Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Latest Kata Beach Dive Wed 24th Feb 2016.

We are having a break from fishing and concentrating on our diving. We are concentrating on the shore diving cos it is cheap!! As in £1 a dive.....and we are really enjoying the shore marks this year as there seems such a lot of fish life around not to mention all sorts of interesting crustacea. Here is our recently Open Water Certificed PADI diver, Richard Spracklen from Wool practicing his hovering technique....and jolly good too!
I have dived the Kata area of Phuket quite a bit now over the past 10 years but today's dive was the best ever. It was High Water so we started our dive off by going over the Kata reef rather than diving parallel to it. The reef is pretty shallow and I am mindful of the total lack of regard jet skiers have for anyone as well as the possibility of being hit by a longtail boat propellor. New divers often expres concern about being bitten or stung by marine life....believe me there is MUCH more chance of being hurt by crazy people doing stupid things in 'boats' than by any sea creatures.

Today we very very lucky to see a turtle emerge from the reef right between my legs! It is only the second time I have seen a turtle from this particular area.

This reef is jammed backed with fish life. This year the visibilty is no-where near as good as it has been in the past but this seems to have enourage even more fish into the area. Today we found loads of Dancing Shrimps....we often find a few amongst the rocks but everywhere seemed alive with them today.

And found another one of these amazingly beautiful shrimps. I last found one about three years deighted to stumble across another today.
There are a number of concrete obrstructions placed into the sea near the coral reef to encourage the fish population to is certainly working. It is actually difficult to see the concrete frames as there are so many fish all around them.
And so many giant puffer fish resting on the sandy bottom protecting their newly formed nests or hovering in the current above the obstructions.
We were amazed at how many batfish we saw and how friendly they are. We just rested quietly on the sea-bed and the fish came to us.
Here's Richard with a batfish coming to check him out.
Lots of giant puffer fish swimmimng around today. was a wonderful dive. I think we have been spoilt this year with the outstanding fishing and the wonderful diving. This has been the best winter 'season' to date since setting up this Thai House project in 2008. There have been lots of great people here and we have had some really enjoyable times.

Next month we are concentrating on Dive Liveaboards where we stay at sea for a few days and dive up to 4 times a day around the amazing Similan Islands...which is an unmissable experience. I hope more of my guests will be able to join me on these trips as more  are getting their  PADI Certificates now which are required in order to dive from the PADI vessels.

If any of you reading want to know more about getting qualified etc etc...please just email me ( or message me via Facebook and I will explain how to go about it. When you experience a dive like today, you just wish everyone could share the experience. Paddling back to the holiday swimmers close to the beach, I just wondered if they could just imagine the amazing underwater world that was so close to them. One couple asked me what it was like 'out there' and couldn't believe it when I told them what we'd seen....and then came the inevitable question...'are there any sharks out there? We couldn't ever go diving because we are so frightened.'

Ah well....back to the second paragraph, I believe.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Gillhams Fishing Resort trip Feb 15th to 18th 2016.

 Thank Goodness for digital cameras where we can all snap away all day and discard mostly everything in the evening leaving only those finest shots. Gillhams Fishery in Ao Nang in the Thai province of Krabi is one of those places where it's impossible to put the camera down. The drive from Phuket, through Phang Gna and then into Ao Nang features a dazzling array of limestone Karst formations towering over the road and away into the distances. The Big Sur, running from California to Los Angeles, is often referred to as the most scenic road in the world but the Phang Gna to Ao Nang route must be a serious contender to that title.

The first thing to impress anyone when arriving at Gillhams is the immaculately cared for gardens and grounds. An army of Thai gardeners keeps the venue pristine and's no exaggeration to say there isn't a leaf out of place! Over the years that I have been fortunate enough to visit, the plantlife has naturally developed to rival gardens that are set out to be tourist attractions in themselves. It is impossible to lavish too much praise on the setting, the scenery and the care that is so much a part of an angler's trip to this genuine piece
 of paradise.

This years the lads, Chris Vince and  Steve Gilbank from Devizes and Andover along with Dorset lads Richard Spracklen and Keith Downton travelled by sea from Phuket to Ao Nang. I drove the route for a change along with team mascot Kannika as it was our intention to fit a day's diving in from the Phi Phi Islands and we like to take our own gear.

You know how it is with us skippers...we just know when it's fishy or not! The moment I arrived at Gillhams, Chris Vince was shouting that he was into a fish. We watched him play what turned out to be, after a 30 minute battle,  a 40kg Siamese Carp!! Chris just could not believe it....''what a fish, what a fish, what a fish!''

