Holy Mary Mother of God! What a week people. WHAT. A. WEEK!
I hope you’re sitting comfortably (it’s going to take a while to read) because whilst you’ve been busy working all week in shitty weather no doubt, I’ve been having the time of my life. Hong Kong may have been the best weekend I’ve ever had but this was, by far, the best week.
Firstly it turns out that I was braver than I thought going on the dive boat because not only had I passed the course just two days earlier but I was also the only English person on board AND the only woman! Including the guides there were 6 Germans, 4 Swiss, 1 Norweigan and Moi. Great men though and we got the balance just right…’ladies first’ etiquette throughout the day (which I’d forgotten still existed and LOVED!) then dirty humour over the dinner table 😀 There were 7 divers and 3 guides…6 customers had cancelled because they couldn’t get there HAHA. It meant that all the groups were nice and small and mine was only three. So there was my guide Alex; 26, German and pretty nice to look at 😉 and Bennie, his best friend since Kindergarten who hadn’t even passed his Open Water course yet but was on the boat because they were going on to Laos for a holiday together afterwards. It was also Alex’s last diving because he’s going back to Germany to study for a couple of years so he was determined to make the most of it.
My first dive went really well. I felt comfortable, calm and actually enjoyed myself and even had ‘fun’ despite thinking I wouldn’t until I became more confident in my abilities. Next thing I know, we were all sat eating breakfast when the Captain tooted the horn twice so we all ran to the front of the boat; he’d seen a whale calf! So we all whipped out our cameras and saw it was a Mink whale calf which we got really excited about until we saw…..
MUM! Woohooo! My first whale in the wild EVER 😀 The dive masters said that they’ve never seen a whale so close to the boat before…she must have been only 5m under the surface!
So after chasing the whale for a bit we went down for our second dive and saw a….4m wide Manta ray! The guides were saying that they’ve known people to have done hundreds of dives before they get to see one and it was only my 6th (hehe) so we were really lucky. It was so majestic and peaceful-looking, dare I say, even alien?!
We went to Richelieu Rock in the North (famous for whale sharks but there weren’t any) but we only managed two dives therefore because the surge was so strong we couldn’t see what we wanted. The rock is famous for macro diving meaning you’re looking for the little creatures in the cracks and crevices rather than the fish. The second dive was better though and we saw everything from pretty-coloured shrimp to seahorses and rare Ghost Pipefish which look like prickly leaves!!!!
And the first dive of the day on Friday was out of the world in every sense of the meaning. The current was quite strong so we stayed close to the reef but then we heard a banging noise (metal rod tapped on the metal air tank to get other divers attention) and turned around to see…another Manta Ray! This one was just as big as the first only this time, instead of just swimming passed us once, it stuck around for five minutes and folks, those five minutes were the most relaxed, content but excited I’ve ever experienced. I can’t describe the feeling of just ‘hovering’ in the water watching this magnificent creature pass right next to you. The experienced divers were further out in the big blue and although we were too we headed back to the reef (to help reduce our air consumption) and whilst they swam on the Ray followed US. So there we were admiring the Ray when we realised there was also one below (!!!!!). But the Ray circling us was so close you could see the plankton in its mouth and was arms length away! We couldn’t believe our luck. At that point nothing else mattered. It was just The Big Blue, us three and the Manta…pure Ecstasy. Oh and thanks to some of the other divers, when I get home (or at least find some reliable Internet whilst I’m away) you’ll get to see some outstanding photos they took as I’ve been stealing them from their cameras all week 😀
The second dive of the day was just as good as we saw another Ray, a couple of really cool Octopus which changed coloured whilst we were watching and a a Giant Barracuda. I really struggled breathing wise though. I became so tired towards the end that I was struggling to breath. It’s a bit like having a panic attack but without the fear if that makes sense. I wasn’t scared, I was just struggling to catch a breath so Alex had to hold me and swim for the both of us for a bit haha…free ride 🙂 It’s such a weird sensation though. Normally if you feel ill you can tell your mind to ignore it but my body physically wouldn’t let me breathe…very frustrating. We thought things couldn’t get any better that day but we were SOOO wrong. We decided to dive in the same spot for the third time because of the Manta’s in the morning and the fact that whilst we were having lunch we could see them from the boat!! And wow, what a pay off the third dive was. Bearing in mind my written excitement so far about the rays…how do you think I felt when we saw FIVE?!!!!! Yep,you read the right, 5 Rays all between 4-5 metres wide. We were in awe of these fabulous creatures once again and they danced with each other and played in our bubbles. For the first few minutes we didn’t see anything then we saw one, then another, then another and so on. At one point our group was surrounded by all five of these magnificent beauties. I’d drifted a little bit away from my buddies and the next thing I know I’m side by side with one…I swear we looked ‘eye to eye’ as it were. I could have died an extremely happy bunny that day though again, towards the end, I was struggling with my breath again but we still managed 50 minutes and a good depth and the rays stuck around for the entire time…incredible. I’d already decided after the previous dive that I wasn’t going to do the night dive because I didn’t want to push myself over the limit but after the five rays, everyone was so happy they didn’t want to do the night dive either so we partied all afternoon and evening instead 😀
The first dive of the next day proved just as cool because we saw Leopard Sharks, a giant Moray eel actually swimming instead of just sticking its lazy-ass head out of a rock and another Manta Ray. By this point, we had changed the name of the dive site from The Pinnacle to Manta Airport haha.
