Feb 13, 2013

WMCNY 9-13 Feb 2013

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Chinese New Year from White Manta.

MV White Manta had a boat full of CNY holidaymakers yet again. Thanks to Steven Lim from Mako Subaquatic for his support of 20 divers. This included a couple of families and their friends from Singapore. The Chow family: Dr Hsun Tao, wife Yookwai, sister Yookcing, mother-in-law Yeansong  and their sons: Paul, Elisha & Javez. The Chan family: Mew Fong, Stephanie, mother Yooklan and son Ruowei. The Teo family: Joseph & Katherine, and his brother Lay Sin with his children Jorine & Keefe.  Friends included Sim & Chereen, and Nicholas.

Yan and Tresa added to the Singaporean compliment. Also joining the trip were expats resident in Singapore: Brice and Morgane, a French couple and returning guests Ges Strathers (also with Mako), Marianne and her son Gregor, and Mike Hammond.

Day 1 was spent in the Similan Islands. Morning winds unsettled the surface of the water so we soon headed for the west of the islands. We enjoyed the company of a large Green Turtle at Three Trees (#9) and more underwater. Early finds included a couple of lesser seen nudibranchs Halgaerda tesselata and Ceratasoma sinuatum.

Day 2 started with a couple of fine dives around Koh Bon. We were really treated to great conditions and sightings. On the second dive the divers were delighted by manta ray, white-tip and black-tip reef sharks.

Onto Koh Tachai for the final 2 dives of the day; we encountered a little bit of current at the Pinnacle but were blessed with many different schools of jack fish and the large school of barracuda that are ever present when the water is running.

There was virtually no current on the second dive, allowing the divers to explore the divesite to its extreme perimeters. Some saw a large pink whipray on the bottom and an unusual find in Berthella martensi an Opistobranch (sea slugs of non-nudibranch families).

We sheltered amongst the Surin Islands that night. Conditions for the early morning dive at Torinla Pinnacle were superb. Bumphead parrotfish were swimming in formation and being cleaned to wow the divers. A rare find in Thecacera picta treated the nudibranch enthusiasts.

The wind had whipped up again by the time we had arrived at Richelieu Rock to complete the days diving. Those of you not familiar with our Similan safari schedule might be surprised that we do 3 repetitive dives at Richelieu – every trip. However, anyone who has dived there will add that 3 dives are required to do testament to it.

Divers particularly enjoyed the encounter with mating cuttlefish, who must be tired, since they have been at it constantly throughout the season. Our expert guides were able to find their divers the resident tiger-tail seahorse, an ornate ghost-pipefish, some bent-stick pipefish and harlequin shrimps.

Sadly I can’t find my frogfish anymore, thank goodness I snapped him in early January. I think Peter Walker was the last person I had shared him with, but now he has been ousted by a sea urchin. At least the urchin is reasonably easy to see! I enclose a poor quality photograph that I took with an unfamiliar camera. The other frogfish, whose whereabouts was well known, had disappeared before, leaving me bereft of frogfish and pineconefish in my arsenal. No matter, the dives at Richelieu are always fine; my favourite this time was a pair of mating Chromodoris annulata.

22 of our divers were unable to participate in the final dives as they had flights to catch. Those who were able were treated to a couple of great wreck dives. First-up was the MV Sea Chart aka ‘Teak Wreck’, after its cargo of 1200 teak logs that spilled onto the sandy bottom at 40m. The top of this wreck is 25m and was found in excellent diving conditions. Calm seas, great visibility and lots of fish. It is really developing into a great divesite since it sank in 2009. There are many brassy trevallies and snappers schooling across its port side hull as it rests on its starboard side. It is such an intact vessel that it’s a real marvel to discover. Last dive was conducted at the ‘Premchai’ or Nai Yak wreck.

The diversity of nudibranchs and related opistobranchs found on our divesites in Thailand this season has astonished me. I never realised we had so many.

Thanks to Mike Hammond for kindly sharing his pictures.

Enjoy the year of the Snake everyone.

Cruise Leader, Christopher Hutton