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Published: February 21st 2008
Manta Ray glides the ridge at Koh Bon, Similan Islands.
We’d been on dry land for about a week before we started to twiddle our fingers and conjure up imaginative ways for getting one of the local operators to allow us one their free spaces, only encouraged by the recent Whale Shark sightings at Richelieu Rock. The Similan and Surin Islands are 70Km’s offshore and a liveaboard (or sleepover boat) is usually the norm so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. However in true Sarah style and her gift of the gab she managed to bag a place in a matter of hours.
Luckily it only took another 24 hrs before I had my place and being four days and four nights it meant we would be spending plenty of time in the north, where the big fish are normally found. Of course this is where the meaning of free can be stretched, loading up the heavy crates I decided the more stupid I looked the less I would have to do. Well run liveaboard boats have a reputation for being incredibly anal when it comes to organisation, especially when you consider the combination of compressed air, heavy weights, stacks of equipment and 25 people in a confined
A docile Leopard Shark shows off his distinct markings.
area. Turns out the other Divemasters weren’t having any of it and by the end of the trip I found myself guiding, cleaning and organising like the rest.
Dive one was a personal favourite of mine, East of Eden, a sloping fringe reef with an enormous mushroom shaped coral bommie at the southern end. There’s the odd Frogfish here and tiny glass fish cluster themselves beneath the overhangs, almost to a point that you can’t see beyond them. Being much faster than a Lionfish and also moving in a way that becomes distracting the poor Lionfish spends his day waiting for that moment when one will get close enough to suck in, like someone dangling chicken wings in front of you all day - just out of reach.
Our boat made its way north in true safari style snaking between the nine islands that make up the Similans (derived from the Malay word for nine - Simbilan). Each dive conjures up something new and by the time it was time to leave we had seen Leopard Sharks, Mantis Shrimp, Frogfish, Banded Sea Snakes and more.
Heading further north we made our way to Koh Bon, a step
A school of Barracuda's line up at Richelieu Rock
down ridge well known for frequent Manta sightings. Local guides believe they come here to be cleaned, to feed and to mate. Sure enough, just when we thought our luck was out the majestic wing tips of a 2 and half meter Manta come into sight. The dive only got better as we witnessed the brute of the marine world the Triggerfish chase a docile Leopard Shark from his territory. The Leopard Shark is like a beanie baby, not really a Shark - more like cuddly pet, although some 5 times larger.
After four great dives at Richelieu Rock and unfortunately no Whale Shark it was time to head home. 14 dives in 4 days is surely enough to warrant a good night’s sleep and at least another week out of the water. Sarah came back with similar stories and just as many sightings. For those of you who are thinking of visiting this region don’t forget to take a look at our tour options for this part of the world, visit Dive Safari Asia
. For photos and more diving information visit Diving Asia
For a great selection of places to stay with discount prices throughout
the area visit Khao Lak Hotels
for more information.
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