YD Scuba Diving Forums banner

1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Trip report: Andaman Safari on the Mermaid 2.
I had never been on a live aboard or to Thailand before so was very excited - 6 days/22 dives in what was supposed to be one of the worlds top locations - it sounded great!

I got to Fukuoka airport and checked in, and made my way through the checks and into the duty-free. Fukuoka is a very new airport - lots of steel beams and high glass roofs. As I was paying, an incredible roaring noise started and everything began to violently shake. All the stuff on the shelves started to fall down everywhere and I just looked up at the glass roof fully expecting it to shatter and fall down on us - it lasted for about 30 seconds (although it seemed much longer). Fukuoka had just been hit by the biggest earthquake in its recorded history - 7 on the Richter scale.

Luckily everything held together and no-one was hurt at the airport and a few minutes later we watched a safety car driving the runway to check it for cracks. It was ok and flight operations were only held up for about 10 minutes.

An hour later I was in the air heading for Bangkok/Phuket and thinking - well, that's one way to start a holiday!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
I had booked my trip through Jamie at Sunrise Divers (has since left them) - and he had arranged a pickup at the airport and a hotel for me for one night. When I arrived I phoned my wife to make sure she was ok and then went out for a couple of hours to have a look around. The place was stunningly empty. There was almost no-one in any of the bars or restaurants and most of the people who were around seemed to be ex-pats who actually lived there, rather than tourists. It was hard to see how they were making a living.

The next morning I walked down to Karon beach and was surprised to find very little visible damage from the tsunami. Later in the day, talking to people, I was told that the situation in Kata beach to the south, and Patong beach to the north, was very different. The stories from other places such as Khao Lak and Phi Phi were simply distressing to hear from those that had been there – Phi Phi in particular has virtually ceased to exist.

I wandered around Karon for the day and then made my way to the Sunrise Divers office for my 5.30 pm pickup. A 20 min minibus drive later and I was at Patong beach signing my liability papers etc and then we were off to the beach and the longboats waiting to ferry us out to the Mermaid 2.



The boat was going to be full (20 people) for the first 4 days as we went north round the Similans, but there would only be 7 of us for the last 2 days to the southern dive sites. I found my cabin, my gear up spot, booked my Nitrox (US$3/fill),


set up my gear and camera,


and then started to meet everyone else and generally settle in. The Mermaid 2 left, heading north, and everyone went to bed early in anticipation of the 7 am wake up call the next morning.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Day 1.
The first dive was next to Similan Island no 7 at ‘East of Eden’. This is a reef drift dive in a fairly strong current. The main highlight is a pinnacle called ‘Ruan Gluay-Mai’ (the Orchid garden) which is completely covered with various coloured soft corals and sea fans. There is also supposed to be a resident Moray who is very diver friendly, although we didn’t see him. We did see a black tip reef shark at the beginning of the dive, but he was quite nervous and wouldn’t come very close. The visibility was stunning, probably more than 50m and the water was nearly particle free which was the case on most of the northern sites and produced photographs with almost no particle backscatter. Eanx32% Maximum depth-31.3m/Dive time-45min.


The second dive was completely different. ‘Elephant Head Rock’. This is a huge pinnacle reaching from between 35-40m up to the surface at three places. There are many piled up large boulders scattered around producing some very nice swim-throughs. Inside the swim-throughs the rock walls are covered with small soft corals. The scenery was simply stunning in again perfect visibility. Again we had a quite strong current and were restricted to the more protected part of the site. Eanx32% Maximum depth-29.9m/Dive time-56min




Dive three was at the island of Koh Bon an hour north of the Similan group. This dive starts at a wall which drops to around 35m. You swim along the wall until you reach a ridge that runs from the island straight out getting deeper until it disappears into the depths. The wall and the ridge are both very beautiful – covered again with many soft corals, hard corals and sea fans. Close to the wall were huge schools of glass fish and on the ridge large and small anemones which were usually home to one of the 5 varieties of clown fish found in these waters. The main point of this dive however is the Mantas. It is very common to see them cruising back and forth over the ridge but although we waited as long as we could we weren’t lucky the first day. We would however return again to this site later in the trip, and that was a different story! Eanx32% Maximum depth-28m/Dive time-64mins


