After finally obtaining my dive license and getting the dive addiction bug; I was excited to head for my next dives. I wanted to choose an international destination where I would be comfortable at– i.e. somewhere I have been to before. The first island that popped into my mind was Phuket, and after doing my research of dive centers on the island; I booked my dive trip, got on the plane and was there within a week. I couldn’t wait!
Diving in Phuket
Being a beginner, Phuket was an obvious choice as it is said to be one of the best spots for simple and easy dives. Plus, it offers plenty of sight seeing locations, shopping opportunities, beautiful resorts and nightlife; so that I could explore, party and also relax after completing all my scheduled dives.
Though I stayed on Phuket island itself, there are actually not many beautiful dive spots around it– the nearest and more famous ones are an hour or so away, or at the other islands of Phi Phi and Racha. Most of the dive boats leave for the sites from the pier at Chalong, located on the East side of Phuket; so that was where I decided to stay. Doing this saved me the morning ride just to get to the jetty, which was about an hour away from everywhere else.
Palm Garden Resort
The Palm Garden Resort is located in a quiet, secluded area of bustling Chalong. It is a 5-minute walk to the main street, which is not too far; the only problem was the night walk through the quiet lanes. The resort itself is really pretty despite being slightly dated, and is shaded by lots of trees and flowers. Though its tropical atmosphere makes the place look cozy and relaxing, it is also one of the reasons why it is filled with mosquitoes!
A deluxe room costs THB1850 (US$55) inclusive of breakfast– the ala-carte menu is the same everyday. The Palm Garden Resort has a collaboration with Sea Bees Diving– there are packages available but I booked both separately.
Sea Bees Dive Center
To be honest, out of all the dive resorts located in Chalong; the Sea Bees Dive Center has the most impressive building. It is painted entirely in yellow, with glass front doors, a reception area and even a small presentation lounge. I was glad I trusted the reviews online and booked my dive package with them.
Sea Bees is a German owned dive center that’s been around for 20 years, and has collected plenty of awards to their name. They offer daytrips, courses, packages and liveaboard safaris.
The day before my dives, I headed over to the office to register and was greeted with so much excitement and enthusiasm that I couldn’t wait to go diving. I told them my concerns, being a new diver; and was assured that the divemaster assigned to me would be able to assist me with everything. All I needed to do was to be ready to dive the next day!
Diving with Sea Bees
I took the 3-day dive package with Sea Bees– 7 dives in total, costing approximately THB10,000 (US$300). I was told to be at the dive center about 10 minutes before the scheduled departure everyday. There were about 20 people on the dive the first day, and less than 10 on the second and third days. Every morning, everyone would gather at the waiting area before being hurdled into the songthaew (passenger truck) and taken to the Chalong pier, about 5 minutes away. Sea Bees has it own fleet of boats, and the one that I was on was the bigger one– the Excalibur II.
The boat is gorgeous with all the facilities needed– good food, lots of space and really comfortable. I rented most of my dive equipment, and it was all prepared for me on the boat at my assigned place.
The first day was the longest day (arriving back at 7pm)– with 3 dives in Phi Phi Island, which is about 3 hours away from Phuket. On the second and third day, there were only 2 dives– at Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai, and Koh Racha Yai respectively. I arrived back at the jetty at about 4pm on both days. My divemaster’s name is Anita, and most of the dives involved a maximum of 4 people. I felt safe and in good hands for every one of my dives.
Below are all the dive sites that I visited during my trip.
Koh Bida Nok (Koh Phi Phi)
This island translates to “Outer Father” and is said to be Phi Phi Island’s best dive site due to its diverse marine life, colorful corals and beautiful rocks. I was a little worried as this was my first dive after getting my certification; currents are said to be very strong here and more suitable for advanced divers with a depth of 33m. However, there is a sheltered bay at the islet that blocks out most of the currents, so I had a smooth fun dive.
At Koh Bida Nok, I was lucky enough to spot a blue spotted stingray, a comet fish and a huge moray eel. This dive site is filled with so many beautiful corals; sea fans, sea whips, brain corals and bubble corals, just to name a few. What I remember most though, is the school of yellow snappers swimming around the coral covered overhangs.
Ao Palong / Maya Wall (Koh Phi Phi)
This dive site is located outside of the famous Maya Bay– made famous by the movie “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. There are walls both to the south and north of the bay.
We were dropped of at the northern edge of the wall, which is said to be a popular site to spot black tip reef sharks. At the sandy base at about 18m, I spotted a couple and tried to get a picture– but unfortunately, visibility wasn’t too good in May. My favorite part of this dive site was the huge fallen boulders that created a swim-though. It is covered in colorful corals and if you look close enough under the rocks– you’ll spot small critters. I found a lobster and a moray eel.
Koh Doc Mai (Phuket)
This dive site offers one of the best wall dives in the area. The name translates to Flower Island, and is named so for the beautiful garden of colorful corals covering its walls underwater. The wall goes down to about 30m and during my dives, the current was extremely strong. Being a new diver, I panicked a couple of times and had to hold on to my divemaster! I went diving at Koh Doc Mai twice.
This dive involves close scrutiny– especially if you want to spot all the small creatures on the wall. During my dive, my divemaster managed to point out: a few cleaner shrimps, a dragon worm, a ghostpipe fish and several nudibranches. I also saw lots of lionfishes, bamboo sharks, jellyfishes and a school of batfishes that swam really close around me. For me, the most exciting part of this dive was entering and swimming around one of the many dark caves… for the very first time! The view from the inside-out of the cave was absolutely gorgeous.
Shark Point (Phuket)
This dive site derives its name from the many Leopard Sharks found in the area– but I was told by my divemaster that it has become less and less throughout the years. During my dive, I didn’t spot any. Shark Point, however, is still a popular dive site for the diversity of its corals and fish life. It is made up of 3 large rock pinnacles; the largest one breaks the surface and has a lighthouse on top of it.
What I loved most about Shark Point is the beautiful colorful corals found here; purple, pink, white, yellow corals in all kinds of shapes– barrel sponges, fan, brain, mushroom. I even spotted a scorpion fish camouflaged on one. I spent most of my dive photographing all the adorable clown fishes hiding in the many sea anemones.
Racha Yai (Phuket)
The larger of the Racha islands is about an hour and a half boat ride from Chalong. There are a couple of beautiful dive sites around the island– and since I only had two dives here, I explored Bay 1 and Bay 3. The currents here are pretty strong, and I had a little difficulty drift diving.
The first dive was at Bay 3. It has a gradual slope, but unfortunately the corals here were not very impressive. They looked dead and some were covered with red algae. However, I managed to spot a boxfish, a blue spotted stingray, a moray eel, and lots of tiny nudibranches and lionfishes.
Bay 1 offered a more interesting dive. It has a sandy bottom with not many reefs– but is filled with metal boxes and a submerged fishermen’s boat. I had fun diving in and around the metal boxes; and had my first experience exploring a wreck! My divemaster guided me as I did a quick swim through it. This dive site is also filled with huge schools of tiny fishes, and I spotted puffer fishes, bat fishes and garden eels.
I had so much fun diving in Phuket and the Phi Phi islands. It was my first time heading somewhere to dive by myself– and I’m glad that I made many new friends while diving with Sea Bees. I loved listening to all their awesome dive stories. And while on board our dive boat, we were also given a brief about the many sharks in the area; and the efforts that are being made to preserve them in Thailand, as well as South East Asia as a whole. I feel that the more I dive, the more understanding and appreciative I am of the underwater world.
Another tick off my ‘to-dive list’, and I’m up to 11 dives!
Kan Eang @ Pier for Dinner
After completing all my dives– I decided to reward myself on my last night in Chalong by having seafood for dinner. The most popular place for seafood here is at Kan Eang @ Pier, for its fresh seafood and gorgeous view of the Chalong pier. I was there early, so I also got to witness the sun set. I ordered a whole fish to myself, as well as my favourite, tom yam.
The food was good, the atmosphere was wonderful, and I spent my alone time thinking back on all the dives I just did… and planning the next location for my future dives.