Author: Marco and Agnes, Netherlands, October 2008
In the Netherlands we have an expression that says "we jumped into a warm bath" which means you are accepted into a family or friends club and you feel you have a connection with them. And we jumped into a warm bath being in Phuket sea and diving with Iain and Oui. We made an email connection three months ago to take care of our dive trips as I (Marco) knew Iain from two years ago, and we did a dive trip which was so well taken care then that I thought, why not mail again. We arrived on the 26th September and had booked a dive trip on 28th September through a big advertising dive company in the Netherlands that didn't really worked out the way we wanted. The dives were ok and the guide was a great guy, but the overall taking care of wasn't what we expected and so we decided to contact Iain and see what more dives we could do in the Andaman Sea and most important with who.
I (Marco) met Iain 2 years ago through a friend, and being busy myself as a beginning diver and photographer, didn't really give us time to meet and also I didn't dive all dives with Iain but with one of his guides, but really had a great time. We mailed to meet up and so we did, in a nice bar in Karon, Phuket just around the cornerfrom the dive centre. Iain and Max, one of his guides and dive instructor, were already waiting and we had a nice evening with a beer or 4 and dive story's to share. My girlfriend is a PADI instructor and so there was a lot of connection. And then it happened, we felt warmth and friendship and a professional answer to all our questions about diving in Phuket in the Andaman Sea. We felt that we made the right decision to dive with Sharkey Scuba Iain and his crew and made a dive tour plan. We decided that Iain would make us a trip schedule and the next day he came to our hotel and told us about the dives and what time we would be picked up. And if you see a bright orange helmet on a motorbike driving around Phuket, yes that's him.
The next morning we got picked up at 8 a.m. as he told us and we were brought by a mini-bus to the harbour were Iain was waiting with all the dive gear and we went aboard. During the trip to the dive area he told us about the sea life and what to expect and where to look, and as we arrived we made all our dive gear ready and took a plunge in the warm waters of the sea. It was amazing what we saw, moray eel, leopard shark, lion fish and so much more and for our first dive at the King Cruiser wreck we had such an amazing light fall and so much fish. It was like being in a movie and almost unreal. Iain told us he would watch what the others on the boat would do and then take us the opposite side so we wouldn't meet other divers and be alone almost, and we were.
We did three dives that day with the most amazing scenery and saw so much, and as we dive every week in the Netherlands we are used to currents and cold. This was another thing. Our pools are about 25 degrees which is nice, but the andaman sea is 29 degrees so very comfortable and warm. We usually dive in a dark 40 meter lake with 3 meter visibility and water-temperature which is around 5 to 10 degrees. But this day was what we had in mind about diving in Thailand and Iain didn't say a word too much about what we would see. Our second dive was Shark Point, Phuket and this one was even more beautiful than the King Cruiser, with leopard sharks on the bottom sleeping and moray eels that tried to nip me, and did. Iain was our extra set of eyes and guided us around amazing hard and soft coral fans. Last dive that day was Koh Doc Mai, a wall with all you can imagine in sea life. So the current took us on a tour and Iain showed us again, snails, fish and so much more to write about.
On the way back Iain invited us for a family dinner and after cleaning up in our hotel at Patong boulevard we went over by tuk-tuk. In combination with the great day we had we found ourselves in a warm bath of diving friends and family that really made us feel at home on Phuket. Like we were there for many years, eating and drinking, we had a great evening and went home (hotel) knowing what great friends we made and a warm family and dive center this is.
In between dive days we did a sight-seeing tour which was arranged by Iain and this is one we really recommend apart from the diving, the kayak tour in the jungle of Khao Sok. In the morning we did a tour and after a great lunch we had the most relaxing kayak river trip through the jungle which was so peaceful and nice and makes you see so many other things besides diving.
Over the next week we did several other dive days with Iain and the last day with his wife Oui which was great too as Iain had a cold and hopefully with Oui we would "finally" see that whale shark...haha, but not meeting the whale shark we still had a great day. Oui is such a sweetheart that really looks after you.
The last evening we were invited again to Oui and Iain's home to have a family dinner and again it was for us like being with old friends that you know for so many years. We had a great evening. We didn't get to play dino-eggs with Iain (old "Commodore 64" computer game that Iain and Marco used to play) but who cares. Saying goodbye was a hard thing as we left after two great weeks and left a great family behind. They took so much care over our diving days and were more than our guides. A warm bath, the Andaman Sea and the dives, but most of all being there with the Page's from Sharkey Scuba in Phuket, a family that is way more then a dive center. They became our friends and we will be back for sure next year.
Thanks Oui, Iain and daughter Abbie for everything and taking so much effort to making our holiday such a great time.
N.B. Photos by Marco Zeilstra and Oui Penkul. All photos in this article were taken during Marco and Agnes' trip.
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