Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Diving with Aussie Divers, Phuket.

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!!

Berghia coerulescens (Laurillard, 1830).jpg
Berghia coerulescens
Chromodoris lochi (AA3).jpg
Chromodoris lochi pair in Puerto Galera, the Philippines
Scientific classification
(unranked):clade Heterobranchia
clade Euthyneura
clade Nudipleura
subclade Nudibranchia

Cuvier, 1817
about 3000 species
Nudibranchs (/ˈnjdɪbræŋk/[2]) are a group of soft-bodiedmarine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage.[3] 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".[4] Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.[5]
The word "nudibranch" comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βραγχια, brankhiagills.

 specieNudibranchs (/ˈnjdɪbræŋk/[2]) are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage.[3] 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".[4] Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.[5]

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.                           

Our £ has fallen massively in recent years. When I started coming here to Thailand in 2004, the exchange rate was 75 Baht to each £1. We Brits were rich! We could live like Kings. I even bought a 4 bedroomed detached house which cost £139k fully furnished and with a swimming pool! There was so much money about, Barclays Bank kindly loaned me the money to buy a 0.75% interest rate!!! What???

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 £ you could be generous with a tip for the crew.
Now it costs £100 per day to dive with PADI and there are additional costs on top with equipment hire etc. I notice that the crew tips and a nice tip for the Dive Guide has decreased significantly...simply because of the money situation.

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 amazingly camoflauged scorpion fish. Not a good idea to stick your hand on this little bugger....VERY painful!

Photo left....turtle!

Last year, we went diving with Aussie Divers and had a great day 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.

Anyhow...there are many excellent dive companies to dive with in Phuket. I like Aussie Divers. I like Aussies! I like their laid back approach which is underpinned with highly qualified and experienced Instructors and staff. We dived with a superb guide called Jason. Jason is an Instructor and is diving every day so you will always have new things to learn from such experienced people.....but most of all I live diving with Aussies because they are FUN.

 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's just their way!!
Kannika has recently passed her Advanced Open Water Certificate. Many people come on holiday with absolutely no diving experience but want to learn. There are various courses to take but it all starts really with the PADI Open Water Course. Here in Phuket that Course will cost you about £300 and will involve 2 full days at sea (that would normally cost you £200 alone). It is great value for money and a lot less that you would pay back in the UK.

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.
After the Open Water, which Certifies you to dive to 18 meters, comes The AOW (Advanced Open Water) Course. This requires another 2 days of teaching and diving....and then, if you pass your theory exam, you become an Advanced PADI diver.

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.
It is up to each Individual how they handle this of course. When my son Tom, who right now is in Norway working as a Commercial Diver, finished his Open Water Certification, we decided to try to do at least 50 dives before progressing to the Advanced Open Water Course.

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 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.

We were extremely fortunate to have picked a day with amazing visibility....easily 30 meters...probably more. We were on very gentle neap tides and flat calm sea it really could not have been better.
As anglers know, fishing a wreck can be difficult with so many obstructions ready to snag the fishing tackle...but the rewards can be very high as a wreck produces a terrific concentration of species. 

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 nearby reefs are also full of life with moray eels of various sizes and varieties hiding in the cracks and under rocks. They look ferocious and would no doubt inflict damage on your fingers if you were trying to ram them down its throat.

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, fact anything and everything.

It's not easy to find a shark. Here is a leopard shark. I guess it to be a couple of metres long as it has a lengthy tail. They are very docile (usually) and like to snooze on the sea bed.
Seeing a seahorse is always a highlight of any dive. Seahorses are incredibly territorial. This is the same seahorse in exactly the same place that I saw on my first dive of this 'season' back in November!
Coral bleaching from increased water temperatures and and pollution have damaged significant areas of our oceans. Although there is a good deal of bleaching in Phuket...especially due to the massive increase in pollution in the last ten years thanks to the never ending real estate over- development and many would say ruination of the Island, there are still areas of outstanding natural beauty.       
The stunning colours here show what the corals COULD look like....
A final photo of my dive buddy, Kannika, who is an absolute delight to share all these amazing experiences with.

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