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  1. Sea anemone, order: Actiniaria⁠ Franck Fogarolo @thesmilingseahorse⁠ Koh Lipe, Thailand⁠ This anemone suggests us to keep our fingers crossed or I dream…?...⁠ ⁠KEEP DIVING... KEEP HOPE...
  2. We have just returned from our first cruise in 2021 and have to say the beautiful islands of Surin and Similan National Parks in Thailand have been delivered to us... Guess what we meet... An extremely strange creature for the novice but well known by divers... It works as cleaner for other marine creatures... The Pacific Clown Anemone Shrimp has a greatest body length of 40 millimeters and is an appealing looking shrimp. The base tone is straightforward and on the females the side of the mid-region is colored orange with huge white dabs. There is likewise a noticeable white protuberance behind the eyes on the female. Under amplification this mound is shrouded in a floral design. This can be found on this picture. The motivation behind the mound isn't known however almost certainly, it appealing to the males. The head is colored orange and there is a white line between the eyes. The males are not as bright and don't have the dabs as an afterthought or the white hump.The tail is white on both genders and there are five fragments on the finish of the tail with orange imprints encompassed by purple. Look at this shot and tell us what do you think about it.
  3. I really like the wet towel and ice box ideas. Indeed better keep things moist as long as they cant be soaked!

    Breaking news: a tiger shark has been sighted in Similan Islands in Thailand


    What a fantastic start to this much awaited diving season on Thailand's Andaman Sea! A Tiger shark has been sighted by several divers in Similan National park this week.

    A tiger shark in Thailand's waters!

    breaking news, a tiger shark spotted in similan islands thailand
    A first time for Darren King and his buddies who has been diving in Thailand since 2005. 
    "We dropped usual place in Elephant Head Rock, Similan: southern side of the main rock, before the channel and the tiger shark came up from the deeper water to check us out. It came very close and there was no doubting it. "
    Unfortunately this time the divers didn't have a camera to capture the moment but what a thrill!!!
    Tiger sharks are very rarely sighted by divers as they usually prefer to live in deeper/ colder waters.
    The Smiling Seahorse guests were also very lucky to spot a tiger shark twice last season at the nearby Burma banks : in March 2019 and November 2019.
    Tiger shark spotted at the Burma Banks, myanmar in March 2019
    Tiger shark photographed at the Burma Banks, Myanmar in March 2019 by The Smiling Seahorse
    Another tigershark has been spotted and photographed by snorkelers in Surin islands in December 2019 but such sightings are so exceptional they are making the news!
    snorkeling with a tiger shark in Surin islands, Thailand December 2019
    Tiger shark photographed by a snorkeler in Surin islands in December 2019

    Is there hope for Thailand's Sharks population?

    Sharks have been slaughtered for decades for the meat and fins and shark population has decreased dramatically: some sharks number have seen a 90 percent cut in the last 50 years!

    Finning, a practice where fishermen cut the shark's fins before discarding the rest of the body in the Ocean is now illegal in 52 countries but only 12 countries have banned shark fishing altogether. Unfortunately the practice is still legal in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

    A recent study done by WildAid and Rapid Asia in Thailand, found that 57 percent of Thais living in urban areas have consumed shark fin at some point.
    Shark finning still legal in Thailand
    In recent year more and more campaigns have raised awareness about this cause and eating shark fin soup is loosing popularity. 

