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  1. Kota Kinabalu Report Part 3 and Conclusion Mantanani Island and the Labuan Wrecks: The following information about diving at Mantanani Island and the Labuan Wrecks comes from diving field guides, brochures, and talking to dive operators in KK. I did not dive these locations personally. Mantanani Island is about 2 hours by combined land/boat transport from KK. It is reputed to be a pretty little island with nice beaches and palm trees and some dive sites nearby. Scuba Paradise runs a day-trip from KK, leaving early morning and returning evening and includes all transfers, food, dive equipment, and 2 dives for MR 560. The primary draw of the island is the chance to see dugongs (sea cows/manatees). There are sometimes 2-3 of them at the island, and one in particular is very inquisitive and friendly with divers. (In fact, this one individual was featured in an Asian Diver magazine story several months ago.) This could make for an interesting day-trip away from the marine park. The Labuan Wrecks are a group of 4 shipwrecks located near Labuan Island. Labuan Island is close to Brunei and a 3 hour ferry or 20 minute flight from KK. It is part of Malaysia but is a special free-trade zone and offshore financial center. The 4 wrecks are: Blue Water Wreck, Australian Wreck, Cement Wreck, and the American Wreck. All were transport/cargo vessels, except the American, which was a WWII vintage Admiral Class minesweeper. The wrecks lie in 30-35 meters of water and currents can be strong. The wrecks are reported to be quite heavily encrusted with marine life and hard/soft corals, with the Cement and American wrecks in particular being really good dives. Sabah Divers is currently the only KK based operator diving these wrecks. Trips are usually organized over several days with multiple dives on the wrecks and a stay of 1 or 2 nites in Labuan. Basically, it is a separate little dive-trip from KK. Prices run around MR 200 per tank/dive, not including return transit to Labuan. Conclusion: So the question again arises…is Kota Kinabalu a great place to dive? While it is certainly not comparable to sites in eastern Sabah, it certainly has its own charms. Interesting macro-life, good dive operators, easy access, reasonable costs, and whale sharks in season all combine to make it a good diving destination. It is also a worthwhile stop for those who want to mix-in some diving with the rest of their holiday activities in Sabah. For these reasons, I will certainly return to dive these islands again. Contacts: Borneo Anchor Tours – www.borneoanchortours.com Borneo Books – www.borneobooks.com Borneo Divers – www.borneodivers.info Kinabalu Daya Hotel – www.kkdayahotel.com Sabah Divers – www.sabahdivers.com Scuba Paradise – www.scubaparadiseborneo.com.my O2 Divers – www.o2diver.com
  2. Kota Kinabalu Report Part 2 Kota Kinabalu Dive Sites In General: I don’t think anyone would call the dive sites at the TARMP world class. I certainly wouldn’t. However, that does not mean that they are not worth diving…not by any stretch. People dive for many reasons and if every dive site looked like, or had similar marine life, as Sipadan Island, it would all get pretty boring very quickly. One reason I dive is to see “just what’s out there.†I don’t need to dive “world class†sites all the time…often an ordinary “local†site is just fine, with many interesting things to see and photograph. That being said, I have the luxury of diving often around SE Asia so a mix of ordinary and world class sites suits me fine. If I only only had a short vacation and wanted to dive the best the area had to offer I would bypass KK and head out to Sipadan, Manado, the Similans, or a dozen other sites in this part of the world. However, for residents of Asia, KK is a close and easily assessable dive location. There are direct flights from many cities and once in KK, the sites are right offshore…no further flights, sleep-overs, or ground transfers are necessary. Prices for flights, diving, dive certifications, food, and lodging are all very reasonable. For these reasons, I would rate KK as a good place to dive for Asian based divers. It is also a good place for groups with mixed interests. There is a wealth of topside activities from golf to hiking to visiting tea plantations and more so there is something for everyone (while the divers go diving). The generally calm and shallow water also make it a good place to learn to dive or pick-up an additional certification. The cost for an open-water certification runs from MR 500 (SSI) to MR 900 (PADI). My main purpose in coming to KK to dive was to see and photograph a certain species of scorpion fish I read could be found here. In diving many sites in SE Asia this specimen eluded me. I told the dive leaders at Sabah Divers about it and they confirmed its presence at the park and found it for me. For me, that is a definition of a good dive site…seeing something rare and unusual for the first time! There are a variety of dive sites at the marine park…hard coral reefs and gardens, sandy bottoms, and classic muck dives. I believe there is a small wreck dive but I didn’t dive it. I don’t believe there are any true sheer wall dives and the sites are shallow. Due to the generally limited visibility, shallow depths, and relative lack of colourful soft corals, the sites are not that “pretty.†However, there is a lot to see for the patient and trained eye. The jetty at Sapi Island is a great muck dive. The sites are generally between 15-20 meters deep and I didn’t record anything past 22 meters during the week. Many sites have a large variety of hard coral; unfortunately, there has been extensive fishing and dynamite damage in some areas, particularly around Gaya Island. Soft coral is less prolific but adds colour to a few of the sites. Hard coral and rock outcroppings with sandy bottoms predominate. As depths are shallow, open-water pelagic fish are rare…smaller reef fish and invertebrates predominate. There is good macro life, and if you like nudibranchs, you will enjoy the variety and numbers in which they are found. Many species from the scorpionfish family can be observed. Many anemones hide tiny commensal shrimps and crabs and moray and snake eels are also present. During the months of December thru April, the water temperature drops and there is a plankton and krill bloom. The water below 1-2 meters is 24°-26° Celsius. During my dives, it was mostly 25°-26°…that to me is cold. When packing, I decided to save a few ounces of weight and threw in my 3mm instead of my 5mm full-suit. I wish I hadn’t. Luckily, I also always dive with full booties and gloves and bring along a hood too. I was glad I had all three! These blooms cause some of the low visibility at many sites. It was 5-10 meters at most sites, but would sometimes drop to nil. The upside to the cold water and plankton bloom is they attract hungry whale sharks. Yes, that is right…from January to April, whale sharks can often be seen on dives in the marine park. Seeing these gentle giants up close and personal could certainly qualify KK as a great place to dive. During the week, other divers (not dive shop staff) confirmed seeing up to 5-6 whale sharks during a dive. In Specifics: Gaya Island/Hanging Gardens The water here was a chilly 25°. Coral reef and rubble bottom, with minimal current and visibility at 4-8 meters. Most of the larger reef fish are absent (i.e., angelfish and butterfly fish). Some banner fish and lots of nudibranchs and wart slugs. Shrimp/razor fish. Also some interesting commensal crabs and shrimps among the anemones, including porcelain crabs and Periclemenes magnificus shrimps. Several large spiny lobsters and crabs. Unfortunately, there are large areas of “bombed-out†hard coral. Gaya Island – Pedang Point This site is further along the coastline of Gaya Island around the corner from Hanging Gardens. Marine life is similar but not