Diving in Phuket
Just look at the world around you right here on the ocean floor
Such wonderful things surround you- what more is you looking for?
We came to Patong, Phuket for one thing: Scuba certification. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to like Patong much and for the most part it met those expectations. It was much too busy for me and it felt inauthentic, like the Disney of the islands. I knew it was bad when every restaurant serves, without fail, pasta and pizza no matter what. Trying to find the insanely spicy and flavorful food southern Thailand promised is like returning to a beach to search for that one shell you liked: nearly impossible.
However, my experiences with the hotel and the dive center were top notch. The hotel, Priew Wan Guesthouse, is one of the best places for travelers to stay in Patong. It's clean, the rooms are large and come with a balcony, and it's only a 5 minute walk to the beach. There are a ton of restaurants and bars around but it's a far cry from the insanity of Bangala road. We ended up staying an extra night because the spot was so comfortable and it was only $8 a night.
I found our dive center, Thailand Divers, on the PADI website and chose them because I wanted to ensure we were properly certified and that our center was recognized by the PADI organization. It was much cheaper and the dives more lovely than if we had taken the classes in the states. Dain and I had a private dive instructor, Hof, whose calm demeanor and light-hearted attitude towards diving made us feel confident and empowered as we entered the dives.
The first day consisted of a lot of theory, learning about scuba equipment, and practicing the basics like equalizing your ears in a swimming pool. The second and third days, we took a 2-hour boat ride from Phuket to Racha Yai and Racha Noi, two islands to the south that are known for hosting a stunning array of marine life in its coral reefs. Luckily, wore my prescription motion sickness patch (yes, that's a thing) and I felt perfectly fine on the boat ride and was able to join all the dives.
Scuba can be pretty intimidating and the literature you read focuses heavily on associated risks, which are important to know, but can easily get to your head. For me, everything changed when i deflated my vest, slowly dipped under the ocean surface, and began to breathe. I love the ability to move however I want when I'm under water- you can manipulate the space around you with so much more creativity and freedom than you can when you're on land and at gravity's mercy. It's such a zen experience to float in the calming turquoise of the water and listen to yourself breathe in deeply, and exhale slowly.
During the six dives over two days, we toured a few reefs between the two islands to find trigger fish, feather fish, damsels, a barracuda, a green eel, tons of puffer fish in various sizes, and even two cuttlefish. The damsels are small black fish but they're very territorial- one bit my leg as I swam away! The ones we really wanted to avoid are the trigger fish because they're extremely territorial and will attack your jugular first. Whenever I saw one, I immediately swam the other way. On the second day, we dove deep to take a look at a sunken ship.
Diving left me physically and mentally exhausted but it was so well worth it. Racha Yai and Noi were great places to learn how to dive because of the warm water, low current, high visibility, and tons of marine life. As someone who's curious about animals, I also appreciate how close you can get to the fish and plants to observe without disturbing them in their natural habitat. If you're thinking about diving in Thailand, definitely check out the Racha Islands or Similan Islands for the clearest waters and most biodiversity; Krabi and Phi Phi are too murky and polluted for diving but certainly offer lots to do otherwise.