    In China, 85 percent of respondents to a recent survey reported they had stopped eating shark fin soup.
    Such sightings of Tiger sharks in Similan, Thailand sure give us hope for the future of Shark population in Asia. Thailand still has a bountiful Marine life to explore!
  5. Have you booked your dream holiday on the other side of the planet and feel a little bit environmentally guilty about it? Here are a few ways for you to take care of your carbon footprint during your holidays, and then try to take those good habits home with you! BEFORE LEAVING, SAVE ENERGYTurn off all the electrical appliances and devices that you won’t use while you're gone. Unplug everything you can and try to keep running appliances at a minimum. If you are leaving for an extended period of time, take this opportunity to clean out your fridge and freezer to dispose of the unwanted items. If you are really motivated, you can even empty it entirely and leave it off while you're gone. Donate the items to a friend in need or a community center for those less fortunate than you. Waste not, want not. CARPOOLIf you cannot avoid driving, try and fill all the spaces in your car that you can. All over the world you can find apps, facebook pages and websites that connect people traveling in the same directions for ride shares. This reduces your carbon emissions and can even save you a little money on gas with friends to share the bill! PRINT AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLEDon’t bother printing your booking tickets. You probably wont need them and find them transformed into a sweaty lump in your money belt weeks later. Nowadays just showing your passport or ID card is enough for the hostess to find you in the database at the airline check-in counter. You can also show the QR code from the company on your mobile.Take photos on your phone or save a copy of your important documents on your cloud so you can access it at anytime if needed. DON’T WRAP YOUR LUGGAGE IN PLASTICUse protective luggage covers or just a secured clip instead of the wasteful shrink wrap machine. There are many options for keeping your luggage clean and firmly shut. USE An ECO FRIENDLY SUNSCREENDid you know that conventional sunscreen contains a chemical that destroys coral reefs and marine ecosystems? Its name is oxybenzone, and many sunscreens contain it. According to experts, approximately 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the oceans every year.Search online or at your local dive center for reef safe options. They are now becoming increasingly affordable and easy to find. Go Shopping with your OWN REUSABLE BAGPurchase a reusable cloth bag to carry with you on any shopping spree. They come in many different sizes and some even fold up into tidy little pouches or keychains. This can allow you to say no to single use plastics from small shops that are likely to find there way into the ocean eventually. Remember turtles can hardly tell the difference between a plastic bag and a jellyfish! REFILL DONT BUY Carrying a reusable water bottle is an excellent idea whether you are going on a walk in your local park or departing on a faraway holiday. Avoiding buying single use plastic bottles is not only good for the budget but also good for the environment. I personally suggest a double layered insulated bottle which will keep that water icy cold even in the hottest climates.With increasing global awareness about going green, you can often find fill stations for water bottles all over the world. When in doubt, go to a dive center and ask the staff about filling stations. SAY NO TO STRAWSWhen you order your cocktail at the beach bar, don’t forget to say “no straw”. Single use plastic straws have been the target of successful global campaigns raising awareness of how they can impact our oceans. If you don't like to sip your drink from the edge of the cup consider a reusable option like metal or bamboo. You can even buy collapsible straws that are easily stored in a small case connected to a keychain. BRING YOUR CUPDo you need the comfort of caffeine in the morning? Do you hate drinking your sunset mojito from disposable plastic cups? Where many people will think to bring a reusable water bottle, most don't think to bring other reusable beverage receptacles. An insulated thermos for your morning coffee is a great way to reduce waste and keep the drink piping hot until you're ready for your fix. Beach bars are notorious for going through hundreds of plastic cups in a night. You can do your part by having your own party tumbler which will keep your drink cold and covered from sand or other undesirable additions.There's even an added bonus that some places will offer you a discount for bringing your own cup! …. AND YOUR CUP!Ladies, we all know that week when the bathroom’s trash bin is particularly full. Have you ever tried the cup?This revolutionary feminine hygiene product helps to reduce the rubbish you can produce during that special time of the month. You can wear it day or nights, for much longer than a tampon. It's also very comfortable and rarely leaks. Trying is adopting it! Even for diving, it is tested and approved. Environment protection blogpost
  6. Male cuttlefish can evaluate the likelihood of winning a fight by assessing their competition, according to a new study... Nikon D7000 f/8, 1/250, 7mm, ISO 250 Housing Nauticam
  7. 101 Nudibranchs of Myanmar...

    Welcome to the vibrant world of nudibranchsFor me nudi-hunting is like collecting stamps...
    You always want to find new ones for your private collection...

    I remember the first time someone pointed out a nudibranch to me during a dive, gesturing towards a rock and signalling “Look, something small”. What felt like minutes went by as I squinted and shifted focus trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to look at. Then suddenly a tiny piece of what appeared to be algae moved and I noticed it was actually alive!...