in much numbers. I would not recommend this dive site. Sapi Island Jetty This dive is under and around the main boat jetty at Sapi Island and along the outer-edge of the beach swimming zone. Minimal currents; visibility is low from nil to 4-5 meters. The bottom is sandy, with some rubble and rock outcrops. Reef-balls and tires have been placed about to create some artificial reefs. This is a great dive with many interesting specimens, but not if you like “pretty†sites – sandy rubble bottom with 2 meter vis is not every divers idea of heaven. Several lionfish were about the reef-balls and artificial tire reefs. A large honeycomb moray eel was hiding in the center of a rocky patch. Several large nudibranchs and flatworms were slithering along the sand. Several varieties of puffer fish were about. The tires also hide several banded pipefish and many Banded-Boxer cleaner shrimp. Spotted stingrays, a Leopard flounder, and a very friendly (likes a chin rub) Black-Pitted snake eel were seen on the sandy bottom. In addition, this dive has several true stonefish {Synanceia verrucosa} buried about. They can be found (eyes and frown only) in the sand near rocky patches and amongst the tire “reefs.†A small school of curious batfish joined our group for most of the dive…no doubt to ensure we didn’t miss any of the highlights this site has to offer. Finally, it is at the Sapi jetty that I saw what I came to KK to find. Descending down to around 10 meters, lying half buried in the sand, our dive leader pointed out an ugly little cretin even its mother probably couldn’t love, a Devil scorpionfish {Inimicus didactylus}. This is one of the most venomous and dangerous marine specimens...right up there with the stonefish. This is both because of the potency of its venom and its habit of burying itself into sand/rubble with often only the venous spines (resembling small twigs or other rubble detritus) protruding above the sand. Apparently, these fish are not that rare in SE Asian waters but due to their cryptic camouflage are rarely recognized. They are generally non-descript in colour, usually matching their general background environment. However, if induced to display (i.e., disturbed) they will flare-out their pectoral fins, the back-sides of which contain very colourful abstract and spotted designs. Another unusual feature of this species is the first 2 rays of the pectoral fins have separated from the fin and evolved into claws or “toes.†Again, if disturbed, the devilfish will use these claws to crawl or “walk†away...it seems of a mind to exert a minimum of physical exertion and wouldn’t ever think of actually swimming. Sapi Island – Agrill’s Reef (Sapi Island South Side) Nice dive in minimal current with good vis at 12-15 meters. Varied bottom of sandy patches and large coral bommies, some covered in soft corals. Prolific hard corals and sponges. Banded pipefish, 6-Banded and Emperor Angelfish, batfish, shrimp/razor fish. Spiny lobsters, Banded-Boxer and hinged-beak shrimps. Sulig Island – East Reef This site drops onto a sandy bottom, which leads off to a sloping wall of lettuce hard coral, with a reef-garden at the top. There was no current and the vis was good at 8-10 meters. In the sand, several spotted sting-rays were seen. There were also lots of nudibranchs, including the pretty black/blue Chelidonura varians (also seen at Sapi Jetty) and several from the Phidiana families. [Nudibranchs from the Phidiana, Riticulidia, Phyllidia, Hypselodoris, and Chromodoris families are prevalent at most of the sites within the park.] A banded sea-snake was also observed. Sulig Island – West Reef Similar conditions as found a East Reef. Many nudibranchs. Long-fin comet, lionfish, moray eel, some butterfly and angelfish. Of particular note were several juvenile black and orange-ringed Shaded batfish {Platax pinnatus} and a blue-grey Giant frogfish hanging from a large sponge. Manukan Island – West Reef This site has an varied bottom composition. Starting off as a coral bottom, then later a sandy slope with rocky outcroppings, and ending in a pretty coral reef garden. Minimal current and good vis at 5-12 meters. Highlights included another pair of stonefish, Yellow-spot stingrays, many nudibranchs, and several large free-swimming remoras. (Where was their whale-shark(?) host!) Manukan Island – Clement’s Reef Hard corals down to 22 meters. Nudibranchs, lionfish, butterfly fish, banded pipefish, and another stonefish.
  3. Kota Kinabalu Report Part 1 Kota Kinabalu Diving Basics Right offshore from KK is the 5 islands of the TARMP. These small pretty palm fringed and beach lined islands are a multi-use recreational area; activities include: sunbathing, snorkeling, Scuba diving, parasailing, banana boating, etc. (but no jet skies). The Park is the primary diving attraction in KK. However, KK is also the starting point for trips to Layang-Layang atoll, the wreck dives of Labuan Island, and trips to a few other small islands nearby. The center of the dive industry is the Wisma Sabah building. Many dive shops and eco-tour operators are found here. Sabah Divers, a SSI and PADI dive operator, is the one I chose for my diving. They are a full-service training agency, dive-shop, and eco-tour operator. I found them both friendly and professional. Their tour-office, Sabah Anchor Tours, can book packages to all diving destinations and resorts throughout Sabah, often at special “walk-in†rates. [The following information relates to Sabah Divers. I assume other operators diving TARMP follow a similar routine.] Diving in KK with Sabah Divers is a fun and casual (in a good way) affair. The marine park is a group of small islands 15-20 minutes from KK. Divers, snorklers, and assorted day-trippers reach them via covered fiberglass dingys from the ferry terminal. Divers assemble at 8:30 in the morning at the dive shop and then assemble their gear in the equipment locker room in the garage. Then it’s a short walk or ride to the ferry terminal. Everything is loaded onto the boats and then it’s off to the islands. If you have not done so already, water and snacks can be purchased at the ferry terminal. The snorklers and sunbathers are dropped-off at Sapi or another island and the divers continue to their dive site. There are a dozen or so divesites scattered around the marine park. The islands are very small and close together and it’s only 5-10 minutes between sites and the rest/surface interval area on Sapi Island. The park office, restaurant, mini-mart, and souvenir shop are on Sapi Island. Be sure to bring MR10-20 with you each day for lunch and snacks. Eating lunch and resting on the beach between dives makes for a very relaxing day. There are 2 or 3 dives per day depending on the client’s wishes. At the end of the dive-day, it’s back to the ferry terminal and the garage to clean gear. If you are diving multiple days, you can store your gear in this secure storage area and not have to carry it back and forth from your hotel each day. Back up at the office, you can book your next day’s diving and put in your site preferences if any. Diving rates are MR 160/2 dives and MR 200/3 dives; there is also a MR 50 park entrance fee (good for multiple diving days). These rates include full gear rental, tank/weights, dive leader, and boat transfers. Camera rentals are available. Sabah Divers does not have nitrox. They do not include lunch/water. Discounts are available if you have your own equipment. Regarding other dive operators I cannot say. I arrived in KK with only a reference to the Wisma Sabah building as the place to find a local dive-shop. I wandered around and spoke to a couple shops and Sabah seemed well-organized and comfortable with accommodating my wish to dive and photograph local macro life and other unusual critters. I was lucky in that Allen, Peggy, and Neville (owner, eco-tour manager, dive-leader respectively) and all the rest of the staff were friendly and professional. I