KM Raja Manta Trip Reports

Mar 5, 2013

WMT21 1-5 Mar 2013


South Korea provided the majority of the guests this time out. Thanks to Duck and Peter of Dive Lab for recommending MV White Manta.

All of our guests from Korea attended university together; they are (Duck's group 1st): Jun Sik, Jangyoung, Dongsoon, Woojiin and Junhee.

Peter's group consisted: Youngil & Yunjong and Jae Seok & Hyeong Seok.

Returning to the boat for the first time this year, but the second time this season, was Paul Oliver - working for HRM government in the Pakistan Royal Embassy to the UK. Mike T took care of Paul, and joining his group was Ellen Darcy; another repeat customer, residing in Singapore but from Australia. This would be Ellen's first Liveaboard experience in Thailand, as was the case for the remaining members of the group: Paul and Colleen, from Canberra ACT, Australia.

Hayami, our full-time dive guide from Japan, announced that she was to be married to our ever-reliable boat-boy Benk at the end of the season! Her group consisted 3 Thai’s: Mon (family owner of Phuket's 1st seafood restaurant: Kan Eang) and his school friends; brother and sister from Nakhon Sakhon in Issan, Dome & Dow. Completing this all-Asian group was: Virginia & Alex from our home nation of Singapore.

My group had a very interesting mix. Firstly, a couple of my favourite guests; returning to MV White Manta for their first wedding anniversary: Cedric Declercq (Belgium) and Patrycja Bral (Poland). Becoming a couple of my favourite guests were another couple with a Polish connection: Jolanta (Jola, from Poland) and Buzz from California, USA. Jola is a journalist of sort, working with a Polish TV network and Buzz, a lawyer is also photographer and friend of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Completing my group was a family from Paris, France: Bruno Dijol & Florence Pfenniger, and their son and Florence's mother; Hugo and Marie-Claude. Bruno was the only diver of the family, but Hugo and Florence joined me for some energetic snorkelling tours at Three Trees (where we saw a big school of barracuda); Koh Bon (White-tip and black-tip reef sharks), and Richelieu Rock.

Saturday, 2nd March 2013

First day was disappointing visibility around the Similan islands. We completed dives at Anita's Reef (#5): witnessing a large Jenkin's stingray under a deeper bommie near Hin Muan Daew; West of Eden (#7) and a current-y affair at Three Trees (#9), before night diving at Donald Duck Bay (#8) after our regular beach trip there.

 

 

Sunday, 3rd March 2013 

Second day was spent at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. We enjoy a morning dive on the northern shoreline fringing reef, away from the company of other boats. Only Similan Explorer appears to follow this doctrine, and start further down the reef. This was a refreshing dive, much better visibility. The second dive, also at Koh Bon was focused on the current rich, west ridge formation. We started at ‘nam toc’, a small water feature spilling white foamy sea water from the north side of the ridge to the steep-to south wall; it looks like a nuclear explosion underwater. The next explosion was one of activity and colour. Welcome to the Jack Show! Blue-fin trevallies patrol the colourful steep face of the ridge, rounding up the fusiliers of yellows and blues amongst the backdrop of big-eye snappers schooling above a tapestry of dipolastrea coral below. That was quite a show, very entertaining; in the words of Rihanna, and when it was all over we continued along the ridge to hang out for manta rays. Unfortunately, mantas didn't hang out with us, but retreating up the jagged blade of rock of the ridge we were delighted to witness another entertaining display of predator-prey activity around a porites sp. coral head hemmed in close to the dramatic mountain-like aquascape. This was a chaotic scramble for small baitfish, fighting for survival from the attacking snappers (many species, checkered most prevalent), lionfish, cornetfish, and two rather large humphead wrasse. It was Napoleon dynamite!

Next up was Koh Tachai for two dives at the pinnacle. If Koh Bon was active then Tachai can only be considered hostile on this occasion. A modicum of current greeted the divers, as is customary at this exposed megalith of rock. It wasn't the current that was the source of the hostility though. That was provided by the thick, icy clouds of thermocline that kept rolling in like an underwater avalanche! Check out video from Hayami:

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Visibility in these cumulonimbus-like fronts is reduced to a rather brown meter or so. Rising above the thermocline revealed nice, clear water and we were able to identify one another again. We followed my nose to the schooling chevron barracuda and I admit that even I felt a bit disorientated by the clouds of thick, murky cold water completely enveloping the dome-shaped pinnacle below. It was a fog-like mist of uncertainty. Even the exodus of fish that had gathered in the nutrient rich cold water appeared quite lost. Experience helped me identify the pinnacle again after the clouds had parted. I also found a pair of ornate ghost pipefishes in a favourite area of mine, a tip from friend Tristan Bellville.

 

The repeat dive at Tachai pinnacle was a similar assault of cold brown thermocline, a rare phenomenon to dive site conditions. My group had to call the second dive short due to the strong current and impossible visibility at the 2nd pinnacle. Other divers fared better at the main pinnacle with more protection from the current and frenzied displays from the fusiliers!

Monday, 4th March 2013

Third day was our regular schedule at Torinla pinnacle and Richelieu Rock. Conditions were brilliant at both divesites. The close season has witnessed a flurry of activity at Richelieu Rock; partly due to the close attention of a school of small giant trevallies now parading the pinnacle. However, in my opinion it has been a long season already for the rock, it now has a day-trip operator; Barracuda Diving, that seems to be co-operated by Khao Lak Scuba Adventures aka "the diver police". This has increased diving activity at the rock. KSA appears to sell their trips to a lot of beginner divers, whom like some experienced photographers, leave a punishing cumulative debris of coral due to overweighting, lack of spacial awareness and poor buoyancy control; highlighting the need for more diving regulation to this area. I don't blame the dive masters; whom can be frequently observed berating their own and other divers which despite their best intentions, is the most inappropriate and unprofessional behaviour.

Tuesday, 5th March 2013

The last day was conducted at the Boonsung wreck. MV Pawara kept us company once again.We added only a few divers to the divesite since all the Koreans were flying that evening. A few others decided not to do the repetitive dive also.

Thanks to you all. Congrats once again to Cedric & Patrycja on your 1-year old union, and to Cedric becoming a PADI Enriched Air Nitrox diver! I look forward to meeting Jola & Buzz again and indeed all of our guests, particularly our Korean compliments, who were very friendly people.

Cheers!

MV White Manta Cruise Leader: Christopher Hutton.

Trip: WMT21 1-5 Mar 2013
Author: Christopher Hutton