I’ve been overboard again! In the last few weeks I’ve done a refresher course and several dives as it’s actually been two years since I went diving. It was a really exciting few days on the Blue Planet Divers boat – although I do have slight sea sickness so I stayed very still on our journey to the dives sites, and also took some sickness pills to help with the motions.
Whilst on the boat, my dive guide gave me a briefing, explaining the route we would take, what fish and coral we were likely to see and the underwater signs I’d need to make. I was a little apprehensive to ‘dive back in’ after so long. Would I be able to equalise? Will I be able to control my buoyancy? Will I use up too much air? In actual fact, I was OK and thoroughly enjoyed being back underwater.
For my refresher dives, I jumped back into the Andaman Sea at Koh Haa (meaning five islands, which refers to the five limestone islands which tower above the sea). It’s a two-hour boat journey, located between the Phi Phi Islands and Hin Daeng – Hin Muang, 25 kilometres west of Koh Lanta, where I live.
Despite the water being relatively warm, I chose to dive with my full-body wetsuit as I really feel the cold when underwater and going deep. Initially I had three weights as I wasn’t sure how good my buoyancy was, being out of practice.
With my dive guide, we practised a few skills at 10 metres and the proceeded to fin across to the coral. Here we came across eels, a lion fish, sea stars, starfish, trumpet fish and much much more. The most eye-catching fish were the yellow snapper which moved in huge shoals and created incredible shapes.
The best part of Koh Haa is the series of captivating caverns which are located at Koh Haa Yai. We went in the chimney, which leads narrowly down between the caves and brought us out at the bottom. It was a bit of a squeeze but really exhilarating. In some of the other caves I’ve been in, I swam through their large entrances and surfaced inside them to see the mesmerising stalactites – it’s an amazing sight.
My next dive trip was to Koh Bida, which is very near to the Phi Phi islands and about two hours away from Koh Lanta. The dive site consists of Koh Bida Nok, the outer island and it’s sister site Koh Bida Nai, the inner island. On approach, it’s hard to miss the pair of limestone karsts topped with tropical plants that poke out of the water.
Again, I’m briefed by my dive guide about the site and the route we’ll take, as well as the different types of marine life that we’ll see. I’m also given a buddy, who’s there to help me safety check my gear and dive with me for the duration. As there’s a strong current between the islands, the boat moored up in a safe spot, as we gear up and prepare to jump in.
As we descended, the common sight of yellow snapper greeted me as we finned around the coral reef. This time I encountered juvenile barracuda, bannerfish, batfish and even a Hawksbill turtle feeding at the bottom of the sea. That was a dream come true! When we swam around the wall, we found a solitary harlequin shrimp. But sadly, I am yet to spot the lesser seen black tip and leopard sharks.
All in all, I had a wonderful few days diving and felt a lot more confident underwater. Next on the list – PADI Advanced Open Water Diver!