#Fishlife – My first months as a Scuba Instructor in the Similan Islands

So here I am, a fresh PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor, working with Khao Lak Fun Divers in Thailand. Sometimes, I still cannot believe I am doing this job… Life can really take you on a journey when you trust your feelings, desires and intuitions! It had already been a dream of mine to work in the outdoors, and I think I have picked a good location!

Not a bad place to start the week

Obviously, it is an entirely different environment to that of my previous work life. It comes with benefits and disadvantages, and I’m clearly not on holidays. So here is a little recap of the last 2 months:

Tough start

  • Delayed start due to the Passport story, and an incredible amount of paperwork to do, especially for my bosses!
  • Unexpected costs of Visa & Work permits: roughly 10,000 baht for the whole process + 2,750 baht to be deducted each month of taxes & social contribution!
  • New processes to learn, new teammates with very different characters
  • Long office days (10 am – 8pm) in the heart of the city, without aircon, mostly idle…
  • Fatigue due to heat, a lot of scuba diving, mental strain of the constant learning

#boatlife: liveaboard conditions

  • Liveaboard boat Nemo 1: still super spacious and comfy, even at full capacity. Sleep has been quite random. From ass freezing cold due to A/C, to pillow soaking hot without it, through perfect, mild temperature, restful nights, especially after 4 dives survived in a day…
  • Good food, sometimes a bit too spicy even in the westernised version of Thai foos we are getting. The more it goes, the less I am keen on curries. The amount of chicken integrated into nearly all foods starts to be a bit disgusting to me too. I think I’m slowly turning vegetarian.
  • Decent sleep despite the odd mild insomnia. Easily countered with seasickness tablets. It’s cheating to use the side effects of this drug but it works, especially when the boat is rocking at night.
  • Power naps are still my best ally. I’m usually managing to get it done in 14-18 minutes now, which is convenient in our broken schedule.
  • Ginger tea has been great against sea sickness, for digestion, and against flus and other diseases so far. I seem to be holding on good.
  • Beers should be no more than 2 per night otherwise the dehydration will be badly felt on the following morning. It’s also a good idea to drink less alcohol, as it is usually more pricey here than in Europe (Wine, I will see you in the summer), and I try to keep my costs as low as possible…
  • Cigarettes: managed to keep them mostly at bay, only one to max three per day and in any case, always after the last dive.

The diving

Similan National Park new rules

The organisation came up with a new permit system that is meant to keep park visitor within an environmentally friendly number whilst financing the park’s expenses. I’m in favour of this sort of things, when they are not put in place just a few days prior to the start of the season and therefore cause unnecessary stress and chaos amongst dive operators… I still counted up to 27 speedboats moored at Donald Duck Bay of Island #8, which at 50 pax per boat makes over 1 000 people over the small beach and viewpoint…

Corals are suffering: high water temperatures, pollutions (bottles, fishing nets, alien species (crown of thorns sea stars). I can already notice some areas beimg worst off than last season.

I saw my 1st whaleshark ever at Koh Bon on my dive #297! Was super stoked! It was a short sight and not the largest whaleshark (maybe 5m long) but still magnificent!

Large Manta rays all day on December 10th and 17th at Koh Bon! Some circled for a good 20 minutes for the delight of everyone present. People behaved well most of time too, which was nice to see, and I witnessed no ruthless chasing.

Trevallies and fusiliers are aplenty. Not endangered species for sure!

Sharks: giant nurse shark at Donald Duck Bay, Leopard shark, silvertip cruising at Eagle rock, blacktip at West of Eden. We seem to report more shark sightings this season than last year, which could be a very positive sign!

I started the season with 230 dives and I am at 369 now in just over 2 months, so there is a good chance that I will hit the 500 mark by the end of the season! Crazy already.

Beautiful sunsets

After work view

Great customers

One of the perks of being a dive professionnal is that you get to meet so many people! Most of the clientele of my company Khao Lak Fun Divers comes from Germany, so I also have a very good opportunity to speak more german than I did in 10 years! Didn’t expect that as a side benefit of living in.. Thailand. The diving crowd is usually a pleasant one to be hanging out with and we usually have plenty of time to do so! I got my first open water student certified too and it was quite a satisfaction!

Also, teaching the PADI Open Water course has been a blast! Every student is different, learns at different speeds, struggle on different aspects so it takes a lot of adaptability to do a decent job! It is a very rewarding feeling though, which gives immediate gratification, and more satisfaction than closing a sales contract in my opinion. I am surrounded by more joy and laughter than I have ever been in my entire worklife! Happy!

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