The last dive of day one was a night dive from our anchor position on the next island north: Koh Tachai. This was at a site called ‘Coral Garden’ and was a shallow dive which was basically between isolated rocks and clumps of coral interspersed over a sandy bottom. Basically all the fish seemed to be asleep and we didn’t see much! After a day full of so many types of fish and spectacle it was a bit of an anti-climax. Still, it was pleasant enough and a nice way to round off the first day. Eanx32% Maximum depth-13.1m/ Dive time-46mins
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Day 2.
The highlight of the northern trip is a site called ‘Richeleau Rock’. It is with very good reason one of the most famous sites in Thailand. Laying to the east of the Surin Islands it is an isolated horseshoe shaped pinnacle surrounded by very deep water. It basically has everything – from corals and fans and small stuff like nudis and seahorses right up to Mantas and Whalesharks. The amount and variety of life here was awesome. Everywhere you looked was something else: schools of jacks, barracuda, Rainbow runners, glassfish and on and on. The tops of the submerged rocks the corals and anemones created and impression of a young child let loose with a large paint box. In the sides of the walls were countless small crevices and caves with just about anything inside!



Richeleau Rock is truly spectacular – and we did three dives there. They were all great dives although we didn’t see any Mantas or Whalesharks. I did see two kinds of seahorses though (which was a personal first) as well as a very famous white frogfish. It does get a little busy at the site with boats but the Mermaid 2 DM’s were very good at keeping us away from the crowds and as the site is very big mostly we only saw other divers from a distance. Again the visibility was superb making these dives amongst the most memorable of the whole trip.

1st Dive: Eanx32% Maximum depth – 30m/Dive time – 63mins
2nd Dive: Eanx33% Maximum depth – 29.6m/Dive time – 68mins
3rd Dive: Eanx32% Maximum depth – 26m/Dive time – 73mins (my guide on this one did 10 minutes deco so she could stay with me after the rest of the group had already surfaced)


After we finished the last dive here we returned to Koh Tachai for a ‘sunset’ dive. This was a site called ‘The Dome’ or ‘Tachai Pinnacle’. This was supposed to be another possible site for Manta sightings although again we didn’t have any luck. The site is another pinnacle rising from around 30-35m to 12m. Situated about 500m south of Koh Tachai Island the currents here were very strong and we had to be very careful to use the pinnacle for protection and not get swept away. A small mistake here can have you shooting a safety sausage in blue water up to a kilometer away in just a few minutes. Luckily that didn’t happen although at one point it pushed me into an anemone while I was trying to take a photo. Believe me, that’s no fun in a 3mm shorty and both my knees were totally blistered within a couple of hours.


For the rest, the continuing parade around us continued to really impress as I finished up what has to have been the single best day of diving that I have ever experienced!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 29.6m/Dive time – 56mins
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Day 3.
In the morning we headed back to Koh Bon and made our first dive on the ‘Koh Bon Pinnacle’. This is one of the deeper sites with the top of the pinnacle at 18m and the bottom around 40-45 (beware Nitrox divers!). The average depth of the dive was between 24-26m. The top of the pinnacle has some of the largest sea fans that I have ever seen as well as the by now familiar array of soft corals and anemones.

This is another place with a large number of pelagic fish around as well as the large schools of glass fish.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 32.3m/Dive time – 42mins

Our second dive was a revisit dive to the Koh Bon ‘West Ridge’. We dropped down the wall and started to make our way towards the ridge when suddenly our guide started pointing out into blue water. I looked very hard but couldn’t see what she was pointing at for a moment. Then, slowly coming into view and headed straight towards us was our first Manta. What a totally awesome creature! This one had a single Cobia for an escort and we watched in total excitement as the pair swum lazy circles coming past us each time. For the first five minute we had them to ourselves – but then other groups arrived – a lot of them!



