A Fishy Tale - Phuket

Author: Nigel Pirie, December 2009

Home to Dive Phuket

Nigel, Max and Stuie

After many years visiting the Sharkey Scuba team at their Karon dive center, our quest this year again was to find the elusive frog fish, maybe a manta and whale shark, a tall order for Sharkey Scuba to succeed. None the less it's what we wanted, and, remember, the customer is always right!!! So here I sit and write with views outside of an already thick carpet of snow and ice in Lincolnshire, UK, while inside I dream of yet another great diving holiday we just had in October in Phuket.

As usual Iain had pre-planned our diving for around thirty plus dives so surely at the very least a frog fish would greet our camera lens! Arriving in the mid-afternoon we chilled out. Iain and family were still returning from their summer tour of Europe but we were due to meet up later in the evening on their return. Our friends Mike and Kerry dropped in to greet us, they had the beers for tonight's home coming for Iain, Oui and Abbie, and then after only a couple more minutes Oor, John and Porn dropped by. So around we went to meet our hosts, and there to greet us was all our friends, Max and Nok and the new arrival, baby Jessica. So into the night we chatted over a beer or two about the past year and of course our diving schedule - now where else can you get a greeting like that.

Days One and Two

Nudibrach at Koh Doc Mai, Phuket

Our first day was at Koh Doc Mai, a fabulous wall dive with the possibility of a frog fish or two! Well this dive gave us Nudi Branches, Damsel fish, Fusiliers, a Sea Horse, small Moray's, with shoals of jack swimming just off the wall, all this in succulent thirty degrees of warm Andaman Sea, mmmm. This was followed by two more great dives at Koh Bida Nai again with the usual abundance of fish, and not forgetting each dive lasting one hour. Day two was at at Racha Noi, and Racha Yai, more great reef diving. Here we met up with our old friend Trigger, no not the horse, Titan the fish. Not surprisingly he greeted us the usual way, well especially Iain, whom he took a particular dislike to. It adds to the adventurism a little, and gave us a laugh at Iain's expense.

Days Three to Five

Leopard shark at Anemone Reef, Phuket

Day three we dived at Anemone reef, King Cruiser wreck and Shark Point. On entering the water we were immediately greeted by three leopard sharks casually swimming around looking for squid, and giving us plenty of camera time with them, also shoals of jacks and fusiliers. Venturing further down we came across a large coral with thousands of glass fish surrounding it and several small morays swimming in and out of them, plus the occasional predator darting in and snapping them up. The King Cruiser in alls it's splendour is always a good dive, just exploring the cracks and crevices for Nudi Branches, and other little critters hiding in them.

Day four we returned to Racha Yai and dived some of the other bay's here we found Blue Spotted Stingray in the sandy bottom, a Sea Horse in the middle of nowhere, a pair of Sea Grass Ghost pipe fish, a lone Bat fish, and a huge Moray not forgetting to mention the Cow fish, Garden eels, Trumpet fish, and shoals of Butterfly fish swimming in and out of the coral. This must surely wet your appetite!

Day five we returned to Koh Doc Mai and shark point, again not to be disappointed the abundance of fish was overwhelming - Leopard sharks, Sea Horses, Ornate Ghost Pipe Fish, Sea Snakes, Scorpion Fish, Clown Fish, Cat Fish, Soldier Fish and Shoals of juvenile Barracuda swimming in the blue...did we find the Frog Fish? No.

Days Six to Ten

Baby seahorse at Whakleshark Wall, Phi Phi

Phew, day six we planned a day off, we had invited all our friends around to the pool for a chill out afternoon. Sure enough we were surrounded by everyone. Mik had a new camera and was taking advantage of the day to use it. Abbie, bless her, she's a natural water baby, obviously taking after her mom and papa, Oui and Iain.

Well that's enough of chilling out it's back to diving, Days seven and eight on a Phi Phi overnight trip proved just as spectacular, Koh Bida Nok, Whale Shark Wall and Koh Bida Nai, as like the rest, no current, good visibility and an abundance of marine life, but no Frog Fish again. Day nine we dived Racha Yai, Banana Bay, Bay Three and Home Run, three great dives in fish infested coral. Here we met a shoal of Bat Fish a majestic site not to be beaten, a big Moray, Barracuda, Jack, Damsel Fish, Butterfly Fish, a baby seahorse, and more that could leave your dribbling at the thought of it, but not the elusive Frog Fish.

On day ten we rested for the day again, chilled out at the pool, had a poolside massage, drank beers and socialised with our friends. Now what other Phuket dive company does that! A true recognition of hospitality from a great dive company.

Days Eleven to Thirteen

Frog fish at Koh Doc Mai, Phuket

Ok, let's get back to diving, Day eleven, Racha Yai, Bay four, East Coast and Banana Bay, this is getting better, again great visibility no current, oh not forgetting the usual one hour dive, this being our normal dive time a must for every diver surely! Again spectacular abundance of marine life, by now our camera's were working overtime, just too many to name, but no Frog Fish yet. Day Twelve was at Koh Doc Mai, Koh Bida Nok,and Koh Bida Nai you may think we are repeating these dives, no there's two side to these gorgeous islands, you mainly dive the east and west sides, and different bays. Remember the phrase "same, same but different", always something different to see, and what's better than finding it yourself.

Day thirteen was our last day's diving, at Koh Doc Mai, King Cruiser and Shark Point. On the last dive we dropped on the east side of Koh Doc Mai and descended slowly searching all crevices, corals and gorgonian sea fans, medium current supported this dive, but this added to the excitement, Nudi Branches, Moray, Banded Boxer Shrimp and Durban Dancing Shrimp all to be found, a small crevice full of glass fish, pointing my camera to photograph them they parted and hey, there was a beautiful ornate ghost pipe fish, snap, snap, snap the camera sounds, further round the wall only 15 metres and down another 5, we found that elusive fish, our Frog Fish! Snap, snap, snap went the camera, almost burning the tank dry of air, the excitement was intense, we had searched the past twelve days for this little critter and at last found it. Iain reminded us just who's the number one in this outfit, but let's not forget Oui, she shares the spot and in all fairness both are great dive guides who tirelessly search all cracks, crevices and corals for us.

Sad Farewells

Evening meet at Sharkey's dive center Karon Phuket

The big silver bird was now waiting on the horizon, our dive gear all dried and packed, a day's chilling out again around the pool, but first some shopping . And that's where I sign off, we love you all at Sharkey Scuba, Iain, Oui and the boss Abbie, not forgetting Oor, Max and Nok, Mick and Kerry, John and Porn see you all next year.

N.B. Photos by Nigel Pirie. All photos in this article were taken during Nigel's trip.

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