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Scuba diving in Similan Islands, Thailand (#2).

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Part 1 of this post available here.

Scuba diving is not difficult. You are technically not swimming; it’s more appropriate to say that you are floating in space. Scuba diving is meant to be extremely relaxing, because the slower you breathe, the slower you use up the oxygen tank. Therefore, controlled breathing is key, which can only be maintained through relaxation.

Our average dive times were between 40-45 minutes, with a maximum dive time of 50 minutes and inclusive of a five minute safety stop. Crossing 18 meters in depth increases the nitrogen presence in your blood. When ascending too quickly, divers can experience nitrogen narcosis (poisoning), so a “safety stop” five meters below surface is required to help release some of the nitrogen from your body. Dive computers help with depth calculations.

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My dive partner Brady and I performing a safety stop, grabbing onto the anchor line.

Every dive in which divers emerge safely is a successful dive. The goal is to see something new, learning a new maneuvering trick, and to enjoy the underwater scenery. Our three days resulted in zero issues, but one dive in particular had me plenty scared.

The third dive on our first day was at Koh Tachai. The currents were very strong, so we had to maneuver through giant boulders. Fighting the current to not get swept away, while trying to control my breathing, was extremely tiring. I remember my heart beating very quickly, and had issues returning to a normal heartrate from panicking. Myself and many others had to grab onto boulders to rest. Everyone was fine, but most people called it quits before 40 minutes. I felt exhausted, nauseous, and skipped the evening dive.

Luckily, the other dives were in fairly calm waters. I do not wish to encounter strong currents again.

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A group of barracudas swimming together. They are known to bad together in “tornadoes” as they slowly swim around in circles. Slightly reminded me of the scene in The Matrix Revolutions, whenthe machines breach Zion and move together as a single unit.

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If I could only select one dive as the highlight, it would be at the Richelieu Rock site. This used to be on many “Top 10″ or “Top 30″ dive sites in the world, presenting world class views of rich corals and marine life. The above is my favorite photo of the bunch, showcasing tropical fish swimming through the red and purple corals.

This is where we spotted the shy eels, groups of lion fish, groups of cuddlefish, giant groupers, and more.

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Three cuddlefish, with myself in the background.

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An eel peeking out from its hiding spot.

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A sea turtle at Turtle Rock Island. Its shell is particularly amazing. Other turtles we spotted had crusted, asymmetrical shells. Turtles here are very tolerant of diver presence, and do not flee on site. We took pictures of this turtle as close as five feet away, and it merely turned its head to look at us. Very docile creature.

The liveaboard was fantastic. The staff supplied everything from the equipment, to all-you-can-eat buffets, drinks and snacks, showers, and living quarters. They spend almost all their time on the boats, while speedboats carry divers to and from the boat. The staffers were local, while the dive masters came from all over the world.

Included amongst the diver masters was an American man and a Korean woman with a Ph.D in math! Both began as diving hobbyists, then shifted to careerists. Divers I met were also from all over the world: Slovenia, Croatia, USA, Australia, and more.

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Last but not least, I’m grateful to have joined the diving expedition via Janet and Dan. From meeting them to Taiwan, to rendezvousing again in Berkeley, to scuba diving in Thailand, this serves as a reminder to me that the world is large enough to explore, but small enough to maintain meaningful relationships!

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