After returning to Bangkok after Koh Chang it was off back down towards the Andaman via a quick visa run into Burma to extend my stay in Thailand for another 14 days and to meet up with Gary and Trish to go diving on one of the worlds most renowned dive sites. I meet up with Gary and Trish back in Phi Phi, and although I had already been here before it was such a beautiful island that i looked forward to going back. Gary and Trish had also met up with some of their Canadian friends they had stayed with during their travels to Vancouver. Paul and Geri were seasoned travelers and had visited most parts of the world so it was interesting to get there perspective on where to go what to do etc. In fact the last time they had visited Phi Phi was back in 1976 when there was only a few beach huts on the island. They sure noticed the difference!!
We spent a few days on the island relaxing and taking in the sites. On one of the days we headed over to Phi Phi Ley which I hadn`t visited on my last trip. Phi Phi Ley is where they filmed the movie Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, a good film but as usual a better book. Unfortunately the beach where they shot the movie is awash with tourists, all the same if you can imagine it deserted it`s a magical and beautiful place. We also managed to fit in a dive around the islands and it was great to be back underwater again. The marine life was awesome and the seas were abundant albeit a lack of sharks in the area. it was soon time to leave the islands and our Canadian friends and head on up the coast to get up to the Similan Islands before the monsoon season started and the vis underwater got worse.
We booked our liveaboard with Khoalak Scuba Adventures a dive company that was recommended to us by Phi Phi divers (the dive school we used in Phi Phi) and with a good discount the whole trip cost £300. This might sound a lot but the itinerary was first class – 4 nights aboard a new 40 meter dive boat, 14 dives, 4 meals a day and some great advice on where to do my dive master course in about a months time.
The Similan Islands is a group of islands in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phang Nga Province, southern Thailand. It is a national park which was established in 1982. Similan Islands National Park was established after the one-year exploration by the Forestry department. The park is the archipelago consisting of nine islands which are Ko Bon, Ko Bayu, Ko Similan, Ko Payu, Ko Miang (two adjoining islands), Ko Payan, Ko Payang, and Ko Huyong. Recently, the park was expanded to included two remote islands which are Ko Bon and Ko Tachai. The Similans are situated 70 kilometers from Phang Nga town. “Similan” is a Yawi word which means “nine”. Similan is one of the most famous diving sites in Thailand and is revered by many divers world wide.20 intrepid divers set out late in evening on the 5th in great anticipation of the dives we had ahead of us.
It was going to be great fun but also hard work as diving so many times a day is very tiring. After an eventful exit from the port as the captain barged and scrapped his way out and in keeping with Thai tradition, fircrackers were let off to bring the good luck to the ship and to ward off any evil spirits it was full steam ahead to Shark Fin Reef where we eventually docked for the night (4am) so we could dive early the next morning. The rooms were more than adequate (4 per room with air con) and after you got used to the rolling and pitching it was a comfortable evening.
We were up early each morning at 6.30 am so that we were able to fit in as many dives as possible (we had to have a 2 1/2 hr break in between each dive) so early nights and early mornings became routine for the next few days. On most days we fitted in night dives just before dinner.Over the 4 days the main dive sites we visited were – Shark Fin Reef, East of Eden, Anita Reef, Honeymoon Bay, Elephant Head and Richelieu. All sites (day, night and wreck dives) were around the 9 islands were excellent my dive guide Joe was a great guide and good fun too. Another reason we choose to dive the Similan Islands was the chance to see Whale Sharks (as it was the season) and Manta Rays, but unfortunately we saw none.
Due to the quality of the dive teams aboard i was shown many new varieties of marine life i had never encountered before. One of which were nudibranchs which are very small, colourful shell less mollusk. You had to look very hard for these creatures that were sometimes half the size (and smaller) of your small finger nail. I was also amazed at the number of loinfish, triggerfish and moray eels that populated the dive sites. As the Similan islands are made out of granite the dive sites themselves were ofter very picturesque as the rock formations under water represented huge boulders.
One of the best dives we had was at dusk, where we spectators to feeding freezies of many fish including snappers, travellys, barracuda and tuna most of which were feeding off bait fish and glass fish, a truly magnificent sight and shows you how fast fish can swim when feeding and change direction!! The boat and crew on the boat were amazing, each time you entered or got out of the water one of the crew helped you with your gear, we had 4 meals a day prepared by the ladyboy chef (she prepared all meals in the tiny kitchen which was barley the size of a double bead) in which she prepared mostly Thai dishes but also western style food. The instructors were also great and gave excellent briefings and were happy to answer any questions you might of had. I managed to up my dive tally to 42 dives after the trip and I was sad to leave the boat.
The trip went so quickly and before we knew it we were back on land adjusting our sea legs once again. I have nothing but great things to say of the liveaboard and if you ever make it over there be sure to look them up. It was also great to meet up with Gary and Trish once again as i hadn`t properly seen them since Honduras last June when they were 6 months into their own travels. We spent a few nights in Khao Lak resting and deciding on where to head off to next. As Gary and Trish were only new arrivals in Thailand they were off down south and I headed up to Chaing Mai with Tilen a Slovakian guy (who was also on our dive boat) who was heading in the same direction as me. Next stop Chaing Mai, Thailand`s second biggest town up in the northern hills and also Songkran – Thai Water Festival.