I’ve never been on a liveaboard before this trip. Liveaboards can be expensive but this one was fairly affordable for average working-class folk such as myself since it was only overnight so I went for it. It was a good deal: 7 dives including 1 optional night dive, all in (food, drinks, lodging, all diving equipment).
We didn’t get off for beaches or anything. It was purely diving.
This was headed for Similan Islands and Koh Bon.
“A boat used for recreational diving expeditions or cruises where the divers live on the boat for the duration of the cruise and use it as a diving support vessel.”
I had to wake up at 4am to catch my ride. A van picked me up from the dive shop I got the package from. “Make sure you get in the van that has your name on it with the driver who’s wearing our uniform.” warned the owner. He was sincerely concerned about my safety.
I mostly felt safe but, besides the liveaboard, I slept with mace tucked underneath my pillow for each and every night. Thailand is a developing country. Crime rates are higher. I was alone. I was a tourist. I’m a woman.
The Philippines, where I was originally headed for and where I’m from, would’ve actually been worse on that account.
Either way, I think everyone should take care regardless of where we are.
I got in the van with no issues except I had lost my earphones. I had about half a day’s worth of traveling with no music. The views were beautiful but it would’ve been better with a soundtrack.
We were briefed upon arrival. It was a 4-dive day: 3 dives during the day and an optional night dive.
We grouped with our divemaster along with our dive mates right away.
Those guys were chill, chill, chill 👌.
One was originally from Portugal, the other dude from the Netherlands (was an expat in Africa), the girl whose fake lashes did not wear off the entire frickin’ time, even while diving on saltwater (I was impressed. You gotta give me that beautician’s number, girl) is a Mexican from the US who was an expat in Hong Kong.
Thanks again for the good times! 😊
Upon getting acquainted, we were briefed about our gear. They advised to put it in the pockets of our BCD’s first (it’s that vest thing which is a buoyancy device that holds the air tank, hooked to the regulator) descend, get comfortable down there, stabilize our buoyancy and then set it up. Apparently, they’ve had people jump in the water and lose their stuff and/or it gets hooked on the buoy or some other string, which is not fun.
There was a group with a pretty hardcore professional camera setup (more on that later). As for me: I simply used a wrist band with the camera housing (that thing on my wrist, on the photo below, right beside my super big divewatch). I put it in my BCD pocket, jumped in, got comfy, took it out, and set it up as suggested.
It’s good advice and it eventually became a habit with the next dives.
Things were smooth, relaxed, you know… just chillin’ and I kept swimming 🎵 kept swimming 🎵 🐟
Some of these photos were taken by the divemaster. Some were taken by myself.
The ones I took were taken with Akaso V50 with underwater housing.
It worked pretty well on most occasions though it failed me a couple times.
One was during this trip and the other one was when I was diving from Koh Lanta (more on the latter in Part 5).
My camera was supposed to be good until 40 metres/130ft deep.
I was very, “I wonder what will happen… meh. I don’t think I’ll go over 40 metres so I probably won’t find out.”
In one of the dives, I looked at my divewatch and it indicated that we were at 26 metres/85 ft (about 8 storeys, apparently). I wanted to take a photo of something. I left my camera on idle mode so I can just press a button and wake it up.
I pressed all kinds of buttons and it would just flash a light on the viewer and nothing else. “Wtf? Didn’t I just charge this? Maybe the cable was loose. But I remember seeing a full battery on the indicator before I jumped. Weird.” 🤔
Later on, when we were a bit shallower, there were some things I wanted to take photos of again. By this time I thought my camera was either out of juice or kaput but I checked it out anyway. “Let’s try this again.” I thought, as I pressed the button.
Lo and behold, it turned on “Wtf? So weird.”
It wasn’t until when we got back on the ship that it occurred to me that the pressure threshold thing probably kicked in. I was pretty dumbfounded. You hear stories and watch videos of gear & equipment malfunctioning under unusual natural conditions and it’s pretty woah-dude-thats-so-cray-cray but then you get a taste of it and it’s like… Damn.
I mean, on the outside, it’s a pretty minor instance: your puny little camera didn’t work because of the pressure underwater. On a conceptual note though, I personally found it to be pretty amazing: to witness and experience firsthand the potential incongruities of the interaction between human, technology, and nature… The idea of it alone is overwhelming to me but to have my own body and consciousness be a part of it… Beautiful. It was one of those moments when I felt so lucky and so thankful to be alive ❤️
Succinctly: it was kinda annoying to not have been able to take a snap of whatever but the occurrence in itself was pretty awesome sauce.
Anyway, there’s captions on some of the photos I managed to take when Mother Nature cooperated. Just hover over it. Some are about the fish, some are from my imagination, some are mini-stories, some are a mix of both.
I hope you have moments too, babe 😘
One of us had issues on one of our dives so the divemaster and another diver ascended about 10-15 minutes into the dive, leaving me and my diving buddy unsure of what had happened. When you lose your group, you need to do a 360-degree look around, carefully, as many times as you can, for about a minute. If it’s still no dice, then you ascend. I kept signaling my buddy to go up after a minute. He kept signaling to stay there. I kept signaling to go up. He kept signaling to stay there. I kept signaling to go up… lol.
