I was traveling in Asia when I met up with Christophe, a former colleague and good friend. He had taken three weeks off to join me for a trip to Thailand and Malaysia.
Christophe shares my deep passion for scuba diving. Accordingly, the question wasn't if we would go diving, but (1) where and (2) for how long. I had heard enchanting stories about a group of islands in the Andaman Sea, just a few hours off the western coast of Thailand: The Similan Islands.
The Similan Islands are a group of nine tiny islands, all with white sandy beaches and surrounded by some of Thailand’s richest waters. In order to explore most of the 20 dive sites, we opted to go for a four-day dive safari, also known as a "liveaboard."
Our boat was conveniently equipped with sleeping cabins and a specially designed dive deck, making for easy access to the water. Because our boat was determined hit as many dive locations as possible, we were on a pretty tight schedule. We started each day bright and early at 6 am. After a piece of toast and a cup of coffee, we were in the water by 7 am for our first dive. What a great way to start the day.
Another three dives would follow, each one followed by a lovely meal served by the friendly staff. Food tastes so much better after an exhausting swim in the ocean! We had opted to combine our dive trip with the Advanced Open Water course, which meant a few hours of studying per day as well. Some might find this disruptive on a holiday, but I rather enjoy melding education with pleasure.
The underwater scenery was absolutely stunning. Hard corals cover the steep slopes, and the high visibility allowed us to fully absorb the colorful scenery. Huge granite boulders peppered the sea floor, providing the various sea animals with a plethora of cracks and crevasses to hide in. Soft corals were scattered everywhere near the bottom, swaying calmly in the slow current, mesmerizing all of us with their rhythmic movements and bright colors.
One of the things I love about diving is that I always discover something new. This particular trip was no different. I saw a number of creatures I had never seen before, including a Leopard Shark, Garden Eels, and the tiny Sea Dragon.
To give you a good impression of what the underwater world looked like, I've created this video:
After the last dive of each day, we would change back into our comfortable clothes and sit atop the deck as the sun began to set. As we watched the breathtaking landscape amid excited conversations about the day’s adventure, the staff would quietly pull up a cooler full of ice cold beer. This was pure bliss. Enjoying a cold beer, chatting with new friends, and exchanging dive experiences, all while watching the sun drop beneath horizon… I can’t think of many things more enjoyable than that. Around 9 pm, I would head back to my room, read a few pages of my book, and eventually fall into a deep sleep.
This trip was one of the best experiences of my life. The liberation from technologies like mobile phones and the internet combined with a complete immersion into fresh ocean air, the stunning scenery of the islands, and the beauty of the underwater world made for a truly unforgettable experience.