When we thought about ending our holiday on the beach, we really debated where to go – Ngapali Beach in Myanmar? Phuket? Krabi? Phi Phi? Despite how touristy Phuket has become, we decided it was a good option primarily because of our desire to get our SCUBA open water certification.
Overall, I can’t say much about Phuket because we didn’t see it. We were not interested in any of the tourist activities — Elephant safaris, cabaret shows and nightclubs in Patong were not what we were looking for. Instead, we were looking for white sand beaches, a great pool, amazing snorkeling and diving and authentic thai food. For the most part, Kata beach lived up to that – it was a perfect location to stay at, where we had a hotel with a great pool, and access to some nice beaches with swimming and snorkeling in the south, a fantastic diving experience, and amazing sunsets each evening. Our only let down was the food (although Bangkok made up for that).
We spent 5 nights in Phuket, with the first part of the trip being about beaches, swimming and snorkeling and the second about diving. We explored the southwest part of the island and spend time at Kata Noi Beach, Yanui Beach and Naihan beach. All three had different appeals but I really enjoyed kayaking and snorkeling around the island just off Yanui beach.
The highlight of the trip was our SCUBA experience. Phuket was our destination to learn to dive – something i’ve been wanting to do for years but never had the courage to do because I had too much of a fear of water (crazy since I love to sail and snorkel, but I still had a fear of swimming without a life jacket or snorkel and mask on). So when we decided to get Open Water Certified, the first step was to pick a destination with reputable dive schools and Phuket tops that list.
Next, it was time learn to swim properly before getting to Phuket. Ian committed to helping me – we started going swimming twice a week for about three weeks where I got the confidence to swim freestyle without any problems. Then next piece was the diving. We booked a referral course at London Dive Center and completed all of our classroom and pool work before leaving for holiday – after all, who wants to spend time on a sunny island reading about all the ways you can die diving and practicing a vast curriculum of skills? And then it was time for the real thing – we researched the various SCUBA dive centers in Phuket (there are tons), but decided to go with Sea Fun Divers because of Rene – I spoke to him twice before the trip. He explained his approach, and even waited to take a deposit from us until we had confirmed we completed the referral course and liked the idea of diving.
Once we were in Phuket, Rene’s team were fantastic. Ron, our dive instructor, allowed us to start in the pool at the Le Meridien to practice a few of the skills before going into the sea. This gave me a ton of confidence, and we then did two dives off the beach – there is a reef there and it was shallow enough (10 meters) to ease our way in and get the skills complete. We did the majority of skills on day 1, right at that reef, leaving us extremely confident for day 2. On the second day, we were off on the Sea Fun boat from Chalong Bay to Racha Yai, where we had a chance to complete two more dives. Not only did we get Open Water Certified, but we got Nitrox certified and had some amazing dives!