had no complaints during my week of diving with them. They were very willing (within reason) to accommodate my requests to dive particular sites and Neville was eager to locate special fish and invertebrate life for me to photograph. As stated previously, many dive operators can be found at the Wisma Sabah Building. The Sabah building is located along the waterfront in the City Centre district. If you stay nearby, it’s possible to walk to the Sabah building in the morning for the day’s diving South of the City Centre district, there are large beach resorts (Sutera and Shangri-La specifically) and other hotels but the and the slow morning/evening rush-hour traffic would make getting to and from the Wisma Sabah/ferry terminal area problematic. For those who are staying at the Sutera or Shangri-La, each has a dive-operator onsite…Borneo Divers at Sutera and Absolute Scuba at Shangri-La. I went to Sutera to obtain information on Borneo’s operation. Instead of using the ferry terminal, they run boats directly from the hotel to their dive operation on Mamutik Island (one of the islands in the marine park). There divers gear-up and head on out to the dive sites. I don’t know if they do their surface intervals at Mamutik or Sapi. Prices at Borneo are RM 265/2 dives and MR 315/3 dives. These prices are higher than other’s but include hotel pick-up/return, light lunch, and the park entrance fees. If one were staying at Sutera resort, Borneo would be a good option. I don’t know anything about Absolute’s operation at the Shangri-La. I assume they also go directly from the hotel to the marine park and bypass the ferry terminal. As with Sutera/Borneo, unless one was staying there, or another nearby hotel, I would opt for an operator at the Sabah building. These resorts and some other hotels south of the city centre area are quite plus and offer tennis, golf, and other amenities. If one is with a family or non-divers they may be a good choice because there are activities for everyone. However, they are isolated from the city center area, with it’s mix of shops and restaurants. If nitrox is important to you, Absolute advertises having it as well as another operator in the downtown area, O2 Divers.
  4. Kota Kinabalu Report: Diving Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park March 2006 Keywords: Scuba Diving, Malaysia, Borneo, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Labuan Wrecks, Sabah Divers, Borneo Divers Introduction This report covers a week spent diving the islands of the Tunka Abdul Rahman Marine Park off Kota Kinabalu. This trip was exploratory, being my first trip to this area of Sabah. I have dived the other side of Sabah (Sipadan-Mabul-Kapalai) before. This report covers the basics of staying in KK , the diving “sceneâ€, and the conditions and marine life of the dive sites at the Park. Kota Kinabalu City Kota Kinabalu is the capitol of the Malaysian state of Sabah, which, together with the state of Sarawak, make-up the Malaysian half of the island of Borneo. The island of Borneo is the world’s 3rd largest, and is primarily known for its wildlife and natural resources. Sabah is sparsely populated, with about 2.5 million people – a mix of indigenous tribes, Malays, and Chinese immigrants. Kota Kinabalu is a small port city facing the South China Sea, with majestic Mt. Kinabalu (at 4000+ meters, the tallest mountain in Asia after Mt. Everest) off in the distance. It is the main gateway and transit hub for the traveler in Sabah. The KK international airport is 15 minutes from the city center. (However, traffic during the morning/evening rush hours slows to a crawl. Therefore, be sure to allow adequate time…at least 1 hour... when departing for flights. ) Travelers flying Air Asia will arrive and depart from Terminal 2. This terminal is separate from the main terminal and has very limited services. There is a small restaurant outside the terminal and a souvenir/snack shop inside. For arriving passengers, there is a taxi counter but no hotel booking service or ATM. Taxi fares are fixed and the rate to the city center is MR20. The city of KK is not too interesting in and of itself. For the traveler, it is primarily a service center and jumping-off point for the diving, mountain climbing, trekking, and other outdoor activities Sabah has to offer. The primary tourist attraction in KK is the islands of the nearby Abdul Tunku Rahman Marine Park. Not to put too fine a point on it…KK is a non-descript little coastal town, with a good travel infrastructure for those staying locally or planning to explore the rest of the island. Lodging options in KK are extensive, ranging from 5-star waterfront resorts to backpacker dormitories. For divers, the best location is the City Centre district, adjacent to the Wisma Sabah and Wisma Medeka buildings. Everything the traveler needs can be found here: hotels, restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, internet shops, bookstores, and even the local Sunday market. Mid-market hotels include the Capitol and the Kinabalu Daya. Comfortable and clean air-con rooms run MR 95-150. Going up-market, you have the Jesselton Hotel, with a colonial period décor, and a modern Hyatt Hotel. Rooms at the Jesselton are more luxurious than those at the Capitol/Daya hotels, with rates starting at MR 230. There are a number of other mid-market hotels and backpacker lodges along Gaya, Pantai, and Dewan streets…just have a look around. I stayed at the Kinabalu Daya Hotel and was quite happy. The location is perfect…right across the street from the Merdeka shopping arcade and the Sabah building. It is also convenient to restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores. A small breakfast buffet is provided and made it easy to have a bit of nosh before heading out for the day’s dives. There are many Malaysian and Chinese storefront restaurants in the City Centre area. Just see where there is a crowd and join-in. The Jesselton Hotel has a couple western food outlets but unfortunately, the food did not match the hotel’s 4-star setting. Probably the best (it’s full everynite) western restaurant is Little Italy, located on the ground floor of the Capitol Hotel (just out the door and down the block from the Kinabalu Daya). The pizzas and pastas are good and the portions are generous. Thien Thien is a good Cantonese style Chinese restaurant, located in the Pantai Inn on Pantai road. Nearby on Gaya road, XO is reputed to be the best place for steaks and seafood and Rasa Nyonya, a few doors away, has authentic Malay cuisine. There is a KFC, Coffee Bean café, and some local bakeries in the Medeka shopping center. A short walk away, near the Hyatt, is a Burger King. Some guides recommend the food court at the Medeka center but I found the food and atmosphere there most foul. Mention is also made of the nearby Beach Street night time restaurant and bar scene but to me it appeared to be stale and lifeless. A couple special mentions are Borneo Books and the grocery store/café opposite the HSBC bank. Borneo Books has two outlets in the Merdeka shopping center and carries a large selection of books on and about the island of Borneo; its history, ecology, and botany/zoology. Come here to pick-up a useful field-guide if you are going trekking or exploring Borneo’s wild hinterlands. The outlet on the 3rd floor includes a sitting/reading area with free coffee/tea and free internet access (bring your notebook). There is also an assortment of magazines and pamphlets to peruse. For all your fresh food and grocery items, there is a nice supermarket (sorry forgot the name) opposite the HSBC Bank branch on Gaya Street – just up from the Daya Hotel. Here you can stock-up on food and drinks for your hotel fridge or to take on island day-trips. There is also a wine store upstairs and a great bakery/café on the premises. (There is also another supermarket at the intersection of Gaya Street and the Beach Street arcade.)