This went on for about another 15 minutes. I was wondering why he insisted but then he finally agreed to it once we paired up with a Chinese couple who had a buoy. Ding! We didn’t have a buoy. It’s the thing you unroll that inflates air and floats before you get to the surface. You need it to signal other divers and, more importantly, boats that there are divers underneath who are about to ascend like “don’t run your engine over us when we go up. We would prefer not to be incinerated. Thanks.”
Finally, we got to the surface.
“If it were any day or any time that could’ve easily been me” my buddy said, referring to the dive mate who had issues that lead us to have to ascend. “Today, I’m okay but tomorrow if I was having a bad day…”.
“I’m just annoyed that we have to wait here in the middle of the ocean.” I replied
We were pretty far from the ship. We tried swimming but no dice. The current just kept pushing us back. My buddy, the Chinese couple and I tried yelling, waving, and we even used our whistles to try and see if there was anyone else close by and/or for our ship to spot us. Nope.
A few moments later, we finally found our other dive mate and divemaster.
“Why didn’t you ascend?” asked the divemaster.
“We were waiting for you.”
“No. If you lose your group, you do a 360, wait one minute and then ascend. That’s what you always do.” he yelled.
We essentially ended up waiting for about an hour in the ocean. I probably swallowed about a litre or more of saltwater thanks to my BCD leak. It was minor and didn’t really make a difference underwater, but I was pretty happy about the people I was stranded with. Our situation sucked but we had a great time nonetheless.
Don’t get me wrong: we were all bitching about it while we looked around for options (“Think we can swim to that shore?” -Nah) and we told jokes, (“Oh it’ll be like that movie, ‘Open Water’ -What’s that? “It’s about this couple of divers who were left in the middle of the ocean and eventually got eaten by sharks.” -Oh, yeah. Good movie. It won awards) but then someone was like, “This’ll be a story to tell.”
True. True. I mean, here I am sharing it and here you are reading about it, right? 🙂
We tried talking to the Chinese couple but they didn’t speak English at all. We didn’t realize it up until one of our mates spoke to them in Mandarin. She legit just whipped it out at one point with no accents that I’m aware of. It was pretty bad-ass. I was so impressed like “哇，伙计!” That’s when my dive buddy and I realized why they were just smiling and nodding at us when we tried talking to them. I actually had several instances of those; I would talk to people and ask them questions in English then they would give me a blank face for about a second, smile, nod, and leave. There was nothing too important that came out from the miscommunications on these accounts which is why I loved it when it happened. I have good laughs out of it.
Anyway, we were pretty relieved when the lifeboat came. It was one of those orange inflatable ones with a motor at the back. But then I found myself in another small pickle; as it turns out, getting on the boat using your fins to propel you up while lifting yourself to get in was not exactly a piece of cake… or maybe it is if you can do several push-ups with no problems but that’s not me. It was funny though because we all had a hard time. Jokes.
Corals, Divers, Octopus, Starfish, Lionfish, Tuna, Blowfish, and a camouflaged Fish
Finally, we got back to our ship. We took off our gear, rested up, had dinner, etc. There was an optional night dive, which I was most definitely signed up for. I was excited but also nervous. It was my first night dive. When we had our briefing, one thing that was said stood out to me:
“When we get down there, we’ll find a clear spot and turn off our flashlights…”
“Wait. What? Why are we turning off our flashlights?” I interrupted.
Imagine being in the middle of the ocean at night with no lights… imagine being underwater in the middle of the ocean at night with no lights.
“So you can see plankton. They glow in the dark. Your eyes will adjust. Don’t worry.” he replied.
“Uh, okay.” …
I brought my camera. I didn’t think it would be useful (I was right), but just in case.
The dude with the hardcore pro camera joined us. His light was phenomenal. I didn’t get a chance to take photos, unfortunately. My camera wasn’t pro-grade or anything so the settings didn’t fare well in the dark, regardless of my adjustments. We had mini flashlights that served us well enough but the pro gear setup was pretty damnson on the lighting. We could spot him from afar: I’d say close to 20 metres/60ish ft or more, we’d still know it was him. He was able to take great videos and shots of marine life (you’ll see him a bit in the video of the Manta Ray on Part 3b).
When we got to the clearing, we turned off our lights… and it was awesome! We had to keep moving around and wave our arms because they glow when in motion.
Here’s a photo I found online that illustrates what we saw pretty well:
I love Batman though. But, no, seriously, here’s a great simulation:
You know those videos you see on social media where people step on or play with water and purple things glow (if not, then you probably have a life unlike the rest of us)? It looked like little stars that glowed around us. It was pretty magical 💖😊
We got back to our ship, had dinner, and chilled out on the upper deck. Here’s video from during the day…
… and some photos taken from that night. We were in the middle of the ocean. It was super quiet. There was nothing but the wind, the stars in the sky, the sound of the gentle ocean waves, mildly rocking the ship. Lying down on one of the sunbeds, I felt like I was in a snow globe being gently rocked like a baby in a crib… not that I would actually know what that feels like but it inspired me to write a poem because it was fucking poetry.
I roomed with our female dive mate in one of the cabins. It was basic but surprisingly comfortable. I initially still had a little bit of trouble sleeping. Things were going bump in the night ’cause we’re on a ship and it’s not the sturdy and luxurious Titanic or anything but I fell asleep eventually.
Check out Part 3b: Similan Islands and Koh Bon, Day 2 soon