Tag - andaman sea

Diving in Thailand

Diving in ThailandSawadee Krap!

Welcome to Thailand the land of smiles. Rich in culture and abundant in natural beauty, this tropical paradise is a SCUBA divers dream. We will take you to the warm clear waters in the gulf of Thailand where you can explore coral infested pinnacles and immerse yourself in shoals of barracuda and batfish or quietly seek out Nemo amongst the flourishing anemone gardens. We will take you to the west coast of Thailand to the Andaman sea where you will find some of Thailand’s most stunning dive sites. Here, the heavily protected marine parks contain luxurious, multi coloured, coral quilts teeming with life. Manta rays, leopard sharks and turtles are not unusual here and in the right season expect to come face to face with gentle whale sharks as they migrate along Thailand’s coastlines feeding on plankton. Whether you are a qualified diver or a total novice, there are experienced, multilingual instructors and divemasters eagerly waiting at PADI dive centers throughout Thailand, ready to lead you into these beautiful waters and teach you new underwater skills.


Welcome to Thailand and the underwater beauty it has to offer!

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THE WEATHER IN THAILAND – What’s the weather like? Is it good for diving?

Generally the weather in Thailand is hot, and the dive seasons are dictated by the monsoons. On the west coast of Thailand there is a long monsoon, that runs from May through to October. Dive operations to the Similan and Surin Islands and the Burma Banks cease to operate during this time. Koh Lanta closes down! On the East coast of Thailand, the monsoon runs from November until mid January. Dive operations on Koh Tao will still continue during this period, but the visibility and weather can be unpredictable.

PADI DIVE COURSES – What sort of courses are available in Thailand? 

PADI OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandWelcome to the underwater world! Over 4 days we will teach you basic dive theory and techniques to make you into a safe, happy and competent diver. There are many beautiful, shallow and protected bays or custom built swimming pools ideal for learning all the basic dive skills and adapting to breathing underwater in a gentle and controlled environment. Once these skills are mastered, we will take you into the sea for 4 `open water` dives – the real deal! Prepare to come face to face with cheeky turtles, immerse yourself in shoals of curious batfish and marvel at nature’s treasure trove of colour amongst all the beautiful coral. We will take you to a maximum depth of 18 metres and the PADI open water license is internationally recognized – your passport to the underwater realm all over the world!

PADI ADVANCED OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandNow you have your open water license, we want you to explore even more of the underwater world as you make 5 more dives over 2 days to attain another PADI license to add to your collection. We will take you deeper to 30 metres on the Deep Dive to get close to those bottom dwelling leopard sharks. On the Navigation Dive, you will learn how to use the compass, which will allow you to navigate around the vivid red fan coral to the nearby bright yellow table coral. You can also choose 3 more dives from the following – Night Dive – its like being on the moon! Watch everything glow when you turn off the torch and wave your hands about, Photography Dive – learn how to use an underwater camera to take pictures of all your favourite fishes! Multi Level Dive – use the wheel to plan your dives so you can say hello to the giant moray eel at 26 metres, pop up to check out the clown fish dancing in their anemone homes at 16 metres and then glide around at 10 metres with a graceful manta ray! Naturalist Dive – I spy underwater as you get to see and learn more about all the magnificent marine lifearound you ! Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive – practise your underwater balance using breathing control as you cartwheel above the coral and levitate like a leopard shark!

diving_in_thailand_6PADI EFR COURSE (EMERGENCY FIRST RESPONSE)

The EFR course takes 1 day and you will be taught resuscitation and heart massage as well as basic first aid relevant to many different situations. You will learn how to deal with a variety of emergency scenarios including choking, shock, hyperthermia and, bleeding as well as marine life and diving related injuries. This is a recognised first aid course and is valid for 2 years.

PADI RESCUE COURSE 

During this course, we will teach you how to anticipate and respond to problems to take care of other divers and yourself. We will return to the shallow bays close to the islands to learn underwater search patterns for missing divers. If your buddy starts to panic, don’t worry! We will teach you how to rescue them above and below the water. We will show you how to rescue unconscious divers from the bottom and how to bring them to the surface and then how to use different lifting techniques to get them out of the water and resuscitate them. We will teach you to be a confident, aware and prepared diver.Lets keep the sea a safe place for us all!