And after breakfast we had a free show put on for us by a school of almost 100 False Killer Whales (look like dolphins but they’re bigger)!! Just breathtaking. They jumped in the air, swam along side the boat and just entertained us…got a good video from my camera too! Then, all of a sudden, we spotted a fin swimming just above the surface and start getting really excited that it was a shark but it wasn’t; however, it was a huge sailfish which are pretty rare so we were still happy. After that, the other dives were filled with schools of Giant Barracudas, sting rays and HUGE Napoleon Fish. And the sea was so calm there was barely a ripple…very eerie. We’d had a big storm the night before but as we were in a protected bay we didn’t feel anything but some gusts of wind and the occasional clap of thunder. We’d had fantastic lightning shows every night turning the sky into a rainbow of colours; amazing to watch.
The Saturday night party was the best we’d had. Everyone was still tired from the over-excitement the day before but Rene (the Norweigan) cracked open a bottle of rum he’d bought and the rest is history haha. Next thing we know it’s about 1am and everyone decides to retire to their cabins but it’s too hot for us three so Alex, Bennie and I slept on the sun deck under the stars. Pure bliss. The more I got to know Alex throughout the week the more attracted to him I became but always wondered if he was talking to me simply because I was another customer or he actually liked talking to me. Turns out it was the latter so after everyone had gone to bed we had our own, EXCELLENT, ‘private party’. Afterwards we needed to cool off but just as we got below deck the Captain spots us…busted! Haha. Cue a huge smile on his face and Alex and I giggling like mad before we jumped into the shower 😀 That was 4am…our morning wake-up call was at 6. Oh man did I struggle but the first dive was easy and required barely any work which was about all we could cope with 🙂 We managed to squeeze in a couple more ‘private parties’ before the trip ended so it DEFINITELY added to fun of the week…especially as we couldn’t stop giving each other looks throughout the day…I’m surprised the rest of the boat didn’t realise what was going on haha. At the end of the week, without asking (thinking it was just some fun whilst we happened to be in the same place for a week), he gave me his e-mail address and told me to keep in touch before inviting me to Berlin for the weekend after I get home. Needless to say I’ll be making a top-class effort to get the money together for that one 😉
The trip was just amazing in ways I can’t even describe and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop talking about it and wouldn’t want to. My diving had really improved over the week too and Alex said he was proud of us because some of the dives we had completed either had a strong current/surge to work against or were diving at sites for intermediate to experienced divers. I was so proud of myself as well…at the beginning of the week our first dives of the day (where you have no time limit as there is no Nitrogen in your body) we only managed 45 minutes and had 50 bar or less of air left. On the last day, not only did I manage a 62 minute dive but came up with 60 bar of air which was the same as Alex – hell yeah!
I’m still on such a high from it all and can’t stop smiling and getting excited when I think about it. And the ironic part is that I was fine eating on the boat etc but I’m a touch landsick haha. Great stuff. God, just out of this world. Fantastic.
I’m back in Patong at the moment to work out my next step which is probably going to be Koh Samui in a couple of days and then straight on to Koh Tao to meet up with my CouchSurfing friend. And in case you’re wondering, despite the violence in Bangkok we’re all fine down here…you wouldn’t know anything was wrong. Weird to be in a country that my Government is advising to avoid completely. They want me to sit indoors and watch the media all day – yeah right! What a load of complete crap. Talk about putting the fear of God into you but I couldn’t care less. If you’re too stupid to use your common sense i.e. avoid big gatherings and hang around the protestors then, I’m sorry, but you kind of deserve what’s coming to you. I wasn’t planning to head to Bangkok for another month so we’ll see if things change by then. It could be that I don’t get to the North of Thailand at all i.e. Chiang Mai and just bum around the Islands here but we’ll see how things go. Try not to worry (MUM!!!) about me and please don’t send me e-mails telling me to ‘be careful’…I really don’t want people ‘bringing me down’ when everything is fine.
Anyway, lecture over 😀
Until next time…