Phuket Diving Gossip
Author: Iain Page, February 2007
It's been a strange season in the Similan Islands this year. Renowned for its general excellent visibility and warm tropical waters this year has seen water temperatures drop from an average of 29 degrees centigrade to a positively chilling 24 degrees. Visibility has also been much lower at around 15 metres instead of the usual 30 metres plus.
However, with the colder waters have come more nutrients and large pelagics. This month the Similans has gone manta ray crazy with reports of up to 10 on a single dive. Whale shark sightings are at their highest for a number of years and not just at Richelieu Rock. Other sightings have occurred at Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and various sites around the Similan islands themselves. Two schools of grey reef sharks have also been seen patrolling Elephant Head rock on a regular basis. Add all this to the usual great variety on offer and it all adds up to Similan Islands magic.
If you are interested in having a great experience then check out our Koh Similan islands liveaboard page. Check out our top recommendations for liveaboards. Our number one recommendation this season is the Queen Scuba, a large, spacious liveaboard with a highly experienced and extremely friendly crew.
Because of the publicity surrounding the superb Similan islands Phuket's diving is often overlooked or forgotten. With a large number of dive sites on offer ranging from sloping hard coral reefs to wrecks to beautiful limestone formations covered in colourful soft corals the diversity around Phuket is excellent. As with the Similans this season water temperatures have plummeted to as low as 24 degrees with consequently larger pelagics coming into shallower waters. We have seen a high increase in sightings of white tip reef sharks and eagle rays and even the occasional manta ray and whale shark.
The most extraordinary sightings this season have been of two types of very unusual species of ray categorized under the guitarfish family. Seen at the fabulous dive site of Shark Point the types spotted were the shovelnose ray and the bowmouth guitarfish. The later is a rare species often mistaken for sharks due to the large pronounced dorsal fins. Amazingly, as well as being seen separately they were actually even spotted lying side by side on the sand together with a leopard shark, whitetip reef shark and a group of cobias. Sounds like an underwater party going on. Unfortunately despite being in the vicinity many times I was never quite in the right place at the right time. Also, despite all the sightings the only photo we have is not the clearest in the world so check out your reef guides.
Once a year, just like Christmas, saw the arrival of specialty-mad student Anders Nielsen and his girlfriend Jette from Denmark. Look back to last year's February gossip column and there you will see him notching up those cards. This year Anders added four more specialties to his collection: Underwater Digital Photography, Ray Rebreather, Sea Turtle Identification and Whale Shark Awareness. Jette now looks set to join him on his "specialty quest" by partaking in her first, the Whaleshark Awareness. Unfortunately no whalesharks were spotted but a lot was learnt on behaviour, markings and environment.
The Sea Turtle Identification and Whale Shark Awareness specialties are both very new and created by Project Aware, an organisation dedicated to marine conservation and research. Certification fees go to them to help promote more understanding of our aquatic environment. As part of our mission to also help promote environmental awareness and responsible diving practices we have added these two specialties to our list and hope to add more as they become available. We will also be publishing various articles on the same themes. Check out our whaleshark article for a good overview of whalesharks in easy to understand dialogue. An article on sea turtles and how to aid their protection will be following some time soon.
By popular request we will be adding updates on Baby Abbie so you can watch her progression from a tiny newborn to future diving instructor (more likely she'll rebel and end up as an accountant!). As first time parents we find it fascinating to see her changing day by day. This month saw development of gurgles and facial expressions. Check out that happy smile!
She is also certainly growing quick. From starting statistics of 2.89 kg in weight and 48 cm in height she has now shot to 4.1 kg and 52 cm respectively. Daddy's upper body strength is increasing daily. Thankfully so are rest periods for both parents as feeds are becoming less regular.
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|