  5. Agree with all the above. (You can also see my reports posted in these forums on Bali diving.) Renault at Seraya is fantastic at finding macro stuff. Secret Bay is also really good for macro. However, they are about 3 hours apart (Tulamben and Gillamanuk (Secret) Bay areas so not really practical to do the same day. A new site called "PJ," near Lovina is supposed to be better than Secret Bay for macro. If I were to do this trip, I would spend 2-3 days at Seraya/Tulamben areas then transfer to Lovina or Menjagan areas to do SEcret Bay/PJ for 2-3 days. There, both places done in a week.
  6. I am thinking of diving the Phils sometime in late March or early April. Will likely spend a few days diving the wrecks in Subic and then head on down to Anilao and/or Puerta Galera. Is there anyone else who may be interested in joining? Me, PADI rescue diver; 200+ dives, nitox diver. photographer (but not too anal) Dates are flexible. Me American based in Thailand.
  7. Phuket Diving Report 05 February 2006 Keywords: Thailand, Andaman Sea, Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, SCUBA Diving, See Bees Diving, Excalibur II INTRODUCTION This is a report of my day-trip diving from Phuket, Thailand, for the week of 26-01-06 thru 02-02-06. This is one of a series of reports I have done on the diving sites around Phuket. During the week, I went diving on 4 days and logged 10 dives. The weather was pretty good, with clear skies and warm temperatures; however, there was some wind. This wind caused some surface swell. Visibility at most sites was low – maybe being influenced by the somewhat windy conditions (or the tides…what was the moon phase last week anyone?). Except for the Racha islands, visibility was 3-10 meters and generally murky. Currents, however, were for the most part absent. Only a couple times did I note anything more than minimal currents at a site. Again, I dived with See Bees diving out of Chalong Bay on the Excalibur II. I have made extensive comments on both See Bees and their boat, the Excalibur II, in previous reports so I will not say more now, except that I keep returning to them. This was a “fun†trip so the camera gear was left at home. I probably enjoyed the diving somewhat more because of this - not having the pressure to find new photo subjects and take a great shot, but I did miss many photo-ops. However, having the extra freedom to relax and explore did improve my “macro eye†so that I will find more things on future trips. THE DIVESITES Shark Point Three of the 10 dives (on different days) were at Shark Point. Visibility was 5-8 meters and currents minimal to moderate on all dives. This is generally considered, along with Anemone Reef, to be a premier site within Phang Nga bay. The site is aptly named…I would estimate a 75% chance of seeing a Leopard shark on a dive here. They are usually resting on the sandy bottom and easily approached by divers for a close look and photographs. I saw them on two of the 3 dives so my batting average was 67% for this trip. Scorpionfish and lionfish are always about, along with blotched porcupine fish. A 1st sighting was a pair of Cleaner pipefish (Doryrhamphus janssi) in a rocky crevice. The many nooks and crannies here also had several white-eye and a colourful Clouded moray eel. A couple banded sea-snake was poking about the rocks and a juvenile Many-spotted sweet lips was doing the Twist on a flat rocky patch. Shrimpfish were seeing the world upside down and a yellow box fish was bobbing about. A small nudibranch and a pretty orange-spotted flatworm rounded out this site. Anemone Reef As Anemone Reef is so close to Shark Point, the dive conditions were pretty much the same. The marine life is similar, with the difference being the carpets of anemones which cover much of the surface area of these rocks and their attendant myriad species of anemone fish. Two dives were done at this site. Two banded sea-snakes were seen, one being very long at 1.5 meters. On a sandy shelf in the rocks, a pair of small (5-6 cm) translucent “fingered†dragonets were seen…I was unable to specifically ID them in my marine field guides. On this same shelf, a macro-sized translucent crab, with widely spaced chelipeds, was next to some hard coral. I believe it to be a specimen of Periclemenes tenuipes. Also, as at Shark Point, the crevices in the rocks contain many eels…white-eye and golden varieties were seen. Many brown-spotted puffer fish and lionfish (some delicate dark blackish juveniles) were seen, along with large schools of fusiliers and some small barracudas. Racha Islands Racha Noi Visibility was much improved at the Racha islands…about 20-25 meters. This is the norm at these sites, and current was also non-existent. The site was filled with the typical reef tropicals. A mean-looking False stonefish and juvenile scorpionfish were found on the coral/rock rubble bottom, along with several giant morays and a Yellow boxfish. The highlight of this dive was my first positive sighting of a true Dwarf scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis neglecta/macrochir). The specimen was small at 8-10 cm and when induced to “jump†it flashed the spectacular red/yellow spots on its pectoral fins that this species is known for. Racha Yai Conditions here were similar to Racha Noi, with good visibility and no current. Giant morays were seen, as well as a White-margin moray slithering along a sandy patch (another first). A Peacock mantis shrimp scampered into its double-entry burrow on the sea-floor. A highlight of the week was my first sighting of a true stonefish in Thai waters. This specimen was almost completely buried in white sand under a large boulder on the sea floor. It was quite large at 30-33 cm and only the outline of its eyes and large mouth frown broke the sandy bottom. If the dive leader didn’t point it out, it’s likely I could have looked under this rock a dozen times and not noticed it. If you are diving this site, be sure to ask your leader to point it out. If they don’t know where it is, use another shop next time. Phi Phi Islands Ko Bida Nok I have never been particularly impressed with the divesites near-in to the Phi Phi islands. However, this time, some very nice specimens were observed. Visibility was very limited during the dive’s first half, at 2-3 meters, and opened-up during the latter half to 7-10 meters. This site has lots of nooks and crannies in the rocks to investigate, along with hard corals. The crannies have many morays, including giant, Yellow-mouth, white-eye varieties. A large white ghost pipefish was swaying among the branches of some white coral. A very special find, playing hide-and-seek along a crevice filled wall, was a beautiful cobalt blue and white-ringed juvenile Emperor angelfish. A colony of cute Squat shrimp and some Short-hand commensal shrimps were found along the edge of an anemone. A nudibranch was observed under a rocky overhang. Overall, an impressive dive and the best I have had