How It All Happened
It is funny how my travel plans have been influenced by all the amazing people I met throughout my previous travels! A good example of this happening is the liveaboard experience I had in Thailand.
While I was hitchhiking from Melbourne to Sydney, I met this great guy, Aaron. He not only invited me to stay in the apartment he had rented in Sydney – an absolutely gorgeous place with an amazing view on one of Sydney’s bays – but he also got me interested in doing a liveaboard, meaning a dive cruise. I have been diving for around four years and I felt it was time for me to get my PADI advanced certificate to enjoy more aspects of this hobby that I really grew fond of.
Thailand was first on my list of Asian countries I wanted to go to, and it happens that it has a reputation for cheap and good diving sites : perfect combo to start looking for liveaboards! During my first quick research I was shocked by the prices the boats were requesting (not that cheap at all!) but then I found out that during low season there are only a very few liveaboards available and they are much cheaper. Luckily, my travel plans caused me to get to Thailand at the end of June, so at the beginning of the monsoon season.
The Booking Process
After a few weeks of research and thinking it through, I booked my first liveaboard with “The Junk” via email and phone. They have a partnership with other liveaboard companies, and so the booking process runs through WWDAS (World Wide Dive and Sail) . I was getting emails from “The Junk” , WWDAS and also “Blue o Two” (another liveaboard company), which was quite confusing at the beginning.
After I exchanged a few emails with a really nice salesman who sent me all the details and quotes, I got a call from them to finalize the booking and to pay 40% of the final price (you will pay in USD).
WWDAS then sent me an email requesting all sorts of information (about my diving experience, insurance number, flight and hotel details for pick up and drop off, diet, special requirements…) – they want you to give all the infos at least a month before the beginning of your diving adventure to make sure everything is ready for you 🙂
The Cost Breakdown
|Basic Package||Bunk Dorm (4 people)|
3days/2nights on the boat
Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner (no dinner on last day)
3-4 dives per day (11 total)
|PADI Advanced||Advanced Course and Certification||$280|
|Marine Park and Port Fees||Park Entrance Fee||$35|
|Full Dive Equipment||Rental for 3 Days|
-Mask & Fins
|Dive Computer||Rental for 3 Days||$24|
If you don’t do a diving certification while on the boat, and you have your own dive equipment and dive computer, it will cost you under 450$, which is a really good price for what you get (all inclusive for 3 days and 2 nights and 11 dives!)
At the time I made the booking, I had unfortunately not read all the small details on the quotes, and I missed the part about the equipment and marine fees! Actually, I thought they were included in the basic price: they don’t mention those “hidden costs” on their website. All of the times I had been diving before, the price was always including everything… too naive? At the end I had to add another $134 for equipment and the marine park fee. That wasn’t initially planned…oh well!
My Experience with The Junk
A few days before the start of my liveaboard, I got an email telling me I would be picked up at my hotel between 7 and 8am. The van showed up at 7:18 while I was waiting on the porch of my room, perfect start!
After touring about one hour through the different small towns in Phuket, to pick up the rest of the divers, we reached the port and boarded a small boat. It would bring us to the Junk which would be our home for the next 3 days!
As we were approaching the big wooden boat, I thought that it looked even nicer than on the pictures 😀 The boat manager, an English man who’d been living in Phuket for years, explained our daily schedule and how the boat operated. He then sent us to our cabins to get comfy before enjoying a small breakfast and cruising off to our first dive site. I got room number 2, and as I opened the door, I found myself in a double bed cabin. Weird, I had booked a bed in a triple cabin. Confused, I went back upstairs, where I got told that the AC in my original room had failed this morning, and that I got upgraded because no one had booked the second double bedroom. How lucky is that? 🙂
After an amazing breakfast, my Belgian teacher – who was very funny and whom I enjoyed chatting with, mostly in French – gave me my PADI advanced book, that I would have to study the next days, and explained what exercises we would do. Then it was time for our first dive: the team had already set up everything, we just had to check our bottles and we were ready to explore the sea grounds! After the dive, one of the men was waiting for us to help us get out of our BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), and one of the ladies was waiting with glasses of water and juice – wonderful 🙂
Lunch was highly appreciated after swimming for 50 min in the warm water. Three of us were vegetarian, and we were happy to see that they prepared separate dishes only for us, yummy! Overall, the food was amazing during the entire experience. It was mainly Thai cuisine, very flavorful but not too spicy, so it wouldn’t scare westerners away 😀
As I mentioned before, we were diving 3 to 4 times a day (we did one night dive and two wreck dives) but we still had plenty of time to relax and enjoy reading on the upper deck of the boat. Unfortunately, I was very seasick the first day so I spent most of the time resting at the back of the boat. It got better on the second day, so I was able to enjoy my time much more, and start doing my homework (the big PADI advanced book, remember?). The result of getting used to the boat, was that I then got “earthsick” for 24 hours when getting back on firm ground (I’m sending a warning to all those who love diving but are subject to seasickness like me!)
The dives themselves were really good, plenty of fish to see, although it was sometimes a bit cloudy (the sea was a bit rough so the visibility was poorer than in high season).
The highlight for me was that I could feel how I improved with every single dive! I was getting more comfortable, using less and less air, and getting my buoyancy under control.
My overall experience was amazing after I accepted the fact that I would be more or less seasick all the time (there was nothing I could do anyway). I couldn’t recommend the team and diving teachers more highly, they did an amazing job and were very committed to make us feel happy all the time!
The Great and Poor of Doing a Liveaboard (In Rainy Season)
- amazing staff
- amazing food
- making diver friends
- much cheaper and less people in the rainy season (on the boat and on dive sites)
- soooo relaxing (nothing else to do than diving, eating, sleeping)
- seasickness (might be worse in the rainy season)
- visibility can be poorer in the rainy season