Our first day in the beautiful Phi Phi Islands was spent scuba diving. Diving was the primary reason for our travel here, and we had planned to join in on some local dives around the islands. Upon our arrival we were informed that for the last nine days, divers had sighted both whale sharks and manta rays at a dive site far offshore. It was two hours out into the open ocean by speed boat, and therefore the trip had a significantly higher cost; and there was no guarentee of a sighting, but chances were good. What an exciting possibility! We decided it was too good of an opportunity to pass up, and joined the trip.
After arriving an hour early because we forgot to change our alarm clock to the correct time zone, seven o'clock a.m. finally rolled around and we met Terry, our dive master, and the other diver who was in our group. We went over hand signals and the dive plans for each of the two dive sites before heading down to the docks where we were joined by divers from other companies, and filled two speed boats. Andrew and I sat in the very bumpy
front end, and it was quite a ride! We went past the beautiful island of Phi Phi Lei, and out into the open water. We could see a couple of peaked islands in the distance, but we went well beyond those as well. After a couple of high speed hours had past, the boat slowed. It was time to go diving! Everything happened very quickly, the first person jumped in the water and peered down into the depths below, quickly popping his head up, exclaiming, "Manta!" And with that, everyone else quickly slid into their gear and hurried into the water. When we jumped in, we discovered the water was very warm (about 30 degrees Celcius!) and very clear. It was our first time diving in salt water, but these conditions made it easy to adjust - it's easier to move about and breathe in this water than the frigid waters at home! As soon as we were in, we began our descent down to roughly 20 meters. We had only been at depth for less than a minute when we heard a rattle from our dive master's tool. We turned, and a giant manta was gliding by. Incredible! It
was so much bigger than we had expected (with a wing span of about 4.5 meters), and moved so gracefully and effortlessly through the water. Once it was gone, we heard another rattle and a (harmless) whale shark came into view! We could hardly believe our eyes! Only a few minutes in this underwater world, and we had already seen the two giants we had been dreaming about. We watched in awe as this massive creature with it's distinct spotted pattern swam by us. We learnt later that it was a young whale shark, but it was still gigantic - after all, they are the largest fish in the sea. As our dive continued, we saw more tropical fish than we can remember, beautiful corals, and more mantas! Eventually we were getting low on air, and reluctantly headed up the line for a safety decompression stop. We waited on the surface a while before getting into the boat, and I think both of us swallowed some sea water during this time - neither of us was feeling great by the time we climbed on board.
It was time for our lunch break and surface decompression. We weren't feeling well
enough to eat, but we both supplied some lunch for the fish... At one point during the break, someone on the other boat spotted a whale shark, and I've never seen so many people grab a mask and jump in the water so fast! During lunch, we had drifted over to the other nearby dive site, and were soon ready to go again. We hadn't been in the water for long before we saw more mantas. This time though, a couple of them continually circled us for some time. It was incredible to see that they were as interested in us as we were in them. We just floated there, watching in awe as they seemed to fly and glide around us. They came quite close as well - it sure is something to look a manta in the eye as it swims past! There was also such a variety of colourful, tropical fish; and amazing corals, some of which seemed to glow in the clear waters. We even saw several moray eels! We hadn't expected to see any of these, so it was quite a treat. Closer to the end of the dive, Andrew caught my attention and I
turned to see a sea turtle swimming beside him! It was amazing! We were so far out in the open ocean, to happen across a sea turtle was surreal. We would have loved to stay down there for longer, but unfortunately it was time to surface again. We slept for the ride back to Phi Phi Don, and we both got absolutely terrible sunburns!
Once onshore, we recapped the adventure with our dive master, who gave us the details of the dives for our logbooks and identified many of the fish we had seen. Diving in Thailand was certainly the experience of a lifetime - though it was our first ocean dive, it will definately be hard to beat! To be submersed in such an unbelieveable underwater world, and to interact with the marine life is an experience unlike any other. We're both very glad we decided to join the tour to the Hin Daeng and Hin Muang dive sites - we saw so much and it was even better than expected. We can't wait to get in the water again!
Please Note: All photographs in this blog were purchased from our dive master, who photo-documented our adventure.
We can't take credit for taking these incredible pictures, but we were there and saw it all first-hand! Enjoy!
We've done our best to correctly identify the fish species, but forgive us if some are incorrect
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