Thailand has some of the best diving in the whole world, with the Andaman Sea being a big part in that.
The Andaman Sea is on the Southern West Coast of Thailand which consists of dozens of tropical islands, crystal clear blue water, underground mountains, swim-through tunnels, vibrant coral gardens and a vast amount of sea life like whale sharks, turtles, clown fish, stingrays and leopard sharks. Popular diving locations include Koh Lipe & the Tarutao National Park, Koh Phi Phi, the Surin & Similan Islands and Koh Lanta.
You will have most likely heard of Koh Tao (on the Gulf of Thailand), the countries 'dive junkie' island, which is the place to go to complete your Open Water Qualification for cheap. I love the scuba-diving quality over on that side of the country, but there is something about the Andaman Sea that is extra special to me. I'm not sure if this is because of the dive sites themselves or if it's because of the place in my life that I'm in at the time but this was confirmed on my most recent trip to Koh Lanta.
CHOOSING THE COMPANY: 'GO DIVE' IN KOH LANTA
I had searched around and spoke to a few dive shops on the island but Go Dive stuck out to me because of how friendly and welcoming they were from the moment I turned up at their shop. Plus they had some of the cheapest prices and best selection of packages I had found. Their shop is located right in the middle of the main area, near the pier (they provide free pick up and drop off service on the day of your dive).
Along with fun-dive packages (scuba-diving day trips for those who are qualified) they also offer a range of scuba-diving courses, plus free-diving courses and snorkelling trips. I don't think there's much they don't do!
WHAT I PAID
1 Day Fun Diving - 2 Dives including all Food, Drinks, Equipment & Transfer: 3300BAHT
1 Additional Dive decided on the Day: 1000 BAHT
National Marine Park Fee: 600 BAHT
As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by a couple of the helpful staff who told me about Koh Bida, the location where they were heading to on the Wednesday (dive shops usually choose a different location to dive each day of the week). After confirming my booking, completing the forms and checking which sizes of the equipment I needed, I headed back to my hotel where I searched for videos on Koh Bida. The footage was incredible, there were reef sharks as well as stingrays and lots of beautiful colours of coral and marine life. I also checked out some videos of setting up the equipment because although I had been diving within the last year (so I didn't have to do a refresher course), I still felt the need to refresh my memory. I hated dives I had done in the past where I'd made some mistakes or forgotten parts of setting up and made to feel stupid.
At the end of the night I was prepared and ready for my 7am pick up. I looked out my GoPro and metal clip for it (it cost like a dollar and clips onto my underwater BCD jacket perfectly secure), a change of clothes, sun cream and a towel.
I was a little nervous but it was mostly excitement nerves because scuba-diving is probably my favourite solo travel activity. It's a hobby I absolutely love to do with my boyfriend and travel partner Stu but having that day apart reminds me it's still good to do stuff on your own as it gives you a chance to miss each other after seeing one another every second and it's important to keep that 'independence balance'. I can go out for the day once in a while and do my thing and he can do his and when we meet up we're buzzing and excited to share our stories and see each other again.
DIVING KOH BIDA
I absolutely love everything about scuba-diving and I always forget how much I treasure this passion of mine until I'm stepping onto a boat again with my rucksack and camera. This was the same feeling I had that morning I was picked up by the pick-up truck to head for my day of adventure.
I met my dive buddy for the day, a Thai instructor named Max. He was excited too as we did the final checks on my equipment and loaded everything onto the boat. After a briefing of the boat and introducing me to another buddy I'd be diving with, we set off and were allowed to help ourselves to breakfast in the galley.
The sun was shining, the waters were calm and we were told the visibility had been excellent lately. Max took us aside and briefed us on the plan of action once the boat had stopped. First, we would visit Koh Bida Nai and circle around the limestone rock. Some parts were meant to have strong currents so we would turn back if necessary. We went over types of tropical fish and sea life we might see including which underwater hand signals to use if we spotted any of them. (I can only remember shark, turtle and trigger fish - need to revise!)
Max had kindly set up every bit of my equipment for me (attaching my BCD jacket and breathing regulator to the oxygen tank) and all I had to do was the final checks. After one big leap from the boat into the water, we started to descend down into the Andaman Sea.
As soon as we started to gently swim around the rocky wall beneath the sea, we spotted a couple of clown fish nestled in their anemone home. It was so cool to find Nemo right at the very start! I'd never seen clown fish in the sea before, but little did I know, even more was yet to come.