Day 1: Exploring High Rock and Dinosaure Island
Next, our boat led us to Dinosaur Island, aptly named for its resemblance to a diplodocus taking a majestic sip from the sea. This miniature isle, pierced thrice from east to west, offered thrilling swim-throughs that beckoned us to explore their mysteries. Within these passages, shadowed by the island's contours, schools of sweetlips sought refuge, while a path to the surface revealed an ethereal spectacle. The gleaming light illuminated countless fish, their glimmering bodies forming mesmerizing shoals. Although our hopes for encounters with sharks or rays weren't fulfilled that week, a magnificent congregation of bigeye trevallies delighted us at the journey's end.
Venturing deeper, our third dive brought us to The Tower and Bawai. Bawai, a charming coral garden adorned with soft pastel hues, revealed a hidden gem discovered a decade ago – a cavernous sanctuary that hosted a captivating eagle ray. It was heartwarming to find this majestic creature still calling the place home. Unveiling nature's mysteries, did you know that eagle rays could thrive within caves? The belief that they solely inhabited the open pelagic waters was swiftly dispelled.
Amidst the vivid coral tapestry, a delightful encounter awaited us: a charming octopus, though its species eluded our immediate identification.
As night descended, our immersion continued at Spanish Dancer, a site aptly named for the enchanting creatures it often unveils. True to its reputation, the night dive revealed the graceful movements of the Spanish dancer, adding a touch of magic to our underwater odyssey.
On the second day of our Myanmar adventures, we set our sights on the fabled Shark Cave area, a domain whispered about for its mysterious allure. We first explored the main dive site: "Shark Cave" which started through a glommy channel at the end of which we had the choice between going through a brief cave /swim-through or continuing through a large corridor to the other side of the island. We chose the cave and coming out of it was a breathtaking spectacle through a thick cloud of glassfish, shimmering in radiant light. The ensuing coral garden held myriad treasures awaiting our discovery – two enchanting tigertail seahorse babies and a vibrant array of colorful nudibranchs.
Our exploration continued at Square Rock for the second dive, revealing yet more secrets of the deep. A small octopus peaked out of its hole to greet us and our mask fell upon another tinny seahorse hanging by its tail to its coral branch. A blotched stingray nestled under a rocky alcove, and the elusive presence of a ghost pipefish. The water was a bit cold due to a thermocline (our video explaining the Indian Ocean dipole) so we went closer to the surface where a school of moorish idol competed for our attention with a school of giant trevallis playing in the light rays. It was beautiful.
The third dive led us to "Submarine", a realm teeming with life and excitement. Here, we were greeted by the magnificent presence of two colossal blotched stingrays, surrounded by an orchestra of bustling marine life. The underwater symphony of colours and movements was a testament to the sheer abundance thriving in this underwater haven.
Between dive 3 and 4, we had some time to visit the local village inhabited by the last Mokens living a simple life.
As the evening draped the underwater landscape in an inky embrace, we embarked on a night dive back at shark Cave. Amidst the nocturnal ballet, two majestic Spanish dancers gracefully adorned the reef, their elegant movements mesmerizing us. Our nocturnal explorations revealed further treasures – three miniature seahorses, and the elusive presence of two ghost pipefish. Even amidst the darkness, the sea unveiled its magic – anemone crabs, feather star crabs, candy crabs, and the mesmerizing giant basket star, unfolding its intricate arms to seize passing plankton. Various species of sea urchins (flower urchin, imperial lance urchin, globe urchin) and flatworms painted a vibrant tapestry against the backdrop of the night.
Our exploration on the third day centered around the enigmatic Black Rock, a solitary outpost rising majestically from the heart of the ocean. As we descended into its depths, an explosion of life greeted us, painting a vibrant tapestry of colors and movement. A bustling metropolis of marine species surrounded us – from the graceful rainbow runners to the majestic giant trevallies, accompanied by jacks, red and silver snappers, and the dazzling yellow back fusiliers.
The ocean stage transformed into a theater of spectacle as a massive school of barracudas coalesced into a swirling tornado, enveloping us in their mesmerizing dance. Amidst this aquatic symphony, bannerfish, tunas, and sizable cobias heralded the arrival of something grander.
