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Oceanman Krabi: Jellyfish, Tigers, and Triumphs

A Family Adventure in Thailand

This trip report details my experience combining the Oceanman swim competition in Krabi with a fun family vacation in Phuket. It turned out to be a unique adventure, filled with both challenges and unforgettable moments.

Travel and Arrival (Day 1-3):
We flew directly from Bengaluru to Phuket via Indigo and then took a Grab cab to Krabi. Thankfully, jet lag wasn't an issue. The race location, about 12 km away, offered stunning scenery with a small mountain on the left and a docked ship on the right. The crystal-clear water was a delight.

Oceanman Krabi

During a practice swim of 500 meters, we could see the ocean floor, though there weren't many fish. However, a deeper practice swim of 750 meters brought my first (and hopefully last) jellyfish encounter. The sting felt like an electric shock followed by a burning sensation. It took around 6 hours to recover.

The Varana Hotel, the race organizer, had a convenient beachside restaurant where registration, expo, race briefing, and dinner took place. Registration included a swim cap and T-shirt, with timing chips being distributed in the morning.

The race briefing reiterated the website information and added a crucial detail: jellyfish were spotted between route points 4-12. Organizers promised to monitor the situation and alter the route if necessary.

In the meantime, we rented a car for 24 hours and explored the area. Highlights included the Tiger Cave Temple, Emerald Pool (breathtaking!), Blue Pool, Hot Stream Park (magical!), and the average Krabi night market. The next day, we enjoyed a 2-hour kayaking trip through the mangrove forest.

Race Day Drama (Day 4 - 19th May 2024):
The race started promptly at 6:30 AM for the 10km and 7:00 AM for the 5km. Large buoys marked the route clearly. However, after a kilometer, jellyfish of all sizes became a constant presence. High tide made things worse, with one particularly large jellyfish (bigger than my head!) landing on my face during a moment of inattention. It took a few seconds to regain my composure.

While everyone else seemed to be swimming on, I was dealing with the initial sting and subsequent pain. Soon, I encountered more stings on my arm and leg. Feeling overwhelmed, I watched as some participants were rescued by a speedboat. Strong currents also pushed me off course.

Reaching the halfway mark (2.5km) felt like a small victory. I grabbed water, an energy drink, and some vinegar (a lifesaver for jellyfish stings) from the only feeding boat. My typical swim pace (23 min/km at Ironman Goa 2023) had slowed considerably. Reaching the 2.5km point took nearly 2 Hrs – a struggle between focusing on the buoys and avoiding jellyfish. The constant worry about jellyfish stings felt a bit like my daughter's fear of encountering a cockroach!

Despite the challenges, I was determined not to quit. The thought of finishing the race, even if it took longer, was stronger than the pain. Thankfully, the jellyfish density decreased after 3.5km. With renewed focus, I managed to complete my FIRST 5km course in 4.22 hours, earning my first Half Oceanman medal! Reuniting with my family after the race brought a huge smile to my face. A few India fellow mates were able to finish 5km in around 2 hours (wonder how they escaped Jelly 😊), but I aimed only injury-free completion so not ashamed of my poor pace. Moreover, Ooty Ultra, TCS 10KM, and Oceanman all races have had only 2 weeks of training gap.

My wife later informed me that at least 10 swimmers returned in 1st km while around 15 were rescued by boat. Recovery time varied – it took me 12 hours, and some 10km participants took 24 hours to feel normal again from the Jelly bite.

Oceanman Krabi

Island Paradise and Back to Phuket (Day 5-6):
Despite the jellyfish encounter, the adventure continued! We took a ferry from Krabi to Phi Phi Island, a beautiful island with a bustling shopping area near the pier. We booked a scuba diving trip for the next day and took a longtail taxi to our resort on Long Island. The limited number of guests on this island made for a peaceful and relaxing time with the kids. The scuba diving experience, while enjoyable, couldn't quite live up to the amazing fish and clear water we witnessed during our previous Maldives trip.

High tide levels caused by heavy rain meant boarding and disembarking the longtail taxi from Phi Phi back to the Resort required wading through 3-5 feet of water. The ferry ride back to Phuket was rough due to the high tide, causing seasickness and long queues for the restroom.

Phuket Explorations (Day 7):
Our last day was spent at Kamala Beach. We visited the Tiger Kingdom, where playing with tiger cubs was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We also enjoyed the dolphin show and explored the vibrant Bangla Road with its nightlife and shopping options. Despite the occasional rain showers mixed with hot weather, the entire trip was a wonderful family adventure, with the jellyfish encounter adding a touch of unexpected drama! In the end, the combination of the challenging race and the relaxing family time created a truly memorable experience.


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