After a quick lunch and a beer, we went to the dive shop we had been emailing with (Hidden Depths) to book diving for the next day and agree on the Nitrox course we had booked. Gary and Jo were very welcoming and flexible, so we were really looking forward to the next few days. We ended up watching the PADI video as soon as we had all the paperwork sorted, and went back to the guesthouse with a lot of theory to read. Both were very hard to get through with jetlag and no sleep on the flight, but we didn’t really have any rush, so we just postponed the exam one day. As part of the training we also went to the filling station, where the German owner explained how they were mixing and filling enriched air, and we analyzed and marked the cylinders we were going to dive with after the exam.
Hidden Depth’s speed boat was currently out of the water for maintenance, but they had agreements with the other diveshops, and we could pretty much pick between all available trips from the island. We loved being diving gypies, moving from boat to boat (always with our own guide from Hidden Depths though). They were all quite similar, and served breakfast, fruit and lunch on the boat. Most of them left from piers just next to ours, which was very convenient, but our favourite boat, Kon-Tiki, was worth the short drive. Awesome service, dark bread and delicious pancakes.
We had 11 dives in 5 days: Koh Haa Lagon, Koh Haa Yai, Bidah Nok, Hin Bidah, Kled Gaew wreck, Bidah Nai, Hin Muang, Hin Daeng, Koh Haa Neung, Hin Yung and Hin Klai. We had great visibility on most dives, 30 degrees water and saw a huge variety of marine life. No manta rays or whale sharks, but the over two meter long leopard shark was pretty cool. We saw several cuttle fish, scorpion fish, turtles and moray eels in all sizes, loads of snappers, trigger fish, trivalies, glass fish, longfin bannerfish, moorish idol, scribbled filefish, andaman sweetlips, yellowback fusiliers, yellow boxfish, spotted boxfish, masked/common porcupinefish, trumpetfish, cornetfish, clownfish, shaded batfish, barracudas and lion fish. Banded sea krate (sea snake), durban dancing shrimp, peacock mantis shrimp, flounder, nudibranchs, stingrays, bigfin reef squid, red tooth triggerfish and a bamboo shark.
The first day we had divemaster Erica all to ourselves. This was the first time we really were able to test our new dive gear, and after some minor adjustments we are both very happy with it! The rest of the week we were diving with instructor Dave as our guide. One day we were joined by freshly certified Sam. She was great though, so that was no problem, even though she told us afterwards that she got a bit stressed when hitting a thermocline with low visibility. After that we were joined by Vivian and Trevor, both instructors on vacation. We stayed together until they were headed back home, had a lot of great dives, many laughs at the boat and also spent several evenings together.
On Koh Haa Yai we dived into some cool, quite large caves with swimtroughs connecting them. In one of them we also saw a huge giant puffer. Koh Haa Neung is famous for a series of vertical swimtroughs and caverns known as ‘The Chimney’. We entered one of the shallow entrances head first, had a short stop in the central chamber at 8-9 meters and exited at around 18 meters. At the end of the dive we took the other way through the chimney and ended up in a cave called the fish bowl. Fun! Another highlight was the trip to Hin Muang (purple rock) and Hin Daeng (red rock), which are bearly breaking the surface 40 nautical miles south of Phi Phi. Beautiful colors, loads of marine life and the reef was in a much better condition than closer to the coast. We also had a nice wreck dive just outside Phi Phi. The 47 meter long vessel was originally the Norwegian Ms Norfest (1948) and commissioned into the Royal Thai Navy in 1956 and renamed. The ship was donated and purposely sunk via controlled explosion to create a new dive site on 19 March 2014. It was impressive how much marine life had “moved in” in such a short time. We also did our first Nitrox (enriched air with 32 % oxygen) here. Didn’t really feel much of a difference, but had more energy in the evening which was nice.
Most of the evenings were spent in Saladan where we lived. All along the water there were restaurants with large terraces over the water, and we also found some nice places in the main street. We even had time for some shopping, a rash guard for Fredrik and new glasses for Gunnhild. The first days it was very quiet, but suddenly on Wednesday a lot of people arrived. It was warm (28-32 degrees Celsius), very humid and mostly sunny. A short rain shower in the evening was just refreshing. The last evening before Vivian and Trevor left, we took a Tuk Tuk to Relax bay, where also Dave joined us for a few beers at the relaxed Fusion bar. We were sitting on pillows around a low table, enjoying the sounds of the ocean and the bonfires on the beach. Some of the local boys showed off their fire spinning skills, and we were talking, laughing and having a wonderful time. So good actually, that by the time we were ready for dinner, all the restaurants were closed. We went back to Fusion and they arranged great local food, and later in the evening a private car to take us home. Great night!
We didn’t use the balcony at our hotel as much as expected. During the day, it was way too warm in the sun, and in the evening we were invaded by a monkey trying to steal our swimwear, drinks and whatever he could find. He also loved licking our windows. Funny guy.
On Saturday it was time to leave Koh Lanta for some days in Bangkok. We picked up our dive gear that had been drying in the dive shop, said goodbye to all the great people we had met, packed our bags and waited for our pickup to the ferry terminal. The speedboat to Phuket was a bit delayed, but with 3×250 HP it only took 1,5 hours, including a short stop at crowded Phi Phi. We spent one night in the old town of Phuket Town, mainly to repack our bags and store our dive gear etc instead of bringing it all to Bangkok. Gunnhild got a haircut while Fredrik was waiting in an expensive wine bar across the street. The evening we spent in Brasserie Phuket, which had a nice beer selection and a great waitress very eager to learn more about beer.