  8. Most of the best dives are in a location where you are likely to meet strong currents. Take as example our beautiful Mergui Archipelago: currents bring nutrients and therefore lots of underwater life. But, it can be tricky to navigate, especially if you can't drift with it because the underwater topography doesn't allow it. Below you will find a few tips to make your immersion more comfortable and safe! 1) CHECK THE CURRENT FROM THE SURFACE If there are any marker buoys at the surface, have a look at them. Usually if there is some current you will see it splitting at the marker level. It will give an indication of the direction and the speed. Check the tide timetable, it could give you indications of whether the tide is going down (you have more chance to have a North to South current), or up (South to North current). Currents are weakest when its at its highest or lowest point so depending on the dive site you want to explore, this can be a great time to dive. Ask the diving professionals or the captain of the boat. They might know how to read the water movement from the surface and can even give you tips to be able to understand it yourself. 2) USE AN APPROPRIATE ENTRY / DESCENT Depending where you want to dive, you will have to chose the best and safest entry. if you can find shelter at the surface: (a rock or island rising out of the water) If you are diving from a big boat, it might be easier for the dive group to jump into a dinghy. This can allow you to get as close as possible to the entry point where you can be protected from a strong surface current which could make you drift away from the dive site before descending. Thereby, especially for beginners, you can still go into the water positively buoyant and take your time to go descend slowly. If you dive a pinnacle (underwater mountain) : From a big boat or a dinghy, the best way to enter will be with a negative entry (with no air in your BCD). You will not be affected by the surface current and will be able to go straight down and meet the group at the bottom. 3) BE STREAMLINED If you have to swim against the current, you have to maintain a horizontal position in order to reduce water resistance. Proper weighting is the key of being streamlined! Moreover, make sure all your equipment is streamlined. Any alternate air source hose, torch or pointer dangling off your gear can get stuck in the reef or make your movements more difficult. If you are photographer, diving into current with very big cameras can be tricky. If you have the option to take a smaller device for strong current dives, don't hesitate! If you find yourself out of breath or too tired to kick against the current, stay close to the bottom and find a piece of rock or dead coral to rest. You can also pull yourself with one or two fingers to help you reach the point of interest. Obviously do this while staying respectful to the environment; Don't touch anything alive, and limit contact as much as possible. 4) WATCH THE FISH! Watching how this fish move can give you an idea of how to deal with the current. For example, if you see a fish close to a rock staying still, you would want to seek shelter in the same place if you want to rest. If you see a fish swimming in a vertical head up position along a wall or a slope, you understand that you will have to face a down current; don't panic and adjust your buoyancy. Schools of barracuda or trevally hunt swimming against the current so seeing this behaviour can give you an indication of current direction. You can also observe how strong they are swimming to have an idea of the strength of the current. 5) ALWAYS THINK ABOUT SAFETY FIRST - You will use more gas fighting the current, so check your air gauge more often. - You might have to stay in deep areas to find shelter or to observe the underwater life revolving around you. Be careful to watch your No Decompression Limit closely! - If you get caught in an uncontrollable current and have to end the dive, deploy your Surface Marker Buoy as soon as possible so the captain can follow you from the surface during your safety stop. It will avoid surfacing far away from the boat and long swims. - Dive with a professional or experienced diver who can give you advice on your technique and guide you around the dive site safely. - If you don't feel comfortable, end the dive! Your well-being is the most important thing to consider. SEE ALL OUR MOST POPULAR BLOGPOST
  9. Hello everybody!

    Our new blogpost is out!

    Harlequin shrimp? More like Hannibal Lecter shrimp!


    Coral reefs are rich, biodiverse ecosystems that are home to incredible creatures of all shapes and sizes. Scuba divers from all over the world flock to remote locations like the Mergui Archipelago in Burma, to have the chance to catch a glimpse of marine curiosities from massive manta rays to tiny nudibranchs scattered across underwater landscapes that will take your breath away. If you are the kind of person who is enthralled by macro life, you have surely heard of the harlequin shrimp...