From then on chaos ensued as the groups from two boats arrived on the scene and half the divers swam furiously around chasing the Manta (not at all cool!).
There was almost an underwater fight as one diver touched the underside of the Manta and found himself forcefully pulled away by one of the DM’s. My group got completely separated from each other in the confusion so I swam with my buddy to the ridge where I thought we could more easily regroup and while we were waiting took a few pictures of an octopus that was happy to oblige as a photo model.


The divers from the other boat were by now surfacing and Wan (our guide) found us and we went back to the Manta where it was now a lot more relaxed. The rest of the dive we just hung in the water column watching it circle. It seemed quite happy with the presence of the divers and swam very close to us many times. This was a truly memorable first time Manta encounter!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 27.7m/Dive time – 47mins


Our third dive was off Similan Island no4 – ‘West of Sweden’. This dive had an interesting topography of three ridges coming away from the island separated by fairly deep valleys. This created a long wall dive allowing us to cruise the ridge walls one at a time before crossing the valley to the next one. This was very much a small creature dive – lots of nudis in particular. We also started our search in earnest for the Harlequin ghost pipefish and Harlequin shrimp, although our group was going to be out of luck with them! I did enjoy a 5 minute encounter with a little yellow boxfish though. It was a nice dive!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 30.5m/Dive time – 58mins


The fourth dive was another sunset dive next to Island no 5 at ‘Anita’s Reef’. The main feature of this site was a single large rock called ‘Hin Muan Deaw’. The rock had many small caves in it – some of which crossed completely to the other side. They were all too small to swim through, but their occupants were often interesting. Looking into one I was greeted by a huge face and a large mouth full of teeth. After our mutual shock (and before I could get a picture off) the face disappeared and I spent the next twenty minutes looking in all the holes trying to see it again and discover what it was. This was not to be however so I had to be content with having seen a ‘very large unidentified fish’.
Eanx32% Maximum Depth - 24.5m/Dive time - 63min
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Day 4.
Today we would do two quick morning dives and head back to Phuket where many people would leave the boat and we would pick up any new guests for the southern dive sites. This entailed an earlier than usual start which I have to admit was a little hard to do after the small party that we had had the night before!

The first dive was a reef called ‘Shark Fin Reef’. This is a one kilometer long formation of granite boulders which breach the surface usually in three places, reminiscent of shark fins. I have to admit to being a little sleepy on this dive and I didn’t take my camera so that I had less to do underwater. There is often large pelagic life to see here but we actually didn’t see very much. As usual the visibility was excellent and the formations were beautiful, including one short swim through. I personally spent most of the dives watching my gauges and my buddy though and consequently don’t remember this dive as well as all the others!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 31.7m/Dive time – 58mins 

After breakfast and our SI I felt back to normal and looked forward to our second dive – ‘Boulder City’. This is quite an advanced dive to a collection of huge boulders which at their tops are 12-18m underwater dropping to the bottom at around 30-40m. There is usually a very strong current as well and we certainly had that! The idea was to drop down and shelter behind the boulders as fast as possible, which we duly did. Arriving at the bottom we immediately found a sleeping Leopard shark (another first for me!) I managed to get quite close without waking him up and get a few photos – then we decided to leave him in peace and went off to explore the site.



Once again the tops of the boulders were covered with soft and hard corals as well as enormous sea-fans and the variety of life around approached that of Richeleau Rock.


This was another exceptional dive.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 30.5m/Dive time – 54mins

After this dive those that were leaving the boat cleaned their gear and we all relaxed for the 5 hour trip back to Phuket. We would spend a few hours there and later in the evening we would start the southern trip to Phi Phi and the southern islands.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Day 5.
For some reason heading south from Phuket can yield some very different sea conditions than heading north. Just after I went to bed the night before I noticed that the boat was obviously fighting through a large swell and bucking quite a lot. Then we changed course and after 30 minutes stopped and dropped anchor. The Captain had obviously decided to seek shelter for the night. Sure enough when we woke up in the morning we found out that our itinerary had been changed due to the weather conditions and we were first going to Phi Phi instead of the two southern sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang. We had stopped at a small island about half way between Phuket and Phi Phi, and that was going to be our first dive – ‘Shark Point’

From the surface there is just the top of the pinnacle visible and which drops down to around 25m. Especially near the surface for the first time the visibility was quite bad – only around 2m. It did get better as we went deeper and we ended up with around 20m. This was very different from the visibility to the north and was a reflection of the different sea conditions here. There was still a lot to see though – plenty of soft and hard corals and once again lots of varieties of fish.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 22.3m/Dive time – 62mins



After the first dive we headed to Phi Phi island and spent an hour on the beach where they filmed ‘The Beach’. Then we moved a few hundred meters to a small island called ‘Koh Bida Noh’. The islands here were very different to those in the north. There they had been granite – here they were limestone. Mostly here they were cliffs that plunged straight into the sea and produced some spectacular walls underwater.


