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Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Part of Their World - Diving in Phuket

I became SCUBA certified on July 25, 2010, my 29th birthday, with one of my best friends Sara.  It was something that both of us had wanted to do, but never took the next step, well until Sara had to be certified to move up the ladder at SeaWorld.  We both finally we both had the push we needed, for Sara her job and for me, Sara.  Our first ocean dive was off the coast of San Diego at La Jolla Shores.  We wore six inch wetsuits with hoods and booties that made us look and walk like penguins on land, but we once we hit the cold water a whole new world opened for us.  It was here that I learned that sand dollars are actually purple when they are alive, they also are huge underwater fields of them that I tried hard to crush with my hands as I was learn to control my buoyancy with my breath.  Sadly, it took me a year and half to strap on tank and jump back in. 

This time, I was still diving with three San Diegians, Erin and Juan Lau, and Captain Mike Rafferty, but we were wearing only half wet suits and diving two hours off the coast of Phuket, Thailand.  As I readied my gear, I became nervous but thankfully a new friend on the boat told me not to worry, for it was like riding a bike and it would all come back to me. 

Our first dive was Dok Bida Nay, a three star dive site south of Dok Phi Phi Ley.  I jumped in and silently descended 2 meters, 7 meters, 10 meters my ears screaming in pain.  I tried to release the pressure by holding my nose and pushing air up to my air canals, it would work but the pressure would come again, and again, again.  I kept thinking was it worth it, then a few minutes later I saw what I had only seen on video.  My head cleared, my breathing became normal, and my ears finally quieted.  I was floating/swimming in paradise.  There was a large reef to my right and beneath me, in every nook and cranny were soft corals, gorgonian sea fans, black corals, long stringy sea whips, huge gardens of stag horn, star corals, sea cucumbers and incredible number of reef animals. There were varying sizes and species of colorful Parrotfish and Wrasse, along with large shoals of Moorish Idols, and my favorite starfish.  The starfish seemed to be every color of the rainbow blue, yellow, pink, with 4 arms, 5 arms, 6 arms, and every where.  We also saw my not so favorite ocean creatures a black and white banded sea snake who has more poison than a cobra and with one bite can kill you in 5 seconds, and an ugly moray (eel) sticking its gray green head out of cave, who I have had a such a strong dislike for since I saw Little Mermaid when I was nine. 

The second dive site, Dok Bida Nok, showed me another side of the Little Mermaid when our dive master Fumiko led us into an underwater sea cave.  We swam in guided by her tiny flashlight with only a foot of visibility, I did not know what to expect. Then she motioned for me to look up, when I did sunlight streamed down through a small opening and sparkled off through the layers of water on the way down to me.  I smiled, twirled the best I could and sang “Apart of Their World” to myself, but as I did I thought of the opposite, instead of walking on earth I was thinking of how amazing it was to be swimming in the ocean surrounded by all manner of marine life frolicking among the soft corals and sponges.  We sighted delightful butterfly fish, pipefish, trumpet fish, puffer fish and lionfish.

Our last dive was the reef next to the imposing limestone structure known as Koh Dok Mai, Flower Island in the native tongue.  Where its steep cliffs extend well below the surface to the sand.  It was an ideal drift dive and a great time to practice not using my arms to navigate.  A true diver lightly grasps their hands together and occasionally uses their flippers to navigate.  When my mind and eyes drifted to the nearby array of colorful tube corals, and to the multitude of cracks and crevices along the wall where I saw durban dancing shrimps, cleaner shrimps, plus many species of grouper including the blue lined, coral and marbled.  The best spotting being a small shark hidden in a fist sized hole in the wall. 
All in all it was a great day, and I can only hope I will be “Apart of Their World” for not too much money again, soon!

In case you ever find yourself in Phuket we used by Sea World Dive Team and it cost us 3,800 baht. It included all our equipment, breakfast, lunch, transportation, and the three dives I described above.  There were five of us to one dive master. 

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