What the Phu Quoc!
Woohoo! We’re finally getting back in the water in Phu Quoc, many people have told us how beautiful it is and the beaches we saw certainly were. Miles of soft white sand with the sea lapping gently at its shores, the nicest beaches we’ve seen in a long time. We planned to dive for four days and signed up with Flipper Divers, one of the PADI dive shops we’d looked into before arriving on the island for a days diving. Every place we go to dives in a slightly different way; resorts with dive sites close to shore tend to offer single dives three to four times a day and those whose dive sites some distance away usually offer a two dive and lunch package, which was the case here. After a little confusion as to where we were staying we were collected by Lizzy in a mini bus with about seven others and taken to the boat, a nice two story ex fishing boat with deck chairs upstairs and a table for lunch running along the middle of the opensided downstairs on one end and the dive equipment and kitchen at the other. In total there were about six dive staff, three boat staff, fifteen snorkelers and five divers for the trip. Having been paired with Lizzy as our dive guide we retreated upstairs and lounged in the sun for the hour or so journey to the first site, Turtle Island.
A few hours later, kitted out we were excited to get back into the water, it’s been almost as long we’ve been out of the water as we’ve been diving in total and we’ve missed it. And it was lovely! Even though the diving was poop, no other way of putting it I am afraid. There are two areas dived off Phu Quoc, North and South, no dive operators were going South while we were there so we had to content ourselves with North. We’d been warned the visibility wasn’t that great and it turned out to be only three to five metres but sadly that wasn’t the worst of it, there was simply nothing to see, overfishing has stripped this once bountiful area of its sea life. You’ll see more fish in the local market and tanks of baby shark, lobster, grouper and all sorts of rare and not so rare shellfish line the night market ready to be cooked but in the ocean we saw hardly a thing, flighty shoals of inch long fish being the highlight. Maybe the South diving is spectacular, but if you do plan to go for the diving you need to make sure they’re going that way before you do!
The second site was Nail Island, even shallower than the first at only seven metres, oh did I not mention it’s shallow? Yup, no fish, bad visibility and shallow, ah well. Still it was indeed lovely to be back in the water even with all this, it made us all the more excited for the diving we have coming up in Nha Trang in a few days and also for the summer we have planned diving Gili Meno and Nusa Lembongan. And we had two dives of over fifty minutes each and both came up with over a hundred bar left, which is nice, now to do that on a twenty five metre dive. Lunch, after both dives was a plentiful spread of chicken, noodles, soup, tofu and greens, divers and snorkellers never seem to be so chatty with each other but this was one of the quietest boats we’ve ever been on. The high point of the day, other than the lovely relaxing sun filled journey there and back, was our guide Lizzy who was awesome, an Australian adventurer with a fantastic laugh and wonderful conservationist heart, I hope we bump in to her some more on our travels.
Having decided not to waste money diving again we spent the next blindingly hot day on the beautiful beach and in the refreshing sea where we had the misfortunes to time our visit with a bloom of larval jellyfish, a fact we learnt having been stung all over. The resulting painful itchy rash I developed only where my swimming costume was led me to research and discover “Bather’s eruption‘ lovely! So we spent the next few days paying to lay at the pool of a nearby resort, within sight of the sea but keeping out of its stingy waters.
While it clearly wasn’t all bad and we did get to try instant ice cream and have a wonderfully relaxing few days in the sun, it wasn’t really our cup of tea. The majority of the locals we encountered were not the friendly Vietnamese we have become accustomed to. The night market was pretty heartrending, who needs to eat a baby shark for goodness sake! and the restaurant prices were the over inflated ones we’ve disappointingly come to expect on islands and not backed up by the quality of food we’ve found on the main land.
Phu Quoc is a 222 square mile island off of the South coast of Vietnam on the gulf of Thailand. Originally Cambodian it is disputed territory having been used by the French and given to Vietnam by them in 1953, although not in possession of the island the Cambodians still consider it their territory. There is a substantial Vietnamese army base on the island and the just over a hundred thousand residents are employed in fishing, agriculture and increasingly tourism. Rumour has it that the government have the goal of it being the next Singapore. There are plentiful hotels large and small, basic, posh and posher, a poorly stocked supermarket and the occasional shop, not the infrastructure you’d expect for a wannabe Singapore but I guess you have to start somewhere. Farther north is a huge ferris wheel and water park. It’s a good thing a large part of the island is designated a national park as substantial building work is taking place including wide pavements being installed on both sides of the main road leading up to Duong Dong, the main town on Phu Quoc, the completed ones have already become perfect moped car parks Xx