So it was for our second dive, a wall dive completely around the island culminating in a small cave at the end. This was a great dive, especially the cave which was home to many lobsters. Unfortunately my camera battery decided to quit at the end of the dive so I wasn’t able to get all the photos that I wanted. In retrospect I would also have preferred to do the cave at the beginning of the dive with full tanks, rather than at the end with limited gas left! Still the cave had several exits and we didn’t go into it very far – it was also big enough to swim side by side and easily turn around.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 24.7m/Dive time – 68mins



The third dive was an exploration. Only one of our DM’s had dived the site before and the others were curious about it to see if they should make it a regular port of call. ‘Hin Bida’ is completely submerged and is shaped like a 4 fingered hand with the fingers pointing south. It is not a very deep site perhaps 20m on the north side but less on the southern side and between the fingers. This was a Leopard shark dive! We saw them in 5 different places, including a male and female pair. It was amusing to watch the male trying to lie down next to the female – she wouldn’t have any of it and every time he did it she upped and moved a couple of meters away. Then he swam a few lazy circles and tried again – no luck!!! Eventually she got fed up with his attentions and decided to leave the area with him following doggedly behind.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 17.4m/Dive time – 69mins


The fourth dive was a night dive at a small group of islands called ‘Koh Ha’. We started at one of them and swum along the wall, then we crossed an open patch with just a few boulders on the bottom until we reached the second one. There was a lot more to see on this dive than the first night dive I had done in the north.

Sleeping Cuttlefish,



Blue spotted ray,


Funny looking crabs,


This was another very nice dive.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 21m/Dive time – 64mins
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Day 6.
So finally the last day of my trip was here! Everything was already beginning to blur together into a kaleidoscope of colors, rock formations, corals, and fish – but I still had 4 more dives to do and I wondered if anything would particularly stand out in the day ahead.

Our first dive was a wall dive on one of the Koh Ha islands – ‘Koh Ha Nueng’. This was a very similar dive to the previous days wall dive at Koh Bida Noh. Instead of a cave however it had one very nice swim through. There also seemed to be an extremely high number of scorpion fish around! When I put my finger onto one rock to photograph a yellow sea horse to my shock a large part of the rock about one centimeter away from my finger suddenly moved!



It was quite a large scorpion fish that was so well camouflaged that I simply didn’t see it even though I was close enough to touch it!



Very lucky!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 26.8m/Dive time – 66mins

We then set off for the last dive sites – ‘Hin Daeng’ and ‘Hin Muaeng’ – or Red Rock and Purple Rock. These two pinnacles are about 500m apart – Hin Daeng just breaking the surface and dropping to about 50m, Hin Muaeng starting about 9m deep and dropping in places to 70m.

Our second dive was going to be Hin Muaeng. At both these sites the possibility of Mantas or Whalesharks was very high. The top of the site was completely covered in anemones making it truly look purple – hence it’s name. We descended right onto another Leopard shark that was lazily swimming around. They are really graceful creatures and swim very slowly. Unlike other sharks that I have seen they don’t appear to care about divers and will swim very close – curiosity? I had changed my mix to 28% for this dive as we knew it might get very deep. Consequently it was the only dive where NDL became a real factor and I couldn’t stay very long with the shark.



