Through Big Blue us lowley DMTs and DMs were offered the deal of a lifetime…4 days of living and diving off a swanky boat in the Similan Islands, one of the top dive sites in the world for a considerably cheaper rate than normal. 15 of us got our dollar bills together and headed off for some new and exciting diving out of Khao Lak.
Our adventure began with the night ferry and a sad moment for me at the pier because this was my proper good-bye to Koh Tao. I soon cheered up when I realised that I was fortunate enough, along with the instructors, to book the nice air-conditioned boat with bunk beds. The others somehow got shuffled onto the ‘mats on the ground with leather pillows’ boat. So we said good bye for the night and reassembled in Surrathani very early in the morning, our small restaurant was serving toast which I then covered in my beloved marmite (one of the best things I brought with me, a kiwi traveller essential!). Then it was mini bus time, we wound our way at a terrifying speed down the middle of the road all the way to Khao Lak. The main attraction in Khao Lak is McDonalds! So we all went and made pigs of ourselves having not seen the golden arches for a few months.
That afternoon we boarded the boat, found our dinky little cabins and were briefed on how it would all work. 4 dives a day for three days and then 2 dives on our last day as we headed back to Khao Lak. A lot of compressed air was about to be inhaled. I am writing this post trip and am now a little hazy on the details of the dive sites. Our basic itinerary was starting in the Similan Islands before heading north into Burmese waters to dive Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richeliu Rock (supposedly named by Jacques Cousteau who thought the soft coral looked like the cape of a Cardinal). On our way home we also stopped by a wreck called the Boongsun which had been broken up by the tsunami. I would recommend taking Nitrox on this dive so that you can hang about down there for ages counting Scorpion fish.
The dive sites varied from massive granite boulders to limestone walls all covered in completely different coral than what I had seen before. Then there are the fish…OH THE FISH! So many amazing things to see: Eagle Rays, Turtles, Clown Triggerfish, Giant Morays, Napolean Wrasse, Giant Porcupine fish, Scorpion fish, Lion fish, Box fish, Octopi, Cuttlefish, Lobster, Crabs, Shrimp, loads of tropical fish…everything that lives in the ocean turned up to say hello. Everything that I could ever hope to see and more turned out for the event of the season.
In between dives we were fed a vast mixture of delicious dishes before being left to sunbathe on the top deck or play cards in the nice air-conditioned room downstairs. I was taught a new game called Shithead which then became the card game of the trip and will be taken with me and taught to other travellers along my path. Quite often after making an heroic attempt at reading my book for 2 minutes I would fall asleep and have a lovely nap on the sun deck.
And then as quickly as it had started we were back and disembarking. We spent a night at the Walker’s Inn and the Happy Snapper bar saying our final goodbyes before all going our separate ways the following morning. A few hours on a bus and I was in Phuket where I spent the next three days convalescing in a hostel and trying to rid myself of the hideously snotty cold I picked up after being confined with the other sickies on the boat. From there I flew to Bangkok and spent another three days producing copious amounts of mucus and planning my entry into CAMBODIA!