The best scuba diving in Thailand is on the country’s west coast, but great coral and marine life comes at the cost of having a low season each year. However, Koh Phi Phi & Phuket’s eastern dive sites are sheltered from wind & waves that come from The Indian Ocean during the monsoon. Therefore, it’s possible to dive east of Phuket all year round but dive sites are less busy from May to October. And in 2020 the low season has been even quieter than normal due to Covid-19 Coronavirus because Thailand’s borders are closed. So who’s going to dive and how can we attract enough divers to confirm a trip? Keep reading to find out all about an incredible trip on two awesome boats!
What made it so special?
This trip was very special mainly due to the fantastic value. The low-season trips on The Junk & The Phinisi are already great value, but this time we were offering discounted rates, free diving equipment & computers, free Nitrox, and two extra nights on board! But the great value didn’t affect the quality of the service at all. The boats were fully staffed by experienced & attentive crews, and the dive groups were small and professionally led.
When was the trip?
The date for this trip was the long-weekend of July 25th-27th 2020. This was a Saturday-Monday. And as an extra bonus, guests were offered to stay on board for the nights of July 24th and July 27th, allowing them to disembark on the 28th and ‘off gas’ before flying away from Phuket airport. So flying into Phuket on the Friday and out on the Tuesday meant that guests could have four nights’ on board, including meals! No need for a hotel or dining at restaurants!
Who were the divers?
Because Thailand has no international tourists right now, this trip was made up of nearly all Thai divers from Bangkok, plus a couple of expats. With the help of our friends at Monkey Dive Thailand, we booked 11 Thais in four groups (6+2+2+1) but by the end of the trip all eleven had become close friends, and planned for the next liveaboard! Other guests were five more Thais who were from Phuket, and an American father and his 10-year-old son, Dillon.
Emm & Tangkwa
Min Vicky Jibby and Mint
Pa & Ton
Which boats were used?
The original plan was for The Junk to be in dry dock for refurbishments, and The Phinisi was going to be used. But due to the unbeatable value, our awesome sales team, and people itching to get in the water, bookings soon overtook available beds. Within 24 hours The Phinisi was fully booked, so The Junk’s dry dock was postponed. All of our eleven guests went on The Junk, joined by two members of our team. Both boats are schooners of a similar size & style but The Phinisi is just 17 years old and The Junk nearly 60! Its history includes appearing in a James Bond movie!
What was the weather like?
Some people worry about the low-season weather, but there’s no need. In Thailand during the low season it rarely rains for long and some days are completely dry, although some storms can be heavy. For our trip, we had one or two very light showers, but for most of the time the weather was perfect! Sunshine, but not too much, with a nice sea breeze, and ideal temperatures.
How about sea conditions?
The sea conditions were also excellent for our divers! Visibility was limited compared to high season, but this didn’t affect our enjoyment. Some areas of some dive sites had very poor visibility (<10 metres) for brief periods, but we soon swam through this and enjoyed much better conditions (10+ metres) after just 10 minutes. The team carefully planned which dive site to be at for the best light on each day. As for currents, we were very lucky here, too. Currents varied from almost nothing to very gentle, and our guides took us with each current or sheltered us from it.
Where did the trip go?
This trip was from Chalong Pier in southern Phuket to the best dive sites in the area. In previous seasons, these trips have included Racha (Raya) Islands 30 kilometres south of Phuket, and then cross over to Koh Phi Phi. But this time we went directly to Phi Phi, stopping at Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai. The reasons for this include Phi Phi’s greater variety of dive sites and better chances of seeing more-interesting marine life. And to make the 50 kilometre crossing from Racha to Phi Phi would either have to be done at night, or affect the dive times.
Guests were picked up for free from Phuket Airport on Friday afternoon and evening, and from Phuket hotels on Saturday morning. Then on Monday evening most guests left to enjoy a night out in Phuket. The original plan was for a small group to leave, but because everyone had become such good friends, the group grew larger and larger. The remaining guests disembarked on Tuesday morning and went to the airport to board flights.
The dive sites for this trip’s itinerary were as follows.
- Shark Point, Phuket north pinnacle (check dive)
- Palong Wall, Koh Phi Phi
- Ton Sai Bay, Koh Phi Phi (night dive)
- Koh Bida Nok, Koh Phi Phi
- Nui Bay, northern Koh Phi Phi Don
- Koh Bida Nok, Koh Phi Phi
- Viking Bay, Koh Phi Phi Lei (sunset dive)
- Shark Point, Phuket middle pinnacle
- Koh Doc Mai eastern wall
- Koh Doc Mai western wall
At every dive site, we were the only divers in the water, which made the trip even more special. Some dive sites we shared with The Phinisi, but the captains and tour leaders planned it so that each boat’s guests dived an hour apart, so they didn’t crowd the dive sites. We did see a day trip boat from Koh Phi Phi, plus two other liveaboards, which sailed away. Therefore we never met any divers from any other boats throughout the whole trip!
One lady completed her Nitrox course during the trip, and four others completed their SSI Advanced Adventurer course. Most guests joined every dive, but one or two skipped the night dive to drink sunset beer. And young Dillon’s father limited him to eight of the ten dives in the interest of his safety and energy levels.
What marine life was seen?
Our guests saw a lot of great marine life, and the list is almost too long! Blacktip Reef Sharks were seen at Bida Nok and dolphins swam around the boats at Koh Doc Mai. During the trip divers saw sea snakes, turtles, pipefish, razorfish, stingrays, lobsters, special shrimps & crabs, cuttlefish, squid & octopuses, several species of moray eels, and lots of nudibranchs! There really was something for everyone to be happy!
Covid-19 coronavirus is still a worry for many people, but Thailand is possibly the most-successful country in the world for containing its spread. The crew and guests followed the correct procedures to ensure that everyone was protected as much as possible, but still with freedom to enjoy their vacation. Temperature checks were regular. Masks & regulators had special places & ways to be cleaned, because these items are exposed to sputum & mucus even in healthy people. The crew and many guests wore masks at all times on board, and the food was served by the team, instead of taken in a buffet style.
This long-weekend liveaboard was so successful, that the next trip has already been planned for August 7th-9th, but guests are again welcome to join on August 6th and leave on the 10th. The Junk really is going into dry dock for refurbishments this time, so we will use The Phinisi in August. The Phinisi’s cabins all have private en suite bathrooms, and there’s a choice of 4-bed, twins and doubles. There’s even a cabin that will take three people if they all know each other.
Will it happen again?
So, what are you waiting for? If you’re in Thailand and looking to join the next awesome trip, get in touch today to enjoy the same discounts and freebies such as equipment, Nitrox and extra nights on board. But if the next trip is as popular as this one, you had better be very quick indeed!