I have been a long time reader of this board and have always found useful information in planning and preparing for my dive trips from others who have taken the time to write. Until now, I have been a reader- and not a contributer.
Despite the distance, I wanted to travel to Thailand and do a liveaboard. I live in the eastern part of North America. In booking the trip II contacted Marcia (Quero) another member on this board and lives in Phuket. She was really helpful in booking a 4 day liveaboard on the Queen Scuba going to the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock. If anyone is thinking of diving in Thailand I would highly recommend her service.. She is competent, knowledgeable and is readily available to answer your questions..
During the week prior to my departure, there was a protest in Bangkok that forced an Asean summit to be cancelled. There was a travel advisory against travelling to Bangkok. I thought that perhaps this trip might be cancelled as I had to connect through Bangkok
Throughout my "ORDEAL" Marcia kept in constant touch with me regarding the situation in Bangkok, despite the fact that she was off diving where there was no internet service. I appreciated this level of service. In any case I made it to Phuket where it was nice and sunny....
The next day, the boys, Mike and Kim from the ship came by the hotel to pick me up. The boat is anchored well north of the airport. From Karon beach to the boat it is roughly a 3 hour trip. The ride wasn't bad because it gave you a chance to meet the other divers. The closer you live to the airport, the later your pick up time.
While I am not an engineer, structurally the Queen Scuba looked way safer than some of the other liveaboards that were anchored nearby. The boat was free of clutter, well organized and the dive platform was huge. In essence, the boat looked like it was well maintained and the crew had smiles on their faces. To me it showed that they wanted to be there.
In my opinion the quarters were just as nice as those on the Agressor and the washroom and shower was clean and fairly spacious. Some of the common areas were not as refined, but definitely functional for diving purposes. Nitrox is also available on board. The food is okay based on the 2 meals that I did have. It's definitely not gourmet, but by the end of the 2nd or 3rd dive of the day on any trip, I am so hungry that I will eat just about anything and it would all taste pretty good..
The morning that we left it rained. And it rained, and it rained some more. When the rain subsided we headed out. The boat was rocking quite a bit, and the waves were REALLY rough. (maybe 7-9 ft?)
Two hours into the trip, the decision to turn back was made. As disappointed as I was, I could understand the reason. The weather wasn't going to clear up for at least another couple of days and I know that the ability for the boat retrieve us out of the water would have been much more difficult especially if the weather got worse. This was--after all--- the start of the monsoon season.
Having said that, had the boat continued to the Similans, there was no way that I would not have jumped off the back of that dive platform.
The trip was canceled, and we were given vouchers to return to dive next season. On the way back, the crew did everything to accommodate our needs. As an example, for one of the guests they helped him book a flight to somewhere else in Thailand to dive and ordered a shuttle that would take him to the airport. They were even willing to help him pack and store his stuff for him if there wasn't enough time to do all of that before the flight left. For me, at my request, I was driven to the ferry that goes to Phi Phi Island, and Mike helped me get a return ticket there.
In my opinion, this was an unfortunate and uncontrollable situation that was handled very well by the boat's staff.
As I was boarding the ferry, Marcia who was out of the country at a dive show contacted me to see if I needed any help in making alternative diving arrangements. I was impressed. I hadn't even contacted her yet.
Phi Phi Island Diving Experience
I did 6 dives while on Phi Phi Island. I could never imagine myself saying this, but it was probably 4 more dives than I should have done. I just didnít want to stay out of the water.
There are lots of dive shops on the island. There are lots of new divers from elsewhere in addition to students that the shops are teaching.
The guys at the dive shop I dove with were mostly great guys and the reef was pretty healthy.
The problem was some of the divers they got did not have the basic skills to dive. I went during the low season. I can only imagine what it would be like to dive in high season with even more inexperienced divers packed into the boats.
For my first two dives, we did 2 sixty minute dives. It was fun to be in the water at last. At the end of the dive I hoped that it would get even better, but it just went down hill from there.
The next 4 dives, we only spent about 35-40 minutes down there. On dive number 3, the poor dm had to swim along holding the tank stem of this other diver throughout the entire dive. Needless to say, the dive didn't last very long. Dive number 4 didnít last very long either.
After the 3rd and 4th frustrating dive, I approached the shop and asked if they could possibly bring the other divers up once they were low on air. Once the other divers were up on the boat safely could I continue the dive with the dive guide. It seemed like a reasonable request.
I was told that they would try to do this. It never happened. My 5th dive lasted roughly 35 minutes. My 6th dive would have lasted roughly the same amount of time had I ascended with the group when asked to. I stayed an extra 10 minutes at about 15 feet right beneath the rest of the group and the dm. It's just frustrating coming up with a tank that is more full than empty on 4 out of six dives.
The issues were countless-dropped weight belts, not knowing how to clear masks, divers yo-yoing up and down and the list goes on. The shop can't really control some of this. It's the divers who were not trained properly or who have not had enough practice.
We were all new at one time, so I understand, but all of this is distracting and takes away what I truly enjoy most about diving, which is peace and tranquility. At each site there are at least 2-3 boats anchored in the area.
As I was ascending from my last dive all I could think of was NEVER again. To put things into perspective, I was on board to welcome the discover scuba students back from their dives twice. On the last dive, I even had time to pack my dive gear away before the discover scuba students came up.
I am probably going to add an epirb to my gear. I am weak and would yield to the temptation to jump off the boat even in bad weather. It's hard to sit on the sideline.
When I dive the Phi Phi sites again, hopefully it will not be with the dive boats unless there is someone else to dive with me only and let the other divers go with the group. It might cost you more, but look at the alternative-the dive boat will insist that you stick close to their dive guide.
To dive the Phi Phi sites you have several choices. You can leave from Phuket and cross to Phi Phi Island every day. It's a couple of hours to cross to Phi Phi island each way. I would probably stay on Phi Phi island again as the trip to the dive sites are much shorter. (15-20 minutes max)
I am told that most boats limit you to 60 minutes of bottom time. I have a feeling that I'll just have to live with it, even though there is enough air to stay down longer.
I am really looking forward to diving on the Queen Scuba next year. Phi Phi Island will probably not be a part of the next dive trip unless I can figure out some of the above challenges.