Diving in ThailandPADI DIVEMASTER COURSE

The divemaster course usually runs as an internship and has unlimited time and unlimited dives depending where you make your course. ou make the DM course at your pace and will have theory lectures on physiology, physics, decompression sickness, skills and the environment, equipment as well as divemastership. You gain experience with instructors assisting OW, AOW and rescue courses as well as with our divemaster guiding certified divers.

You will map a dive site, make swim tests, an underwater equipment exchange, perform a skill circuit and another rescue scenario. Anytime during the course you can make fun dives. It is like being in your very own diving university! There is a great social atmosphere whilst you make the course and there will always be a lot of people diving of some sort and usually a big bunch of divemaster trainees all at different stages of their courses so you are guaranteed a lively atmosphere. Everyone is interested in diving and you are all living in a tropical paradise so you will find that many of these people and the instructors will become good friends for life.

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) 

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) For the IDC we work directly with BUDDHA VIEW 5 star IDC RESORT on Koh Tao. BUDDHA VIEW has a very experienced course directors- Mark from Brisbane who works with his team of staff instructors to hold an IDC every 2 months and sometimes every month. What makes these guys so successful is that they are very experienced and have been holding IDCs for many years so that whilst you learn in a professional atmosphere they are relaxed and you will have a lot of fun. The big plus for BUDDHA VIEW is that they have their own separate IDC center for the IDC candidates only, with air con lecture theatre, digital projector, surrounds sound and all the materials you will ever need during your IDC. It is the only IDC center in Thailand and means you will not be disturbed by open water, advanced courses etc being conducted nearby. During the IDC you will go through the divemaster theory exams again and you must simply get a higher percentage of questions right than in the DM course.Mark and the team will teach you how to instruct PADI dive courses the way PADI wants you to instruct and you will give lots of presentations so you know how to conduct the academics of PADI dive courses. They will show you how to brief on the dive boat before diving and how to debrief after dives with your students and they will show you how to problem solve underwater.You will also learn how to navigate the PADI standards and procedures manuel or CD ROM that every instructor uses. Well done you are now a PADI dive instructor !

Diving n ThailandEAST COAST DIVING – KOH TAO

Koh Tao (Turtle island as it is otherwise known) is Thailand’s most popular diving island. Located 500 kms south of Bangkok in the gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is tiny, beautifully natural, charming and most importantly close to a myriad of lovely dive sites. Koh Tao has rapidly developed in popularity since it was ‘discovered’ by backpackers in the late 1980’s. In those days when the first backpackers arrived they were greeted by a few local fishermen harvesting coconuts. The word spread quickly amongst travelers around Thailand about this tiny island with beautiful beaches, lush jungle interior and surrounding crystal clear waters bursting with tropical marine life.

As more travelers arrived so did the first SCUBA diving sets of equipment, the first PADI dive schools commenced operations and Koh Tao’s underwater secret was out! Today, there are now more than 30 dive operations on Koh Tao and the island boast more than 25 dive sites within close proximity that can suit every standard of diver with shallow protected bays for total beginners to deeper world class rocky pinnacles for experienced professionals. Expect to see shoals of barracuda, batfish, snapper and butterfly fish around the coral covered boulders. Small rays, moray eels and boxfish hide amongst the many cracks and crevasses whilst the titan triggerfish graze on the coral. Giant groupers and turtles are not uncommon and Koh Tao is famous for one giant seasonal visitor, the whale shark, which often appear around March and April. We work directly with BUDDHA VIEW dive resort who are based on the quieter Chalok Ban Kao beach in the south of Koh Tao.

Diving in ThailandWEST COAST DIVING – KOH LANTA

Koh Lanta is a bigger island just to the south of Krabi off the west coast of Thailand. Long rolling beaches with a dense vegetative interior make this getaway a nature lovers delight. Koh Lanta is a very tranquil island where peace and quiet is not hard to find and nestled in the Andaman sea is close to some superb dive sites. There are many lovely dive spots close to the island with beautiful corals and teeming with tropical aquarium fish.

Two of the best dive sites near Koh Lanta are the famous Hin Daeng and Hin Mouang which are world class dive sites. Deep pinnacles embalmed in spectacular soft and hard corals, they attract huge shoals of tropical fish and graceful Manta rays. Here, you will find exciting swim throughs and caverns festooned in dazzling gorgonian fans and soft corals. As you quietly drift through don’t be surprised if you come face to face with a giant potato cod. We have teamed up with the excellent Scandinavian run LANTA DIVER who are a PADI 5 star IDC center.

