It was a pleasure welcoming back several returning guests this week and forging new friendships, our week was a celebration of exploration, discovery, and the marvels beneath the ocean's surface and a Big thank you to the Photographers (Greg, Yana and Shelley) for the wonderful photos illustrating this article!
This cruise welcomed an exceptionally large number of snorkelers onboard as a French family of 4 decided to join as non-divers and another scuba divers had to remain on the surface most of the time due to a health issue. They were all delighted to be introduced the wonders of the underwater world in the glorious Andaman Sea.
Our diving escapades commenced at Koh Ha Lagoon, a haven adorned with an array of nudibranchs and comet long fins. Ghost pipefish enchanted both divers and avid photographers, setting the stage for an underwater symphony of colors and shapes.
Hin Muang Hin Muang unfolded a spectacle of Longnose Emperors and Trevallies in a hunting frenzy. Amidst the reef's nooks, Cleaner Shrimps, Morays, Scorpionfish and two bulky stonefish captivated our adventurous souls.
Some morays (some massive) came out of their holes on the hunt for their last meal of the day.
But not every creature is active at night and we also saw a sleepy filefish, dozy porcupine fish and, tucked underneath a shelf of coral, a yellow longnose butterfly fish sleeping upside down.
At 8 miles, we were greeted by vast schools of trevallies and a charming baby Tigertail Seahorse.
Our second dive at 8 miles coincided with a huge school of big eyes trevallies and giant trevallies heading up to the cleaning stations.
We saw loads of othe schooling reef fish including red toothed triggerfish and quite a few Titan Triggerfish.
Pattaya corner in the afternoon was home to a baby Tigertail Seahorse and many cute nudibranchs. Only one frogfish could be found that day, but who knows how many looked at us passing by…
Filefish are usually quite shy, but we met a very inquisitive individual that let us come very close so we could appreciate its intricate details.
Back to the purple rock of Hin Muang, we got enchanted by the big schools of trevallies, rainbow runners, tunas and makerel in the blue…
The stone fish were still in their hiding spot and so were marble shrimps, cleaner shrimps, all types of moray eels (yellow moray, giant moray, fibriated moray…) an eclectic mix of marine life, including an adorable baby Indian Toby, longfin comet fish and Moorish idols.
Hin Daeng painted a canvas of vivid colors with yellow-edged lyretail, peacock grouper, and a diverse congregation of two dots snappers mixed with checkered snappers.
Koh Haa cathedral housed a delightful array of nudibranchs like Bornella Anguilla and Blue Dragons, rendering the dive site a colourful, underwater wonderland.
A crinoid opened up for our curious eyes to show a clingfish in its abode. Many cute blennies, my favorite being the bluestriped fangblenny with 2 very bright blues tripes often seen taking a bite of fishing coming for a clean…
There was nice blue warm water at Shark Fin Reef with white tip sharks coming to say hi and plenty of fish to add colour to the underwater scene. We saw clown triggerfish, fairy basslets, butterfly fish, bannerfish, moorish idols, angelfish, morays and so much more….
We were joined by powderblue surgeon fish and lined surgeonfish up at the safety stop.
Elephant Head had provided sightings of ribbon eels, skeleton shrimps, black blotched porcupine fish with giant trevallis patrolling the top. I had fun with a jawfish who played with my laser. Our divers saw Orange Pipefish hiding in plain sight on the identically colored rocks.
Three Tree had a stronger current, but the shallow reef was gorgeous with plenty of tropical fish roaming around – plus a turtle. Yellow margin triggerfish were frequent along the sandy patches, which are also home to large groups of garden eels.
Night dive at Koh Bon was good but outdone by the Sunset Dive which was super fishy with hunting action!
The dark bay whispered tales of parrotfish preparing their bubble beds and the serene presence of cuttlefish, evoking a sense of underwater tranquility.
We saw a massive marble ray and a jenkin ray the next morning close to a very pretty pinnacle. A massive school of batfish with attendant Rabbitfish kept us company and we spotted Hawkfish posing on corals.
Koh Tachai was also thick with many trevallies, emperors, groupers and schools of bannerfish. There were multiple seafans, small and large, and even a lobster colony.
A spectacular vortex of barracudas, including one or two giant barracudas, patrolled the site. It is always fascinating to watch octopus change their colour and texture to match it’s surroundings – and then disappear like a magician.
The happy snorkelers saw multiple sharks (black and white tip) nearly every day, as well as several turtles, banded seakraits, schools of squids and Moray eels out on the hunt. They were frequently joined by large schools of Chevron and Yellow Tailed Barracudas and Emporers as they swam along the surface, with the Emporers changing colour as they foraged for food.
They even tried blackwater snorkeling that night (along with intrepid divers), where they saw many salps and tiny juvenile mantis shrimp, amongst other alien looking creature.
Richelieu Rock, a diver's paradise rated top 10 in the world, unveiled its wonders with a tantalizing mix of marine life. The diverse spectacle began with trevallies engaging in their mesmerizing mating rituals, accompanied by a vibrant entourage of rainbow runners and majestic emperors.
The visibility wasn’t perfect on the first dives but it became better and better throughout the day and ended with a crystal-clear visibility on the last dive. There were so many different types of trevallis (golden, giant, blue, bigeye) swimming all around.
Marble shrimps had a few fans but Harlequin shrimps stole our hearts with their amazing colors and the fact they are much more photogenic…
The snorkelers weren’t left behind as they continued their run of good luck and swam above the thick schools of giant trevallies, longnose emperors, and Rainbow Runners.
The elusive Picasso triggerfish and the striking red saddleback anemonefish added bursts of color to the already vivid reef scene.
Amidst the coral landscape, baby angelfish and trumpetfish found refuge, while the ever-watchful mantis shrimps added an air of mystery to this thriving ecosystem.
As the day unfolded, Richelieu Rock revealed its intricate details, beckoning us to explore further. Every sighting, from the smallest sea slug to the grandest trevally dance, painted a picture of the sea's infinite wealth.
The Surin National Park's depths proved once again to be a haven of awe-inspiring beauty, leaving us with memories that echo the splendor of the ocean's wonders.
The very last dive took place at Boonsoon wreck were we appreciated the honeycom murrays and myriad of porcupinefish pattroling the top under a thick cloud of fusiliers, makrels and trevallie on top. It was hard to spot the surface as the schools of fish were so dense. We found a small pipefish on the sand and cute nudis on the ladder of the bridge. We also spotted a rare ringed puffer (arothran Hispidus) with psychedelic rings of yellow around its pelvic fins.
A school of barracudas completed the picture and while it was hard to head back to the surface we could only be grateful of the wonders we had uncovered once more.
Our week of underwater marvels was a testament to the beauty of the Andaman Sea, where every dive revealed a new chapter in the rich tapestry of marine life. As we bid adieu to this captivating journey, we carry with us the memories of an adventure that continues to echo beneath the waves.
Until we meet again, let the ocean's allure guide us to new horizons and undiscovered treasures.