at this site. Ko Bida Nai This dive was more typical of my past experiences diving near Phi Phi island. Conditions were similar to Bida Nok, with low visibility at 3-5 meters and minimal current. This site had many anemone covered rocks and their attendant anemone fish. A small ornate ghost pipefish was in a darkened rock crevice. The ubiquitous giant and white-eye morays were out and about. Overall, an average and not too interesting site. Ko Doc Mai I have always enjoyed my dives at this site and this one was no exception. Doc Mai is a dive along the wall of a small island. The wall goes down to about 30 meters and is filled with interesting marine life. This was a nite dive and visibility was good and current nil. Observed was a “feeding†moray chasing a small fish along the wall (aided by my dive light to the little fish’s detriment). Scorpion fish are abundant on this wall. A macro-sized white-tufted decorator crab was scampering around the top of a coral plate. A nice tan-brown cowrie shell was also seen. CONCLUSION Overall, it was another great trip. The sites in Phang Nga bay continue to provide interesting and varied marine life and dive operators offering comfortable boats and competent staffs. Combine that with the topside hotel, restaurant, and entertainment options of Phuket itself and it makes for a superb diving holiday. PS: As I posted a couple days ago, a friend who stayed on an extra week to take his AOW course saw a Manta ray at Racha Noi. The deeper areas around the Racha islands are know for Manta sightings but this is my first personally known one, albeit vicariously. He was doing his deep-dive lesson and apparently looked-up from the sandy bottom and there it was. It stayed in the area and circled around the dive group for around 20 minutes. PSS: One thing I am always curious about is the lack of frogfish sightings at all the Phang Nga sites. I am a big fan of these specimens and the lack of them I find most disconcerting. My only sighting has been a small yellow Clown frogfish once on the rubble bottom of Bungalow Bay at Racha Island. Granted, there is not an overabundance of large sponges at these sites but there are some, as well as large rock formations. Does anyone have an explanation for the dearth of frogfish in this area?
  8. Lionfish, You have made a good choice in going with Seebees diving. They are a very well run outfit and have the best day boat IMHO in Phuket. I have dived with them many times and will go up for another week tomorrow. (If you want more info on them specifically, look-up my reports on the Scubaboard or Damnam.org forums). As to your specific question re number of dives per day, as far as I am aware, only 2-3 dives per day in the norm in Phuket (usually 2) as most of the divesites are about 1.5-2.0 hours away by boat. So return trip takes 3-4 hours and 1.5 surface interval plus 2 hours (2 dives x 2) takes about 6-7 hours (full-day). As you have been told, Seebees does do 3 and 4 dive days once each per week. The 4 dive Super Sunday leaves extra early and comes back about 9 p.m. As far as I know, they are the only outfit in Phuket that does this. The diving in Phuket is not like Puerta Gallera...the sites are much further away. Most of the sites in PG are at most 20 minutes away (many right in the bay) so therefore you can do more dives per day there and nite dives in the shallow bay too. Oh, that reminds me, the last dive on Super Sunday with Seebees is a nite dive at Ko Doc Mai
  9. P, I need to fish you out of Lembah long enough to dive Bali sometime I'm sure my UW photos would improve with some tips from the master... Chook dee Pee Mai, J
  10. Hi Guys, Yes, there was a small school of Bangai's - maybe 5-6 amoungst some urchins when I was there. I did get a couple photos and will post them here and on Scubaboard. Michangelo, you photo looks just like mine and in fact, I almost thought you did steel it but mine has not been posted anywhere yet
  11. Gilimanuk/Secret Bay This shallow water mangrove lined inlet/cove is 30 minutes drive from Mimpi Menjangan Resort. It is famed for its rare and unusual macro-life. Dives at Secret Bay can be arranged through the Mimpi dive center. Water temperature is usually 23-25° Celsius but I was fortunate in that it was 28° for my 2 dives. (The cool water is good because it attracts the bay’s unusual inhabitants.) The bay is shallow, with a maximum depth of 10-12 meters and the black sand silty bottom is covered in many places with sea grass and a type of algae resembling lettuce. There was no current. Visibility was 1-5 meters and entry is by shore. This is a pure muck diving site. There is no coral or other scenic beauty to the site…just a shallow sandy trash strew bottom and rare easily photographed specimens. Right off the bat, what do we see 2 minutes into our dive but a Shaggy Long-haired frogfish sitting amongst the sea-grass. It was small (8-10 cm) and greenish/brown in colour. Another first for this trip! Next up was an Indian Dancer/Fingered dragonet ambling about the sand. The DM had said there was a spot where up to 5 frogfish congregated but on this dive, only one giant yellow one appeared for its photo shoot. Other gems included several Spot-head snake eels peering up from the sand, an unusual “lacy†scorpionfish (but not the true lacy variety), and a couple Yellow Many-banded pipefish. The show continued with unusual nudibranchs, several spiny seahorses (a black and a yellow), several rare gobies (including Sail-fin and Crab-eye), Banggai cardinalfish {sorry Helmut, these are apparently not limited to the Banggai Islands of Sulawesi}, Weedy filefish, Shrimp fish, Yellow Cowfish, small cuttlefish, and finally a WONDERPLUS MIMIC OCTOPUS! This site is really muck diving at its finest and much of what I saw was for the first time. Conclusion Needless to say, I have a very high opinion of Bali as a diving holiday destination. First and foremost, the quality of the underwater marine environment is superb. The sites I have dived seem to be very healthy reef ecosystems filled with a dizzying array of fish and invertebrate life. Conditions for diving at the sites have also been generally ideal, with good visibility and currents easily handled by all but the most junior diver. The dive resorts/operations have been comfortable and staffed with friendly and competent staff. The topside activities available are numerous for non-divers or for a break from diving. I can say without doubt that Bali will provide many full-filled diving days for me in the years to come. Post-Script I am organizing another trip to Bali tentatively scheduled for April 2006. The plan is to dive sites at Padang Bai and Candi Dasa (open-water drift, coral reef, and macro dives) and the newly discovered PJ near Pumeteran (another “better†Secret Bay macro site). Email or PM to me for further information. Any of my previous reports referred to in this report can be found on the DAMNAM.org or Scubaboard.com site forums.
