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Manta rays, sea turtles, barracuda tornadoes, and more: scuba diving in Similan Islands, Thailand (#1).

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In late November 2014, I embarked on a three day scuba diving trip off the western coast of Phuket, Thailand. Two friends Dan and Janet, whom I previously wrote about last year, invited me on a three day, two night diving trip on the world renowned Similan Islands, on board a boat.

Coincidentally, we touched base as I was finishing my scuba diving license, and there was room for more on the live-aboard! South Siam Divers was the name of the diving company we went to bed with.The trip would comprise of 11 dives over the course of three days, all inclusive of room and board, food, and equipment. All for the cost of about $820 USD.

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To reach the liveaboard, a speed boat drove took us 1.5 hours off the coast of Phuket to reach the islands. The group of nine islands are approximately 70 kilometers off the coast, located on this map.

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This was a scuba-focused trip, and we got to work immediately. The entire group of ~25 people dove three days within that first afternoon and evening. I was feeling nauseous and exhausted, likely from jet lag and lack of sleep, and skipped the night dive. Unfortunately, I missed out on the only night dive of the trip.

Even then, the diving experience was truly remarkable, expanding my total dives from four to 14. Most of these dives, including the first day at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, dove to depths of 30 meters. As I was only Open Water certified, I was technically allowed to dive to a maximum depth of 18 meters. It’s a good thing I did not know this limitation, else I may have been more nervous.

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Dan and Janet also brought their friends: Brady, Tim, and Ivy. Brady was my diving partner, and we also hired a local dive master to ensure that we see every little detail. Having Brady watch my back while following the dive master immensely boosted my confidence, as I was the least experienced diver of the bunch.

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As much as I’d like to give details of the classes of fish or abundant sea life, I cannot say much besides providing the beautiful photos. Scuba diving was everything I imagined it to be, and more. All is quiet except for the sound of your breathing. You’re suspended in 40-50 minutes of tranquility with an endless array of color moving around as fish, corals, and all the little sea monsters.

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Don’t forget the big monsters. Manta rays accompanied us from the first dive, with the largest having a wingspan of 5 meters long. They approached us curiously, almost within arm reach. Rays swim in circles, so all we had to do was turn and look at them, so spectating was effortless.

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The rich corals brought Finding Nemo to life. From clownfish in their anemones habitats, to giant shrimps and lobsters hiding between the cracks, to eels looking up at you from their shy corners, it’s incredibly surreal.

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Seeing the ocean traffic, chaotic but orderly, reminded me of all the futuristic movies with flying cars. The Mass Effects, Fifth Elements and every other Tom Cruise movie sprung to life in front of my very eyes

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And the minute details was equally spurring, such as this little sea slug.

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Or the intense details between these two gigantic boulders.

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Or this one.

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Other times, I’m left aghast from fish that seem to be glowing blue, swimming around you as you try to take a closer look. That, and bigger fish are chasing them – must taste delicious.

Besides the marine life, another worldly sight was being able to see two different currents intersect. Thailand waters are extremely warm, but as we were 30 meters down, you could visibly see where the water temperature becomes drastically cooler. Similar to seeing “water” on the the asphalt in the California heat, or the same in deserts, we were able to see an upcoming current. I remember the lower half of my body entered this current, and the cold water felt good, albeit scary, as the current slowly swept me away.

There’s much more to be said for this three day trip, so I’ll continue on with barracuda tornadoes, sea turtles, and the overall liveaboard experience in the next post.

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