Living the Life of a Divemaster Trainee in Khao Lak Thailand: Working The Similan Islands & Koh Bon Via Liveaboard

  • Updated: December 10, 2019
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

November-December 2019

So far I've written about life when I'm around the dive shop and a trip out to a local wreck but what about the main thing that attracted me to doing my divemaster internship out here?

The Similan Islands are located off the western coast of Thailand and have a reputation for being some of the best diving around. Looking online you see pictures of crystal clear blue water and people diving in almost nothing thanks to the warm water.

(Actually about 90% of these seem to have been taken at Richelieu Rock to the north but I'll cove that another day...)

One of the things that appealed to me about this particular shop when I was looking at options was the fact they owned and operated their own liveaboard. A liveaboard is a diving boat that has overnight accommodations letting you stay out for multiple days and get a lot of diving done.

The MV Similan Quest (Thai name Ing-On 7) is a 24 meter vessel that is what's known as a flexible liveaboard which means it stays out in the Similan Islands for the entire diving season of October to April. Customers are brought out via speedboat meaning that at any given time there are a mix of people just out for the day and others who are staying multiple nights.

For comparison on the liveaboard that Jen and I did in Indonesia in June everyone boards the big boat at the same time and stays for the entire x day trip.

The boat follows a set schedule (weather conditions allowing) visiting most of the divable Similans plus the island to the north called Koh Bon.

For most people their experience with the boat starts by getting picked up at their hotel and being brought to the Thap Lamu Pier.

Thap Lamu is a naval pier near Khao Lak which also serves a number of diving speedboats, liveaboards, and of course the ubiquitous snorkeling boats taking people out to the Similans.

When the clients are assembled we give a quick briefing outlining some basic safety information and asking that people avoid bringing single use plastics into the park.

They then walk a short distance to the pier where they load into the speedboat the Ake Angaman 2. Usually in drier conditions that the picture above. (Downpours are usually reserved for the afternoon arrivals)

We load all the gear and people inside the speedboat and quickly depart.

Inside everyone is seated on two large benches and are provided with the requisite floatation device for in the event of any unplanned events.

Due to space limitations I usually find myself squeezed into the front with all the gear and one of the Thai boat boys. This can be nice since I get a view but the sun is brutal even early in the morning and if we hit waves during the crossing then being in the front is the best way to get a spinal realignment.

We then have about an hour to hour and twenty minute ride out to the big boat depending where it is in the rotation. Then we arrive at the Similan Quest and everyone makes their way to the galley / briefing area.

The schedule for the day is laid out on a whiteboard in the galley area. A lot of people just come out for the day meaning they do Dive #2, lunch, Dive #3, a snack, and then head back to the mainland arriving by about 4:30 pm. People staying overnight get a dive that is either a sunset or a night depending on their training followed by dinner. And in the morning before the speedboat arrives they get a morning dive.

As a divemaster trainee and later a certified divemaster my role onboard varied day to day. Sometimes I assist other dive guides being there to assist if any of the clients have any issues and split off with people who run low on air early. Other days I'm taking people out and guiding dives myself.

And still other days I'm assisting dive instructors with their classes.

And still other times it's onboard duty.

There I stay dry and I'm responsible for marking down when each guide + group enters the water. After everyone is in and drops down I go stand on the top level of the boat and keep an eye out for any groups surfacing early which might be a sign that they have a problem.

If not I stay on alert for the next 30-50 minutes until SMB's start popping up and make sure the captain sees them so he can maneuver over and the boat boys can throw out a current line to retrieve them.

I then head to the back, assist with the recovery in whatever way I can, and mark people down as they return so we're sure we don't leave anyone behind.

Meals are served buffet style and are usually centered around rice and a few staple items.

Clients sleep in cabins either the two bunk versions on the bottom deck or the single larger bed versions on the middle deck.

As dive staff I usually get assigned to the DM cabin which depending how many of us are staying over can get a bit cramped. Also the air conditioner leaks on the bunk I usually pulled.

Due to that and my general outdoor proclivities I started taking to sleeping out on the top of the boat with just a blanket and one of the pads. When the weather was calm this was rather nice though I did get bitten by the occasional mosquito that seem to live around the islands. There can also often be rain in the middle of the night which would wake me up and send me scrambling back down to the galley where I'd settle in to one of the far less comfortable benches for the rest of the night.

And of course there are all the little moments that make staying on the boat so memorable.

When departure time rolls around it's back to the speedboat for the hour or so ride back to the pier.

And this seems to be when the majority of storms hit at least when I'm along.

Have I mentioned that my best purchase was a drybag backpack?

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