Diving in The Similan Islands!
Well I'm a little tardy in writing about another first I had last month - but I should be forgiven as I'm on holiday and very busy diving!
So - in November, I experienced a liveaboard dive boat trip for 4 days
and 3 nites in the Similan Islands - the goal was Richelieu Rock -out in the middle of the Andaman Sea. You won't be able to find it on my blog map - the technology isn't cooperating -so find a map, search north of Phuket up the west coast to Koh Lak, then take a hard left into the middle of the Andaman Sea. Koh Similan and Richelieu Rock (north of Koh Similan) - both extremely beautiful places on the planet - similar looking to the Seychelles, so I'm told.... First though, we had to survive the 3 hour minivan ride to Koh Lak which involved our
Swiss friend Rolf screaming at the crazy driver to slow down and quit
dangerous driving after he overtook 2 side by side cars in our lane,
right into the path of a semi. Lovely. Drivers can be kind of reckless.
Diving was great! Nothing can be wrong with a day that begins with a
knock on your door at 6 a.m. for "Diving! Diving!" so we could hit the
water at 6:45. Sunrise dives are my favorite, with more dives at 9:30,
1.30, 4 pm and/or7 pm. I was waterlogged, tired and happy by the end of each day!
The Similans, located about 1.5 hours by speedboat from Koh Lak, are
supposedly one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world. (Who makes these
lists??) Possibly - but even with the visit to Richelieu Rock -visibility underwater wasn't great and there were strong currents that had us pinned to a rock at one point (interesting!) and a lot of divers at
times - 2 liveaboards followed each other to the same sites dumping
about 60 divers at once. It's high season - this site is a national
park - fragile- and it closes for half the year to everything. It had just re-opened, so there were loads of boats and lots of fisherman. It is a very, very beautiful part of the world. Incredibly dramatic underwater with huge boulders and pinnacles everywhere. No sign of the big fish (manta,whalesharks) - but lots of beautiful fan corals, schools of fish (it's nursery season!), turtles, lobster, black and white tip reef sharks, clownfish ducking and hiding in their sea anemone homes (just like in the movie 'Finding Nemo'), and one of my favorites - pufferfish! The picture accompanying this entry is of a clown triggerfish - hadn't seen one of these before - they're spectacular - as is the photo taken by my friend Juliette (thanks Jules!)
Exciting moments: first nite we sighted a 2 - 3 meter long boa constrictor swimming around the boat!! No one could believe it! I didn't know they could swim!! It's bad enough there are sea snakes in these waters - we don't need the big land ones in the water too! No
idea how it got here... Speculation that it swam over from a neighboring island or came in on another boat. EEK!! We also had a couple of encounters with large, aggressive Titan Triggerfish - our
DiveMaster actually had to fight them off - kicking and poking them with his pointer. Our fault - must've been too close to the nest - but I give them a wide berth now because they're big, fast, and nasty.
I booked my trip through Sunrise Divers in Phuket - and Dana's buddy
Jamie Monk - whom she trained as an Instructor. What an amazingly
small world! Jamie threw in all my equipment and a dive computer for
free! Thank you Dana & Jamie! The South Siam 4 (dive boat) is
luxurious (I think) even though it's supposedly a budget boat - well
run, excellent Crew - and people are great - especially Juliette (UK)
my cabin mate and Fabienne (Reunion Island by Madagascar) my dive
buddy. It was non-stop dive talk about where people have been and
where they're going next. As a result, I've had to add The Philippines, Malaysia and Borneo to my dive wish list! Did 14 dives on this trip - and was obviously very happy there - blowing bubbles in the Andaman Sea!