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Phuket is home to dozens of dive shops and live-aboard operations.  What follows is a brief description of a trip I did with the 'Scuba Cat Adventure' plus details of a two day wreck diving course I did with the same company.

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06th Feb. 2003

Scuba Cat's dive shop is right in the middle of Patong's beache between a McDonalds and a Starbucks, very exotic. You enter the shop via a tiny hump-backed bridge that spans a very small pool where, during the day, trainees do their mask-clearing etc. much to the bemusement of people walking past the shop.

However, at 7.30pm the pool is empty but the shop is open and it is here that I meet P.J. a friendly Swedish guy who's in charge of all diving on the 'Adventure'.

The second dive leader is Noon, a Thai lady.
The plan is to be picked up at 8pm and drive to the boat but a group of four Thai divers don't turn up until 9.10 so we're pretty late by the time we arrive at the pier and once we've all been ferried across to the boat the captain fires up the engines and we're off!  

There are only ten divers on board this trip so I get a cabin to myself.  It's quite small but it has two large windows so I can lie on the top bunk and watch the ocean roll past.  The bottom bunk is where I deposit my bags and to be honest if there had been two of us it would have been a very tight fit but for one it was great.  

One of the things that can make or break a trip is the other divers, but they were a lovely bunch of people.  The four Thais didn't speak much English but were very friendly. The others were a mix of Australian, English, German, American and Japanese.

The crew were excellent and the food (provided you liked Thai) was very good.


07th Feb. 9.15am. The Similan Islands

Our first dive was the usual try out to satisfy the dive leader that we weren't too much of a danger to ourselves or him. I buddied with Christine, who had just qualified as a PADI advanced diver.  

We didn't see much though we sucked the same amount of air so buddied for the rest of the trip. On surfacing we were chatting away as we swam blissfully towards the wrong boat. However, at least it was the same company and hence was the same colours as ours.  A couple (well, several actually) blasts from our fog-horn had us turning in the right direction.

11a.m Chicken Bend.

This was a superb dive. Great visability and several huge boulders with three or four excellent swim throughs. Masses of healthy fan coral and a never ending stream of Yellow and Blue Fusiliers that all looked as if they'd been freshly painted so bright were the colours.  Huge shoals of smaller fish parted like a shimmering curtain as we swam gently through them.  Max. deph 27metres and we managed 49 minutes of pure enjoyment.

3.30pm North Point

This was my one hundredth dive, so I was pleased to see a beautiful Leopard Shark.  It was in great condition and seemed quite used to divers.

At dinner that evening every one was more than happy with the first day.  We ate on the very spacious top deck and exchanged travel plans/dive trips over a few beers.

Christine and Dave were at the start of a years back packing trip and were headed for Australia.  Pitt (Australian) and his Japanese girlfriend seemed to be on permanent holiday and made a living buying stuff in one country and selling it on in the next one they visited.

Pitt also busked in the tourist spots juggling firebrands.  He was to demonstrate his fire-eating act on board one evening after cadging half a pint of diesel from the engineer! (I kid you not, I've got the video to prove it).

08th Feb. 7.30am. Koh Bon Pinnacle

The boat moved slowly over the top of this site and we all dived in one after another in a negative buoyancy dive and went straight down to 23 meters.

The Pinnacle was covered with masses of small fish, coral etc and we also saw a shoal of large Mackerel.  On the bottom at 33 metres we spotted another Leopard Shark.

10am Koh Bon.

Another lovely dive with good visability, though we had a little bit of current to contend with. I'm not great on fish ID but on every dive there was prolific small fish life and you were often enveloped in colourful swirls of fish as they poured in seemingly never ending streams around the rocks.

2pm. Koh Tachai

A bit of current going down and viz. had dropped off a little but all of this was forgotten as out of the gloom appeared three Manta Ray.

They were 5 to 6 meters across and completely ignored the small group of gobsmacked divers who hovered in their path. They swam serenly on and one of them passed so close over my head that I could have easily reached out my hand to touch it.

They soon passed from view but five minutes later they were back. We tried to keep pace with them and they hardly moved off track at all and only altered their course to swoop over or under a diver who looked like he was on a collision course. P.J. (the dive leader)was getting some superb video footage especially when they circuited back for a third time.

It was exhilarating to swim with these huge, gentle creatures and as they finally disappeared into the blue we were all a very happy group of people.

