We have visited Thailand on a number of occasions, always with the intention of spending some time scuba diving, but for various reasons it never happened.
Finally in February 2020 we were determined to dive on our trip to Ao Nang in Krabi.
We were aware that as we had not dived for a number of years we would need a refresher dive.
I had done quite a lot of diving back in the late 1990’s, although all of it either in very cold quarries of very poor visibility sea in the UK.
I had been working towards my PADI Divemaster when life got in the way and I ended up not finishing the qualification.
My wife on the other hand had only done a few dives and was an inexperienced Open Water qualified diver.
We contacted a few of the dive shops in Ao Nang as we narrowed down our options, making sure that whoever we finally picked could accommodate us but also had good reviews.
As we left the UK in mid February I had selected a choice of two dive shops. I had exchanged emails with both shops in my planning phase and had a preference plus a back up shop.
We arrived in Ao Nang and on our first evening we headed off from our hotel, the excellent Pakasai Resort, to the dive shop. We wanted to make sure that we had enough time to book our trip and have the option of additional dives later in our holiday.
I was fairly confident that I knew where the shop was. We had been in Ao Nang the previous year and I had checked the location on Google Maps.
From the moment that we walked into The Dive Ao Nang we knew we had made the right choice.
We were welcomed into the professional looking shop and asked for Bjorn, who I had been talking to via email.
We had a quick chat and discussed what we were looking for. A refresher session and two dives on a day trip.
After confirming our dive experience, and the number of years it had been since we last dived, we confirmed the plan. A refresher session with one of their staff, going over all of the technical areas and taking a refresher multiple choice assessment. This would take place on the boat. We would then be taken through setting up the equipment before we did a skills check at the start of our first dive.
We paid our money and were soon trying on equipment to make sure that we would have the right sizes on the boat when we dived.
We had an early breakfast in our hotel and then strolled down to find that our truck from The Dive Ao Nang was waiting for us to take us to the boat. We jumped aboard and were soon on our way, being joined by a number of other people from around Ao Nang also diving that day.
We soon found that the other divers were all very friendly and we managed to communicate in English despite the other divers being from non-English speaking countries.
We travelled through Ao Nang and headed towards Ao Nam pier where our boat, the Laddavadee II, was waiting for us.
Off came our shoes and we were soon onboard and settling ourselves down for the journey.
The boat soon filled and it was obvious that a number of the other dive schools were sharing the boat. It seemed, just a guess, that a number of the smaller dive schools, or those with only a few bookings, took spare places on The Dive Ao Nang’s boat.
The boat set off and we were soon gathered together for the boat briefing where it was explained how the day would work, introduce us to the staff onboard and give those all important details of food, drink and where to find the toilet.
At the end of the briefing our instructor introduced himself. Wilko was very friendly and explained in more detail how we would go about the refresher, test our knowledge and complete the skills test underwater. Then he left us to relaxing and admiring the view as we motored across the glorious Andaman Sea on the way to our dive site at Koh Phi Phi.
We were soon going over our knowledge. Wilko presented it in a very informal way that completely relaxed us, primarily using it as an opportunity to check what we still remembered and to fill in the knowledge gaps wherever necessary.
We were soon completing the assessment and we both passed with flying colours.
We then wandered down to the dive deck where we went through our equipment, setting it up for the first dive, as Wilko ensured that we were comfortable with everything and understood what we would be doing. We were also issued with our dive computer which we would use on our dives.
With that done, we used the toilet, grabbed a drink and headed back to our seat to relax until we arrived at Phi Phi.
We arrived at our first dive site at Maya Corner on Phi Phi Leh, the boat anchored and we were soon called to the dive deck to get ready for our first dive.
We were soon putting on our buoyancy control devices (BCD), checked each other and then Wilko gave us a final check as we made sure everything was ready for the dive.
Once we were ready we joined the queue of divers ready to enter the water.
Quickly it was our turn and I was given the ok to enter the water. One long stride entry later, I was in the water and ready to dive.
Wilko gave us the signal to descend and we headed down and started to check our buoyancy. I had quickly settled but my wife was having difficulty. Wilko called me back to the surface while he helped her to change the amount of weight she was carrying to help stabilise her.