    Harlequin shrimp have very unique dinning habits that could easily be inspiring for the plot of a horror movie. Although they are very small, they survive on a diet of almost exclusively live starfish much bigger then themselves. With a particular taste for their legs and soft tissues (best eaten with a nice chianti). Most seas tars species are suitable but reportedly Harlequin shrimp cannot eat brittle stars...


  10. Once you invest in dive gear, you want it to last as long as possible. To do this, a vigilant maintenance ritual is essential! Here are some recommended steps: 1. Rinse it immediately after use This is the first very important step. After a dive, salt or chlorine could leave some harmful residues on your gear. Rinse it in FRESH water as soon as you dismantle your kit to clear the dirt and reduce the risk of corrosion. 2. Dry it properly away from the sun Thoroughly dry out your gear after a day's diving. You can use a towel for the small parts (like first stage) and then hang it in an open air area. Enclosed places will make your gear smelly, humid and can also promote the growth of mould. It is very important to keep it away from the sun while drying because sun can damage some materials. 3. Store it for the next time Try to find a shaded dry and fresh room to protect your gear from humidity, sun and overheating. If you have no choice but to store it in a closed bin or other space with restricted air flow, consider using silica gel packets or even an open box of baking soda to absorb extra moisture. How to clean every piece of your Equipment? MASK It is really important to prepare well your mask before the dive so that it won't get foggy. First you need it to be very clean. Fresh from the manufacturing line, a new mask often has a residual layer or silicone covering the tempered glass which will create lots of fog during a dive. There are many methods to treat a mask including soaking it overnight in cola, using toothpaste on the inside and burning it with a lighter. In my opinion the best way to remove that pesky extra silicone is to first burn it so that the lenses turn black. Be careful to stay away from the edges of the lenses with the flame as you can damage the seal between the glass and the frame. Rinse off the soot and then thoroughly massage toothpaste onto the inside of the lens and let it dry all night. The day after wash it with dish soap and rinse. You might need to repeat the process few times before it is efficient. Patience ! Also when you soap up your mask before your dive, be sure not to rinse all the soap out. You don't want it to burn your eyes but that little soapy film will prevent fogging quite efficiently. REGULATOR Before doing anything, read the manual for specific procedure. When you take your regulator of from the tank, clean and dry the first stage tank connection to make sure there is no dust or water on it. Blow dry the dust cap and screw it firmly back in place. Rinse the entire regulator in fresh water as soon as possible after use. Be careful not to press the purge button of the 2nd stage, which might open the valve and make some water seep into the 1st stage. The best is to dunk the second stages into fresh water, paying special attention the the mothpice and any connections. Remove the hose protectors from their place to rinse the length of hose hidden by this rubber sleeve. Dry it away from the sun without twisting hoses. Have your regulator professionally serviced in an authorized dive center every 2 years, or according to the manufacturer's directions. Be sure to always have this technical maintenance carried out by a trained licensed professional. This piece of equipment keeps you alive underwater, so please be responsible with making sure it is up the the precious task. BCD Be sure to check your BCD before every dive. Are the releases well clipped? Is your cylinder band secure and safety strap in place? Does you LPI function correctly with both power and manual inflators? Does the LPI's direct system deflator button work well? Do the emergency dump valves quickly and effortlessly deflate the BCD? After the dive give your BCD a bath on the inside and out as prolonged exposure to salt water can degrade the inner bladder as well as the seems and stitches. Rinse the outside with fresh water then partially inflate and dump out any extra seawater that may have gotten trapped inside. Be sure to use your emergency dump valves to drain the water as salt water can damage the direct system on the LPI very quickly. Now pour some fresh water into the BCD through the manual inflate mouthpiece to rinse the inside. have a little dance with your BCD as you turn is upside down and in all directions to move the fresh water to every corner of the bladder. Now hold it as high as you can with your emergency dump valve at the lowest point of the jacket and purge the water through the dump valve. Partially inflate and let it dry away from direct sunlight in an