Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Similan Islands Diving Trip, Day 3

Stefano woke us up at 6:00am with a big bell. I got up, had a morning snack, toast and tea, and got ready for the first dive at Elephant Head Rock.

After first dive, had breakfast, then went to a beautiful coral sand beach for an hour, hiked up to a viewpoint. Elena remarked that I looked like a dive flag. I was well tanned, but had a white stripe running diagonally across my Khao Lak, I was walking on the beach with a bag slung over my shoulder. Elena, Gennardo (Italian guy, friend of Elena's) and me swam back to the boat instead of waiting for the dinghy.

Second dive site was called North Point.

We then boated over to Koh Bon for our third dive, not part of the Similan Islands, but still part of the national park. On the way there, someone spotted a large manta ray swimming off to one side of the boat. Cool. Koh Bon is supposed to be one of the top dive sites in Thailand, and our best chance at seeing manta rays while diving. The manta rays come in to "cleaning stations" on the reef to let other fish clean them. Think of it as an underwater carwash.

Third dive was very impressive and didn't disappoint! We saw lots and lots of fish, and near the end, Seth started dinging his metal rod over and over and over, continually. Either there was an emergency or something awesome was near. Seth made the manta ray sign, and started swimming away from the reef, then stopped and pointed. And there it was, maybe 20 metres away, as it swam past, back out to the ocean. It was so smooth and elegant as it "flew" along. I guessed it's size at 2.5-3 metres, which other corroborated later. It was the highlight of the trip, because it's not that common to see them.

There was another site to see at this dive site as well. At Koh Bon, the current is very strong. Typically, you would start the dive at one end of the dive site and let the current take you...easier than swimming against the current! At the end of the site is a large ridge. You can take cover behind the ridge to protect yourself from the current, but many divers hang on to the top of the ridge right in the current. While humourous to look at, it's not very good for the corals.

After the dive, we had an afternoon snack of banana fritters, pomello (fruit) and wontons.

After that, went to the top deck and laid on a mat as the sun set. Earlier, I had told Seth that I was going to do the night dive, but as I lay there, I didn't really feel like doing it. I was sooo pooped, and didn't really feel like getting wet again. Before the briefing, I told Seth I wasn't going. Katrin and Andrea were doing it, but Don wasn't. Seth gave me a hard time about backing out. As I sat downstairs, though, and was no longer in a horizontal position, I kinda felt like doing it again, so told Seth so. He was happy.

Night dive was good. I saw a huge snail (the shell perhaps 10 inches in diameter) ever so slowly moving across the ocean floor. Katrin saw me looking at it, and she later argued that it wasn't moving. I asked Seth, he said they do have very large snails here. We also saw a bat fish and lots of big crabs, their red eyes reflecing back the torch light.

Before the night dive, the Thai crew went fishing before supper and caught a trevally. They made sushi out of it as an appetizer before supper. Supper was good, and had a frozen beer after supper.

After supper, we watched a video Gerald (another dive master) made of weird and wonderful creatures of the sea.

About 10:30, decided to try and sleep on the upper deck. Bruce and Stefano were up there too, but it started to rain, just spit a bit. Stefano was the first to grab his blanket and pillow and go below. Shortly after, the rain stopped, but about 10 minutes later, another sprinkling, at which time I went back to my bunk.

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