We were soon back near the sea floor, having both sorted out buoyancy and began our skills checks.
Individually we went through the skills checks. We removed and replaced our masks, clearing the water. We removed and recovered our regulators. Soon we had the ok sign and we were ready to explore.
It was soon clear that this was a different world than we had experienced in the UK. In the sea I had rarely seen any life due to the almost non-existent visibility. In the quarry there were small shoals of plain fish and the odd sighting of larger fish such as pike.
Now I was surrounded by shoals of brightly coloured fish and corals, if I could talk I would have been speechless.
My wife and I looked at each other and I could see that she was enjoying this as much as I was.
We soon round a corner and found ourselves in the middle of a very large shoal of fish.
We were completely surrounded and they opened in front of us as we swam like a curtain opening on a stage.
Just as we were recovering from that experience we saw Wilko pointing and there, just to our right, were two Hawksbill Turtles. They were happily swimming around as a number of divers watched them in awe.
All too soon it was time to surface and swim back to the boat.
I am yet to meet a diver who is not hungry after a dive. The quality of the food provided for lunch was plentiful and excellent quality. All freshly cooked and prepared and topped up whenever it started to run low. There was plenty of fresh fruit as well. I was very happy.
Unfortunately my wife was not feeling well. The buoyancy issues she had experienced at the start of the dive, possibly coupled with the 2.5 hour boat road to the dive site, had left her feeling sick. She tried a small amount of food but it was not going to stay down and she was sick three times within about 45 minutes.
We explained to Wilko and other members of staff who were very helpful and provided some seasickness tablets as well as advice.
She had only been at a very shallow depth so there were no concerns of any dive related illness.
Unfortunately she was not feeling well enough to make the second dive. The staff offered her the opportunity to join with a group who were snorkeling but she decided she would relax on the boat and try to recover. I checked and she was happy for me to dive again.
That meant that I had a private guide for my second dive.
Wilko and I entered the water again and were soon exploring our second dive site further round Maya Corner.
The range of marine life that he pointed out and appeared was incredible.
He was an expert and finding the little nooks and crannies where fish were hiding. He could see things in coral and on walls that were initially invisible to my inexperienced eyes.
He would call me over and there was a Moray Eel.
We would veer off from the route other divers were taking and there would be a Lionfish making the most of its camoflage.
Everywhere there were fish, so many it was hard to keep track.
There were a number of varieties of Angelfish and Butterflyfish.
There were Clownfish, Parrotfish, Pufferfish, Surgeonfish, Triggerfish and Wrasse.
It was a lot to take in.
All too so though it was time to surface again and head back to the boat.
Once onboard I found my wife who was looking much better. “Did you see the sharks?” she asked.
While we had been exploring a number of Leopard Shark had been swimming near the boat.
The snorkelers had a wonderful time swimming around them. Many of the divers saw them too.
Because we were exploring more than other divers, we were among the last to surface and by then the sharks had swum off away from the people invading their territory.
The Journey Home
We packed everything away and prepared for the trip back to land.
The wind had picked up while we had been diving and the sea had turned quite rough.
It was going to be a bumpy journey back, the boat quite often had to alter its course to head straight into larger waves.
Strangely the bumpy seas didn’t affect my wife who was feeling much better now, although not quite ready for food.
The trip home took a little longer than on the way out due to the seas, it seemed much longer as we had less to keep ourselves occupied apart from discussing all the wonderful sights we had seen.
My wife felt much better by the time we got back to our hotel. She was a little less adventurous in her food choice that evening though, just in case.
For the next few days my wife continued to suffer with occasional dizzy spells and feeling of being sick.
They would only last a few minutes but they were disconcerting.
More than six months later she still has vertigo type symptoms usually when she lies down or gets out of bed too quickly.
We have no idea if this actually started during her dive or is related to it. However it is the only time we can think when these type of symptoms started. No fault at all with the staff at the dive school, purely bad luck.
If you are looking for a great dive experience I recommend Bjorn and the team at The Dive Ao Nang. Checkout their website.
Wilko is also a great dive guide, being skilled in searching out those shy or small creatures that you would otherwise swim past during a dive.
A quick disclaimer. This is a genuine recommendation. We have not been paid or get a discount for writing this article.
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