Diving in ThailandTHE SIMILAN AND SURIN ISLANDS

The Similan islands are an uninhabited isolated tropical chain of islands located north east of Phuket in the Andaman sea. Just to the north of the Similan islands are a cluster of superb dive sites including the world renowned Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu rock famous for Manta rays and whale sharks. Further north, just before Burmese waters, await the Surin islands. This whole area is nestled like a cluster of jewels in heavily protected marine parks and offers the finest diving in Thailand without a doubt. The turquoise Andaman waters reveal 30/40 meters visibility in high season and contain luxurious coloured blankets of soft and hard corals that hug the rocky outcrops and granite pinnacles.

This whole area is a cosmos of marine life with huge shoals of roving assorted tropical fish. Manta rays are normally seen around the deeper dive sites and whale sharks often feed on plankton around Richelieu rock during March and April. Everywhere you will see leopard sharks, turtles and giant morays but keep an eye out for the small animals like seahorses and ghost pipefish. Diving in the Similan and Surin islands is conducted on specially modified dive boats that operate 3, 4 and 7 day liveaboard cruises. We work closely with 2 PADI dive centers that run cruises to the Similan and Surin island marine park. SEADRAGON DIVE CENTER who are based in Khaolak just north of Phuket and they have 3 boats that run 3 or 4 day dive cruises. WORLDWIDE DIVE AND SAIL who are based in Phuket and operate 7 day/7 night dive cruises aboard their boat the SY Sampai Jumpa that incorporates sailing as well as diving, kayaking and snorkeling.

A Weekend Walk in Yangon

A Weekend Walk in Yangon Burma
A Weekend Walk in Yangon Burma
A Weekend Walk in Yangon Burma
A Weekend Walk in Yangon Burma

It’s a gloriously sunny day. Squinting through the window I can make out the magnificent deltas of the Thanlwin, Sittaung and Bago rivers below, looking like hundreds of crooked bony fingers probing into the Andaman Sea. It’s a breathtaking view and I remain transfixed until we touchdown. Myanmar International airport is nothing to write home about and I find it strangely reminiscent of a visit to Tashkent Airport about 12 years ago, but with slightly less rubble to scramble over. That said, the customs staff in this peculiarly cool and airy arrivals hall manage to process the entire flight in minutes and still find time to exchange pleasantries with each passenger.

In most developing countries the newly arrived guest is accosted by hordes of taxi drivers and hotel touts, and Yangon International Airport is no exception. The only difference here is the remarkable politeness of these guys. They accept no for an answer, bid me good day and move to the next potential source of income. It’s a welcome and refreshing change. It’s at this point that I realise that investment in a guide book would have been money well spent. I negotiate with several drivers on the road outside the airport and settle on what seems to be the going rate for the journey to my accommodation.

Most taxis will take either Kyats, US dollar, British pounds or Yen. Dollars can be exchanged at the official money changer booth in the airport, presided over by a crusty old guy with a sinister appearance, where you will get about 450 kyats to the US$1. If you can wait and change money once you’re in Yangon itself you will get 1000 Kyats or more, a much better deal. Be sure to have a few dollars, British pounds or Yen with you on arrival though, just to get you away from the airport, and don’t forget to check that driver is happy to accept whatever currency you have.

As with most taxi drivers across Asia the one who drives me to my chosen accommodation is a Manchester United fan, and even has a brand new Wayne Rooney shirt in his cab, kept neatly folded in a plastic wrapper; apparently a much a prized possession. I haven’t the heart to tell him that I think Rooney, though a talented footballer, is a butt-ugly, foul mouthed thug in my humble opinion. I settle with just telling him that I support the Magpies and he embarrasses me by knowing more than I do about their present struggle to keep from relegation. I really didn’t expect an Yangon taxi driver to be so knowledgeable about the English Premiership; it’s quite a revelation.