open air place. Store it in a dry room. EXPOSURE SUIT After every use, rinse your exposure suit inside and out in freshwater. If you have access to warm water, this will help dilute salt and chlorine more readily and flush residues out of the fabric. Lubricate the zippers with Vaseline or silicone lubricant. Make sure to coat the length of the zipper by doing up and undoing the zipper several times after greasing it up. This can also help remove any small particles that can jam it up and damage it. Dry and store it on proper hangers, large enough to prevent lasting folds in your suit. I always prefer to fold my wetsuit in half over the hanger instead of placing the hanger's arm's in the shoulders like you would with a coat. When the suit is wet it is quite heavy so hanging it the way you would hang up a shirt can actually stretch out the shoulders over time, deforming the upper half of the garment. You can even get hangers specific for diving equipment with little hooks and clips designed for hoods, gloves and other accessories. KNIFE Even your blade is stainless steel, you need to rinse it properly after diving. Take it out of its protective sheath and if you can, open it completely. This will allow the blade to dry and prevent rusting and also can free small salt particles from the joints. Dry it properly with a towel and store it in it’s case again so you don't risk damaging your gear or yourself. FLASH LIGHTS Rinse it with fresh water as soon as you can, so salt water doesn’t have time to dry on it and leave marks. Press the ON/OFF button few times underwater to remove any dust or salt particles and make sure the button doesn't jam up in either position. Remove it from the water and dry it on the outside. Make sure your hands aren't wet and to open it gently so any lingering water doesn't get inside. Remove, dry and clean all the joints and lubricate the o-rings and threads. Put it back together and store the battery and the torch separately in a dry area away from heat. MORE ARTICLES ABOUT DIVING SECURITY ON OUR BLOG
  11. WOW it must have been incredible 17 years ago! Lucky you! I only started diving there in 2012 so I cant compare but I can tell you that one thing disappeared in the last 8 year and that's the dynamite fishing. I did see a carpet of dead fish few times in the earliest years and that was the saddest thing to witness ... What surprised me the most about dynamite fishing was that the coral was not damaged (I had heard stories about destroyed reefs and was surprised it wasn't the case in the dynamited sites). When I researched about this fact I learned that fishermen time the blast to explode mid-water to kill a maximum of fish and that is why the coral reef survived. But thankfully this is over. I haven't heard a blast in a long time and I believe the action of Flora and Fauna International in 2013 -17 are the ones to thank for: more on this here: https://www.thesmilingseahorse.com/conservation-project-mergui.html) The Smiling Seahorse is not the only boat cruising the area but it is the only boat doing this exclusively and cruising Mergui every week between November and May. The boats leaving from Khao Lak and Phuket are usually running trips to Surin and Similan islands and going to Myanmar only a few times per season. And while 5 boats may be in Mergui Archipelago at the same time during a few "peak season" weeks it is still very rare to share a dive sites as the area is very large and sharing is easily avoided.
  12. Hi Craig, thanks for your comment. Indeed this should have been included! Ranong at the border between Thailand and Myanmar is the best departure point if you want to do Myanmar only and not cross Similan and Surin islands in Thailand. To reach Ranong you have several options: - fly to Phuket and then drive to Ranong (3 hours) - or fly to Bangkok and then fly to Ranong (1h flight 3 daily flights)
  13. Hello everyone, We just wrote this article on preparing a trip to Mergui Archipelago Myanmar as an underwater photographer. Please do read and let me know what you think of it. A part is about preparing a trip to Myanmar but the rest applies to all destination: What to look for when choosing your boat, what to bring etc... https://wetpixel.com/articles/photographing-the-mergui-archipelago-by-franck-and-camille-fogarolo Good reading!
