In 1990, Dan and I did an openwater diver course in Cairns, Australia which included 3 days living onboard a boat on the Great Barrier Reef exploring the underwater life of the reef. Despite the fact that it was an incredible experience, we had never been diving since!
In choosing where to roost in Thailand, the opportunity to dive was a strong criteria. Ko Phi Phi and the neighbouring islands have great reefs for both snorkelling and diving which are at least semi-protected as underwater parks.
We've been snorkelling extensively for the past two weeks and decided it was time to do the scuba refresher course we desperately needed before diving on our own.
We booked a refresher with one of the gazillions of outfits on the island. Moskito Diving had their own small dive tank especially for refresher training and took the concept much more seriously than some of the other shops (after 11 years, we figured we needed to treat it fairly seriously!) so we signed on with them. The theory and practice session in the tank went fairly smoothly as we reaquainted ourselves with both the gear and the safety considerations.
The next day we were ferried from the beach to the Moskito dive boat in rubber dinghies and headed for Bida Nia, one of the small uninhabited islands in the area. It was a crystal clear day, 35 degrees C outside and a balmy 29 degrees C in the water with calm seas and about 15 meters of underwater visibility.
Our first dive was spent getting reaquainted with the concept of buoyancy control as maintaining depth control is very important -- you don't want to touch the reef or the creatures as they can be both delicate and potentially harmful; you also have limitations as to how deep you can dive. I felt like I was bobbing up and down rather than swimming flat as I struggled to find neutral buoyancy. Our instructor led us through coral gardens, along wall faces and through natural archways; the sea life was amazing. I had forgotten how cool it is to be face to face with the fish instead of just looking down on them. I had not, however, forgotten how cool it is to have the dimension of depth; I quickly remembered not only to look around but also up and down when trying to locate people and things.
The second dive at Shark Point was much better; Dan and I seemed to have gotten a handle on buoyancy control and spent the dive enjoying the sea life. We saw some amazing stuff that we had never seen before -- moray eels, leopard sharks, crown-of-thorns starfish, schools of squid and cuttle fish. My favourite fish, the clown fish who live in the tentacles of anemones, were there as were the parrotfish, giant clams and sea cucumbers.
When you dive, you are part of the action, you are in the story. When you snorkel, you are watching the action, observing what is going on. They are related, but different. When you are diving, the fish swim with you, around you, sometimes into you; they are unafraid of you -- you're on their turf.
It was great to be back diving and now that we are "tuned up" we are considering doing another trip before we leave. There is a trip to a nearby wrecked ship that sounds tempting!