Author: Nigel Pirie, October 2006
And then we were on our way to Phuket, Stu, Matt and myself, arriving at the Little Mermaid guesthouse in the town of Kata early Saturday evening. No time was wasted in meeting our dive guide Iain Page and his wife Oui, owners of Sharkey Scuba, at Lek's bar to discuss the coming two weeks diving. Sure enough a good week of diving was booked, starting at the island of Racha Noi and ending with an overnight stop at Phi Phi .
This was my second visit to Thailand and my first booking with Sharkey Scuba in Phuket. Most of the dive sites I have already dived so it was with anticipation that I waited to see if Iain could better my previous visit. Our diving started at Maritta's Rock, Racha Noi. Just the usual stuff here: soft coral, hard coral, sea fans, thousands of fish and good visibility. Have we been spoilt! Our following dives were all around this under water paradise, all slightly different and giving amazement in there own way. We ended this day with a night dive. As our fellow companion Matt would say "fantastic", four dives in the first day.
The King Cruiser was on our dive program the next day. Having dived this before I knew what to expect, or thought did I. Finning around this excellent wreck we got our surprise, my first sighting of a turtle. Yes, the King Cruiser has it's own resident turtle and he wasn't shy, allowing us all to see him. Shark Point was our next dive, my favourite dive site, everything you could expect in an under water paradise, glorious soft corals of all colours, masses of fish, and a leopard shark lying there to be photographed. That day's diving was some of the best seen for ages, and luckily we were there.
The end of our first week was to be at Phi Phi, an overnight stop with seven dives in all. We started off at my favourite site, Shark Point, and our guide, Iain, did not let us down. Sixty minutes of shear bliss, and spotting my first razor shrimp fish. Could he better it? Wait and see. Koh Bida Nai our second dive. Did he better it? Boy did he. An octopus in full techno colours gliding over the rock face, all of three foot span, forever changing colours to ward us off. Did it work? No the show was to good. We spent a good ten minutes here watching this spectacle. As Matt would say, "fantastic".
Rising after sixty minutes diving we waited for our next dives. We had two more planned today and the next was at Losama Bay, again full of gorgeous coral and fish, the last being a night dive at the memorial sight to the lost souls of Phi Phi during the Tsunami. We all kitted up, torches at the ready, and waited our turn. Unfortunately the group before us descended like bricks, hit the sandy bottom, and flapped like upturned turtles. Sand and silt clouded the site so it was off to the nearby reef to spot some shrimps, crab and lobster. I'll be back next year for this, and at the front of the queue.
I last visited the main island of Phi Phi Don four months after the Tsunami, and was distressed at that time to see the damage left behind. The usual long tail boat took us in to the island, and we arrived on the beach at our guest bungalows. I was amazed, the transformation was great, all re-decorated and electricity! We washed and changed then went down to Hippies bar, as you do here. The walk down was a delight to see, buildings now fully repaired, many shops open, and all the Tsunami aftermath cleaned up. Hippies does not change, the usual live music, fire dancers, and young back packers from all over the world. What a night we had and we only drank three beers, honest!
We had an early morning call, straight down to breakfast, on the long tail and back to diving at Koh Bida Nok, King Cruiser and Koh Doc Mai. All three dives proved good, the turtle showed up again, and we saw the biggest scorpion fish ever, and all in sixty minute dives. Sunday was our day of rest to detox from the nitrogen and did we rest. In the meantime Iain arranged our second week's diving program, as they say in Thailand "same, same but different".
Having rested we again boarded our favourite day trip boat, the Greta, and proceeded to the second week of diving. Could it be better? Wait and see, The King Cruiser proved different. A whale shark was expected in the area having been spotted here on the Saturday. Out into the blue we watched: Cobia, Rainbow Runner, these fish usually follow the big stuff. Did we see it? Unfortunately no. I'll be back. At Shark Point we spotted the most ugliest of fish possible, a Devil Scorpion fish slowly creeping along the sand. We also spotted a leopard shark, a group of twelve lion fish, a peacock mantis shrimp, fimbriated and zebra moray eels. As Matt would say "fantastic".
We had now set a dive standard. Nearly all our dives were at sixty minutes, none of this rushed stuff, you know, dive down deep, fin like mad, rush past all the sights, and burn up the air. No, no, no, just smooth relaxed 60 minute diving. What perfection, just what we ordered. Do you want the same? Find someone else, Iain is ours.
Sharkey Scuba are to be congratulated. What we ordered we got and better. Iain and wife Oui are both dive instructors. Oui is out of the picture at the moment, yes that diving illness called pregnancy, We wish her well. Iain dived the day with us and they both dined the evening with us. We'll all be back again and guess who we'll be diving with? Yes, Sharkey Scuba!
Thanks from the Boy's, Nigel, Stu and Matt. See you all again in the future.
N.B. Photos by Iain Page. All photos in this article were taken during Nigel's trip.
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