Friday, March 18, 2016

Similan Islands Diving

 The nine Similan Islands are situated some 50 miles off the west coast of Thailand due west of Kao Lak which is just North of Phuket Island. The area is a National Marine Park and protected (to a degree) with all fishing vessels supposedly maintaining a three miles radius from them.

The clarity of the sea can be amazing. When on the surface it is quite usual to see the seabed up to some 40 metres below. It is often difficult to believe you are actually underwater at times and so the chance of being able to take some nice photo's is high.
 On the 5 day Liveaboard Trip we went on last week with Phuket based dive company, Scubacats, we did experience some very chilly thermoclimes which made me feel very happy I was in a full length dive suit (whimp!). When a thermoclime approaches, the water starts in shimmer and it is difficult to take photos as everything appears to go 'out of focus'. I was extremely fortunate to be shown this very large frogfish by our Dive Guide, a very charming Amanda from Sweden, just as the thermoclime blocking it cleared and gave me the chance for a photo. They are weird can see how the pectoral fins are clearly acting as little feet.

The Similans are famous for their massive granite boulders  and underwater cliffs. The dives can be very dramatic dropping down through valleys and swim thru's.
 Great, eh? Dropping down through sheer walls of granite to the seabed. The dives tend to be held to a 30 metre maximum but there are a few places where more depth, for what it's worth, can be obtained. Most of the interesting stuff is 25 metres and up with the big pelagic fish racing around in the first 10 metres.
 Some nice tight corridors to glide through. When the current runs with you then you really get the feeling of flying....terrific.
 This shot shows our dive group, including Heath Barnard from Poole, with a big Napolean Wrasse deciding to swim gently through our midst. The fish are certainly not frightened and, if you behave in a non-predatory manner and keep still then these big fish will come right up to you.
 The highlight of the Similan Island trips are the manata rays. We were vey fortunate to spot some on a number of our dives. Here's two big mantas coming at me out of the distance, accompanied by the Giant Trevelly which are waiting for the chance to snaffle up the remoras that are clinging onto the rays. I was stationed at about 15 metres so was lucky to get these shots especially as the viz had closed down a bit.
 On the other end of the scale, the Similans offers the chance to spot lots of little critters such as the ever popular nudibranch. The one shown here is just a couple of centimetres long and is just ONE of the 2,500 different varieties of nudibranchs residing in south east Asian waters.
 Batfish are the most accommodating of species and are uncannily talented at framing themselves against a nice backdrop and then slowing down just at the perfect moment for a photo.
 Everywhere the underwater scenery is absolutely is often difficult to know where to look as there is such a lot to see....and of course you are guaranteed to miss something like a passing turtle which everyone else sees because you are focusing on a dramatic bit of colourful coral or something!
 We were treated to some very impressive displays by the here's a few shots of these amazing creatures. We were lucky that they were swimming shallow and the visability was good allowing the natural sunlight to come down and illuminate them. The best way to make manta rays disappear is by lots of camera flashes going off and scaring them away. With such good natural light there was no need for anyone to startle the rays and they stayed around for ages...until a boatload of Asian divers arrived armed with massive strobes and flash guns....inevitably driving the rays away.

 Amazing creatures...
 If you don't startle them then they will come right up to you and glide by giving wonderful opportunities to get a nice photograph.
 Here we are at a mana 'viewpoint'. The current is hammering through and the divers are hanging on by their fingernails. I was hiding up high behind a gurt granite rock with a wonderful view of everything and able to capture both the clinging divers and the cruising mantas....ha ha.
 We finished our trip with two wreck dives on the final day. Unfortunately the viz was terrible so no wreck photographs but...if you stick your camera down a hole and keep your finger crossed then you might get lucky. Here's an example of getting lucky with a completely blind pot-shot showing a marbled moray eel hiding in amongst the wreck metal.
 And, as always, there are myriads of fish hanging around a wreck.
The final slow ascent from 30 metres up the shotline back to the boat for the end of a great few days of varied diving with some very nice new friends.

We are off diving with a different group tomorrow with the emphasis on seeing corals in shallow, a very different day.

The diving this year has been great fun and more and more of my guests are taking part and becoming PADI Certified. Once you have a Certification then you can come on the Dive Boats and take part in their dive programmes.

You do not need to be Dive Certified to dive with me as part of your holiday free diving programme (if you want to do it) but be assured I will look look after you and take you through a pretty detailed pre-Padi course in the hope that you will then go on to take the PADI training programme and be able to experience the wonderful dive days on offer here in sunny Phuket.

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