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Phuket Diving Report

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Phuket Diving Report


05 February 2006


Keywords: Thailand, Andaman Sea, Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, SCUBA Diving, See Bees Diving, Excalibur II




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.




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.




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?

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