 Chris has been having the holiday of a lifetime here. Having never donned Scuba gear before to now having accompished two full one hour dives which left him so excited and lost for words that it was just great to watch him having such a great experience to now latching into a monster carp....not that much under 100lb! Here he is...all of a tremble with Kannika trying to calm him down before going into the water for his photos!
 Ha Ha...there's Chris...on the left...the gillie is a very big lad!!
Checking the mouth before iodine is applied...the fish is then kept in the net to allow it time to gently recover before encouraging it to swim away when ready. This fish care, evident at Gillhams and Exotic Fishing Thailand certainly sets the standard for how things should be done.
 Since my last visit two years ago, the umbrellas which used to offer the anglers their shade at their swims have been replaced with very smart looking individual salas. A couple of chairs in each, a fan, a light and a phone/Ipad Charger (such attention to detail!) makes for a very pleasant place to admire the lakeside scenery whilst waiting for the bites. Here's Keith Downton in a semi- relaxed state with his eagle eyes and lighting reflexes ready to explode into life the moment the bait alarm starts to sing.
 The rods have all been treated to new Shimano Baitrunners which are  all loaded to the brim with quality 80lb braid.
 Ah....Mr Richard Spracklen at his ease.....he's a chap who knows how to make himself at home.
 And here's Mr Steve Gilbank who is not one to sit around much...constantly fiddling with his tackle to give himself the best chance of catching something.
 And...straight after Chris's carp, Richard was into a very lively and hard fighting fish....which turned out to be...
 ...a young Arapaima. We were told that this fish was the result of the lake's very own breeding pair so this is a wonderful development for the fishery. Our guide explained that the photos had to be done pretty quickly as this youngster was extremely lively and very good at jumping out of the cage.
 A very happy Richard.....the fish was estimated at about 30kg...a mere nipper but Richard's first ever.
 How can you fail to be inspired by this view??
 And then Keith Downton was into an excellent Siamese Carp estimated at 25Kg
 Richard Spracklen with an Asian Redtail Catfish...noted for its very long white feelers.
 The view from the restaurant...beautiful.
 The restaurant.....which serves a fantastic English breakfast which all hard working anglers require before a hard day at the lake...and a great selection of dishes to choose from at night. Fishing stops at 2000 but there is often a fish on at that sort of time. After returning to the Resort Bungalows for a shower etc, it's easily 2100 by the time customers reach the restaurant and then there's a great atmosphere with everyone swopping stories and sharing a laugh over dinner.
 Steve Gilbank, Andover, with one of his 40kg carp...this sort of fishing will never be forgotten.
 And another face-on shot of what really is a stunning looking fish with its big silver black scales reflecting the sun. The fish are still semi-supported by the water and the gillies allow only a couple of photo shots before the fish is lowered back into the cage to recover. This is to minimise the stress for the fish.
 The swims all have an iodine spray available and the fish is carefully checked out with any apparant nick given a good dosage. You can just see the purple on the dorsal fin by Steve's left elbow, in this photo.
 And here's a picture that says it all. This is what anglers come for...Deep and Lasting Joy! Funny lot, ain't we?!
 Richard Spracklen hooked into one of the lake's Giant Freshwater Stingrays. He fought it for over 4 hours and ended up completely knackered. The Gillies worked non-stop to try and ease the ray out of the bottom everytime it got stuck....they too were knackered after this marathon battle.
 Glock (I can't spell his name) has been working at Gillhams for many years now. He is famous in his own right. Apart from being extremely funny, he is always at hand...or in the water as the case may be....and is totally protective of the fish. He must know every fish by name now and you can see genuine concern on his Thai face if a fish comes to the net and has any blemish on it. Glock is the first there with the Iodine spray. On this occasion he was in the water for hours trying to assist Richard to bring the stingray to the net. It was a valiant team effort....but in the end the ray won.

 The team gathered to whisper words of encouragement into Richard's ear. Steve, Chris, Kaniika and Keith.
 An admiring crowd gathered to symphathise with Richard whose rod and back were bent double in the 32 degree C heat for four hours...!!! Who said freshwater angling was easy??
 Fish Farm Manager Keith Downton landed this very impressive Julian Carp which was in the 20lb region.
 And as for Mr Chris Vince. Well, he has had a holiday that he cannot believe. So many mind blowingly new experiences....ha ha...look at him, bless him. At just a tad under 100lb, Chris can't believe what's happening to him with yet another monster Siamese Carp!

