Diving with my Family at Racha Yai Island
So, in case you don't know .. I am manager at Sunrise Divers in Phuket, and have been doing this almost non stop since 2001. It's my job, it pays the bills, pays the kids school, puts food on the table etc. Blogging is just a fun hobby. I came to Phuket in 1999 as a dive instructor looking for work. Found some work. No real plans to stay forever, but then I met my wife who was working in the same dive shop and, well, here we are! You can find a little more on the About Jamie page on this blog! I don't dive much these days, but have logged about 1,500 dives over the years. My wife is a certified diver too and is a very relaxed diver. My daughter has done some little scuba try outs in the pool. My son just turned 10 this year and officially you should not allow kids under 10 to scuba dive, so we were waiting ... And at the end of April we found a free day, the weather looked good, and the kids were excited to learn that I'd booked us all for a day trip to Racha Yai Island. We have been there before on a weekend trip (staying in a hotel), and I have dived there maybe 100 times, but now the kids are old enough - it's time to dive!
(above) On the dive boat and ready to go. Trips depart from Chalong Bay. We met at Chalong pier about 8am and it was about 8:30am when we set off. It takes about 90 minutes on a dive boat to reach Racha Yai Island. The dive boats in this area are quite large, have upper deck seating areas and some have a smaller indoor (aircon) saloon area. So it's pretty comfortable, you are not sitting with the dive gear on a bench! Also, breakfast is provided, along with unlimited coffee, tea, and drinking water. I let the family relax while I set up all our scuba gear (OK, my dear wife helped a bit). Only took about 15 minutes to get 4 sets of gear and 4 weight belts ready, then I could join everyone upstairs for a cup of tea.
(above) Dive gear, ready to go!
(above) Our son takes a seat with a view .. Racha Yai island straight ahead!
When you arrive at Racha Yai, where you dive depends a bit on the conditions. As far as possible, if there is no strong northeast wind, it's best to dive on the east side of the island. It was not at all a windy day, so we started on the east coast with beautiful blue water. Visibility underwater here varies from 15 meters up to 30+ meters year round unless the weather is really bad! Much of the time, even in low season, it looks like this ...
(above) Racha Yai island, east coast. And we were looking forward to getting in the water! We let others get ready first as we were "non paying customers". There were about 20 on the boat including 4 or 5 instructors leading different groups of divers from different countries. I figured we'd take our time getting ready as it would be the kids first dive in the sea. It feels a little odd wearing scuba gear for the first time and even stranger once you start breathing through a regulator underwater!
(above) Our kids getting ready to dive
(above) We let everyone else get ready first :)
Wet suits on, weight belts on, sit down on the bench, strap into the BCD and then stagger to the dive platform carrying all that weight! Fins are the last thing to put on, as you don't want to be walking around wearing fins. I helped the kids with adjusting their gear. Checked everything was turned on and ready to go ....
(above) Our daughter getting her fins on with some help from the boat staff
(above) My wife ready to dive!
After a few teething problems ... both kids would go down a couple of meters and then signal to me that they wanted to go up again .. "my ears feel funny" or "my mask is loose" .. After about 5 minutes we all descended to about 7 meters under water, down to the sand, and the kids looked OK, if a little awkward (you normally do look a bit awkward on a first go at anything!), so we started to swim around. I did not take them deeper than about 9 meters. My wife has not logged too many dives but is a natural mermaid :) I did not take an underwater camera, as I knew I'd have to keep both eyes on the kids. Instructors should be using their eyes to care for students, not taking photos! But we saw plenty of marine life ..
(above) We saw all of these and more - moray eel, scorpionfish, clownfish, pufferfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, lionfish and more. Always plenty of life at Racha Yai! Many thanks to Simon Ilett (a dive instructor working in Phuket) for the photos. Our first dive was about 35 minutes and I was relieved that it had all gone smoothly! My kids are now divers! These day trips have 2 dives with lunch in between. The boat was moved while we ate lunch, my son had his nose in a fish identification book and both kids were pleased with themselves and ready to dive again. We had our second dive in Siam Bay on the south end of Racha Yai.
(above) Photo taken from the boat as we entered Siam Bay, Racha Yai Island
There are some underwater elephant statues here, but they are down about 18m deep, and our depth (for first time divers) was a maximum of 12m. We actually did not go deeper than about 7 meters on the second dive, swimming around in the shallows for 45 minutes. Could have stayed quite a lot longer, but it would be rude to delay the boat :) On the second dive the kids were very comfortable, checking out marine life, enjoying life underwater. 45 minutes went by very fast. After we were back on the boat and I got all the gear stowed away, the kids were already asking "when can we go again?" We will certainly go again soon. Diving might not seem like hard work, but I can tell you, combined with a day out on the water, when you breathe compressed air and carry dive gear and swim underwater .. it really is good exercise! Both kids slept in the aircon saloon on the way back to Chalong Bay. A great day out. Anyone wants to dive, contact me at Sunrise Divers! Thanks also to Noon at Local Dive Thailand for letting us go on her boat :)