Scuba diving in Thailand was a great way to celebrate my birthday. We did a four day and four night live aboard with the Sea Dragon Dive Center out of Khao Lak. At first we weren’t sure if we would enjoy the trip, mainly because all of the dives were in small groups guided by a dive master and we generally prefer diving on our own. We were paired up with another young couple from Norway and the first dive with them did not go well, to say the least. The guy had poor buoyancy control and kept bumping into us while his girlfriend constantly cut in front of us to take pictures of the things we were looking at. I was afraid the whole trip was going to be a nightmare, but they (thankfully) got better. (Or at least he ran into us less and she just started wandering away from the group to take her pictures.)
The diving itself was excellent. The viz was not incredible, but good, and the water was nice and warm (around 82 degrees). I love being able to dive in just a short, thin wetsuit! We saw a good-sized gray reef shark in the Surin Islands. I’d say it was at least six feet long, but it was pretty far away from us and swam quickly, so we only got a short glimpse of it. Richelieu Rock is consistently ranked in the top ten dive sites in the world and was my favorite place so far. It was just teeming with interesting fish and life, but what really struck me was all the purple. There seemed to be more purple soft coral than anything else. It was very beautiful. Other highlights from the dives were sea turtles, octopi, eels, nudibranchs and (very poisonous) sea snakes. Speaking of poisonous creatures, Brad and I both got stung by jellyfish on separate dives. Luckily it wasn’t a very big deal, we just put some ointment on the rashes.
We met some really fun and interesting people on the boat, including Yan, a French Canadian who was constantly working on his computer, May, a Thai doctor who can’t eat spicy food, Mark, who owns a tattoo shop in London, and his girlfriend Fiona, who was very cool and left her fancy-sounding job to go travel the world. Another one of my favorite characters was the videographer, Phil, an Englishman who always wore a yellow and green shirt with “Bali” printed in the style of the AC/DC logo. The leader of the trip was a Frenchman named Mattias and his strong accent reminded me of Pepe le Pew. It was hard not to giggle during his dive briefings, especially when he said things like, “And now I will make ze dive briefing.”
Incidentally, Edward Norton was in the dive center just a few days before we got there. He didn’t go on the trip with us, but we still had quite the star-studded boat. Mark’s tattoo shop was featured on the reality show “London Ink” and recently Phil and Mattias co-starred in a soon-to-be-released film with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. I believe Phil was cast as “Walking Man” and Mattias was “Pair of Feet #3.” They said they would try to get us in at Hollywood parties, but they couldn’t make any guarantees.
Anyway, I’m very glad we did the dive trip. Unfortunately we don’t have any underwater pictures this time. We did buy the DVD that Phil made, so maybe we can get some still shots off of that. If that doesn’t work, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the diving was great. I would definitely recommend both the Andaman Sea area and the Sea Dragon Dive Center.