Scuba Diving at Ko Phi Phi
While on my way to Long Beach, I stopped at the Barakuda Dive Center when I saw a sign for the afternoon two tank dive. Southern Thailand has some very good (and cheap!) diving which I will miss out on this time around as I just simply do not have enough time to stay there. I figured I might as well go for an afternoon dive if I can make it back to the dive shop in time. Once I finally got a place to stay, I made it to the dive shop just a bit after 1pm cut off for the afternoon dive, but they still let me join them. After filling out the paperwork and getting a set of gear together, we walked over to our boat. I was going to dive with an Australian couple and a guy from Sweden with a dive master and another guy that just joined the diving outfit - not a bad ratio.
Ko Bida Nok Dive Site
After a short ride, we were at our first dive site - Ko Bida Nok. The tank was already prepared for us so I just had to strap on my weight belt, get the BCD on and put the fins on. While at it, I decided to drop one of the 1 kilo weights so I had a total of 4 kilos. It has been over a year since I dove, so for a second there I looked at it a bit stumbled, but then the training took over and all looked good. The pressure gauge was in HPA and meters, so that would take a bit of getting used to, but otherwise we were good to go.
As soon as we started to go down, it was apparent that I need more weight so the dive master stuck one more kilo into my BCD pocket. Still, it was not enough, and I kept forcing myself to stay down making it quite a bit tiring. The visibility was not great at about 15 meters, and really sucked at the beginning because my mask was a bit fogged up and I dreaded getting some water in it to clear it as that was always my least favorite exercise.
The coral was abundant, but nothing too exciting or colorful. On the other hand, we saw lots of colorful fishes swimming around, some quite large. At some points we were surrounded by sculls of smaller fish and that was pretty cool to see how the entire skull reacts to our movements. Still, we did not see any sharks or anything too exciting. In fact, our dive master told us that it was probably the most dead he has ever seen it at this spot. Oh well, I still saw more fishes than I have seen on any of my prior dives.
Before surfacing, we made a safety stop for three minutes, and I really struggled to keep myself down there because my tank was empty and I was really light and buoyant - definitely more weight for me for the next dive.
After everyone got picked up, we went to Maya Bay to take a break, have some lunch, and swim around while few of the people working on the certification went through a few of the required exercises. While beautiful, the bay was pretty crowded with longtail boats, catamarans, and other ships doing diving and snorkeling trips. While there, we watched one of the 'booze cruise' sailboats motor through - it looked pretty sad with the sail down and loud and obnoxious drunk people all around.
As I later found out, those booze cruises are a rip off, usually just offering free cheapo beer and stocking only half as much snorkeling gear as there are passengers and only a few canoes. Definitely something not to do next time.
Maya Bay Corner Dive Site
We got a little bit out of the Maya Bay when it was time to get our gear on and go down for the second dive. Once again, the gear was set up for us so I did not have to try to remember how to switch tanks, just put it on, test it, buddy check it, and off we went. The dive site was shallower than the previous at only about 10-15 meters/30-45 feet. Once again we saw some fish and few skulls of the little ones with the highlight of the dive being a large turtle at least a meter in diameter sitting at bottom and munching on the coral while the fishies were snapping up the smaller pieces. A bit later we saw another turtle just a bit smaller swimming down to the bottom.
This time I had six kilograms on my weight belt and for a while, that was enough to keep me down with just a bit of air in my BCD to balance it out. I was enjoying a relaxed swim while working on my breathing. All that went to hell once my air tanks got low and I was once again buoying up after about 40 minutes. The boat picked me up while the dive master and my dive buddy went back down for another 20 minutes or so.
While waiting for others on the boat, I enjoyed the scenery around me, but could not help thinking that while nice, it is way way way too touristy here. It was impossible to take any pictures without a bunch of boats being in them. I think I got spoiled by the mostly untouched Bacuit archipelago in the Philippines.
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