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Published: November 12th 2011
Hi everyone, we’re now entering the final phase of our trip in Thailand before starting on our big adventure of Oz. These last few days have been very interesting, as we’ve been invited by my old friend Tim, owner of the dive centre Davy Jones Locker (DJL) on Koh Tao, to help in preparation for his new dive school on the island of Koh Lipe, based on the western side of Thailand in the Andaman Sea.
What makes this so interesting is that Koh Lipe is an island which is developing and is currently in its infancy, much like what Koh Tao was 10-15 years ago. This means there is an opportunity to establish oneself successfully early on, using all the experience and resources from Koh Tao to quickly set up and run a diving business, using a previous working model.
For me, the most interesting part is the diving itself and which is why I’m here, to help Tim find new dive sites for his new school and have some of my time exploited for things like setting up the electrics for his compressor among other things... While I set to work, B takes a break after enduring back breaking work at the elephant sanctuary, by relaxing by the beach and having her daily massages.
Straight away you can see huge differences between Koh Tao and Koh Lipe. Whereas Koh Tao is now overdeveloped and having a negative impact on the sea life, Koh Lipe is underdeveloped and the sea life is bountiful as is the coral. It’s perfect from a diver’s point of view!
As we arrived on Koh Lipe a couple of days before Tim, I decided to carry out a dive with one of the few dive schools located on the island and aside from learning something about what dive sites they offer their clients, also try and learn something of how they’re working their own business model, with the aim of picking up some pointers to help my old friend improve on what he already has. The first dive will be on a wreck about 1km from the island, 42 metres in depth. This boat sank about 1990 and according to the Divemaster leading the dive; it was sunk intentionally for “insurance purposes”. The briefing is vague to say the least and I notice that we are told that we will be carrying out decompression stops, even though I don’t have a dive computer or schedule tables and this is supposed to be a recreational dive as none of the others are tech divers or have the adequate equipment to carry out such a programmed dive. I of course do the dive! At least I learn where exactly the dive site is located and know that they won’t be a match for Tim’s diving organisational skills. This dive school, which I won’t name, doesn’t pose a threat, quite the opposite!
When Tim arrives, I fill him in on my findings. At the same time we set to work preparing the dive centre with the basics, so at least it can be operational within 24 hours. We still haven’t got the compressor running, so one of Tim’s instructors goes to his competition to fill up some tanks for our programmed dive. He comes back and tells us that they have flatly refused to fill them. It seems they don’t want to cooperate and are acting like jealous little school children. I quickly start working on the electrics to get Tim’s compressor running. By the end of the day it’s done and we are now operational, even if only just with the bare minimal. We carry out our dive on the same wreck I had already dived with the previous dive school. It’s a great dive and we’re all exhilarated as we head back to the island on Tim’s super fast rib!
The next day, we carry out more work at the centre. I start helping putting up boards. Each of us has different tasks and working as a team, we quickly make the centre presentable. So much so, that new customers come in and put themselves down for courses and diving. What a result! Tim always the charmer has no problem enticing new customers.
That same afternoon, I carry out a shore dive with a Divemaster in training. I noted when we were on the rib, a drop from 7 metres, quite sharply to 33 metres, only 300 metres from the island, on the sonar. We are not disappointed. Although the bottom is a bit silty, there is a lot to see. There is abundant coral and all types of sea life, not least, barracudas, groupers, blue spotted rays and different species of eel to name a few.
The following day, my last day of diving, we’ve planned on doing a dive at a place called 8 mile rock. We’ve chartered a Thai Long Tail boat with a captain, as we’re unsure exactly where this place is located. The idea is we input the data into our GPS on arrival. Unfortunately for us, it’s too rough for us to continue to this dive site. I see the Thai captain blow a sigh of relief when we tell him to turn around. Instead, we’re taken to a dive sight called Purple Haze, also called Stone Henge. The bottom depth here is about 20 metres, but all the interesting stuff is only between 10 and 18 metres. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large area of pristine coral of differing types. The place is teething with life. This is the best coral I have seen in at least 15 years, it’s absolutely beautiful. I tell Tim later that he should maybe call it ‘The Garden of Eden’; it certainly feels and looks like paradise. What a fantastic dive site for Open Water Divers! I hope to return again one day to see if there any negative changes, God I hope not!
Our second and final dive takes us to a place called Jabang (meaning unknown) by the local Thai Fisherman Gypsies. It’s only a few kilometres from our previous dive, but as we get closer and it comes into view, I get really excited; I can see lots of water movement on the surface and I know from experience that there is a strong current here and possibly the top of a reef. Diving in currents is what I love and brings back memories of my old diving days in the Straits of Gibraltar. We quickly gear up, jump in without any air in our BCD’s, in order to go down into the depths as quickly as possible. It’s important that we do this so we’re not displaced from the reef too quickly, otherwise we’ll miss the dive site altogether. We make it to the bottom in record time. We shield ourselves from the current as best we can, but no matter how much we try, we have to battle along the bottom, clawing our way forward through the reef. At the same time we’re admiring the coral and I can’t help thinking that the fish are laughing at our pathetic attempt to push through the current. It’s brilliant, we all love it! This is what diving is all about!
Anyone interested in undertaking some diving and chill out time in Thailand might want to consider Koh Lipe as a place to stay for a few days. For diving, you can visit one of Tim’s websites: www.scubadivekohlipe.com.
Thanks for reading.
M & B.
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