Thursday, 28 February 2008

Similans Liveaboard

A week ago we returned from our liveaboard diving holiday to The Similans in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand.

There were 2 aspects of the trip which all contributed to create the experience:

1. The choice of liveaboard, and the atmosphere on the boat
2. The marine life

We chose Jonathan Cruiser for our trip for several reasons:

1. A fellow diver who we met in Sulawesi last year had already booked a place on the boat, and we were keen to meet up with him. We spent Christmas of 2006 with him, when we were all guests of Two Fish Divers in Lembeh and Bunaken.

2. Jonathan Cruiser is one of the longest established liveaboards in the Similans, and has maintained a steady crew. This alone told us that the crew were well experienced, and also knew the area really well. In our experience a dive guide with “good eyes” and detailed knowledge of the dive sites is essential for getting the most out of our diving trip.

3. When asking around on Koh Lanta just about everybody recommended Jonathan Cruiser...

By the end of our trip we were confident that we’d made the right choice...We were the only English people among the 14 guests on board, with a cocktail of Dutch, Swedish, Belgium and Swiss adding to the cultural soup of characters. The Thai boat staff and crew were like the seasoning in a fine meal, completing the balance, and connecting us to our location.

The only disappointing aspect to the trip was that despite the fact we were going during “peak” season, when the visibility is supposed to be fantastic, and when there is supposed to be a higher chance of manta rays... the visibility turned out to be surprisingly poor – and there were no manta rays in sight... Not to worry, the atmosphere on the boat was great, and despite the lack of "big fish" we still saw loads of cool marine life...

We did four dives on Richelieu Rock, which is the furthest north of the dive sites we visited. There we came across two seahorses. It wasn't difficult to spot them as there was around twenty divers (some with amazingly poor diving etiquette), all waiting or pushing and shoving to get a better view. We felt really sorry for the oh so shy seahorses, who seemed to be turning their heads away as if to say "Pleeeease don't look at meeeee - I'm shyyy!"...

BUT - just around the corner, away from the masses of coral stamping, bad mannered divers, we were in for a little treat. It would seem that the two seahorses were male and female - or "Mummy and Daddy". Could they have possibly been acting as a decoy to protect their baby? For just around the corner, completely unnoticed by everyone else, I caught a glimpse of something bright yellow, just about the size of my little finger.. My diver's eye told me it was something of interest and I moved in for a closer look... aahhhh - it was baby seahorse....

On our second dive we returned to the same spot to show the rest of the boat the baby seahorse... The crew had timed the dive well hoping that we would avoid the masses this time... Thankfully none of the other divers were around, and Paul managed to get a couple of shots of the parents...

Tiger-Tail Seahorse (Latin: Hippocampus Comes)... we believe the brown one was the male..

Also on Richelieu Rock there were some mating cuttlefish... These creatures must be fairly rampant.. On all four dives they were mating, and just about everyone we spoke to who has visited Richelieu Rock before, claimed that they were mating then too.. wow...

The same site - also delivered my first sighting of a Zebra Moray (latin: gymnomuraena zebra)

One of the things I love about the Similans is the volume of blue fin travelly (latin: caranx melampygus), which can be seen charging around hunting small fish..

Paul was thankful for the opportunity to get more acquainted with his new camera... Here's a few more of his favourite shots...

A Whip Goby (latin: bryaninops yongei)

Dancing Shrimps

Leopard Shark

Long nose hawkfish

The underwater friend of our praying mantis - The Mantis Shrimp

Many Bands Pipefish (latin: dunckerocampus multiannulatus)

And finally - Paul's favourite shot - magnificent anemone with skunk anemone fish


Anonymous said...

nice shots! would love to know what kind of gear you're using. i assume you're using a strobe?

Thai QA said...

Great pics!! Thanks