I stay at the Classique Inn which is a lovely privately owned guest house nestled amongst the diplomatic residences along Golden Valley road and a short walk from where Aung San Suu Kui is held under house arrest. I arranged this accommodation online prior to my arrival and can strongly recommend their fast and courteous service. They charge US$30 per night for a double room with en-suite and breakfast and for a further US$2 they throw in a dinner too. Once there I change US$75 at a rate of 1100 kyats/US$1 and get landed with a gargantuan pile of the local currency that won’t fit into my wallet and has to be stuffed into an airmail envelope. A short taxi ride with yet another Man U supporter and I am in downtown Yangon, after a brief stop to change a deflated tyre for an inflated but bold one. The taxis in Yangon are almost exclusively white, Japanese, at least 20 years old and right hand drive; odd in a country where they drive on the right hand side. In fact most of the private vehicles are right hand drive also, not just taxis. Presumably a sign that they get most of their vehicles as second-hand imports from a country that drives on the left.
 
My aim is to explore Yangon on foot. Hot as it is, the climate is much more suited to walking than Bangkok and the traffic a great deal more pedestrian friendly. I walk for hours through busy streets, crammed with locals in sarongs busying to and fro, through markets with colourful displays of exotic fruits spread out on the floor, garment merchants selling material in all patterns and designs, sarong peddlers, men selling cheap plastic toys, book sellers and street tobacconists. Someone is selling something on every street, under every tree and on every corner. I try to install a new film in my camera but have a problem. I find a camera repair shop with far too many assistants for its clear lack of customers and try explaining my problem to a young guy at the door. He shares the dilemma with a few of his colleague and then collectively they refer it to a evil looking bearded guy perched on a stool at the other end of the shop. He takes my camera in complete silence, fiddles a little and then solves the problem in an instant. I ask how much but he just slowly shakes his head and throws me a knowing wink. All his underlings are suitably impressed by his performance with the foreigner’s camera and can’t stop smiling.
 
Everywhere I go there is an aroma of some kind in this city of fragrant streets; scent, food, tobacco, incense, pleasant and exotic cooking smells. Filthy canals and open drains don’t seem to be in as much abundance as they are in Bangkok. Yangon is in no way a romantic city and falls well short of being even picturesque at first viewing but it has a certain charm that, mixed with the friendliness of its people, is quite intoxicating. I read somewhere that Yangon was once the ‘garden city’ of SE Asia. Though it is undeserving of such a flowery monika at present it is easy to see that it would have been quite a place in its heyday. On this first day I already want to return and learn more about the country, wishing my stay wasn’t so short
 
The buildings are generally old colonial with modern cheaply constructed units dotted between them, and here and there more recent multi-storey monstrosities. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of colonialism the resulting architecture is surely an asset to any cityscape. Unfortunately even some of the colonial buildings that are still in use have been sorely neglected and look tired and miserable. It’s a city in need of a sympathetic makeover.
 
Busy as the streets are I can’t help feeling alone. Foreigners are scarce and once away from the absolute centre I’m soon aware that I’m the only white face around. At no point do I feel in danger or the need to worry, even when sauntering through the most run down areas of town or when, as on several occasions, I’m stopped from taking photos or going down certain streets by armed soldiers and police.
 
Several hours of walking and I have the town pretty much sown up and retire to the 20th floor of the Sakure Tower for refreshments and to view the city from above. The crumbling buildings look even worse from up here, roofs caved in on many of them. I was right about the makeover. The view reminds me of Cairo where you suddenly go from city to desert. Yangon is similar, but with considerably less pyramid. Stretching before me is the chaos of Yangon, right up to the river which acts as a buffer between city and nothingness. On the other side of the river is nothing, just open plains littered with the occasional cluster of trees.
 
I’ve been wanting to visit Yangon for some time and my first impression of it is favourable. I think you know if you’re going to like somewhere the moment you see it, and arriving in Yangon with no pre-conception of what to expect I am pleasantly surprised by what I find and know straight away that I like it. It’s a step back in time and is, I imagine, similar to Bangkok in the early seventies, but it has charm and the people are truly warm and welcoming. More than once I’ve been stopped by strangers for a quick handshake and to wish me well, leaving me wondering if I’ve just been the victim of a scam or theft of some kind. In fact it is just a refreshing and genuine attack of politeness and good manners from a people only too happy to see faces from outside grace their streets. Without exaggeration almost everyone I’ve made eye contact with has smiled and or said hello. The true ‘land of smiles’ if ever there is one.
 
