Now I've always wanted to go diving. Those Jacques Costeau (sp?) films were always so amazing. However, Diving in Ontario...well kind of sucks. The water is murky, and what are you really going to see in Lake Ontario? Oh, a Bluegill....Oh a Pumpkinseed...Wow, an old beer bottle. So why shell out hundreds for certification just to freeze your ass off in polluted waters. Then I came to Thailand.
I had heard about Aladdin Dive Safari from my tree mate, Ede (can I tell you how much I love saying treemate). He was going to Little Koh Chang for a 4 day diving excursion to the Similan Islands, and suggested I go. Luckily by the time I made up my mind there was still room, so after hitting Bangkok, I made my was to Ranong to catch a boat to Koh Chang (This by the way for all of you following along in the atlas, is Koh Chang on the Adaman Coast, not the one on the other side of Thailand). Well I should say I tried to make my way to Ranong, the bus company had other ideas. I had bought a "A/C, direct bus" from Bangkok to Ranong, but instead ended up in Surithani, which is 3 hours south of Ranong, and on the complete other side of the peninsula. So this meant I had to backtrack 4 hours to get to Ranong, then catch a boat to finally make it to Little Koh Chang.
Once there I was told I was a little late for the prep course, but if I was willing to watch 3 hours of video, and read 3 chapters and do three tests I'd then be caught up. So that's what I did my first day in Koh Chang. The second day? More studying. The third day we finally hit water, and did some dive training. The next day we left for the Similans. Now Koh Chang is an amazing place and I knew that I would love it since nobody I talked to before hand had even heard of the place. The Beaches aren't great, and the water is murky, but it has such a great vibe. You live in these bamboo huts, and there just aren't very many people there. In total I didn't wear shoes for almost two weeks.
The Aladdin people were also amazing. My instructor was Phil, a former Brit who splits his time between Thailand and Alberta. My other instructor was Estaban (who looked at me weird the first time I laughed at his name, and I had to explain that it was because of 'The Life Aquatic', which he had never seen, so I have to get it for him), who is a fellow Swiss and one of the best guys you will ever meet. His girlfriend Poo was equally amazing, but she got pregnant near the start of the season so she can't dive any more and didn't go on the trip unfortuneately. Honestly, I can't tell you how much I loved these two, they're just about the best couple ever. There were also 5 other people taking the open water course, so it was fun not being the only new diver.
So now I'm just going to skip to the diving. First off breathing underwater is weird. On our first open water dive at Richilieu Rock, as we were descending to 18m I couldn't understand why I was getting short of air. Then I remembered to actually breath (I'm an idiot), and all was well. So diving....IS FUCKING INSANE!!!!!! At the start of the dive I was like "I wonder if we'll even see any fish" We only saw about a million of them. It's like a whole different world. The water was clear, the coral was so many different colours (OK all coral is white, it's the algae that makes it colourful for those nitpicky biologists among you), and the fish. TONS OF FISH. Schools just swim by you, sometimes you can't even see the coral for all the fish (I seriously doubt though that "You can't see the coral reef for the fish" will ever replace "You can't see the forest for the trees" anytime soon though. If it does catch on though, I want credit in Bartletts or Websters or whatever.).
So the first dive was amazing, but I soon learned that I'm a complete hoover with my air supply. Oh well what can you do? After that it was back to the boat, and off to Koh Tachai, which was equally amazing. I'm trying to get pictures from the trip form the few people who took their underwater cameras, but they'll have to wait. So just to sum up the way the trip worked so that I can just move on to the highlights is this. First Day: two dives. Second day: 4 dives (including night dive) Third day: 4 dives (including Deep dive to 30M). Forth Day: Two dives. So in total 4 days on the boat and 12 dives. So now the highlights.
1. MANTAS!!!! we first saw a Manta on our third day, it was jumping, almost flying out of the water. When we arrived at Koh Bon, the Mantas appeared before we even got into the water. Now supposedly Mantas are rare, and the dive instructors were flipping out, because not only did we see one Manta, we saw at least three. They Are the most amazing creatures. They're so graceful an elegant, it was just to much to see. One swam right towards me before arching up and swimming overhead. The thing was huge too, at least 5 m. I still relax and picture them swimming in my head.
2. Sharks!! We saw a Leopard shark, and a nurse shark, and man the rush of seeing a shark. I know they're not going to attack, but there's this little survival instinct in your head that goes off everytime you see a shark.
3. Finding Nemo! We saw quite a few Clown fish and other anemone fish. I couldn't resist shouting Nemo! everytime I saw one. Yes I'm 12 shut-up. They were fun to watch, because you can see the anemone from a distance and then as you swim closer you can see a few fish just living in the thing. It was mesmorizing.
4. Sleeping on the top deck of the boat. For some strange reason only Nadine and I did this the whole trip. It was like the best place to sleep ever. We just lay there and talked looking up at the stars, while all the other people were down below in cramped quarters. Sure as soon as the sun rose you were awake, but it was so nice and relaxing. It was also nice to get to know Nadine, since we hadn't really got a chance to talk much in Lao.
5. The Night Dive. This was incredible as well. Just diving down in the dark with only a flashlight. The conditions weren't the best, but the experience was too much fun. We even turned our light off at one point so we could see the Sea Lightening (Phosphorescent Plankton). It was erie at times, but so different than a day dive.
6. Barracudas. These things are BAD ASS, and I think they know it. It's almost like they strut through the water in packs, going "just try to fuck with me...I'll cut ya" They really should have BMF tattooed on their bodies.
7. The rest of the trip. Honestly from start to finish the drip was amazing, and definitely one of the best things I've ever done. Now I'm hooked on the Manta Juice though, so I guess I'll be returning to Thailand every year.
The only down side (other than the fact that the trip had to end) was all the course work we had to do on the boat for the advanced open water diving course. It seriously cut into nap time, and that nap time was sorely needed after a few dives.