Staying in PhuketFriday, 10 March 2006
Phuket – Hotel Wildlife, Hotel Guests & Scuba Diving
I joked in Once While Travelling about the ‘hotel wildlife’ I’ve encountered over the years – the rats, mice and cockroaches which shoestring travel in the developing world sometimes bring you face to face with. The very sophisticated Banyan Tree Phuket provided much classier wildlife.
As Maureen opened the door to our ‘lagoon villa’ something fell from above the entrance, landed on her shoulder, fell to the floor and slithered rapidly into the room’s garden. When I arrived back a few minutes behind her the metre-long, electric-green snake had taken up temporary residence in a tree before disappearing over the wall. We tentatively identified it in a Thai wildlife guide as a pit viper, ‘dangerous and venomous.’
So what sort of human guests stay in pricey Thai resorts? If you can gauge visitor numbers from the books they leave behind, which find their way into the hotel library, then Germans and Japanese (about 150 books for each language) are the most numerous visitors. English speakers came in 3rd with about 80 books while Dutch, Norwegian, Italian and French titles trailed behind with 20 to 40 books each. But number 4 with about 50 books was a surprise: Russian.
I spent a day scuba diving, it was the first time I’ve ever been diving in Thailand and a very pleasant surprise. The visibility was good and currents almost nil so it was very easy diving. And great value since we did three dives – the sheer walls of Doc Mai Island, the wreck of the King Cruiser ferry and the (unfortunately) shark-free pinnacles of Shark Point. All three were superb dives with lots or coral at two of the dives and prolific fish life at all three including lots of beautiful scorpion fish and a surprising number of my favourites, the anemone fish with their anemones homes.
One of the divemasters was out on a dive trip when the tsunami hit Phuket on 26 December 2004. ‘The water turned from blue to green and divers in the water at the time found themselves yo-yoing up and down uncontrollably,’ he reported. ‘We got everybody back on board safely, but then we started to get radio and phone messages from Phuket instructing us not to come back to port. We were eventually allowed to land around 9 pm, by that time we’d been out for over 13 hours.’