We toured the wall gradually getting shallower to stay ahead of our NDL and passed another group from our boat heading in the opposite direction. They had seen a Manta on the other side so we set off to see if we could find it. Time became a factor however and we had to end the dive before we saw it. 2 minutes into our safety stop we saw it swimming very shallow. After we finished the dive several people grabbed their snorkels and jumped back in. They continued to see it – but not very well.
Eanx28% Maximum depth – 36m/Dive time – 64mins

The third dive was Hin Daeng. By now we were doing negative entries from the dingy and this one was spectacular! All four of us nearly landed directly onto the back of a huge Manta swimming beneath us. Everyone managed to stop about 1m above it but it was a very close thing! We soon realized that there were three of them circling the mooring buoy and we watched them for a little bit until we realized that the current was threatening to move us off the site so we headed deeper to get the protection from the rocks. While we explored the site every now and again the Mantas would sweep past through the whole dive.
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 30.5m/Dive time – 63mins



The last dive was another one at Hin Muaeng. By now the current had picked up quite a bit so we planned to drop by the mooring line and go down it to the top of the pinnacle. Half way down we were once again surrounded by several circling Mantas. One of them was accompanied by a large group of Cobias and we spent most of the dive just hanging onto the line watching them! We did a very quick tour around the top of the pinnacle but it was hard to look at anything else with Mantas all around us so we just went back the line and continued to watch them until we surfaced!
Eanx32% Maximum depth – 18m/Dive time – 62mins

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
After we finished the last dive we started out for Phuket. We would be sleeping on the boat and leaving it the next morning after breakfast. Then for me it was a question of spending the day in Phuket and catching a plane home at 8.40pm. While I was in transit in Bangkok on the way home Indonesia was struck by another large earthquake. We didn’t feel it in Bangkok – but the threat of another tsunami was very real and for a few hours I was quite anxious about those I’d left behind on the Mermaid 2, which I knew was already headed north again on it’s next ‘Andaman Safari’
It was a great trip which I would highly recommend. Just in case they ever read this report I would like to thank Celso (Instructor/Tour Leader), Wan (DM), and Anne (DM) for making the dives so much fun. I would also like to thank Jamie of Sunrise Divers for putting it together and arranging the bits around it.
I hope to see you all again – hopefully next year!

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,456 Posts
Stunnng report MR Kim.

Your going to be more than welcome here, oh and you've sussed how to get your post count up! Thats actually a nice way of breaking up the trip report and ensuring any crashes don't wipe out your posts.

:teeth:


Davie.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
.......oh and you've sussed how to get your post count up! Thats actually a nice way of breaking up the trip report and ensuring any crashes don't wipe out your posts.
:teeth: LOL. Actually I don't think that vBulletin would allow it all in one post - it doesn't on other sites I've been on, but maybe that's a local setting.
Still, a post by day report seemed to make sense and make it more interesting, and easier to read.
 

·
The smell of freshly turned delrin is more powerfu
Joined
·
3,173 Posts
welcome to YD and I great pics, sounds like your first Manta encounter left you feeling like I did when I first saw them. Awsome :)

David
 

·
YDs Most Southerly Monkey
Joined
·
6,434 Posts
Richeleau Rock is truly spectacular – and we did three dives there. They were all great dives although we didn’t see any Mantas or Whalesharks. I did see two kinds of seahorses though (which was a personal first) as well as a very famous white frogfish.


That Frogfish looks very very similar to a beastie we have here in Tasmania, called a Handfish. They are supposed to be limited to SE Aus waters and I had the privilege of seeing a Spotted Handfish (probably under 100 individuals left in the wild) a few months ago.


Spotted handfish - Brachionichthys hirsutus - ARKive

They actually walk along the bottom with their "hands", only swimming if they hjave a big fright. unfortunately, they've almost been wiped out by North Pacific Seastars from Japan which arrived here in ballast water 25 years ago. They are eating everything on the bed of the River Derwent, it's a real tragedy.
 

·
life is too short
Joined
·
1,987 Posts
Wow! Fantastic report & pics.
Many Thanks.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
9 Posts
Welcome to yd from one newbie to another - your trip sounds awesome and
I can imagine each dive from your expert descriptions - Thailand is one of the places I want to go and see and dive and I imagine you would recommend it and
with the company you had dealings with - lovely pics as well.
Off to Mexico in 2 months so can't wait but thanks for all of your experiences.

Sally
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top