  14. Written by the specialists of scuba diving cruises to the Mergui Archipelago and the Burma banks... Diving around Burmese islands: a new dive destination in Myanmar... If you want the most unique Myanmar diving experience on the planet, then the Mergui Archipelago is the place for you. Myanmar's waters were closed off until 1997, which means that they are relatively unexplored and undiscovered by even some of the most seasoned divers. With gorgeous topography made of caves, soft and hard coral, incredibly rich wildlife and exclusive dive sites, it is diving like you’ve never experienced before. Myanmar’s Mergui Archipelago offers over 800 islands sprinkled throughout 12,000 square kilometers of crystalline waters just begging to be discovered. Since the Burmese seas were opened to tourism, only a few boats have begun to appear, yet the islands remain almost entirely uninhabited save for the odd Burmese sea gypsies, the mokens. Most divers who go to Burma seek the mysterious waters of the Mergui Archipelago. This off-the-beaten-path diving destination is made mostly from limestone (ensuring there are plenty of caves and tunnels) and a few granite pinnacles circled by a wide diversity of coral of every imaginable color. Diving Myanmar gives you the possibility to run into species like manta rays, barracudas, frog fish, crabs of all types (spider crabs, decorative crab, sponge crab...) seahorses, and every type of shrimp including one of our favorites, the elusive harlequin shrimp. Different kinds of sharks also populate the area and often swim alongside giddy divers. The reefs in the area are also quite impressive not only because of their sheer beauty, but also because of their size: some reefs can be as large as a small house! The best time of the year to embark on a Myanmar diving safari is between November and May, the rest of the year is when the monsoon rains roll in and can present very rough seas. The best way to go diving in Burma: liveaboard Diving trips In Myanmar, diving is almost entirely accessed by live-aboard boats, which offer the most effective means of exploring the outer reaches of the Mergui Archipelago. Myanmar cruise boats depart from Ranong in Thailand or Kawthoung in Myanmar.Ranong itself is home to various It is blessed with hot springs, unspoiled mangrove forests and gorgeous little islands. It makes a great base for a few days of relaxing and exploring before joining your liveaboard dive trip in Burma. What can you see when diving in Myanmar? Divers are spoiled for choice in Burma’s virgin waters. Mantas, dolphins, blotched sting rays and Leopard sharks patrol the clear, calm waters.Little creatures enjoy equal billing to the big boys here; Lobsters, crabs (spider/sponge/porcelain), and shrimp (squat/mantis/tapestry/durban...) scurry around the sea floor providing plenty of action. Keen underwater photographers wont know where to point the camera first, with pipe fish (ghost/cleaner/spotted), frog fish, scorpion fish (stone/lions/leaf) nudibranch and seahorses all jostling for position against the coral heads and myriad colors of the untouched seabed. The Burma Banks: correcting a misconception...The Burma banks are surprisingly famous compared to the Mergui Archipelago, this is due to the fact that diving boats from Thailand where allowed to visit the Burma banks (in international waters) far earlier than they have been allowed in the rest of Mergui Archipelago. Some dive operators and magazines keep using this name in their communications to this day.Burma banks were first visited between 1980's and 1990's and became the place to be for shark sightings. The Burma banks are a network of large underwater mountains about 180 kilometers North West of the Similan islands. Far from the reaching tendrils of modern society and surrounded by deep blue water, it offers true open-ocean diving.What's good about the Burma Banks:Those who venture into the Banks are rewarded with great visibility over giant underwater seamounts that can rise up to 15 meters below the water, all the way down to 300. It is very different from the diving you will find in Thailand and Mergui Archipelago because it is very remote and depths are much greater than in the more travelled areas. This also gives you a better chance to see some larger more evasive deep-sea species.These factors also do present a pretty strong upside as it is the best spot in the region to dive with sharks: a lot of nurse sharks are seen here but some bigger/ rarer sharks were also spotted like the tiger shark and silvertip. When to go for a Liveaboard in Myanmar? Diving in Myanmar(Burma) is good from November till May with peak season from January till March. The water is at the coolest in December around 26 degree and gets to 28 degrees in April. Above the surface, the sea is usually flat from February till April with some wind and few waves at the beginning of the season and dry but warm climate in April. We always find it hard to answer the question: when is the best time to visit, every one of the six month season has its particular merits. At the beginning of the season, you can see more cuttlefish mating for example and at the end a blossom of ghost pipefish. Whale Sharks and Mantas can be seen all season long with a bit more consistency toward the end of the season. The rainy season is from May till October at which time the sea can be dangerous so we hang up our fins and take this time for annual maintenance and upkeep. We are reachable all year round but we do not venture out to sea in these months.
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