  12. Menjangan Island Menjangan Island is a small uninhabited coral island about 40 minutes by boat off the far north-western tip of Bali. At this tip, Bali almost touches the southern end of Indonesia’s main island of Java. When diving and staying in this area, a string of several huge volcanoes stretching along the Javanese coastline are clearly visible off in the distance and form quite an impressive sight. The dramatic and “primitive†beauty of the mountainous topography of this area cannot be over emphasized. This was my first trip to this area and I stayed at and dived with Mimpi Menjangan Resort. As noted earlier, it is about 3 hours from the Denpasar/Kuta area. It is not a dedicated “divers†resort but a semi-luxury boutique resort that also has a dive operation. The resort is located in a large and pristine park-like setting along a quiet and calm mangrove lined cove. This resort is really something special and I will take a little time to describe it thoroughly. First, the setting: It is a low-rise resort of Balinese influenced design consisting of standard rooms and deluxe private villas set in a large expanse of manicured park-like grounds, which gently slope down to a pretty mangrove lined cove. Looking out on the cove, the volcanoes of Java are off in the distance. There is a small sandy beach in front of the resort. There is a very relaxed feeling to the resort. It is particularly enchanting during dusk, when the sun is setting behind the sea and volcanoes, or when stargazing at nite. The rooms and facilities at Mimpi Menjangan Resort are superb. I stayed in a standard room and it was spacious, clean, and comfortable. It had aircon, in-room safe, and multiple electrical outlets. The bathrooms are an outdoor open air design. There is also a front porch sitting area. There are also high-walled private villas (but I didn’t go inside one). In relation to the spacious grounds, there are not a lot of rooms (maybe 50-60 in total) so it all feels very spacious. The restaurant is located on the beach down by the cove shoreline. It is an attractive open-air design and is the perfect place for a pre-dive morning coffee or dining in the evening. The food is a tasty mix of continental European and Indonesian/Balinese dishes. There is also a full bar. My only compliant (lazy me) is that the rooms and restaurant are located at opposite ends of the resort and it is a little bit of a walk from one to the other. However, a room service menu is available. The resort has two large outdoor swimming pools and a really special feature – natural thermal mineral springs. One pool is centrally located in the park-like grounds and offers views of the surrounding resort, while the other is located adjacent to the shoreline and offers views of the beach and mangrove cove. The thermal spring water is piped into several soaking pools spread around the resort. Believe me, after a day’s diving, there is nothing better than a dip in a hot mineral bath to sooth the muscles and relax the mind. [WARNING: BEFORE USING THE HOTSPRINGS, ALLOW A MINIMUM INTERVAL OF 1-HOUR FROM YOUR LAST DIVE. FOR MULTIPLE DIVE DAYS, THE MINIMUM INTERVAL SHOULD BE AT LEAST 1½ - 2 HOURS.] The dive facilities are not fancy but functional and adequate to the task at hand, i.e., diving at Menjangan Island. There are spacious rinse tanks and all your gear is washed by the resort staff and securely stored for the nite. There are about 10 dives sites at Menjangan Island and the resort’s dive program offers up to 3 dives per day. Their website offers various diving packages and you can book the one that matches your diving style. The sites are about 30-50 minutes by covered outrigger boat from the resort. A boxed lunch is provided. The dive leaders are professional and know the sites well. They were excited to point out the best each had to offer and keen to find what I wanted to see and photograph. All gear is handled by the staff so all you have to do is hop in the boat and enjoy the ride. The resort also has a dedicated massage and spa studio. Though I didn’t use its services, I noted that a full range of massage and aromatherapy treatments were available. The resort also has a full range of half-day and full-day sightseeing trips around the island. These cover the gamut from trekking, rafting, and bird-watching in the mountains to visits to ancient Hindu temples and Balinese cultural performances. I found my stay at Mimpi Menjangan Resort to be thoroughly relaxing and way too short. The range of facilities and the comfortable setting makes it particularly well suited to couples where one is a non-diver. The diving partner need not feel guilty leaving his partner behind, knowing that a range of topside activities are available to keep them busy. The serenity of the resort also makes it an ideal romantic honeymoon location for newly married divers. Menjangan Island Divesites Eel Garden This is one of the best sites I have dived in SE Asia! The underwater topography at this site is stunning. It combines a wall, encrusted with hard and soft corals and deep open-water off to one side, and a sandy plateau over the top of the wall scattered with coral bommies . It’s almost like getting two divesites for the price of one…a deep open-water drift wall dive and an easy sandy bottom dive. The Eel Garden is certainly an appropriate name for this site. The sandy topside of the wall had the largest field of garden eels I have ever seen – there were eels as far as the eye could see in all directions. There was come current along the wall making for a pleasant drift and while getting “over†the wall and onto the sandy plateau. The visibility was very good at 25-30 meters and with the clear skies filled made for 2 beautiful light-filled dives. The wall is covered in reef-fish and looking away into the deep open water many pelegics were seen, including a Black-tip reef shark, several turtles, barracuda, tuna and blue and yellow-fin trevelly. The wall is also has many gorgonian sea fans and my DM took me over to one and pointed out 5 pygmy seahorses on it! As there were many such sea fans along this wall, I would assume that several would host such seahorse stables. Mantis shrimp, and many varieties of angelfish and butterfly fish also swim about the wall. The sandy topside of the wall presents a totally different experience – bright and airy. The marine life found here is varied and stunning. The highlight had to be a coral bommie filled with swarms of juvenile fish and THREE Leaf Scorpionfish (yellow, green, and white) AND two ornate ghost pipefish in the center. A Black-spot snake eel and Cockatoo wasp fish were observed on the sandy bottom. This area also had the most trigger-fish I have ever observed at a single site – both Titan and Yellow-margin varieties. There must have been several dozen swimming around in groups of 4-5 and also singly at their nests. They were generally non-aggressive…I was only challenged once and only because I insisted on getting close for a photo-op. There were also squid and a Pharaoh cuttlefish scampering about some staghorn coral. POS I This site appears to be sort-of an extension of the sandy plain of Eel Garden. Again, the triggerfish were present. This area was also covered in large fields of healthy hard lettuce coral and large sponges. Additional snake-eels were seen, along with several turtles. Many varieties of tropical reef fish were around in abundance. The highlight of this site was surely the DM pointing out my first Mandarin fish sighting. Many commensal shrimps were seen in amongst the anemones, including several beautiful specimens from the translucent Periclimenes family.
