Freedom Divers asked me to come on-board the Liveaboard trip to the South Andaman for 2 days/3 nights to teach an Advanced Open Water course, of course I was delighted to accept, even the storm warnings were not enough to put me off.
I met my student to go over a few skills in the pool before we set sail that evening, after a few hours in the pool with her I was quietly confident that she would have no problems with the dives we had coming up. I also learnt that she was very excited and had never spent a night on a boat before, this was to be an experience for her.
We boarded the boat at 8pm ready to leave for Koh Phi Phi early morning for our first dive at 7am. The first dive I decided was to be a fun dive as my student had not dived in a year I thought it better to ease her into it and not throw her in the deep end with skills and knowledge, this turned out to be a good idea as there was limited visibility and fairly strong current on the first dive, it was still enjoyable and gave my student time to get used to diving again. Swimming through schools of Big Eyed Snapper my student gave my the thumbs up (wrong sign but I knew what she meant) to say she loved it, mental note here to recap some of the underwater hand signals. The following dives I got the correct signal of ‘awesome’ a lot.
The Advanced Open Water course consists of 5 dives, Deep and Navigation are mandatory, the other 3 are chosen out of about 15 dives. I suggested that she do the Wreck dive, this is always exciting and the next dive we were to dive the new Klet Kaew Wreck at Koh Phi Phi so it was the perfect opportunity to complete one of her advanced dives, and on a wreck that not many others have dived before.
So we excitedly geared up and jumped in. Being a new wreck, I had only dived it once before so couldn’t wait to go again. I love wreck dives, as we descended through the water down the buoy line the vast ship appears out of the silt, impressive and eerie. We swam around the outside first through big schools of Yellowtail Barracuda, peered into the holes in the ship to take a look inside only to be meet with a swimming ball of Stripped Eel Catfish, such a wonderful sight. Circling our way around the ship and up the wheel house to the buoy line to end the dive we both agreed that even with the limited visibility it did not take away from the over powering feeling of the ship, it was a fantastic dive, even if my student did manage to cut her leg on part of the ship, just a scratch thankfully.
We were due to sail to a couple of dive sites quite far away at this point but due to the increasing storms and high waves the boat was not able to get there, changing course we soon realised that the boat was not able to get to any other dive sites either and as a consequence the rest of the dives that day were cancelled, much to the disappointment of everyone on board. But it is better to be safe then to push it and sailing into open waters was going to be too dangerous, so we all settled into play a rather competitive but funny game of Texas Hold ’em (“I raise you 2 mentos and 1 sugar”). A good bonding experience for all on-board as we all tried to suss out what everyone’s ‘tell’ was.
That night we managed a rocky, slow journey to some near by dives sites, we made it there by 9am to do the first dive. This was probably the most difficult dive of the trip, as there had been a full moon the night previously there were strong currents. We jumped in and descended straight away so not to go too far off course in the surface current, swimming against the current at first was difficult and it felt like we were not moving, my student was doing fantastic in these conditions, I was so pleased with her buoyancy and keeping streamlined, we practiced swimming close the ground in this Peak Performance Buoyancy dive, through blocks (hard to do in a current) and hovering. I was happy with her progress and all the time she was practicing keeping her hands in and using breath for buoyancy control. As I looked around at one point I spotted 3 Cuttlefish behind her so we spent a bit of time watching them before swimming to a wreck to find Harlequin Shrimp, Long fin Batfish and Spotted Garden Eels. Coming up from that dive my student told me that even though the current was strong that was her favorite dive so far and she really enjoyed it.
The next few dives were at the same island. The Deep dive was fun, drinking from a can of juice to show how pressure affects at depth, playing some games to see how Nitrogen Narcosis can effect some people, and seeing 6 Kulhs Stingrays all make for a good dive. The Navigation dive went really well and I was getting more and more confident with my students diving abilities, she was improving every dive and aced her navigation, apart was one slight hiccup where she started going the wrong direction but soon realised and corrected that, after that everything else went smoothly.
At this point there was only one more dive to complete for her to get her Advanced Open Water course, with all her knowledge chapters done all that was left was the Night dive. Nervous and excited we started getting ready to jump in as the sun was setting, I had explained to her all the procedures, hand signals using only one hand and how amazing and peaceful night dives are, this was the one dive she couldn’t wait to do but, like all divers on their first night dive, was nervous as she had no idea what to expect. We turned on our torches and took a giant stride off the back of the boat, as the light faded and all we could see was were the beam of our torch went all her nerves faded, fascination and wonder took over.
Turning off our lights to see the beautiful bio luminescence scatter was the highlight of the dive, swimming through the dark as the bio luminescence sparkled off our moving fins was amazing to see. Getting back onto the boat she could not describe in words how much she loved it, but the smile on her face said it all. Even though the trip did not quite go as planned, we only made it to one of the scheduled dive sites, it had been a successful one, my student passed her Advanced Open Water, I was happy she was a much better diving leaving then when she started, she enjoyed herself and wants to book again on a Liveaboard to the Similans, we would all be pleased to have her back again.
The Advanced course is a fun course to do, one I think every diver should complete, it opens you up to so many more dive sites, wreck, deep dives and more. And where better to complete it then on the Scuba Explorer Liveaboard, diving, relaxing out at sea and playing Texas Hold ’em at night with some great instructors.
So what are you waiting for?