Whale Shark Exploration - Diving the Similans

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End May 25, 2009

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

So, with Tom all healed up and raring to go, we took an over-night ferry from Ko Phangan followed by a bus ride to finally arrived in Khao Lak - gateway to the Similan and Surin Islands - some of the top dive sites in the world.

We spent a couple of days sorting out kit and generally moping around the town - there isn't much there and it was thundering most of the time, so we didn't really get up to much... and then came time for the main event...  We chose to go all out for this dive trip... we had several options, but Wicked Diving had been recommended to us, and for very good reasons!  They are the only eco-friendly dive company operating around the Similans, and just as we were arriving they were beginning their second ever Whale Shark Research and Education trip.  Having fallen in love with Whale Sharks while diving off Ko Tao, we decided to go for this 3 day, 2 night trip.

The trip itself was amazing... we got on the boat in the morning and watched the captain let off fire crackers before we set off - this is Thai tradition to keep the boat safe.  Then the boat headed off to our first dive location.

All in all we did 9 dives and each and every single one was fantastic - more fish than I have ever seen,  both quantity and variety - clown fish (Nemo!), bat fish, damsels, trumpet fish, cornet fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, box fish (love these!!)... We tried to spot and name as many as we could on each dive...

However, there were a couple that stick out in my mind...  We managed to see 3 leopard sharks - two together on one dive, and one fairly big one laying in the sand on another... absolutely gorgeous, they look just how you would imagine - a beautiful, sleek yellow body with black spots.

On another dive we saw an elusive octopus that was changing colour and hiding behind rocks - such amazing creatures!!  But then, on our second last dive came the most amazing spot of the trip... as we were making our way out into the big blue, our group turned to see what they call a 'big black aeroplane' coming up behind us... one of the most elegant, beautiful things I have ever seen - a 3.5 metre Manta Ray... We all stopped and watched in awe as it glided around us, travelling in a figure of 8 and coming back round twice or three times past us again... It seemed like a genuinely curious creature - it just wanted to see what we were all about :)

Part of the research and education trip, is to present lectures on sharks... this mostly involved us watching documentaries about them, about how we all have preconceptions (mostly caused by movies like 'Jaws') and how actually, more people are killed by vending machines every year, than by sharks... They are beautiful, intelligent and, for the most part, friendly creatures, but they are becoming endangered, and some people say that my children won't even be able to see a shark... Added to that, if there are no sharks to control fish numbers, the fish will eat all the plankton, which produce a large proportion of earth's oxygen...  Unfortunately people in Asia get a LOT of money for shark fins, used in herbal medicine and the prestigious 'shark fin soup', so fishermen actually catch sharks, lop off their fins (so they can't swim any more) and dump them back in the sea... It's disgusting and it's happening all over the world right now... The documentary they showed us was wonderful, so if you have time, please watch it!  www.sharkwater.com

Also part of the education, was a new SSI Eco qualification, which focused on perfecting buoyancy (so that you don't crash into the reef), identifying marine life and conserving the reef... this included a reef clean up dive, where we went down with a net bag and tried to pick up as much rubbish off the reef as possible... this amounted to a lot of fishing wire being pulled up and cut from the reef, and our dive leader even found the lid of a water heater!

All in all, the diving was absolutely fantastic, and even though we didn't get to swim with a whale shark again, we were so happy to have taken part and seen all the amazing things we did... diving is something we are both addicted to :)

Many thanks to Lia for her wonderful photos - she was the photographer on the dive trip and took some amazing shots, that I have pinched here :)
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Where I stayed
Khao Lak Wandee Hostel
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