Another taxi ride, this one with a chirpy Liverpool fan, and I’m back at the Classique Inn where the staff serve a fabulous local dish for dinner incorporating a wholesome vegetable soup, spicy chicken pieces with vegetables and a simple caramel nut dessert, all washed down with local beer and served alfresco on a quaint little patio beneath a large coconut tree that dangles heavy coconuts perilously above my head from about thirty feet.
 
I intend to go out and explore the Yangon nightlife but get sidetracked by the staff of the Classique who are keen to talk about Myanmar and all it has to offer. Later an American girl arrives fresh off the plane from Bangkok. She’s one of many foreigners I’ve spoken to who is visiting the country for a three month spell of meditation and we talk late into the evening over a several beers. Despite her best attempts I remain unconvinced as to the usefulness of spending three months sat cross-legged and going ‘ohm’ whilst depriving yourself of beer, fags and all your favourite food. Despite our differences of opinion we get along fine, though I decide it’s time for goodbye when she claims to have a ‘spiritual connection with the people of Myanmar’. A bold claim for someone who has only been in the country for a few hours.
 
Breakfast alfresco on the patio at 6.30 sharp and then I walk down to the famous Shwe Dagon pagoda. The original pagoda is said to date back some 2,500 years and contain 8 hairs from the Lord Buddha given to a couple of brothers from Myanmar on a pilgrimage to the north of India. Not being one for temples and pagodas I visit Shwe Dagon mainly because I had been told that it was a must for any visitor to Yangon. It is. As pagodas go this one is definitely the daddy. Built on a mount there is quite a walk up, barefoot, until you reach the base of the pagoda. But it is worth it. Standing more than 90m high from its base, which is greater than 420m in perimeter and in the region of 50m above the surrounding city, this golden ‘winking wonder’ dominates the surrounding complex of smaller pagodas, statues shrines and Tazaungs. Sarong clad locals are in abundance; praying, relaxing, meditating or simply, as it appears, chewing the fat with friends. There is a truly pleasant atmosphere and I would have stayed a while longer had I not been on a strict time frame due to my lunchtime flight.
 
From Shwe Dagon I continue north-east and make my way to Nga Hat Gyee, on the recommendation of one of the staff at the Classique, to view another temple and several hundred monks learning about meditation. Meditation appears to be quite a popular pastime for both locals and foreigners alike. At Nga Hat Gyee I’m told there is a Brit in residence who has been meditating now for six months solid, and for free. I politely decline an offer to meet him and continue my walk. I can’t imagine what I could possibly talk about to a guy who has been meditating almost exclusively for six months.
 
From Nga Hat Gyee I head south taking in the picturesque Kan Daw Gyi Lake and then along Zoological Garden Street, past the Aung San Stadium and back to the downtown area. It is in the area of the stadium that I am the victim of a money changer scam. Keen to change the pile of Kyats I still have left back to dollars I fall for the sales patter of a money changer and follow him back to his ‘shop’, a small, sweaty, hole in the wall affair populated by several of his countrymen. There’s a great deal of pushing and shoving, a fair amount of bullshit to distract me and I’m down 10,000 Kyats with nothing to do about it. We continue the transaction with the remainder of my money and I leave, somewhat pissed at myself for letting this happen. Two of them follow me out of the shop begging me to come back and solve our ‘misunderstanding’. Accepting my loss I suggest where they can put their solutions and move on. They hassle tourists in the area around the stadium and look Indian. Avoid at all cost or take extreme care.
 
Yangon is not for those addicted to the creature comforts of modern 21st century living. The streets are not awash with luxury shopping malls or American fast food retailers; though they do have a local equivalent complete with golden arches called Mac Burger and a doughnut shop that looks remarkably familiar. You’ll have trouble getting a mobile on an overseas network to work and your options for nightlife are somewhat more limited than Bangkok, Singapore or even KL. That said, it is a great place to visit to experience that something a little out of the ordinary. As for the moral argument about whether or not to visit just think about the people. Do you think they really want to be isolated? It’s easy enough to visit Myanmar and limit the amount of money you actually throw into government coffers. If you visit major government tourist attractions, fly with MIA or use the state transport system and hotels you’ll be contributing to the system and arguably prolonging the hell. If, on the other hand, you organise the trip yourself and use only privately owned accommodation, private taxis for transport and avoid anything with state involvement the only money you’ll be giving the government will be the US$10 airport tax on departure. One thing is for sure, the people of Yangon clearly welcome visitors to their country.