  13. The Divesites Seraya Secrets Seraya Secrets is the house reef of Scuba Seraya Resort, located a few kilometers from Tulamben Bay. (See my previous report for a full-description of this resort and diving in the Tulamben Bay area.) This is an amazing muck dive site, with a black sand and rocky bottom accessed from the shore. It is primarily of interest to those seeking unusual fish and invertebrate life as there is nothing scenic about the site itself. On this trip, I had the good fortune to dive with Renault, the dive master at Bali Hai Scuba, the resort’s dive operator. I have never dived with someone with such a sharp eye for spotting life on a reef, especially tiny macro treasures. I was amazed to find out that he has developed this “eye†with only 300 dives under his weight belt…I was expecting the usual “Oh, I stopped counting after 2000 dives…†Shortly after my arrival on our first dive of the afternoon, Renault was off to the races spotting rare and unusual decorator and spider crabs, comensal shrimps, nudibranchs, squat lobsters, crinoid shrimps, you name it. Another highlight were a couple of orange frogfish of a type I had never seen before…having rounded humped backs and no real dorsal fin. One was nestled-up next to an orange sponge and about 12-15 cm and the other much smaller (a juvenile perhaps) at about 4 cm and perched on the tip of a rock. During the afternoon dives there was a fairly strong current, however, a few hours later during nite dives, it was gone. This site is great during the day, but at nite, a whole new crew of reef actors comes on stage to take their bow before the camera. The variety and quantity of the invertebrate life at nite is nothing short of astonishing…and with Renault there to point it all out, be sure to have a large storage card in your camera…I maxed out a 128 gig card during one dive. This would definitely be a site worth doing multiple evening dives on…maybe a sunset dive and then a nite dive a few hours later. The Seraya Secrets site is filled with many types of nudibranchs, eels, and commensal crabs and shrimps of all types. All of this is found along a black sandy and rocky bottom going down to 35 meters. As noted above, there can be strong currents at this site and visibility is usually between 3-10 meters. During some times of the year, the shore entry can be tricky due to the surf (see previous report). Reviewing my logbook, I noted the following from 2 day diving: Dozens of morays of many varieties, including Black-spotted, Yellow-margin, Starry, White-eye, Giant, Golden, and Honeycomb; dozens of different nuddies, Harlequin shrimp, 3 seahorses – a yellow, a pink, and an orange one, several frogfish – the orange ones and a black giant one, many lionfish and scorpion fish, many different comensal shrimps, crabs and squat lobsters among the crinoids and urchins, and finally a peacock flounder. This is one sites where the nite dives equal or even exceed what is seen during the day. I did 2 nite dives and noted that “80% never seen before…†There were many unusual spider, hermit, and decorator crabs, morays, frogfish, “strange†nudibranchs, squat lobsters, purple urchin commensal shrimp (shaped like the urchin’s spine), Bumble-bee shrimp, clown frogfish, cowry shells, sea-grass shrimp, ornate multi-hued ghost pipefish, ORANGATANG CRAB, round crabs, “daddy long-legs†crab. Renaut and I were spotting so many things on the second nite dive that I surfaced with about 10-15 bar left in the tank…good for me but not so good for the tank! The 2nd nite dive here was by a wide margin the best such dive I have ever done and one of the best dives period (day or nite). Alan Anda This is a coral and sandy bottom slope dive. Visibility was 5-10 meters. The main reason we went here was to see the resident pigmy seahorse and yes, we found him. Red-fire gobys, anthias, butterfly fish, and rabbit fish and porcelain crabs were also seen. Soft and hard coral growth was limited. Batu Kelebit This site is located between Seraya Secrets and Tulamben Bay proper…about 5 minutes by covered dingy from Seraya Resort. The dive here is along a black volcanic rock wall, which slopes down to very deep water. The area (especially the deeper parts) is renowned for sharks. Our group saw 4 white-tipped reef sharks. The coral outcroppings here are nicely covered in hard and soft corals and include the usual tropical reef fish inhabitants.
  14. Bali Report Diving the Island of the Gods…Again November 2005 Keywords: SCUBA Diving, Indonesia, Bali, Tulamben Bay, Seraya Bay, Seraya Secrets, Menjangan Island, Secret Bay, Gilimanuk Bay, Scuba Seraya Resort, Mimpi Menjangan Resort, Bali Hai Scuba Diving INTRODUCTION It may sound like the tired line of a tourism promotion campaign, but the island of Bali truly is an enchanting place. The dramatic towering volcanoes and lush green mountain valleys, covered in rice terraces, are very special. The friendly greeting by the Balinese people makes a warm welcome. All this and the superlative diving make it a compelling choice for a great diving holiday. This report covers my second trip to Bali in November 2005. I went to Seraya Secrets, Menjangan Island, and Gilimanuk/Secret Bay. (In early 2005, I dived Tulamben Bay and Seraya Secrets - see my report on this forum.) On this trip, a few days were again spent at Seraya Secrets and then I went to the north-west of the island and dived Menjangan Island and Gilimanuk/Secret Bay. Bali continues to impress me in all areas: scenic beauty, superlative diving, friendly and professional dive staff, great dive resorts, and good food. BALI DIVING BASICS The great South-East Asia diving triangle stretching from the Philippines in the north to Indonesia in the west and Papua New Guinea in the south is reported to have the most prolific and diverse marine environment in the world in the world. In seas adjacent to the triangle are the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Andaman sea sites of Thailand and Burma. Within this vast area one can find any type of diving…it’s almost overwhelming. With so many options, it can be hard to decide where to spend one’s limited time and money. Bali is within the triangle…the variety and quality of the marine life seen on this trip certainly confirmed it. Diving can be done as a daytrip from the tourist center of Denpasar/Kuta or as a safari from a dedicated dive resort. For non-diving companions or rest days, Bali has many topside attractions, including river rafting, jungle trekking, beach activities (surfing, parasailing, etc.) Hindu temple and local village tours, arts and crafts shopping, Balinese musical and dance performances, fine dining, and spas to name just a few. Bali has divesites to suit all tastes. From the high adrenaline drift and “washing machine†dives at Nusa Penida and Padang Bai, the serene Liberty wreck at Tulamben, the coral limestone walls of Menjangan Island, and classic muck diving at Seraya Secrets and Secret Bay. The Tulamben/Seraya area is 2 hours, and the Menjangan/Secret Bay sites about 3 hours, drive from Denpasar/Kuta. Both drives take in the beautiful Bali countryside scenery of lush green valleys and towering volcanoes. The Tulamben and Menjangan areas themselves, however, are arid and covered with brown scrub-brush. It almost like being on another island. Both areas are in the in the shadow of towering volcanoes, which are quite a sight. Before going on, I want to say a few words in praise of Singapore airlines…truly a diver’s best friend. This airline always impresses me with the quality of all aspects of its operations. From the clarity of their website, to the ease of purchasing a ticket online, to the final “goodbye†as you alight on your return flight, it is a pleasure flying Singapore airlines. Of particular interest to divers is the airline’s lenient excess baggage policy. My SCUBA diving kit weighs in at a hernia inducing 34 kilograms (about 70 pounds). I usually travel economy class, which carries a baggage allowance of 10 KILOGRAMS! (First class has a standard allowance of only 30 kilos.) On other airlines, I have been charged up to $50 in excess baggage charges, but on Singapore, at least ex-Bangkok, there has never been any additional charge. In addition, what other airline still has pre-flight drink service and free beer and wine with meals in economy class, as well as a full selection of newspapers and magazines? Invariability, the crews are efficient and courteous and make even the “cows†feel special.
