Our school was on holiday this past week so we had no work, yay! In non-Covid times we would try to fly somewhere fun for the time off, but obviously that’s not happening, plus we happen to be in a pretty popular vacation spot so we decided to stay put and do a few things we had been meaning to do around Phuket.
High on our list of things to do was some diving. Our last dives were in November of 2019-usually dive guides start getting a little cranky when you have gone more than 12 months without diving, and sometimes they even make you do a refresher course which is very annoying and costly so we try to avoid this at all costs. Of course the entire world has not been diving since early 2020 so we didn’t worry about it too much. Some friends of ours here suggested trying to go out together so we organized a day trip to go to a popular wreck site near Phuket.
I think the dive guide was a little wary when I got in touch and said “oh we haven’t been diving in 2 years and also we don’t have our PADI certification cards oh yeah and we don’t have our dive log book either” but I played the slightly exaggerated ‘evacuated out of Myanmar’ card and they let me just show them the photos I had taken of our documentation. We lucked out in managing to pick an operation off of Google that runs their own boat with a maximum of 8 divers on it. Most other companies here hire spots on big boats of 50-70 people and although you are in a five group of 4 you are having to navigate around hoards of other people. If you go diving in Phuket, I can’t recommend Aloha Diving enough. They have a beautiful boat, great equipment and the guiding is excellent.
On our first day we visited a wreck called King Cruiser, a car and passenger ferry that happened to hit a reef and then sink upright in 30 meters of water. Mysteriously, many fishing boats were around that day so all people aboard were rescued. Apparently it is a widely held opinion that perhaps this was an insurance scam…. In any case, we had a slightly terrifying dive briefing that talked about the strong current we might encounter. As this was our first dive in a while we got a little nervous, but as soon as we jumped in, everything was fine. Did a little tour around the wreck and then the second dive was at Shark Point, no sharks but a huge school of squid and a lovely big cuttlefish were some highlights!
We had such a good time we decided to dive another day. This time we were taken to Koh Doc Mai, a small island with walls of soft corals. It was beautiful-we saw sea snakes, Scorpionfish, Moray Eels, different kinds of shrimp and nudibranchs and even a Bamboo Shark! I was very proud of myself for spotting the well-camouflaged Scorpionfish, who was hanging out with a Moray Eel on top of the rock the shark was hiding under. However, Gav claims that he saw it first, he just was prioritizing the shark as that’s what we were looking for. Sure babe.
The diving there was spectacular and I hope we can go back again. Gav is getting a little too used to being on a boat and now he says he is putting a yacht on his Christmas list.
Diving was definitely a highlight of our week, but we also paid a visit to the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary. There are many places in Phuket you can go to ride and bathe with elephants, but this Sanctuary is dedicated to giving retired working elephants a home that encourages them to return to a life more like a wild elephant. The tourism that involves elephants here and in other places in South East Asia is actually pretty harmful to the animal’s psychological and sometimes physical well-being as the training done when the elephant is young is pretty gruesome. Some of the elephants also come from the logging industry, which still employs them alongside more modern equipment. The sanctuary does not allow riding, bathing, or touching the elephants (except for a brief time when you can feed them) but instead you can walk with them through the grounds and watch them from an elevated walkway. Each elephant has a Mahout (trainer/guide) that goes with them during the day and the only training tool that is used with the elephants is food. They are free to do whatever they want and you can sit and watch them! It was a great day and you do get to be very close to these beautiful creatures.
A great little break here on our temporary little island. We also spent some time making home improvements here at the Thai Bordello. Managed to fashion a little swim-up bar from a fridge I found in one of the haunted rooms.
And just in case you are wondering, Catface is doing just fine. Don’t tell Nell.