tanning (or sun burning, for most of us) and jumping off the top deck into the lagoon. The other day we did 3 dives – King Cruiser wreck (a sunken car ferry accused of insurance fraud), Shark Point and Anemone Reef. All of them were deep so we used enriched air to extend our bottom times. Room air contains 21% oxygen and 79% nitrogen so one of the ways divers can extend the amount of time they spend at depth (limited mainly by the accumulation of nitrogen in our bodies) is to increase the amount of oxygen in our tanks, thus decreasing the amount of nitrogen we’re breathing so we don’t accumulate it as quickly at depth. We used a blend of 32% O2, but nitrox certified divers can use anything from 22%-40%. For most of our group this was their first time using nitrox as they were only just certified before we all left for Thailand. We’ll be doing 4 dives a day on the live aboard and unlimited nitrox is only 2000 baht (about 60$) so we’re all planning on taking full advantage of that.
We were all lucky bums this week and got to see several leopard sharks, about 7 to 12 blacktip reef sharks, schools of barracuda, tons of clownfish (Nemos!), all sorts of shrimp, hawksbill turtles, eels galore and TONS more! I was continually shocked at the variety here – with the exception of the new-to-me Indo Pacific species, I’ve seen all of these things before…but I’ve never seen ALL of them together, on every dive. It was sublime.
As for those misadventures…
On one occasion our boat’s propeller got tangled in a submerged mooring line and ripped the engine right off the boat. The captain took quite the blow to the chest and after an impromptu medical assessment (helps to have a doc and a nurse on board!) we sent him off to the hospital. Thankfully, he suffered only bruises and is taking some time off now to recover. It was scary but no one else was hurt and Blue View was so organized they had another boat called and we were off diving within no time at all. We’re also down a trip leader for the Similans live aboard. Sadly, Alexandra is sick; poor girl is so dizzy she can’t even open her eyes. She’s off to the hospital too and we wish her a speedy recovery! We’re definitely going to miss her! My personal “favorite” misadventure was the jellyfish incident. We were dropped on a shallow reef out in open ocean and all we could see in every direction was sea nettle jellyfish. We had to descend through them but I somehow managed to avoid being stung. Our dive around the reef was interrupted a few times by a wall of them so we’d simply turn around and go back the way we’d come. It was no biggie…until the end of the dive. We spotted a bunch of leopard sharks and of course hung out with them for a bit but this cost us dearly as we were then smack in the middle of thousands and thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of those painful jellies. Thankfully I was in a full wetsuit and only got stung on my face, neck, and ears on the way up. Warren was in board shorts; poor guy’s legs got it bad. Yikes!
I also had an issue with my regulators on the very first dive in Koh Phi Phi; they started free flowing underwater as some small part in the second stage (the part that goes in my mouth) failed. It wasn’t quite as fast a free flow as what we practice for in our open water certification, but it was fast enough that I had return to the surface immediately and switch over to rental regs. Watching my gauge and seeing my tank empty of air quite quickly was uncomfortable, but I’m proud of myself for handling my first real underwater problem with calm. I didn’t panic, I recognized there was a problem and that it could not be fixed underwater, signaled the guide and, after making sure the rest of the group was under the watchful eyes of another DM, we made a safe ascent to the surface. This may seem trivial to those of you who have been diving for ages, but for little old me I was happy to know that my training and experience thus far prepared me to cope with the situation, as I’d never really been “tested” before. This is especially good news since now that I’m a dive professional I’ll have to solve other people’s problems underwater too!
Overall we’ve had a relaxing week here enjoying, and alternatively escaping, the intense heat of the sun. Our trip guests filled their evenings with Thai massages, romantic beach side dinners and plenty of spicy food. We loved diving with Blue View; Alexandra, Kris, Caroline and Narong were fantastic guides and so fun to dive with. They had great eyes for the little stuff and their enthusiasm for diving was contagious. It makes such a huge difference to dive with people who aren’t just “working” but truly loving it too! Hearing Caroline literally squeal with delight through her regulator underwater put a huge grin on my face every time as I’d turn towards her excitedly, knowing she’d found something awesome. If Koh Phi Phi is on your diving bucket list too you couldn’t do better than Blue View.
Happy diving friends and thanks for tuning in!