Similan Islands Liveaboard Trip Report: Day 1

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Read the prologue to this trip report here.

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I woke during the night to a sudden silence – we had arrived at our first dive site and the engines had been turned off.

A Bang! Bang! Bang! at the door was followed by a voice shouting “Dive Briefing!”. It was 7:30am. I made my way to the meeting/eating/briefing area and grabbed some toast and a cup of tea. The dive groups had been sorted and were written on the white board. Next to the board there was a sketch of the first dive site, Hide-away Corner. Mats started the briefing by describing the site and what we might expect to see; it was an easy site and was always used as the first dive site to make sure everyone was comfortable (more likely to make sure the divers were as experienced as they said they were). There were two moorings lines, one at each end of the reef; we would drop down and go with the current at the south end of the reef.

My group, which included my travelling companions Neville and Sharky, was the third group to dive. The groups would take turns in who went in first; I had asked if we could have the Thai dive master ‘Jay’, pronounced ‘Yai’, as I had dived with him before and he new where every little thing was.

Breakfast at Similan’s

The first group entered the water at around 8am, followed quickly by the second and then by our group. A couple of the divers were checking their buoyancy and one diver was having trouble equalising, so we headed on. The site itself is a combination of coral reef, sand beds and a couple of large rocky outcrops covered in all types of corals. We swam along the reef spotting the usual reef dwellers: Angel fish, Wrasse, Lionfish and plenty of little fish I didn’t know the name of. The sandy areas were covered with spotted garden eels. We circled the first big rocky outcrop a few times admiring the amount of life in all shapes and sizes before we carried on to the rest of the reef. It wasn’t long before the reef thinned out and time and air were against us. Dive number one over.

Once the last person was back on the boat, out came breakfast. The chef, Mama Lek, always cooked too much. Thai food was available at request, but otherwise it was a pile of bacon, sausage, eggs, ham and toast (whoops! There goes the diet). After breakfast I went back down to my cabin to review my photos from the dive and grab a quick snooze.

Bang! Bang! Bang! “Dive Briefing!”

It was 10:30am, and time to head back upstairs for the next briefing. Dive two was going to be Elephant Head Rock. This dive was going to be quite different from the first; it consisted of a group of large boulders creating swimthroughs and caverns. We entered the water on the south side, where there were a smattering of corals on the huge boulders. We swam around following Jay to the first of the swimthroughs; it wasn’t a long swimthrough – none of them were – but it did provide shelter for a range of fish such as oriental sweetlips, parrotfish, grouper and angel fish. Shoals of blue lined snapper hung around outside.

After a few swimthroughs time and air was against us again, so we hung around in the shallows in awe of the amount of fish, such as a huge shoal of yellow fusilier sheltering from the current, and parrotfish passing us ejecting more sand for the fine beaches. Up went the DSMB and we followed three minutes later.

Back on the boat it was lunchtime. There was far too much food, but that wasn’t a problem, as I can’t resist good cooking. Then it was time for a rest on the sun deck to dry off in the midday sun, but not for too long; it was hot – really hot!

East of Eden

Dive number three was to be East of Eden, a similar sort of reef dive as earlier but with even more coral. The site is mainly coral reef with some small sandy areas, and a large rocky outcrop covered in all types of corals, both soft and hard, surrounded by large fan corals. We swam along the reef spotting the usual reef dwellers: Angel fish, Wrasse, Lionfish, Nudibranch, Coral Filefish, anemone crabs and triggerfish. Along the bottom of the reef I spotted a blue spotted stingray where the angled bed flattened off at around 27m. The sandy areas were again covered with spotted garden eels, and in the middle of the largest sand covered area there was a small patch of coral where a Giant Moray was residing.

I had already encountered this Moray on a previous dive to this site and warned everyone that it does like to come out and meet the first diver, and that you should keep your fingers hidden. Sometime during March 2005, one of the dive masters, who used to feed it sausages as it came out, lost his thumb, as it just looked like another sausage to the moray. Morays’ teeth point inwards, so the harder you pull the deeper they cut. He struggled and his thumb was the morays breakfast. There had already been divers through by the time we reached it and it stayed put, much to everyone else’s relief. We finished up in the shallows after an overwhelming amount of life and colour. Dive number three was over.

Donald Duck Bay

Back on the boat we were asked if we wanted to go ashore to Donald Duck Bay on Koh Similan. Everyone decided that this would be a good idea; dry land for the first time in 24 hours seemed quite appealing. The tender was launched and everyone went ashore. While everyone else headed up to the viewpoint, I decided to go and look for some of the large Water Monitor Lizards that live on the island. There used to be a large flooded area a couple of hundred metres from the shore where the lizards could be found, but since the Tsunami it has been drained. Despite this I did manage to see three lizards, the biggest of which was around 90cm. Soon our time ashore was up and we had to head back to the boat.

Turtle Head Rock

The next dive briefing was at 6:30pm. Dive number four was to be Turtle Head Rock (they seem to like to name rocks after what they resemble in the Similan Islands). It was going to be shallow and shorter than the daytime dives. Torches were supplied but weren’t brilliant, so I used my little BCD torch instead.

We entered the water at 7pm. For most of the dive we remained quite close as a group, and eventually I decided I was happier with a little more space. Every time I got to what I felt was a comfortable distance from everyone else, someone would flash their light in my direction to let me know that they thought there was something interesting enough to get a photo of (usually another lionfish, and in my opinion there were plenty of those to see during the day dives).

Sleeping parrot fish in their protective bubbles could be spotted all over the reef. The site was a mixture of corals and boulders, with loads of places for fish to hide. Surprisingly I didn’t see any crustaceans.

Oh well, three more night dives on this trip to go. The 40 minutes recommended dive time was over fairly quickly and we returned to the boat and was welcomed by yet more food than anyone could eat. After the meal we sat on the sun deck looking at the stars and talking over what we had seen during the day (and it wasn’t just about the marine life). It was then time to turn in, as we were going to be up early again tomorrow.

Read Similan Islands Liveaboard Trip Report: Day 2 here.

Mark Milburn

Mark Milburn

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

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