No trip to southern Thailand would be complete without a dive. After all, this is where I became PADI certified eight years ago. We were pleased to find that Hilton Phuket has partnered with Sub Aqua Dive Centers to offer their guests a comfortable dive experience. We paid a visit to the dive shop to schedule a two dive trip to Koh Racha Yai. We were also fitted for equipment at the same time.
The morning of our dive dawned clear and beautiful, and we ventured to Sub Aqua a few minutes early for our departure time. Marc, our guide for the day, greeted us with coffee and a briefing of Koh Racha Yai. We finished our coffee and chatted for another moment or two before we hopped in the truck for the short trip to the pier where the dive boat was waiting.
The boat, run by Andaman Ocean Safaris, was an incredibly comfortable and refreshing change from dive boats we have used in the past. There was plenty of room to spread out as we started the 60 minutes journey to Koh Racha Yai. After a safety briefing from the charming boat manager, we settled in at a table on the middle deck with Marc. We chatted about the upcoming dive and arrived before we knew it.
Both dives were exceptional, with good visibility and delightfully warm water. Since neither of us had been diving in some time, it took us a bit to get accustomed to it, but Marc was a patient and relaxed divemaster. A filling lunch prepared on the dive boat was delicious, and with our two dives completed, we made the journey back to Phuket.
The following day we wanted to meet with Kerry Leach, the manager of Sub Aqua Phuket, to learn more about the business. She met us on the terrace of the Hilton Phuket pool where Sub Aqua conducts their free Introduction to SCUBA courses for Hilton guests. Passionate about her work and the waters of southern Thailand, Kerry was proud to talk about the initiatives regarding ocean health that Sub Aqua Phuket has been a major part of.
At the forefront of the environmental movement in the area is Go Eco Phuket. A collaboration between like-minded businesses and other community organizers, Go Eco Phuket has mobilized to be the voice for the area’s oceans and reefs. Most recently, Go Eco Phuket launched the world’s largest collective ocean clean up on September 30, 2012. Supported by local Phuket officials and bolstered by the presence of the Royal Thai Navy, more than 650 participants battled refuse both under the water and on the beach. Collectively, these volunteers collected over 15 tons of debris, including a 4.5 ton discarded fishing net.
In addition to actively working to collect rubbish that fouls the reefs, Go Eco Phuket is inspiring the next generation to care about the oceans. The group has an active presence in Thai schools, educating young people about reef ecosystems and the environmental factors that can threaten these fragile habitats. Equipment donated by local Phuket dive shops and heavy radio station involvement aids in spreading the word, and outfitting the volunteers with the tools they need to get the job done.
Not only were we incredibly impressed with our experience diving with Sub Aqua, the professionalism of the staff and the impeccable condition of their equipment, but we are now more inspired than ever to return for a second Phuket dive vacation. Sub Aqua has first-hand knowledge of the importance of clean reefs, as a draw for increased tourism, and as a benefit to the future of the environment. Their continued activism can only benefit the Phuket area as a whole for years to come.
Thanks to Kerry, the rest of the staff at Sub Aqua, and the whole of the Phuket diving community, the waters of southern Thailand are now more beautiful than ever.