It was 10:00p.m., Friday, April 26th, and I was slowly watching the Thai coast disappear into the darkness. The long awaited day had finally arrived. I was leaving the relentless April humidity of mainland Thailand for the open waters of the Andaman Sea. As lightening lit up the night’s sky, Axl, our lead diver, gave the group an initial briefing on what to expect on the trip as well as an overall layout of the boat. After grabbing a handful of pineapple jam filled cookies, I headed down into my sleeping quarters to rest for tomorrow’s early morning dive.
I woke up at 6:00am, which has become a normal event on my travels. This time, though, I had a good excuse. Full of excitement, I listened as Axl explained our diving groups, the dive site, and what we might see. I hurriedly put on my gear, did an equipment check with my diving buddy Marcus, and did a giant step into the warm waters below. Success! I didn’t immediately sink to the bottom. Sadly, that might have been my only success on that dive. It had been 3 months since my last and only other diving experience, and my rust and inexperience showed. I battled a leaky mask and poorly controlled buoyancy all dive long. Marcus kept looking over in my direction to give me the “OK?” signal. Evidently, my struggles were obvious and with those struggles came extra oxygen usage. I burned through my air pretty quickly, so I cut my first dive short and ascended to the surface. So much for a good first dive.
Thankfully I had a second dive a mere two hours later to redeem myself. I had a clean close shave, adjusted my weight belt, and I spoke with Marcus for some quick tips. It made a world of difference. After we descended on the second dive, I was floating near effortlessly along the bottom of the sea, taking in the sights of giant fan coral, schools of yellow snapper, colorful clownfish and moray eels.
In between dives we were treated to a variety of treats. Cookies, fresh fruits, spring rolls, sashimi, curries, full English breakfasts, it was all right at your fingertips. I took full advantage and heaped helping after helping on my plate. I’ve never been one to waste food, and I certainly wasn’t going to start.
The trip continued on in that fashion. Wake up, dive, eat, rest, repeat. This continued on for four glorious days.
The highlight of the trip was snorkeling with a green sea turtle. We were resting from an earlier dive (and meal), and heard the boat staff yell out “Tao! Tao!” We peered over the edge of the boat to see a beautiful turtle circling us. I quickly ran to the lower deck, grabbed a mask and jumped in. The turtle was as curious as we were, and came close enough for me to touch. I held back though, as it’s never good to touch the wildlife. We swam with the turtle for a good 30 minutes, and with excellent visibility we could see every detail. It was absolutely breath taking.
Below are some pictures taken from the boat, but all of the pictures of the sea life are pulled from the internet. As I don’t have an underwater camera, I have no underwater pictures. None the less, I wanted you all to understand the beauty of the Surin and Similan Islands.
(Above: Axl performing a pre-dive briefing)
(Above: Dive board. Someone gave me crabs)
(Above: Marcus on the dive platform)
(Above: Post dive/food coma)
(Above: Paul forgets what hole the food is supposed to go in)
(Above: Lionfish, left, and a Clownfish, right)
(Above: Juvenile Rockmover Wrasse, left, and a sea turtle, right)
(Above: Tiger tailed seahorse, left, and a school of Batfish, right)
(Above : Wart Slug, left, and Moray Eel, right)
(Above: Fan coral, left, and barracuda, right)