3.30pm Koh Tachai

No one wanted to move from this site and we were rewarded at the very start of the dive when we saw a single Manta Ray for a couple of minutes and then... nothing.  

We stayed out in the blue but they didn't come back. However, the water was full of tiny, transparent jeylly-fish.

Finally we saw a brown one the size of a football that had its own little platoon of tiny fish keeping it company as it swam stoically towards some far horizon.

09th Feb. Richliey Rock. 7.30am and 10am.

I'd hoped to see Whale-Sharks on this trip but it was not to be. Our two dives on this famous site were good though. We saw Barracuda, Morays and the usual cast of countless brilliantly covered fish normally found in aquariums. However, by popular consent it was back to...

Koh Tachai 2pm.

No prizes for guessing what we hoped to see again, but for the first 25 minutes of the dive 'all' we saw was a Leopard Shark.

However, as if they didn't want to dissapoint us the Manta Rays appeared again!  

I bought a copy of the video P.J. made of these giants and it is truly amazing.  They swam a couple of metres over our heads, they swooped below and around us as we hung motionless in the blue and they didn't even panic when divers attempted to swim alongside them.  

Towards the end of the dive, as I gassed-off at 5 meters, I could see them again swimming lazily 10 meters below my feet.  I was desperate to stay and watch but as I was now down to 10 bar I thought it prudent to head for the surface.  A memorable dive.


10th Feb. Elephant Rock. 7.30am

Lots of marvelous scenery here, towering rocks and big boulders plus some nice little swim throughs. We spotted a White-tipped Reef Shark and a small Devil Ray.  

This was my first ever Nitrox dive as I'd decided to do the course on the boat.

10.15am. Shark Fin Reef.

My second Nitrox dive and the last dive of the trip.  Huge boulders and great slabs of rock to swim around - my favourite type of underwater scenery.

Seven hours later and we were back in Phuket. Would I dive this area again? Yes. With the same boat/crew?  Yes. It cost about 550 U.S. and was worth every penny.

15th Feb. and 17th Feb.

PADI Wreck diving course. Instructor: Mark Ellyatt.

I've rambled on for far too long so I'll keep this short.

This is a very useful introduction to wreck diving and Mark is an excellent instructor.  

On the first day we dived Scuba Cat's own wreck that they sank recently at Ratcha Yai. There were 25 divers on board so although the boat is big it was just too crowded for my taste. However, the dives with Mark were very good and the wreck itself is quite interesting.

On 17th Feb. we dived the 'King Cruiser' on Nitrox. On the first dive we went through the car deck to practise line laying but on the second dive we penetrated the hull via gangways for about 35 metres. This was my first 'proper' wreck dive and I found it a fantastic experience.

Overhead diving is a whole new area of diving for me and it is definitely something I want to do more of. Inching your way through an enviroment where people have lived and worked and sensing the weight of all that steel above your head is incredible.

On this day the same boat only carried ten paying divers plus eight instructors, some of whom were doing courses of their own, so there was acres of room for kitting up plus a really nice laid back atmosphere.  A very enjoyable final day.  

All in all I did 17 dives in Phuket. I'd seen my first Manta Rays, qualified on Nitrox and as a wreck diver and met some lovely people.

I came back to earth a little on my return to Saudi to find our company beach where our BSAC club dives from has been closed 'until further notice' because security can't be guaranteed.  Looks like I won't be getting wet here until things get back to normal.  Wonder when that will be?

(Edited by Bren Tierney at 6:12 pm on Feb. 28, 2003)
 

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Hey Trevor,

TOP report mate!! You put across very well the sense of fun, awe and wonderment of seeing the things that non-divers only ever see on TV or in an aquarium. And thanks for the recommendation for it as a dive destination - I've been all over Thailand and never dived there once! I rather think I'll now be putting it on my list of 'future places to dive'.

Cheers and glad you're back safe; dry in more ways than one (Saudi and No immediate diving prospects!) - take care and be safe in the coming nonsense.
 

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Nice one Trevor,
I will be in the same area hopefully about August, any chance you could let me know some prices so I can sort the budget out. General diving, liveaboards accomodation, etc.
Thanks
 

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Old chinese proverb.....

Man with erection walking sideways through doorway on way to Bangkok.....
Yes, I've allready got me coat.........
 
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