7 years on from my last visit to Thailand and specifically Phuket, I find myself back here in a place that has so many memories for me. I visited back in 2010 and then again in 2012 with my girlfriend and had an amazing time exploring a country full of culture and adventure. Now I am back again to explore the underwater world around Phuket and the Similan Islands.
We are on a two week dive itinerary organised by The Scuba Place taking in some land-based diving and a liveaboard. Week 1 has seen us based in Kata Beach, Phuket and diving with Sea Fun Divers to the sites popular with divers who visit the area. Sites such as the King Cruiser Wreck, where we unfortunately got zero visibility but I got the sense in good vis it would be an amazing site, Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai. With sites also in Phi Phi National Park, Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands it was an enjoyable 5 days of boat diving. A delicious lunch, soft drinks and water were all included in the package adding to the experience creating a great day out on the water.
The visibility ranged from site to site, with crystal clear waters at the majority of sites but we were also hit with some interesting visibility at others. One site even treated us to the full spectrum of vis as we had a few metres visibility at most down at around 18 metres but as we came up the vis improved to around 30 metres.
Even when the vis wasn’t great it didn’t stop us from all getting a glimpse of some amazing marine life throughout the 5 days. The schools of snapper were a real treat on most sites and in particular in Phi Phi National Park as they engulfed the pinnacles and would slowly part as you drifted through them.
Black tip reef sharks, turtles, frogfish, cuttlefish and stingrays were some of the exotic marine life that the group encountered on a more infrequent basis. Whereas stonefish, scorpionfish and sea snakes were an abundant part of the diving wherever we went and were seen on most dives during the trip. Seeing some of the extraordinary gorgonian fan corals in great sizes was a real treat for me personally.
There is certainly a lot more to Phuket than diving as there is an array of tours on offer from land to sea. With a full day free before our trip on the liveaboard we chose not to rest but to organise a trip with John Gray’s Sea Canoe. Our trip took us back on the water but not under it as we went out to Phang-Nga Bay to explore the amazing marine geology on offer at this natural wonder. We squeezed under caves as we lay on the canoes to avoid the low ceilings that then opened up into stunning lagoons called Hongs (Thai for Rooms).
Between the group a wide range of wildlife was spotted as we saw a family of macaques, water monitor lizard, kingfisher, mudskippers, brahminy kites, and a hornbill even gave us a fleeting glimpse as it flew overhead. We then finished up the day making a flower “Kratong” and heading out as the sun set to light a candle and watch it float in the water. We also had the treat of witnessing bioluminescent plankton sparkle like stars as you waved your hand through the water. The trip was a great day out and an alternative to being underwater that was topped off by being served a delicious lunch and dinner onboard. John Gray himself was even present on the tour and it was great to see him gathering rubbish along the way as he paddled along. Any tour where the owner is conscious about pollution on the ocean gets my vote.
All in all the first week on this two week itinerary has been great with all the group having an amazing time. The food in the restaurants has been extremely tasteful, whether its been authentic Thai or enjoying an alternative, more western-style, dish. A night on Bangla Road in Patong was an enjoyable change from quieter Kata Beach. As the night draws in, it becomes a walking street full of bars and life. The live music in some of the bars is amazing with very talented musicians on show. But now it’s time to head out on the liveaboard and fingers crossed for some amazing diving in the Similan Islands.