We all agree Phuket is becoming busier and busier and more hotels, resorts and condominiums are being built on what seems like less and less land. I often hear visitors and residence alike comment how it’s “not the same as it used to be. I miss the old Phuket.” While the idea of going back to no telephone service, no paved roads, warm beer, tapping rubber to make a living, and electricity blackouts most of the day and night may sound romantic to some, I doubt many people really want a return to those ‘good old days’.
- Phuket FantaSea Cultural Theme Park
- Phi Phi Islands Tour with Express Boat
- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Back to The Good Old Days
The good news is that the good old days are still here, it just takes a little more effort to get there than most people are used to. Actually, for 25 years or longer Phuket has had a reputation among certain types as being “too organized, too built up, not simple enough”. Even back in the simple days, Phuket was often considered too modern for many visitors.
However, precisely due to her infrastructure, she always has been the prime gateway for access to the hundreds of offshore island in the Andaman Sea. And, we have an advantage over those pioneer visitors of 25 years ago. Back then, the government took little interest in protecting the environment of these islands, and many of the islands - especially in Burma just up the coast - were not even accessible due to politics. If you take the plunge and take scuba diving lessons, you will have access to places rarely visited even today. This is the secret to getting away from it all that some of us discovered a long time ago.
Snorkelling Gets Tiresome – Scuba Diving Does Not
Of course, you may opt to visit remote islands and not scuba dive, but snorkelling is rarely satisfying for any length of time. People tire of it quickly so they can’t fathom the attraction of spending multiple days on a boat really out to the remote islands.
The reason for this is that people rarely get snorkelling or proper swimming training, thus they don’t really know what they are doing or what they are looking at. It’s boring. Scuba diving is not boring. And the best part is that it’s not only easier than both swimming and snorkelling, it’s actually safer.
It’s Safer Than Swimming
I’ve been saying this for years, but when I say it to someone in person, the typical reaction is the thousand-yard stare. “Yeah, yeah, yeah”, they think, “he’s been diving for years, is comfortable, and is telling me tall tales just to get me to try it. Just because millions of people try it every year, doesn’t mean I can do it too!” Then they start thinking about shopping, an activity requiring little thought or effort. So yes, I’ll say that again: Scuba diving is actually safer and it’s actually easier than swimming.
The simple reasons why are two: One, as with many sports, scuba diving requires training from a teacher. There are potential hazards that are easily understood and avoided with a little knowledge. Two, scuba diving requires some equipment that makes diving possible. Part of it is used so that you can breath underwater, obviously, but it’s less obvious that this equipment is used as safety and support gear, to help you get out of an uncomfortable situation as well as helping you adapt to the environment. For the most part, people who snorkel or swim are using no equipment or sub-standard equipment to accomplish the same goal; to be comfortable in the water and to not become injured. To me, being in the ocean without training or gear is the same as trying to fly without an airplane. Being in the sky is not a natural environment for humans; neither is being in the water (much less under the water). But that doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
Experience Something New
So, if you want to fly, you take lessons. If you want to enjoy the ocean, take lessons. You’ll have a lot more fun as you’ll understand what’s happening and why certain things are the way they are. You’ll also learn about what is actually in the ocean, what the fish do and why the pretty coral is there, so that you appreciate the experience more. Getting away from it all is not about only getting away from it all; it’s about experiencing something new, by yourself, for your own reasons, at your own comfort level and at your own pace and coming back having learned something.
As with most things, there is an easy-way to get started diving and a less easy-way to get started diving. And, remember, it is about getting started, not achieving Jacques Cousteau status on your first day out. Take your time, get it right and it’s an activity you’ll love for the rest of your life. Fun warning: It’s addicting.
Give it a Try - It’s Free
There are scores of diving centres in Phuket and in the surrounding areas and most of them offer some kind of beginning course. The easiest way to start diving is by attending one of the many free give-it-a-try diving programs dive shops offer to get you addicted. It’s simple. You meet the instructor, you get in a shallow pool, he or she explains a few simple concepts to you (like don’t stop breathing; breathing is a necessary part of the life support process), and you go underwater. If you don’t like it, you stand up, find out why you felt uncomfortable - this is what instructors are trained to do - and you try it again until you feel comfortable. You progress by adding skill sets to enable you to become more independent. After just one of these pool sessions, you may accompany the instructor on a shallow ocean dive and swim with real fish while breathing underwater. In one afternoon you’ve gotten a pretty good start.
To become qualified to dive without an instructor, it gets a bit more complicated, but not overly so. The first level of official certification or qualification is called Open Water Diver. This requires classroom, pool training and then diving in the ocean four times. This is not free, of course but the prices are reasonable and worth every baht you spend on it. It’s takes three to four-days. Diving courses cost less than most designer sunglasses. Once you’ve done this, you can join a dive boat with your friends enjoying great diving around the West Coast, or visit one of the many resorts near Phuket that offer good diving such as Racha Island or the Phi Phi Islands. Both are excellent places and can be visited in one day (if you must).
Once you’ve become comfortable, there are additional classes you can take to become more proficient and better at the sport. This will then allow you to visit the more remote areas where the diving can be more challenging, and the rewards even greater. Think swimming with dolphins looks fun on The Discovery Channel? Try swimming with huge gentle manta rays at Koh Bon, just north of the Similan Islands. You’ll never watch TV again.
With progress come crowds, economic prosperity and inevitable environmental suffering. However, it’s hard to imagine that the remote islands and Phuket’s gateway status will ever change. Come to Phuket, take diving lessons, and find out for yourself the secret that a few of us already know.