Our itinerary called for three dives. The first dive will take place at Mosquito Island which is very clearly visible from our beach. I guess it's probably 2-3 kilometers away. Mosquito Island is the most remote island of the islands that make up the Phi Phi chain. It's essentially a
limestone cliff rock about 700 meters long and it has 2 small beaches that
are covered in Mosquitoes at sunset and hence gives it it’s name.
The island is only accessible by longtail boat or private-hire speedboats (i.e. there's no ferry). Apparently there's an abundance of soft corals which are formed due to the strong tides that sweep down past the island every day. You dive at the north eastern tip of the island where there are said to be large schools of tropical fish that swarm over the rocks. We were also told that the area has a lot of Black Tip Sharks. The second dive will take place at Bamboo Island which is also around the same distance from our beach. The island is much more flat and is known for its white sand beaches (again only accessible via private charter) and for a beautiful coral garden called Hin Klang which sits roughly 50 meters out off the beach. The third dive will take place in Runtee Bay here on Koh Phi Phi. It's really pretty close to our resort and it's where you find "old Phi Phi" with the bamboo huts, hammocks, and a very laid back, backpacker vibe. To get to that area from our northern beach you pass through a little Muslim village (just a few shacks). Phi Phi was initially populated by Muslim fishermen during the late
1940s before it later became a coconut plantation. The Thai population of Phi
Phi remains more than 80% Muslim, although if you count many of the laborers who come to service the tourist industry on the island it's probably more Buddhist than Muslim. So that is the itinerary for the dives.
When we got back to our room to prepare for our dives, we quickly realized that it might not be a good idea to take the good camera. We came prepared (or so we thought) since we brought Major's camera to take on the rough, wet excursions. Last year before our trip to Alaska, we had bought Major a digital camera that was drop proof and water proof
. We used it last year to record our white water rafting excursion in Alaska. We hoped to use it this year for all of our dives and remote island excursions. But, wouldn't you know it, low battery and no charger! And, considering where we are, there's zero chance of finding a charger here. We'll have to wait until the mainland. We talked to the dive shop and they set us up with a dry bag so hopefully Mickell will be able to take a couple of pictures between dives.
We had lunch on the beach and were ready to go at 1. The dive shop brought our snorkels, fins, and masks out to the longtail boat and we all hopped in Getting in the longtail boats is tricky because they're pretty narrow so when one person puts all his or her weight on the edge of the boat as they're boarding, the boat tips. So, before I got on, I made sure that Mickell and Major were far on the other side. The last thing I wanted was for everyone to see "the happy buddha" tip the boat over! Anyway, we made it on and the longtail boat driver told us he was apprehensive about going to Mosquito Island because of large swells. He said that we'd go check it out, but we might have to skip it. Getting across the 2-3 kilometers takes you out into the larger waves and the longtail boat got tossed pretty hard and we all got wet from the ocean spray. Once we arrived, the longboat pilot assessed the situation and he said we were good to dive
. So, we all put our gear on (as we had practiced yesterday) and we dove into the water. The viewing was just great. There were thousands of the 2-3 inch long yellow/black fish which were very curious and schooled around us as we surveyed the underwater landscape. Major was very impressed and immediately noticed the difference between our practice dive and today's dive -- today's dive was in much deeper water (probably 15 feet) and you had the interesting coral reef to house the many exotic fish that we didn't see when we practiced on the beach. Major really, really impressed me. He put his face in the water and just seemed to naturally be able to breathe through the snorkel. We fitted Major with a life jacket for safety, but Mickell and I did not have life jackets. I certainly didn't need one since I had to make essentially no effort to float in the salty waters. I simply kicked my fins and could propell myself without having to worry about staying afloat. It was so relaxing and fun. We never saw a shark and I really wanted to so Major would stop worrying about whether there'd be a shark. The sharks in these waters are very small and there's never been a shark attack in or around Phi Phi since this species is just too small.
After we spent roughly 40 minutes exploring the area, we got back in the boat. Getting in the boat from the water (instead of the beach) was a lot more difficult, but we all managed without incident
. The boat pilot pulled up anchor and we headed off to Bamboo Island. After around 10 minutes, we arrived at the shore of the beach and hopped out. The pilot said that we'd need to go pay the national park stand 400 bhat to use the beach. We quickly realized that we hadn't brought any money. So, the idea of snorkeling from the beach just got nixed. We hopped back in the boat and the pilot anchored out near the reef and Mickell hopped in to check it out. The pilot indicated that the water conditions weren't great. The problem was that it was very cloudy and you really need the benefit of the sun to see the brilliance of a reef. Moreover, the 2004 tsunami destroyed a lot of the reefs and it will be years before they can return to their pre-tsunami grandeur. Over 1000 people died and nearly every structure on the entire island was destroyed in the December 26 tsunami when the 3 waves hit the island. The waves ranged in height from 9-18 feet!
Mickell quickly hopped back in the boat after we saw that there wasn't much to see and we struck off for our third dive site. Major got a little chilled on the ride back across the straight to Phi Phi so we wrapped him in one of the towels we packed. We geared up after we arrived and all dove in to do our final exploratory dive for the day. It was an OK dive site, but not great. It was much more shallow and our fins kept hitting the rocks (which isn't good) below
. Still, there was different topography and it was worth the exploration. I saw a 3 foot long needle fish on this dive. Major was first to finish and he waited patiently with the pilot in the boat while Mickell and I finished the dive. When we were done, the ride back to our little resort took only 5 minutes. We hopped out and spent the rest of the afternoon on the beach just relaxing. We returned to the room around 18:00 to shower and get ready for dinner. We wanted to turn in early tonight since tomorrow's excursion started at around 7:30. Tomorrow's trip will be on a speedboat and we'll be joined with six other people. We considered trying a different restaurant, but ended right back in the resort restaurant. The food was outstanding again. Major and I spent some time after dinner just reading our books. Major is reading the entire "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series of books. He's already finished reading all 5 of the books once on this trip and he's started making his way through them a second time. He really impressed me as he sat on the setee and just read his book while I lounged in the chair and read my book.
After books and quick turn of the tely, we turned in for the night. I opted to not pull down my mosquito net tonight since I really hadn't been bitten too much. Mickell, on the other hand, had many bites and he was diligent in making sure that his net fully encapsulated his side of the bed. Major's bed is the setee and the maid will turn it into a bed when she comes to do the turn down service around 19:00 daily. He has his own mosquito canopy as well and is excited to use it again.
We woke up this morning with the sound of rain on the thatch roof. We quickly got dressed (breakfast ends at 10:30 and it was already almost 10) and scurried on over to take some breakfast. The resort provided umbrellas and they sure have come in handy. We had breakfast and then went back to the room to get ready for our first day of diving.