Liveaboard Diving from Phuket
So it was back in 1999 that I came to Thailand to dive. The decision to give Thailand a try was based on reports from many people I had met while traveling in other countries who had been to Thailand. Nobody seemed to have a bad word to say. And, since I was already a dive instructor and Thailand has lots of diving, it seemed like a good option... But Thailand is a big country. And there are lots of places to dive, so where to choose?
Phuket ended up as the choice because Phuket was the gateway to the Similan Islands (Khao Lak is too, but in 1999 Khao Lak was much less well known), and Phuket was home to many liveaboard dive boats. A bit of research on the internet was enough to steer me towards Phuket. The Similan Islands sounded fantastic, and liveaboards were the way to get there. So my aim was to get work on a liveaboard, diving, cruising the seas and thinking to save some money and maybe move on after a year. Or two. Or a lot more, as it has turned out!
Why liveaboards? Well, I had been teaching beginners dive courses for a year or so, and fancied a change from that. A liveaboard is a custom built boat, where guests can stay for days at a time (anything from 2 to 10 days or even more). The boat has cabins (well, some cheap ones just have "sleeping areas"), a crew, you eat on the boat, sleep on the boat and move from dive site to dive site. It's all about diving! The liveaboard life is basically dive-eat-sleep, plus of course a good lot of chat and getting to know your fellow divers. This seemed like just what I wanted to do, just dive and talk diving!
My first Similan Islands trip was in February 2000, though before that I did a couple of liveaboard trips into Burma, and got to know the local dive sites around Phuket. From the first second of the first dive in the Similan Islands, I knew coming to Phuket had been a good idea. I stayed on a liveaboard boat called the "Koon" for a few months until the end of the dive season. Great life on the boat, great diving. The Koon was a smallish wooden boat, taking maximum 16 guests, had a great local crew who loved "their" boat, nothing too fancy, just right for me!
Over the next couple of years I went on many other liveaboards like The Junk, Mermaid 2, Faah Yai, Scuba Adventure, Le Mahe and more, but after my daughter was born I did less, as I did not want to be away from home for long periods. When you have kids, every minute is precious! Since 2001, liveaboard diving has become even more popular from Phuket and Khao Lak, there are lots of newer boats.. yes there are still cheap ones, but the average boat is certainly better now than back in 2000. Many offer en suite cabins, airconditioning, and on all you get well looked after by the boat crew and by the dive staff. For the Similans or for the remote Mergui Archipelago in Burma, it's the best way to dive.
I think there used to be a tendency for divers to think that liveaboards were only for experienced divers, hardcore divers, "real" divers... but really the Similan Islands offers diving for everyone. Sure there are some currents and deep water, so it is certainly not ideal for newly certified, nervous divers, but I tell you - on a 4 day liveaboard you normally do up to 14 dives. A fairly new diver gains a great deal of experience in a few days. The boy becomes a man, the tadpole is transformed into the frog, a diver is born. I have seen it many times and I have enjoyed every liveaboard trip bar none. So, if you're a diver and heading to Phuket.. the word for today is "Liveaboard". Happy Diving!
Liveaboard Diving from Phuket with Sunrise Divers - more information:
• Thailand Liveaboards - overview of some of the better boats
• Last Minute Deals and Special Offers
• Similan Islands Dive Sites
• Sunrise Divers Home Page