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A Typical Day In Low Season !

Author: Max Hand
Date: July 2008


I would like to prove to all you out there that diving around Phuket in low season can be as good if not better than the high season. At the same time I would also like to dispel the myth that it rains nonstop during the low season.

Sexier than a Manta?

Sure we do get some heavy rain, we sometimes get strong winds predominately coming from the west bringing in bigger waves, and it can cloud over causing our golden tans to fade.

Whale shark, Koh Doc Mai, PhuketBut we DO also have days where we have no rain, no wind, and beautiful blazing sunshine. These latter days are more common than you would think. Generally we get a mixture of all these conditions. In diving terms we have very few days where we cannot go out at all.

Let me tell you about one of those "typical days" in low season.

On Wednesday 23rd July we were to go diving on a 3 dive day to Koh DocMai, King Cruiser, and Shark Point. Checking our local weather and tidal website I saw that it was going to a good day.

Chromodoris annulata at Koh Bon island

Nudibranchs breathe through these gills which on some are set on their backs, shaped like a forest of feathery fingers. All nudibranchs also have two tentacles on their heads known as rhinopores which are sensitive to smell, taste and touch.

There are some 3000 plus different varieties of these little critters to choose from to get those hairs on the back of your neck excitedly standing up. They range in size from 4 mm to 1000 mm (that's 1/8th of an inch to 4 inches in old money). So as you can imagine they are not so easy to see. Being slow-moving and small you would think they would be an easy meal for so many predators. Not so.

Naturally Obnoxious!

Unknown nudibranch

Some have evolved to be expertly camouflaged to match their surroundings. They normally acquire their invisible defense from what they eat, such as the red nudibranch which happily munches away on the red sponge. Others are decorated with an explosion of bright colours, safe in the knowledge that they are noxious or sometimes even toxic to their would-be predators. They again extract their toxins from what they eat, and coat themselves with a defensive noxious/toxic mucous. Mmmm, lovely. Apart from tasting awful who would really want to eat them? Come on !

These nomadic naked soft-bodied creatures gracefully crawl along feeding and giving us a chance to see them in their splendor. All are carnivorous, feeding on sponges and bryozoans (tiny animals that build up their community on corals, also known as moss animals). Some are also known to indulge in cannibalism, ferociously devouring other sea slugs or even their own kind !

Let's Talk About Sex!

Nudibranch egg spiral

All nudibranches are hermaphrodites with a set of both male & female organs positioned close together on the right behind the head. These organs are wonderfully known as the ‘gonad'. Despite the close proximity of the gonad they cannot self-fertilize. If you see two nudibranchs head to toe on the right side of each other then there's a pretty good chance that they're having some fun.

As to who plays what role, who knows? Maybe they play a game of "paper, scissors, stones" – best of three! Once the deed is done they can store fertilized eggs until the environmental conditions are good. The eggs are laid in a gelatinous spiral covered in a healthy mucous from their proud parents to be.

Varicose wart slug

Thanks, Mum!

Parents can be cruel when naming their children. Please spare a thought for some of the nudibranch names like the Varicose Wart Slug (latin Phyllidia Varicosa) which probably explains why these self aware creatures are so shy!

We Want Nudis!

Okay, by now you should be totally hooked and asking “But Max, where can we find these magical Naked Gilled Sea Slugs ?”. Well funny you should ask, but I'm glad you did, so let me tell you. The answer is anywhere. They are found in salt and fresh waters. The most spectacular are in our oceans. Even once you get past the profusion of colour adorning the reefs, they can be so very hard to find. So you have to remember to switch hunting mode and set your eyes to macro vision.

They can be found on specific corals, rocks, reefs, wrecks, walls, caves, sand, even free swimming (normally the backstroke!). I have seen them between depths of two metres and forty metres so they are out there. When you are out diving next keep your eyes peeled at all times to catch a glimpse of their splendour, and please watch your buoyancy and leave those slug pellets behind!

About The Author

Max Hand - loves all things small!

Max hand works as a divemaster and instructor for Sharkey Scuba in Phuket. As you can probably tell his main passion is for these small unique creatures and Max never gets tired of looking for them. All of the photos of nudibranches in this article were taken by Max around Phuket or in the Similans islands.

Max's favourite local dive site is Koh Doc Mai, probably the best place around Phuket and Phi Phi for the "small" stuff. If you are interested in utilising Max's expertise to go in search of these critters then the good news is he is available for hire! Just send us an e-mail to request his services but book him early as he is not called "Mr Popular" for nothing!

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Nudibranches around Phuket

Chromodoris Geminus

Chromodoris geminus at Koh Doc Mai, Phuket

Chromodoris Rufomarginatus

Chromodoris rufomarginatus at Shark Point, Phuket

Halgerda Species

Halgerda species at Grey Bamboo Shark

Phyllidia Ocellata

Phyllidia ocellata in Similan Islands

Risbecia Pulchella

Risbecia pulchella at Koh Doc Mai, Phuket

Elysia Ornata

Elysia ornata at Koh Haa, Krabi

Flabellina Exoptata

Flabellina exoptata at Koh Haa, Krabi

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