Sarah Breedon - Diving & Marine Conservation in Thailand
Sarah Breedon from the UK has been taking part in our Conservation project in Thailand. Here is an extract from an email home telling her friends and family about her time:
Hope all is good back in sunny England and everybody is well.
Well I have now experienced mangrove planting and beach clean-up work which are two other elements of my conservation project here. Planting mangroves is possibly the hottest thing I've ever done. The sun was blazing down and we had to try to plant a set number of mangroves. It involves three stages. 1 - Removing the packaging keeping them moist, 2 - digging a hole for them and then 3 - planting them. It's really messy and you come back home covered in mud - in your hair, up your nose, everywhere! We were working on a new site with students from Bangkok University. Suwat who owns our house is extremely well connected and that is how they managed to join us. We have also been working with the University who have been rearing sea horses to release on Anemone reef which is one of our dive sites. It's our job to track their progress since they were released. So far we have not really started this though.
Beach clean-up is also pretty different to diving and I have done three days. Two on a local island called Koh Poda. It is such a stunning island about 25 minutes by longtail boat from Ao Nang. Our work there was definitely really appreciated. We have to work for about one hour filling black bin liners then we get until mid afternoon to swim in the sea and cool down and then sunbathe. It doesn't sound like hard work but its sooooooo sweaty. The last time was ridiculous and some locals on a cruise liner threw bottled chilled water to me and Harriet - obviously as we were so pink in the face we think!
I started and completed my advanced course a couple of days later and both days were great days diving and I definitely noticed a massive improvement in my diving. I then had the following day fun diving at Phi Phi and went to the bay where the beach was filmed - which frankly was not the best beach I had seen, and was packed full of tourists and speed boats.
The following day the group travelled via Phukett where we were supposed to visit the recompression chamber- however it was in use so we settled just for dinner. We then headed on to Koh Lak which was where we were to pick up our dive live aboard. Koh Lak was badly hit in the tsunami and there is a lot of evidence of the destruction that had been caused and a lot of rebuilding work occurring in places. We went to the dive shop and boarded our boat from the pier. We then had a boat briefing for one hour before chilling out and heading off to the Similan islands which are one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. We were there for four days living on a live aboard boat called the Mata Queen. It really was the most amazing trip ever. The first two days ended with night dives and a sunset dive on day three. I wasn't really that taken with the night diving, I'm really glad I did it but I didn't find it as amazing as I thought it would be. Each diver had a handheld torch but given that was the only light it was difficult to see much.
The trip though as a whole was great. The diving was soooooo good. The visibility was about 30 metres and given I was now an advanced diver I could dive to 30 metres whereas before we were restricted to 18. I shared a cabin with Harriet for the four days and we had such a giggle all the time with all the others, even when we were under the water. Not only was the water so clear, the corals were even brighter than here locally. I saw so many different types of fish which I could recognise under the water myself. On the first dive I saw an octopus.
On the 2nd day we were sunbathing on top deck and all of a sudden my friend James said oh there is a dolphin! We were all like yeah whatever but oh my god there were 20 swimming along side our boat it was the most amazing site ever. The mood on the boat while everybody was watching was crazy and too hard to explain but it was just buzzing! Just when I thought it couldn't get any better on the third day dive number two we swam with manta rays which were between 4-6 metres and were so incredible. We then also saw a sea horse and then spent the next 25 minutes of the 60 minute dive with the mantas it was breath taking I just cant describe it.
It truly was amazing and I have been buzzing since the trip. The crew were great and when we got back from Koh Lak we all went out partying in Koh Lak. Suwat also owns a dive shop in Koh Lak which has a hotel above it so we stayed there for free that night. He also paid for us to eat out at this restaurant. Its was such a fun night but the next day was sad as we said bye to Sean and James who have finished their Projects Abroad placement and are off travelling. They will be back in two weeks to pick up the rest of their stuff but the journey home was sad without them and was a very hung-over one!
Today has been beach clean up and tomorrow is diving. All is great and I'm really loving it but can't believe how quickly the time is going by. Harriet and I got some really good info about Cambodia from a lady in the Similans so we are looking to going there after teaching and to also solve the whole visa issue.
Anyway I will stop boring you now.
Miss you loads and wish you all could have lived the week I just had.
Lots of love as always