Phuket is an island that offers all things for all people. You
can take a leisurely vacation, relaxing on the beach, taking a sauna
or being pampered at one of the many spas. Alternatively, you can
learn to windsurf, go mountain-biking, trekking or sailing. There
is however, another alternative: diving.
There are many organisations offering dive courses and experiences,
but the largest and most universally recognised is PADI (Professional
Association of Diving Instructors). Nearly all dive shops on Phuket
offer PADI certified courses, at the end of which you gain accreditation
and membership (providing you pass, of course).
The variety of courses on offer are tailored for all ages and abilities:
from a free "Bubble Blowers" course for eight years and
up, to a Master Scuba Diver course for the highly experienced. For
the beginner, all PADI courses start with a swimming-pool session,
to make sure that you are comfortable underwater. Most hotel swimming
pools are used by either the in-house dive operation, or outside
companies using the facilities.
There are huge advantages of being able to learn in an enclosed
environment: all worries can be put to rest before you enter open
water, access is easy, the instructor nearby and the water is clear
and shallow. For the beginner, or an out-of-practice diver, the
experience is invaluable. In addition, pools such as those at Thavorn
Beach Village, Le Meridien and others are picturesque and relaxing
. . . an ideal beginners' environment.
For those not really interested in long-term diving, but want the
experience, a Discover Scuba course such as the one offered by Asian
Adventures is ideal. This involves very limited theory and completion
is rewarded with a completion card which will enable you to continue
scuba (with an instructor) for a few weeks. Next up is the PADI
Open Water course, the most popular entry-level course in the world.
This begins with a lecture, pool dive and culminates with two boat
dives (or more, if conditions permit). Completion of this course
secures your PADI card, enabling you to dive worldwide. On qualification
you may advance further if you wish.
Of course, July sees Phuket entering the rainy season, so "is
it still OK to dive?" There are admittedly some areas where
the diving is still excellent, but the journey a little rough .
. . these are mostly far off the west coast of Phuket (due to the
southwest monsoon). Off the east coast of the island, however, fairly
smooth seas prevail and further north up to Phang Nga Bay the seas
tend to be calm year-round. Go on, take the plunge!