Thailand

4 days on a liveaboard in the Andaman sea

Liveaboard = A ship used as a floating hotel while diving.

This text is written in english (or at least Danglish) as I hope some english speaking people will see this post. I do hope it is ok for the Danish people also 🙂

While I was in Ko Tao acquiring my PADI dive certificate, I figured that while I was sort of close to the Andaman Sea and Khao Lak (there is something like 150 km. across Thailand at this longitude) I might as well try staying aboard a liveaboard. I heard from many on Ko Tao that the diving in the Andaman Sea should be quite a lot better than Ko Tao at this time of the year.

I spoke to my instructor about which liveaboard to choose, and he recommended the boat ‘Pawara’. It is one of the most expensive boats at 27.000 Bath (excl. gear rental and park fees) (this is about 4500DKR) for 4 days of diving (14 dives altogether). But I guess that if I am going on a liveaboard, it might as well be a good one.

The program for the liveaboard is printed below:
15/12 – East of Eden (Similan), Boulder City (Similan), Anitas Reef (Similan), Honeymoon  Bay (Similan)
16/12 – Elefant Head Rock (Similan), Breakfast Bend (Similan), Koh Bon Ridge, Koh Tachai Reaf
17/12 – Koh Tachai Pinnacle, Richelieu Rock, Richelieu Rock, Richelieu Rock
18/12 – Koh Bon, Bonsung Wreck

Yes, you are absolutely right; “Richelieu” in “Richelieu Rock” IS spelled the same way, as the name of the bad guy in “The Three Musketeers” (I looked it up!).

We were placed in rooms when we boarded the Pawara. I was housed together with a Spanish guy named Marcos. We shared a room that housed 2 beds and about 1 square meter of free space (I swear that the pictures I were shown made the room look bigger; a lot bigger! The rooms all have air con! Together with the room, was a bath room with shower (hot water, yeah!) and a toilet (the bath room was not that big either, but I could (nearly) stand upright in there, so it was OK).
I was a little disappointed with the size of the room, and I was rather expecting to be alone in the room (I asked in the office the day before, and they said that I was alone in the room if nobody else showed up), but I figured that we would probably not spend too much time in the cabins anyway, so I hoped it didn’t matter to much. It turned out that being 2 in the room was no problem at all, actually I found it rather nice. Allways someone to talk to.

I didn’t sleep at all the first night. My room was right on top of the engine (or so it seemed), so while we were sailing (and we  did sail a lot the first night) I couldn’t sleep because of the noise. When the engine stopped I thought “finally some sleep”; but alas, it was getting to hot in the cabin; Marcos had some problems with the throat and could risk not being able to dive if it worsened. And air cons are known to give people throat trouble, so we had it turned off.
I went up to the sun deck (not much sun at 4 in the am though) and managed to get through the night. I was, however, rewarded with a magnificent sunrise.

Operations

We were wakened with music (or; the others were :|), ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by Beatles was one of the numbers (the guy in charge, is a British guy called Rick). This was the signal for ‘30 minutes to the first dive’. I cant remember the rest of the numbers played to wake us (my brain does not exactly function as a sponge at 6.30 inthe morning)
We could choose to eat a simple breakfast before diving, or we could wait for a large breakfast after the first dive; I chose both.

We dived; and then we had a large breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausages, pancakes, toast etc. there was even muesli for those interested (but let’s be honest; who eats muesli when there are bacon and eggs around?).
We relaxed for maybe an hour and did another dive, followed by lunch and more relaxation. The next dive was followed by a snack. More relaxation preceded the last snack of the day that was taken before the last dive (normally a night dive). Everything was followed by dinner.

After a day of eating and relaxing for most parts and diving for a smaller part (!), you get really tired (!!) and after the first night of not sleeping, I slept like a rock (air con or no air con).

This was the standard for the 3 whole days and the fourth half day we had aboard the Pawara, and what a good standard this was!

Diving

  1. I have only dived the area around Ko Tao, before doing the liveaboard, and the area around Ko Tao is known to have poor visibility at this time of year, so I was expecting something better from this trip.
  2. The area around the Similan and Surin Islands are, by some, thought to be the best diving area in Thailand, and some of the best diving areas in the world.

These things made my expectations quite high and I was not disappointed.

We started by dividing the 12 divers aboard into groups. Each dive group must have a dive master; this person is supposed to keep track of the dive time, show people the exciting things around the dive site and save peoples behinds when they are in trouble (more on the trouble later on 😐 on second thought; maybe not…).
We were split into 5 teams, fever teams could have done it, but a Japanese guy (professional underwater photographer) made up one team, and another Japanese guy made up another team by himself (I think this was caused by the language barrier; the Japanese guys had Japanese dive masters).

My dive team consisted of Karl and Elin; a Swedish couple travelling around the world, Marcos; an Spanish dive instructor travelling and diving during the low season (for diving) in Spain and me. The dive master in charge (of us) was Amanda, a Briton currently living and working in Thailand.
The team was created based on experience and air consumption (air consumption is different from person to person; but the inexperienced tend to use more air).

It is difficult to describe diving to someone who has never tried it, at the bottom of this page there are some photos and videos; I hope they can give people an idea of the experience.
I can however say one thing: When watching divers on the TV, they look very elegant, levitating in the water, but when you are actually in the water in the suit + air tank you don’t feel very elegant (IMHO). I felt like an elephant in a china shop.

As I wrote before I will not write (very much) about the time that Amanda had to save my ass from a panic attack (I think that is the name?!). I had, I figure, overexerted myself fighting a current, and could’nt get enough air trough the mouthpiece. It felt as though I was being strangled slowly (deep, slow breaths did not cut it). It was a very odd feeling; you know that you should stay calm and breathe slowly, but the panic keeps creeping up on you, and you have to use all of your energy just to keep the panic in check.

I guess that if Amanda had not seen that I was not that well, I would have done the “Emergency Buoyant Ascent” (rapid climbing to the surface), which is not a good an idea when you are at 20-30 meters depth. So, thanks Amanda 🙂

Conclusion

I am allready planning my next trip 🙂 I liked the Pawara, I liked the crew (dive masters and Thai staff) and I liked the passengers. All positive and I havent even commented on the diving!…and I won’t. This is my first real experience diving and I cant compare it to anything else, so I guess I shouldnt (I found the diving nice, though).

Pictures and video

Has been provided by Marcos of Spain (video and photos) and Rick of the Pawara (photos): A big thank you to them! A few photos was provided by me. I am afraid there are a lot of pictures, but I found it rather difficult to delete any more 😐


Standard operation when diving (or ending the dive) on a liveaboard.


Lion fishes. These fishes has some nasty poison in some of their spikes.


Triggerfish. Nice fish, sometimes, and sometimes a rather aggressive fish. Pretty big to, with nasty teeth.


Cuttlefish (not cuddle; though they are kind of cute). Close brothers of the octopus and squid. Hard to say something scary about this little critter.


Sea snake. Can be dangerous (poisonous), but is not aggressive. The ones I meet were quite hardworking and not easily distracted.

The Three Musketeers

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