This is what coming to Thailand is all will NEVER forget this place.
And the final fish of the last evening's fishing...Keith Downton with another fabulous carp estimated at 45Kg.

And now it is Friday 19th. We have returned to Chalong by boat and car for this the final full day in Thailand for Steve and Chris. This will be a day chilling by the pool, having a few beers and relaxing....saving up the energy for one final onslaught on the Phuket night scene tonight......!! Sadly they must return to the UK tomorrow but Richard and Keith are staying for a couple more weeks and we have various guests arriving over those next couple of days to replenish our changing team of intrepid adventurers.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Scuba Fun for Chris, Richard, Steve and Kannika

 And here he is..Mr Chris action and at the end of my bit of rope to make sure he doesn't buggar off into the unknown on his own. It's amazing how naughty the chaps are...never doing what they're told...dashing off here, there and everywhere. Buddy System?? Stay togther??? Ha ha're 'aving a laff.
 Here are two temporarily well behaved divers....on the right is the newly qualified PADI Open Water, Kannika from Nong Khai in eastern Thailand, and on the right is the master of buoyancy control, Mr Steven Gilbank from Andover. You can see the viz is not too good but this is exellent training for the UK. Are we planning to go diving there?? Are we cobblers........!!!

 And, bright as Ever, Mr Chris Vince leaps back into the frame. attaching him to a rope was definitely the way to sort Chris out...his diving has come on great and he absolutely loves it....I can see his little face lit up behind his mask as the underwater wonders reveal themselves to him.

This dive was from the shore. There have been attempts at encouraging fish life and coral growth with large concrete frames placed in the sea. It's working! They are draped in fishing nets (because they are in no-go fishing zones) and teaming with fish life. Here is a moray eel and if you expand the photo you can see the shrimps alongside it.
 Steve and Chris are having a great time...lots of fishing and plenty of diving. We are off to Krabi to fish the famous Gillhams Fishery tomorrow for four days and on our return we will be able to get one more dive in before the lads have to return to UK next weekend.
 Richard Spraklen and Kannika Chokchai are now both fully qualiied PADI Open Water Divers. Here they are on a PADI Fun Diving trip. We were bound for the offshore Islands of Racha Yai and Racha Noi, a two hour steam to the South of Phuket. Here they are featured with our guide for the day, Lars from Sweden.
 I kindly allowed Kannika to use my pointy stick on her first PADI Dive she is bravely pointing at things.
 Give a gal a stick.....she's found a little crab and wants to prise it out for dinner. she ain't quite got the hang of the PADI approach yet...just look, don't touch, don't take home to eat....bit different from us lot back home in Weymouth where anything underwater is destined for the pot.
 There are many different varieties of moray's another one hiding amonst some wreckage.
 Kannika has discovered an underwater artifact....placed at 23 metres to excite Thai divers.

 So excited with a bit of Thai mythology.....yup, it's time to break into a bit of Thai Dancing.

A sea slug sort of thing...apparantly the Chinese like to eat them??
 The infamous Mantis Shrimp....the angriest little buggar on the seabed...guaranteed to punch yer lights out if you get too close to it.
 Varicose sea slug....lovely colourful little things...about an inch long.
 Two small marble moray eels twisted around each other.
 And another of their bigger cousins...the giant moray eel.
 Plenty of colourful little fish set against the black backdrop of long spined sea urchins.
 And the much loved nudibrac...some divers devote their whole dives to looking for these little critters. apparantly there are 2,500 different species of nudibranc in Asiatic waters.
 Everywhere you go in Thailand there's motor bikes.........
 The graceful batfish loves to hang around man made obstructions.... it is coming to make friends with Kannika.
..and here's a tiny marble moray eel to finish off the dive.

Our PADI Fun Day consisted of leaving harbour about 0830 and returning at about 1730. Inbetween we did three x 50 minute dives in three different locations with a depth set at 18 metres to meet the Open Water Certification level. We were very well looked after on the boat with stacks of food between the dives and soft drinks available throughout the day with beer available afer the final dive and on the way home. The whole day is carefully planned out and we diving customers are looked after throughout. We are not even allowed to carry our own gear or help load or unload the boat...apparantly if any of us do and we do not have a work permit then we could be arrested by the Thai Police. Yep...the world is insane......!!

And lastly, a big thankyou to Lars our young Swedish Instructor/Guide. As well as being a charming and helpful companion throughout the day, his underwater navigation was impeccable!!