Feb 24, 2013

WMT19 19-23 Feb 2013

Tristan Bellville and Oliver Fitch were returning freelance dive crew on this trip. Sadly, Hayami had to complete a visa run, thus the regular dive crew missed out on their "Chocolate Time”.

Pictured: Tak Yin & Chun Chuen

Tristan took care of Eric & Maggie from Wyoming, USA and Tak Yin & Chun Chuen, friends, from Hong Kong, China.

Oliver was responsible for Young Ho and Jin A from Korea; Linda & Thierry from San Diego, CA, USA; and also Yoann & Dulcinia from France. Yoann is a search and recovery diver for the Paris Fire Service.

Pictured: (left to right): Linda & Thierry, DM Oliver Fitch, Jin A & Young Ho, Dulcinia & Yoann

Our Finnish instructor and guide; Heikki guided Mark & Ashlea from Milton Keynes in England, UK, as well as Cameron from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. He's on his way to start a new life in Dublin Ireland. Completing the quartet was Julien, a Frenchman working for many years with Michelin Tyres in Bangkok.

Mike Thomas' group was an all German affair: Uwe & Meike and Sandra & Andy. Andy runs a Mares test centre in Germany.

Pictured: (left to right): Sandra, Andy, Uwe & Meike

My group was an Anglo-American mix. Brother and Sister, Gary and Kim came all the way from Michigan, USA. One English couple, Neil & Jeanette, whilst from UK actually reside in the South of France where they manage a holiday gite business. Sue & Steve, from Derbyshire in England, UK, are regular visitors to Thailand and have completed a number of safaris to this area in the past.

Pictured: (left to right): Gary, Kim, Neil, Jeanette, DM Chris Hutton, Steve & Sue

We tested a tweaked schedule on this trip, completing only the first 2 dives in the Similan Islands. We figured that we might get lucky and witness a manta ray on the first day at Koh Bon, and anyway, the night dive at this island is always good.

We didn't see that elusive manta ray, but we did enjoy nice dives at West of Eden (#7) and Three trees (#9) around the Similan Islands. The latter reef is good for turtle sightings, but we were kept waiting until the last minute to see ours. Some of my group had already boarded the zodiac!

A compelling night dive, plenty of stuff to keep us interested. We'll definitely dive at Koh Bon next trip night dive too.

Koh Bon suffers from over-activity in the mornings, with many Liveaboards opting for their penultimate dive on the ridge there, presumably in the quest of a last chance manta ray sighting. To me it seems such a waste of a dive to focus efforts to see just one fish, when the reef has a plethora of species to admire. Thus we watched where the other operators were diving, and picked our spot elsewhere. We enjoyed a rather more dilute atmosphere, I love the morning reef at Koh Bon!

With 3 dives under our belts at Koh Bon already, we next moved to Koh Tachai. Smart move. Not a sausage (SMB) in sight as we arrived. Just prior to entry we did see a speedboat from 'Wetzone Divers'. However, we barely witnessed each other underwater, rather enjoying the large school of chevron barracudas, batfish cleaning stations, and schooling oceanic triggerfish!

I decided to offer our guests the opportunity to sample the beautiful long beach of Koh Tachai in the lunchtime surface interval. Afterwards, when we rounded the corner back to the pinnacle site at the south of Tachai I was forlorn at the number of dive boats that had gathered. It would appear that one boat had sighted a manta ray and broadcast it over the radio to every boat in the vacinity. Crazy!

All of our guests saw the magnificent manta ray, it was a big one. I rather felt that this was the worse dives I had experienced all season. Actually after 30 minutes we called time on the dive, since the manta ray had appeared to have been chased away anyway, and all I could see were bubbles and divers.

If other operators were to read this, please, please, control your divers. I had to physically restrain a diver from another boat who was spoiling the prospect of other divers enjoying a short period of time with the manta ray, because he wanted to get good video footage. So selfish. The poor manta rays must be so stressed out. They visit the pinnacle to get cleaned, but can't get close to the cleaning stations because they are chased away by divers.

In this case I recommend that only snorkelling activity be allowed when more than 2 dive boats are in the area and a manta ray is on site. Eventually the manta rays will not visit the area, if they can't get cleaned. Quite moronic behaviour by scuba divers me thinks, and many of those are paid dive professionals. I don't agree with DM's using cameras, but I'd like to take one, just to capture footage of them chasing the manta rays as evidence of their unprofessional conduct.

We sailed to the Surin Islands for the 4th dive of the day. Here we experimented with a night dive at Hin Phae. It was pretty good. Not outstanding, but an enjoyable poke around the rocks and some divers found a cuttlefish.

We dived our usual spot in the morning, a pinnacle on the east side of Koh Torinla. We have become accustomed to seeing bumphead parrotfish at this divesite. They get cleaned here. Apparently not all the time though, because this was the second trip running, that we were frustrated without any encounter.

But it is a fishy divesite. Snappers and fusiliers add dashes of colour, groupers entertain, moray eels engage and macro finds excite the avid enthusiast.

Onto Richelieu Rock. Usual programme of 3 dives here. Divemasters were frustrated not to find the tiger-tail seahorse, though I guess he was nearby his usual spot. I didn't go looking as my group preferred the more colourful 15m / 50ft level. We spotted many nudibranchs and just marvelled at the beautiful coral and fishy action.

Last day of diving was spent at the Boonsung wreck. This wreck has been in imperious form all season. So many fish. It delighted again.

Thank you to all of guests for your part in our amazing adventure.

MV White Manta Cruise Leader, Christopher Hutton.