Scuba Diving Thailand – Phuket and Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta Scuba Diving
Koh Lanta Scuba Diving

Imagine the sensation of gliding weightless and effortless in a sea of deep blue, surrounded by beautiful and graceful sea creatures of all sizes and array of colors.

A light fin kick propels the body over coral reefs full of life, the eye seeing only as far as the suspended particles in the water allows, and the only sounds that fill the ears is the rhythmic inhalation of compressed air followed by exhalation of bubbles.

Aside from the divers in my group, the other companions in my hour-long explorations into the underwater world of Thailand included sea horses, nudibranch, turtles, box fish, clown fish, moral eels, stingrays, and more species of angelfish and butterflyfish than I could keep track of.

My sister Diana was taking a Muay Thai and detox program around the same time that Scotch and I were in Thailand so she arranged to fly to Phuket a few days early to join us before we left for Koh Lanta. It’s great to dive with people you know – especially family.

South Siam Divers - Phuket
Ginger with the Divemaster Brian

We did three dives out of Phuket with South Siam Divers to King Cruiser wreck, Shark Point, and Koh Doc Mai.

The water was a wonderfully warm 84°F (29°C) and for once I did not feel cold in my 3 mm full wet suit.

Phuket - South Siam Divers - Dive Boat
Phuket – South Siam Divers – Dive Boat

It’s been years since I’ve spotted a seahorse during diving – and we were fortunate enough to find not one but three on our dives around Phuket.

They are beautiful creatures and well-camouflaged so very difficult to spot but the diver operator had been running these dives daily so they knew exactly where to find them.

Phuket Scuba Diving
Clockwise from upper left: Diana and I at the safety stop; Pregnant brown Tiger tail seahorse; Yellow Tiger tail Seahorse, Diana about to sit on a toilet on the King Cruiser wreck)

I’m sure I’ve said this a million times – boxfish/trunkfish are my favorite fish. Especially yellow ones.

Their uniquely shaped boxy body with puckered lips makes them so cute that they instantly bring me joy with each and every sighting.

Phuket Scuba Diving
Clockwise from upper left: Yellow Boxfish; Me taking a photo of a blue-spotted stingray; Nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata); Nudibranch (Halgerda stricklandi)

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In Koh Lanta, Scotch completed his PADI Advanced Open Water course with Scubafish which means he is now certified to dive past 60 feet (18 meters) to a maxium depth of 100 ft (30 meters). Since it was low season, the popular sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang were off limits so we ended up diving Koh Ha instead.

I took a one-day underwater photo course since it was the first time I was using my Canon DSLR underwater with an Ikelite underwater housing and strobe. In the past and with the Phuket dives, I was using my Canon point and shoot (in a waterproof casing).

To protect the new Ikelite camera gear, Scotch bought me one of those military-grade waterproof and bulletproof black boxes with foam padding which received quite a lot of questioning and examining from airport security.

Ikelite Housing and Strobe
Wee Scotch with my Ikelite Underwater Housing and Strobe for Canon 450D

For the most part, the photos taken with the DSLR with strobe are much clearer, better focused, and better white balanced than my point and shoot with internal flash. If only it weren’t such a monstrous and clunky contraption!

Although the set-up is nearly weightless underwater, it’s a beast to lug around out of water and on the dive boat. I guess it just takes some getting used to.

Ikelite DSLR housing for Canon 450D
Ikelite DSLR housing for Canon 450D

My instructor helped me practice with manually adjusting white balance at different depths for shallow dives using natural light.

For deeper dives where natural light was not sufficient, my instructor worked on positioning the strobe and getting close to the subject and playing around in manual mode with shutter speed and aperture.

Koh Lanta Scuba Diving
Anemone Fish

This turtle got really up close and personal to all the divers including me.

It even gave my camera lens a bump which I didn’t realize until it was actually happening since I had my eye glued to the viewfinder and with the wide angle lens it seemed farther away than it really was!

Koh Lanta Scuba Diving
Koh Lanta Turtle Encounter

You can actually see the turtle bump my lens (and me blinding the turtle with my flash) in this video at time segment 2:43:

Underwater fish photography is less challenging when the object is immobile like this scorpionfish. It allowed me to take photos of it at different distances to compare the results of the flash coverage.

At least that was the plan – but in the end, it was another case of snap as many photos as possible at different angles and pray that at least one photo will turn out decent enough to use on the blog.

Koh Lanta Scuba Diving
Scorpionfish

Our instructors, Vicky and Eileen at Scubafish, took great care of us during our courses. Since it was low season, they didn’t have enough divers to use their own boat so we combined forces with Lanta Diver which seemed like a well-oiled operation as well.

Koh Lanta - Scubafish diving
Koh Lanta – Diving with Lanta Diver

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We hoped you have enjoyed reading all the Thailand posts! We only traveled to such a small part of the country with so much more to see. Hopefully one day we can return to the country to visit the Norther part of Thailand as well.

 

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2 Comments

  1. I’m back to reading what I love the most about your blog – pictorially vivid travelogue. This is so beautiful. We’ve had the experience of snorkeling (I know it’s not scuba!) in Maldives but the amazing world that I’ve seen underwater at that level and also at the cliff where the deep starts has been enough to make me realise that this is probably one world where the beauty surpasses even imagination. You are indeed very lucky. I didn’t get it about the camera. Till now were you shooting with your normal point and shoot encased in a special box? So now do you have a special camera? I remember my shots were all taken by a disposable underwater camera – very basic and the results came out very well but that’s because of the beauty of the world that lies below rather than any photographic skill that I may possess. Look forward to all your articles:)

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Ishita.

      Yes, til now I have been using a Canon point-and-shoot encased in a Canon underwater box.

      For the Koh Lanta dives, I took my big camera underwater – the one I use for my food photography – encased in an Ikelite brand underwater box with a strobe light (just a big flash) attached to it.