Feb 18, 2013

WMT18 14-18 Feb 2013

Amazing international mix of guests join us almost every trip on MV White Manta, and this was no exception.

The Carafi family (left to right): Maria Ines, Tomas, Santi, Alejandro & Alex (Alejandro Jr) Photo: Mike Thomas

We were honoured by the company of the Carafi family from Argentina: Alejandro, Maria-Ines, Alex, Santi and Tomas, they were taken care of by their countryman and DM from WMT1; Javier Rodriguez. Andrew Lyle was a returning guest – last outing was with Black Manta in Cenderwasih Bay – could MV White Manta better his experience with several Whale Sharks? He was joined by former school colleague Todd, and his wife Sara, all the way from Minnesota, USA. Andrew currently works in Singapore. Completing my group were Clement and Matt; both residing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada but from Vancouver, B.C. / Hong Kong and Montreal, Quebec respectively.

(left to right): Kay Lian, Todd Klein, Andrew Lyle, Matt Erskine and Sara Klein. Photo: Mike Thomas

David Sparks also joined us from USA. He used to work in Taiwan and slotted in a dive trip whilst his wife visits family in Taipei. Ma Qian, Daisy and Dennis joined the trip from China and Ricky Chan from Hong Kong. Our European contingent consisted Lisa and Reinhard from Austria, Martin from Germany, Sven from Belgium, Andreas and Catherine from Germany.

In this collage (left to right): David Sparks and Kay Lian (top left); Ma Qian (top centre) Ricky Chan (background, left); Xiwei (Dennis) & Xiaoya (Daisy) (top right); Reinhard & Lisa (bottom left); Sven & Martin (bottom right).

Photo: Mike Thomas.

Andrey and Mina were rare guests from Israel, not since Gilad at the end of November have we entertained compatriot.

Joining us from Singapore was Priya (originally from India) and Kay Lian.

Pictured: Priya. Photo: Mike Thomas

Half of the divers were quite inexperienced on this trip, holding only an Open Water certification and undertaking their first liveaboard diving experience. What a great way to get more experience! 7 people achieved their Advanced Open Water course certification on board: The Carafi family: Alejandro, Maria-Ines, Alex, Santi & Tomas, Reinhard Ettmann and Clement Ho.

Day 1 was spent acclimating around the Similan Islands. We visited the regular spots: Anita’s Reef (inc. Tuna Wreck), West of Eden (Ribbon eels and beautiful corals), Three Trees (lots of turtles) and a night dive after a beach trip to Donald Duck Bay.

Day 2 started at Koh Bon again. The morning dive was exhilarating. So many fish – such an impressive biomass…..stunning. On the second dive we saw a Manta ray (a first for many of our divers) – that was awesome.

I took our guests snorkelling in-between the dives, with a promise of reef shark or too, but a guarantee only for good snorkelling. Some of us saw the reef shark, but I believe all enjoyed the snorkelling – there were some large milkfish (chanus chanus) close to the surface and close to us too!

Dive 3 took us to Koh Tachai. We dived the pinnacles there. Divers gawped at the impressive schools of big-eye trevally, pick-handle barracuda, giant & blue-fin trevallies, batfish, chevron barracudas, snappers and fusiliers. The repetitive dive was spent amongst the impressive fans and corals that thrive in the nutrient rich environment.

Day 3 started at the Surin Islands. We didn’t see the bumphead parrotfish this trip, but no matter, the current was mild, the visibility very good and the divers were treated to dashes of colour on the rocky background in the form of yellowback fusiliers and five-lined snapper. All the DM’s made a quick sojorn to the delicate whip coral and harp coral ‘macro-patch’ at the pinnacles extreme and impressed with finds of shortnose pipefish, short-pouch pygmy pipehorse, and the Thecacera pictanudibranch was found again. At the end of the dive we were treated to a rare sighting of both Green and Hawksbill turtles. The Surin Islands just get better and better.

The jewel in the crown of Surin is Richelieu Rock. It rarely disappoints. We were lucky to find the divesite with quite moderate activity from other operators, and barely saw other groups from other boats underwater. Guests delighted at the tiger-tail seahorse, ornate gjost pipefish, harlequin shrimps and plentiful masses of corals and fish. It is an assured underwater Babylon teaming with life from top –to-bottom.

Last day saw us return to Boonsung Wreck, having missed it out over Chinese New Year. A few of the earlier special finds of the season; stonefish, bearded filefish and foxy pipefish have now departed it would seem, but the impressive schools of fish, nudibranchs, moray eels, cuttlefish and other pipefish remain. There were quite a few Spanish mackerel patrolling the perimeter too.

Another great trip and a lovely mix of people. We hope to see you again in the future and keep in touch.

Cruise Leader, Christopher Hutton.