The 18-day ordeal riveted much of the world - from the terrible news that the 13 were missing, to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found by a pair of British divers almost 10 days later.
All of members of the team were successfully rescued from the cave on Tuesday after being trapped there for 18 days.
Another diver, Jason Mallinson, 50, from Huddersfield, said the team left messages for the children as they flew back to the United Kingdom saying: "We're very glad we could get you out alive".
"Some of them were asleep, and some of them were wiggling their fingers, kind of groggy, but they were breathing".
Meanwhile, doctors said the boys they saved have so far not shown any significant ill effects from their ordeal as rescuers head home.
For three of the boys and the 25-year-old coach, the days after the rescue could become the start of an entirely new life.
Mr Volanthen also paid tribute to Thai navy rescue diver Saman Kunan, who died in the cave while replenishing oxygen canisters, saying his death brought a "bittersweet" taste to an otherwise "excellent" operation.
Thailand's junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Tuesday said the boys were given a "minor tranquiliser" to keep them calm.
Up to 100 people were inside the cave during the rescue and each boy was handled by dozens of rescue workers through nine chambers as they made their way out.
The group was overdue June 23 after they failed to return from a visit to the cave complex. They were found after 9 days by a pair of British divers. "This mission was successful because of cooperation from everyone", he said.
After nearly three weeks trapped in the dark, away from their loved ones in a cave in northern Thailand, the boys, aged between 11 and 16, were allowed to see their relatives in a carefully controlled environment, as doctors are still concerned about their health. "Most of the boys lost an average of 2 kg", Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, an inspector for Thailand's health department, told reporters.
The exact mechanics of the rescue bid were closely guarded during the operation, but details have since dribbled out. They wave to the camera, give the peace sign and press their hands together in prayer to show gratitude.
"We are not heroes".
Dr Richard "Harry" Harris had a great relationship with the boys while they were trapped in the cave system.
But they were prodded into the risky task of bringing the team through submerged chambers and claustrophobic passages as oxygen levels in the cave plummeted and rains menaced. They were discovered on June 3 and rescued after a three-day operation involving experts from several countries, including the Thai Navy Seal, the United States Indo-Pacific Command and British cave diving experts.