Our attention pivoted as massive marble rays, exhibiting inquisitive behavior, captivated our focus. Their elegant movements followed us, their inquisitive nature making for an intimate connection as they shadowed our journey. However, the pinnacle of excitement arrived when a formidable presence emerged from the midst of the barracuda school – a formidable shark, shrouded in mystery. Its sheer size and bulk, surpassing that of a typical reef shark, left us in awe. Although its specific identity eluded us, whether a silvertip or bull shark, its commanding presence was undeniable.
Driven by curiosity and the allure of deeper waters surrounding the rock, some of our group ventured further, unveiling a secret at these greater depths. A surreal scene unfolded – a carpet of Shovelnose rays, gracefully gliding through the colder-than-usual waters, adding yet another dimension to the mysteries of Black Rock.
Our fourth day took us to North Twin, where the first two dives at the pinnacles revealed a lively underwater scene despite a mild current. Highlights included spotting a magnificent marble ray and two cobias gracefully cruising together at 25 meters. However, the pinnacle's star was an adorable octopus, cleverly swaying in the surge like the soft coral surrounding its burrow, leaving us pondering its motives – is it hiding from its predator or preys?
Transitioning to a serene reef dive, we enjoyed the tranquility amidst colourful fish and the grand passage of huge tunas above.
The day kicked off with exhilarating dives as our guests were thrilled to spot a dozen nurse sharks, silvertip sharks, and the elusive tiger shark alongside the enigmatic porcupine ray! The underwater spectacle was nothing short of sensational.
Later, a change of banks led to more shark encounters, this time with blacktip ocean sharks, silvertips, and the return of nurse sharks. Amidst this sharky excitement, the vibrant reef showcased a kaleidoscope of colors – playful octopuses, regal angelfish, sizable pufferfish, yellow angelfish, emperors, trevallies, and the majestic presence of groupers.
The day's excitement was so infectious that a unanimous decision was made aboard to extend our stay at the banks. Everyone's enthusiasm for more shark-centric dives led to an unanimous agreement to explore further the next day!
Our sixth day saw us waking up again at the Burma Banks, starting with two exciting morning dives at Tiger Kingdom. Once again, the banks welcomed us with a diverse congregation of sharks – nurse sharks, silvertips, grey reef sharks, and the majestic presence of tiger sharks. Their elegant movements amidst the surrounding marine ballet added a thrilling dimension to our underwater exploration.
The aquatic landscape teemed with life, showcasing not only the mesmerizing sharks but also schools of trevallies, neon fusiliers, and the graceful dance of bannerfish. Parrotfish added splashes of color to the scene while the powerful presence of big tunas patrolled the waters. Wahoos and giant trevallies joined the mesmerizing ensemble, while on the bank's periphery, big marble rays gracefully glided through the depths, adding to the spectacle of this underwater kingdom.
Venturing into Seafan Forest, our day began with the sight of a sizable school of barracudas, accompanied by the hidden presence of stonefish and leopard moray eels, adding an air of mystery to the topography.
Transitioning to Western Rocky, we were immersed in a vibrant underwater tapestry. The scene was bustling with life – from the majestic presence of massive blotched stingrays and jenkin rays to a bustling school of jacks and emperor fish. Angel fish and butterfly fish painted the scene with their vibrant hues against a backdrop of stunningly bright soft corals, creating a picturesque dive.
Our eighth day commenced at a secret pinnacle site, unveiling a mesmerizing display of rays and lively marine activity. Chevron and yellowtail barracudas vied for attention amidst bustling schools of surgeonfish, red tooth triggerfish, emperors, and trevallies, creating an underwater symphony of colors and movements.
Our last dive centered around the enigmatic Volcano. Here, the underwater world revealed its secrets – two elusive comet longfins peeking from their dark abodes, a tigertail seahorse cleverly concealed in plain sight, and an unexpected spectacle as a cat eel met its fate in the jaws of a grouper, unfolding before our eyes.
With beautiful visibility enhancing our final dive, we concluded our underwater odyssey with a serene cruise back to Kawthoung, weaving through the captivating karstic islands reminiscent of scenes from James Bond movies.
A heartfelt thank you to all our guests for joining us on yet another incredible adventure! However, special appreciation goes to three extraordinary individuals – Steffi, Laura, and Peter. Your infectious enthusiasm, starlit conversations, and shared moments made this adventure truly remarkable. Until we meet again for more mesmerizing dives and cherished memories!