Phuket Diving Gossip
Author: Iain Page, March 2007
After 10 months out of the water carrying our first born, Abbie, Oui finally got the chance to get back diving. With the mother-in-law left holding the baby off we went together on our favourite 3 dive day trip: Koh Doc Mai, King Cruiser and Shark Point. Desperate to see what had changed first dive was spent at Koh Doc Mai with me showing Oui the newest residents including a red frogfish in a bush coral and a group of grey bamboo sharks under a rock (see "Cute Sharks?" below).
Second dive at King Cruiser was started with the intention of looking for the giant grouper sometimes seen down at the bottom at 32 metres. However, two minutes into the dive we came across a large fishing trap. The remainder of the dive was spent cutting up this serious hazard to free the marine life trapped inside and to ensure nothing else including King Cruiser's resident turtle could also get caught up. Third dive was Shark Point, the beautiful limestone pinnacle covered in colourful soft corals. A visit to a white-eyed moray eel colony and to a beautiful ornate ghost pipefish capped off a great day's diving. Asked about getting wet again Oui's reply was short but sweet - "AWESOME"! Her expression above says it all.
With a pregnant wife and then a newborn baby chances to visit the Similan islands have been few and far between this season. Listening to tale after tale of whaleshark and manta ray sightings left us both very jealous and dying to get up there for a trip. Finally a chance came for me to get there with baby becoming more manageable. Unfortunately it was Oui's turn to be left holding the baby but opportunities for us both to dive the Similans will arrive next season for sure.
The main purpose of this short overnight visit was to find mantas. Every day these beautiful underwater creatures had been spotted at the island of Koh Bon just north of the Similan islands. Accompanied by Eileen and Stewart from England and Jason and Megan from USA off we set on Somboon 3, the flexible scheduled liveaboard. Day one was spent around the Similan islands themselves enjoying the great variety of life including a family of Napoleon wrasse and both whitetip and blacktip reef sharks.
Overnight the boat moved up to Koh Bon and over an evening beer and watching the sunset our excitement grew at the prospect of the next day's diving. First dive of the morning was at Koh Bon pinnacle, an underwater limestone formation about 150 metres away from the island and 18 metres deep at its top. This spectacular site can be challenging due to strong currents but well worth it. As well as spectacular soft corals and sea fans it is also known for large pelagics including manta rays. Unfortunately none were seen on this dive although leopard sharks were spotted at depth.
The next two dives were spent diving at Koh Bon island itself around the "West Ridge" a beautiful underwater ridge starting at 20 metres deep and running perpendicular away from the island. Large schools of snapper, glistening neon fusiliers and many other beautiful fishes were seen but no mantas. Finally at the end of dive two we had to admit defeat and proceeded to make our safety stop. Suddenly, just as I signalled to ascend, a large shadow passed below. As I peered into the depths my expectations were confirmed as a 4 metre manta came into clear view. Grabbing the attention of the rest of the group we all stared in awe as it came, circled, circled again and then gracefully disappeared off into the blue. Although only a brief glimpse that one minute of manta heaven alone made the trip more than worthwhile. Happy smiling faces and excited chattering voices filled me with joy. Bring on the next time!
With films like "Jaws" and continual inaccurate press coverage the shark has developed a bad reputation. These "man-eating" devils apparently have one goal in life - to eat as many of us humans as possible! What rubbish. After years of diving with sharks and no bites to date many sharks are not only harmless but also cute! Want proof? Ok, then check out this photo.
For the last six months a group of grey bamboo sharks have been found cuddling up under a ledge at the island of Koh Doc Mai. Down at a depth of 25 metres and away from the main reef they nestle together sometimes in a group of four, other times five. With a maximum adult length of 75 centimetres and no sharp teeth in sight I can hardly imagine one of these chewing your leg off. However, with a diet consisting of crustaceans (shellfish) amongst other things and solid bony plates for teeth we wouldn't suggest poking it with your finger as you could end up with more than a broken nail!
Following in mummy and daddy's shoes Abbie is quickly turning into a water baby. At the beginning of the month we took her into the pool for the first time. Like a duck to water plenty of splashing and giggles were experienced. Working on the "Baby Swim" theory we are hoping to get her independent in the water as soon as possible.
Growth continues very quickly. Small by average at birth Abbie has now shot to the top of the charts staying inside the expected maximum size for a child of her age. OK these are based on Thai sizes not Western! Current vital statistics: weight 5.3 kg, height 56 cm.
Sharks around Phuket
|Length||To 20 m|
|Prey||Small fish, squid, crustaceans and plankton|
|Dive Sites||Possible at all sites but most commonly at Hin Daeng/Muang and Similans|
|Length||To 3.5 m|
|Prey||Crustaceans, shrimps, bony fishes|
|Dive Sites||Possible at all sites but most commonly at Phi Phi, Hin Daeng/Muang and Similans|
Grey Bamboo Shark
|Length||To 75 cm|
|Dive Sites||Most commonly at Shark Point, King Cruiser and Phi Phi|
Blacktip Reef Shark
|Length||To 1.8 m|
|Prey||Bony fishes, squid, crustaceans and sea snakes|
|Dive Sites||Most commonly at Phi Phi and Similans|
Whitetip Reef Shark
|Length||To 2.1 m|
|Prey||Bony fish, crabs, lobsters and octopi|
|Dive Sites||Most commonly at Racha Noi and Similans|