Friday, January 15, 2010

Diving Similan

Remember me? I used to post, tried to even post frequently. Recently though, I've been spending a lot of my time far removed from such civilized commodities as the internet, and when near the internet, I've been struggling to figure out how to actually use my laptop where half the keyboard works fine, and the other half is on a 2 for 1 program, as in every time you press a key, two characters show up... Makes for some hard to read writing.

So, now that I've left my poor battered laptop in the [hopefully] capable hands of a technician at Bangkok's very own electronics Mecca - the Panthip Plaza, it's time to start catching up (and hopefully, come tomorrow, I'll have a fully functional laptop back, so when I depart for Burma tomorrow evening, I'll be able to interact with the world at large once more.)

So, Life in the Similans: after a week on Koh Tao, which involved a lot of relaxing and hanging out with friends, and not really a lot of doing much of anything else (I tried to go diving actually, but the dive site I had wanted had excessively bad conditions the day we were scheduled to go), I went across the tip of South Thailand's peninsula to a little touristy town of Khao Lak to board the Manta Queen II, and spend four days diving in the Similan Islands. This was roughly the same trip that Lott had done a couple of years ago, and after hearing him rave on and on about how amazing it was, I figured, I couldn't pass up the chance to go!

Our boat, as viewed from sea level

In the Similan Islands National Park

The trip departed Khao Lak in the evening, and what was to follow was four nights on board, and 14 dives in between. There were 20 divers, along with 5 staff, and the boat's crew. As soon as we got onboard, it was explained to us that our lives would hereby consist of diving, eating, and sleeping. We managed to throw in a little bit of drinking in the evenings, and some relaxing on the sun deck in between the dives, but at four dives and five meals a day, there really wasn't time for much else.

The itinerary included sailing down to the Similan Islands, a few dives there, then dives at Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, an entire day at Richelieu Rock (a so-called 'top 2' dive site in the world... wonder what the others are, I'm sure there's more than two that make this claim), and a wreck dive on the way back.

Following some frantic last-second searching back in Hong Kong, I was equipped with an underwater camera once again, and ready to document the proceedings. Eventually, a full fledged album of my favorite under-water sights is going to materialize on the interweb, but for now, a few highlights:

Fully decked out for life underwater! Maybe not life, but a good 45 minutes to an hour

A shark waiting for us, sleeping on the sandy floor in the Similans

In between dives, a turtle came up to the boat, so we all jumped in to snorkel with it. Eventually, I started to feel bad that the turtle had an entourage of some 10 people with it, but he didn't seem to mind

We have found Nemo!

Some crazy, colorful formations of coral and life underwater

Spotting a manta ray, slowly gliding by us, at the end of the dive at Koh Bon was certainly the highlight of the trip.

Seeing a squid near Richelieu Rock was pretty cool too, as I'd never seen one before

Take a fish's body and give it some of the squid's tentacles, and you get a cuttlefish!

The clumsy-looking boxfish were everywhere, and were not at all clumsy

The remnants of the ship's skeleton at the wreck dive looking like something out of a sci-fi movie

Some hungry monsters living on the wreck

And a video of the turtle hanging out with us. If you can't see the video embedded above, try following this link:

And that was our life in the Similans. I came away thoroughly exhausted - all this diving, combined with sleeping on a boat will do that to you, and I even skipped one of the night dives (there wasn't much to see at night anyway). Overall, I definitely enjoyed the trip - the downsides are that you do get exhausted, the dive sites are actually somewhat crowded, and I didn't always see eye-to-eye with my dive guide, even though she was the nicest person in the world... just not the best dive guide I've ever been around. As for the crowds, our group of 20 was split up into 5 smaller groups, and we generally tried to stay out of each other's way. At a few of our dives, we kept running into other groups though, including 20 Japanese divers, all diving together in one group, each with an impressive array of photo and video equipment... On the upside, did I mention 14 dives in four days, including a manta ray, a squid, a leopard shark, snorkeling with a turtle, good company, and being fed (quite deliciously) whenever not in the water? I dare say the upsides more than balance out the downsides! Still, none of the individual dives were as good as Sipidan in Borneo, my favorite dive so far...

And we'll leave you with this:

The cutest creature we saw wasn't underwater - it was a little puppy that one of the crew had. Clearly being a boy-puppy, he attacked Rana's bikini top with due diligence...

No comments: