Up at sparrow fart again for the bus to Chalong Bay. This morning we were an exclusive little group of 6 divers and 5 instructors/divemasters. However, it was not about to be Brigid’s day. On arrival at the first dive site (the wreck of the Koh Phi Phi ferry, “King Cruiser”, inexplicably sunk in 1997 when it hit a well known hazard in calm weather), we were alarmed to see at least 6 other dive boats of equivalent size. There were already about 30 divers in the water.
We hastily made ourselves ready, doing the most cursory of buddy checks, and made our entry off the dive platform at the stern of the boat. Almost immediately, Brigid could feel that all was not well with her mask. Suspecting that she had hair caught under the skirt, she tried to scrape it back with her gloved hands. However, at 19m, the mask was still filling steadily, despite all attempts to clear it.
The other divers were fast dropping out of sight into the gloom below. Somewhat frantically, she caught up with John and tugged at his fin to attract attention. He could see immediately what the problem was. There was, indeed, a large chunk of hair trapped, preventing a proper seal around the mask. Unfortunately, his attempt to free the hair resulted in the mask filling completely, rendering Brigid effectively sightless. John had no way of explaining that the hair was still caught, as Brigid (increasingly desperately) tried again and again to expel the water from her mask. Getting nowhere, she signalled that she wanted to abort the dive.
Using John’s computer and buoyancy to control the ascent, we both arrived back on the surface after only 6 minutes ‘bottom time’ (it seemed a great deal longer from Brigid’s perspective!). Seeing how crowded the wreck was likely to be, and the subsequent poor visibility, Brigid decided to sit this dive out on the boat, leaving John and “T” to continue. In the event, Brigid didn’t miss much.
Simon described the chaos with up to 20 divers trying to peer into the same porthole at once. Brian had had his regulator knocked out of his mouth three times by other divers, and there was an unseemly jostle for a handhold on the ascent line. Ellie commented that she had seen “friendlier bar fights”!
The second dive was at Shark Point, named for its docile leopard sharks, sometimes seen resting on the bottom, or cruising the reef in search of crustaceans. These sharks are totally harmless: their mouths are so small that they would be unable to do more than ‘nip’ a diver. Sadly, once again, the dive site was busy with other parties of divers, so the sharks were keeping a low profile.
The site is comprised of a number of submerged outcrops of rock. Only one, Shark Point itself, actually protrudes above the waterline. All the rocks are home to colonies of the most fantastic colourful corals. The fish life is secondary, but we still saw lots of interesting species including a little yellow box fish, and a sea snake. (Their venom is deadly, but the snakes themselves are shy creatures with tiny mouths. It would be very difficult for them to ‘bite’ a diver!) The current did most of the work for us, making it a very relaxing experience – especially after the stress of the earlier dive.
On the surface, Brigid removed her mask and slipped the strap around her wrist, while we waited for the boat. After a few minutes, she suddenly realised she didn’t have it anymore! John looked down into the water, and saw the mask slipping away into the depths. He and divemaster, Anders, dived after it, but lost sight of it in the current. Just not Brigid’s day …
Without her prescription lenses, Brigid doubted the value of proceeding with the third dive. Nevertheless, she borrowed a spare mask and gave it a go. She was glad she did. Underwater everything is magnified by about 25%, and being a relatively shallow dive, there was plenty of light. The site was Koh Doc Mai, one of Phuket’s trademark islands so familiar to James Bond fans, as the setting for ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’, and ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’.
It was a classic ‘wall dive’ with a gentle current that swirled around the base of the island, carrying us with it. John was, for the second day running, the moray eel king, finding the grand-daddy of them all – a real monster, grinning menacingly from its lair! Even with her suspect eyesight, Brigid didn’t need to look too closely to know that she really wouldn’t want to venture much closer …
But, for all of us, the highlight of the dive was finding a huge octopus, nestling comfortably in a hollow, its tentacles wrapped around its body like a frilly cushion.
We might not have noticed it there at all, had it not blinked sleepily at us!
On the way back to the hotel we were delayed by a minor road accident. Two young girls on a moped, had failed to negotiate a steep hill, and had run into the back of a ‘tuc tuc’ in front. Wearing only the lightest of summer dresses, they were lucky to escape with a few grazes. Accidents of this type are commonplace all over Thailand. Ellie said that the ‘Bangkok tattoo’ (a deep scar caused by the burn of a hot exhaust) is very common among western tourists and locals alike!