  15. Snap Similans Report January 2006 Phuket, Thailand Keywords: SCUBA Diving, Thailand, Similan Islands, Live-Aboard, Andaman Dancer II The following is a short report on my recent liveaboard dive-trip to the Similan islands. We were a single group of intermediate and advanced divers – both Thais and foreign expatriates resident in Thailand. We left from Tab Lamu (on the Thai mainland about 1 hour north of Phuket) and sailed to the Similan islands and Ko Bon and then returned to Tab Lamu. I dived 10 times during the 5 day trip. No diving was done at Ko Tachai or Richelieu Rock. General Diving Conditions Being it’s January, the weather conditions were not what I would call ideal. There was no rain or storm activity but most days had partly sunny skies, with scattered, and sometimes heavy, cloud cover. This reduced UW lighting and visibility to some extent and also took away the often bright and pretty UW vistas common to the Similans. Currents were minimal to moderate (where expected) and visibility was from 15m-25m. Water temperature at all sites was a constant 28°-29° Celsius. Diving was done to 30 meters at some sites and no thermoclines were encountered. I have to say the marine life seen was unexceptional. In general, the sites seemed curiously devoid of the prolific fish life the area is known for and that I have seen in past years. [This was my 4th Similans liveaboard in 3 years, the last being in April 2005 (4 months post-tsunami).] All the sites had a smattering of the usual reef suspects but not much more. Few large schools of colourful fish (fusiliers, snappers, etc) were seen, although one decent sized barracuda tornado was observed. Several banded sea-snakes, a few morays, the odd mantis shrimp, and a single small hawksbill turtle were recorded in my dive-log. There areas famous prolific soft coral growth was also much less in evidence. The Divesites East Of Eden: Dived two times - generally considered one of the premiere Similans sites. Vis was recorded at 15-20 meters. Notables included a large giant moray and many large angelfish, including Emperor and Regal varieties, as well as striped-face unicorn fish. West of Eden: Napoleon wrasse and many colourful gobies at around 10 meters, including Red-fire and Black-fin gobies. Boulder City: A deep sandy site with massive boulder formations, similar to Elephant-head Rock. Good vis at 20-25 meters. Site known for leopard sharks but alas didn’t see any. Some open-water pelagics seen, including tuna, blue-fin trevelly, and the afore mentioned school of barracuda. Deep 6: Again large boulders on a deep sandy bottom. Log-book notes this is where the Hawksbill turtle was seen. Honeymoon Bay/Shipwreck: While I have dived the inner area of Honeymoon Bay before, this was my first time to the “shipwreck†located on the perimeter of the Bay. This is a fairly deep dive, with the large intact freighter lying on its side starting at about 30 meters. It appeared to be around 50-60 meters in length and was quite an impressive sight... lying in non-turbid waters making for an easy approach and inspection. There are swim-throughs present. The usual wreck-accompanying batfish were about, along with some lionfish and a moray. I didn’t get much information on this wreck’s history so maybe someone with more knowledge about it can post a reply. On the dive back from the wreck, there is a very impressive long wall of lettuce/cabbage hard coral, wherein some large groupers and a sea-snake were observed. Elephant Head Rock: Another signature site at the Similans, but this time, not so impressive. Visibility was somewhat lower than at other visits at 12-15 meters and in any case, there was not much of interest to see. My log-book mentions nothing in particular except that the site seemed “washed-out.†Rocky Point – Island #9: No currents and vis at 15-20 meters. No prolific fish life but a Day octopus was seen. One interesting site was a rather large “common†scorpion fish “walking†along the sandy bottom by way of its pectoral fins. It seemed quite intent on getting from one rocky mount to another without having to put any effort into finning. This was a fairly deep sandy bottom site, ideal for some rays or sharks but again, none were seen. Ko Bon: Two dives were done here, there were no currents, except around the point, where they are always present. Again I noted the relative dearth of marine life compared to previous years/visits. The deep sandy bottom off to the side of the wall is usually good for a shark sighting, and if one is really lucky possibly a whale shark or manta ray. There was to be no such luck this trip. The reef wall itself and the reef around the point are usually good for turtles too but none were seen. A couple morays, lionfish, sea-snakes, and a lobster had to suffice. Conclusion In general, all the sites visited seemed to have much less numbers and variety of marine life than on prior visits before the tsunami…I use the term “washed-out†to describe them. I don’t know if this has something to do with the after effects of the Great 2005 Tsunami or not. I know others have posted glowing recent reports on the Similans but my experience on this trip, and the one last April, is that possibly much of the local marine life was either washed away or washed ashore and has yet to make much of a recovery. Additional comment from those who have recently dived the Similans would be most interesting. In fact, I would go so far as to advise those considering a Similans liveaboard trip to possibly consider other alternatives. There are many areas in SE Asia with great diving that were not in any way effected by the tsunami (Sipadan, Bali, Bunaken/Lembeh, and the Philippines to name a few), whereas the Similians were more or less directly in the path of one of its strongest radiating waves…the one that devastated the Kao Lak coastline of Thailand – just east of the Similans. These are strong words and as much as I want to support the Thai diving industry I also want readers of this forum, and those contemplating an expensive dive trip to the Similans, to have the benefit of some objective observations of current conditions there. It’s possible that mine views are a minority opinion or that maybe I just had bad “fish†luck on this trip (but at every site/dive on both this trip and last April’s...seems to be a pattern). In any case, from reading this report and those of others, readers can draw their own conclusions.
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