The price to embark on an epic five day / four night dive cruise was a significant amount of what I spent overall traveling throughout Southeast Asia (roughly five months), but worth every single baht. Thanks to the Smiling Seahorse, I had a rare view of the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar that few have witnessed. The dive shop was located on the Thailand / Myanmar border, which was a perfect crossing option from Thailand into Myanmar to continue backpacking after the cruise. With a twenty five to thirty meter descent at some sites, escaping the noise of reality and diving into the deep, compressed, silence of the ocean was a wonderful introduction to Myanmar (formerly Burma).
After living on a shoestring budget for months and spending twelve days at a Buddhist monastery prior; I felt like a king. I had a mattress and a hot shower. The meals on the cruise were astounding. Some of the best food I ate in Asia. Curry, crepes, ribs, fresh fruit, and so much more delicacies to occupy my hunger. Four dives a day meant a solid meal was necessary to keep up with our schedule. Thankfully, great food, company, and exploration kept the energy flowing all day, every day.
Rough waters tossed the boat our first evening as we traversed towards our furthest dive site. I rolled from left to right in my bed as if I were a bottle in the back of a pickup, grateful for popping the motion sickness pills advised earlier. I was nervous the first dive because it had been almost a year since my last and I have minimal experience; however, the support of staff and other divers offered confidence to carry on. In fact, this dive trip more than doubled my dive log. My dive master, Anna, was so friendly and made me feel safe each dive. She spotted everything in the vicinity to offer the liveliest dive and made sure her divers were always comfortable.
Each dive was a unique and enjoyable experience. We were diving caves, uninhabited islands, swan with schools, and ventured the night waters. The caves were intense, but exciting. The mighty ocean forced us back and forth. Everyone had to continue pedaling forward, even while being pushed backwards to avoid kicking the following divers.
Assembling in a school of jellyfish became mesmerizing until I asked myself if I was in any danger. I then drifted away to play it safe, remembering our remoteness. I was already cautious of scorpion fish, which camouflage to the rock and coral flawlessly. With a wicked sting that causes an extraordinary amount of pain and being hours away from shore, encountering a scorpion fish meant the cruise was over. Luckily, the attentiveness of everyone was superb, avoiding the bad and observing the good. Untouched coral, moral eels, schools of tuna, harlequin shrimp, yellowtail seahorses, lion fish, barracudas, lobsters, and a stingray to only brush the top of the list. One of the more exciting finds was an octopus. I was enthralled by its squishy, jelly-like form fluttering upon the ocean floor. It was possibly protecting eggs or young. I floated in a daze a few moments to take it all in. I was on the ocean floor, merely feet from an octopus. Simply incredible.
Frank, owner and avid diver of the Smiling Seahorse, documented a few of our dives, which I greatly appreciated because then I was allowed to fully be present. Besides being distracted by a lenses, Frank’s pro skills and equipment were far superior to my own. I appreciated the kindness and hospitality of the entire Smiling Seahorse family. Between roughly one hundred questions, my bank card, five-star food, and a sea of unforgettable memories; thank you.
Visa issues caused me to return to Thailand before continuing my travels across Myanmar, which was a bummer; however, fate prevailed as Steven (a fellow diver) invited me on a motorbike excursion of Koh Payam, an island located off the West coast of Thailand. We biked from one beach to another, lost on muddy trails for majority of our stay. Everything happens for a reason. Thanks for following Steven and I look forward to catching up in B.C. Cheers mate!