A very colourful scene to start our first dive...what looks like a furry creature in a spectacular nudibranch.
Now, I know there will be those of you asking ''What's a nudibrach'....and so here are some details courtesy of our knowledgeable companion, Wikipedia
There are apparently 2,500 different species of nudibranchs in South-east Asian waters!! There's even a PADI Nudibranch Speciality course hosted in Vietnam....I took this course and I have to say I met some very 'interesting' people teaching it!!
|Chromodoris lochi pair in Puerto Galera, the Philippines|
|about 3000 species|
Nudibranchs (//) are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms, and they have been given colourful nicknames to match, such as "Clown", "Marigold", "Splendid", "Dancer" and "Dragon". Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.
|specieNudibranchs (//) are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage. They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms, and they have been given colourful nicknames to match, such as "Clown", "Marigold", "Splendid", "Dancer" and "Dragon". Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.|
We do a lot of diving from the shore here in Phuket. Because I have all the dive gear, our dives cost just the price of filling the bottle with air (£1.25 per bottle) and he cost of driving to the location. It's a very cheap day out. Sometimes we hire a longtail boat and go out to one of the many Islands in a 10 mile radius of Phuket. This is all very nice indeed and many wonderful things can be seen.
Times have changed!! Now we are getting about 42 Baht to the £ and significantly less is you change your currency in UK (Don't!! Change it here!!).
I used to go diving with PADI 2 or 3 times a week. It cost about 700 Baht per dive in the 2004 to 2012 period. 700 Baht with such a high exchange rate was about £10. A PADI day at sea with three dives and all the wonderful food you could eat was under £40....so you could be generous with a tip for the crew.
BUT...nothing beats going diving with PADI and with expert guides who know the dive sites intimately. It IS well worth the money but now it is more of a special treat rather than a regular event.
Photo above...an amazingly camoflauged scorpion fish. Not a good idea to stick your hand on this little bugger....VERY painful!
Last year, we went diving with Aussie Divers and had a great day out...so we booked to go with them again. When you book with PADI you must remember that it is an American based Company. Beacuae of this you will be asked a multitude of questions which are designed to check out your profile and how best for the professionals to look after you.
You must have your qualification cards to hand and you should have Medical Insurance...well, you would be utterly insane to be in Thailand (or anywhere) without the very best Medical Insurance you can afford. There is even a 'Diver Insurance' with DAN insurers....I recommend it if you are going to do a lot of diving.
Over the years I have been bollocked by a whole variety of very serious diving professionals; the Germans and Russians, for example, are superb at frightening the life out of you..even when you're just trying to pour yourself a coffee on the boat. They don't 'mean' to be like this...it's just their way!!
The Course last 3 to 4 days depending on stuff and requires a good deal of homework and reading. To do it thoroughly can be very demanding.....and it IS the course that sets the foundation for the rest of your diving progress.
There are many discussions about this speed of advancement and other organisations, such as BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) that view this rapd progress with a degree of disbelief and suspicion. To be 'Advanced' within 6 days and with no experience raises many concerns.
This is what Kannika has done. We are fortunate of course to be able to do so much diving and have been to depths well in excess as that recommended by the Open Water Course but we have done everything very gently and with planning.
Her setting up of her dive gear (and mine...I make her do mine as well!!) her superb buoyancy control and relaxed style under water with very conservative air consumption is a joy to behold. And when she was back on the boat I noted other divers asking her if she was one of the Instructors. To me, that's how it should be when you are working on your Advanced Open Water Certificate...it should be a level of competence to be worked on, achieved and then be proud of.
I know this is all very idealistic and that we are in a very fortunate position. For many, the time constraints simply do not allow for the luxury of this extended time and multiple dive experience.
PADI offer lots of Specialty Courses....and taking some will make you an ever more competent diver. Peak Performance Buoyancy is a very good one to consider as it concentrates on balance and weighting under water allowing the diver to build up the confidence and ability to enter situations that might appear daunting.
Kannika's buoyancy control is superb...but there is always more to learn and improvements to be made. She has not taken this particular course...her control comes from the experience build up of about 70 dives now. Here is she is exiting part of a wreck we were on on Monday. The wreck bottoms out at 35 meters and we are in about 25 meters here swimming through what was part of the wheelhouse of this sunken passenger ferry.
Just imagine how difficult it would be to extract a fish from such a tangled mess!
The wrecks back home are also covered in Commercial fishing gear...nets, ropes, lines as well as a lot of lost fishing tackle.
The PADI maxim is look but don't touch. This is all about admiring the splendour of what is down there and leaving it alone to remain splendid.
This is not as easy as you may think when you dive buddy wants to eat everything...especially squid, lobsters, crabs, snappers...in fact anything and everything.
|A final photo of my dive buddy, Kannika, who is an absolute delight to share all these amazing experiences with.|