Our most recent trip took place from April 9th to 11th; we departed Ranong in the evening 9th to wake up in Surin National park, ready for 3 full day of diving, 4 in the Surin islands, followed the next day by 2 dives on Koh Bon and 2 dives on Koh Tachai and ending with 3 dives on Richelieu Rock the following days.
On this trip, we had 2 advanced open water students and a majority of young divers, many who experienced night diving for the first time during this trip. We are happy to report they both graduated with honors and everyone loved night diving!
When jumping in the water on the morning of our very first dive of the trip, our first group spotted a turtle swimming at a very shallow depth of 3 to 4 meters and decided to follow it for a little while. It proved to be a great idea as behind the turtle, they discovered 3 black tip reef sharks circling around the reef. Later on during the same dive, another group spotted an eagle ray passing by. What a fantastic way to start our journey!
During the rest of the day, Surin made for incredibly lovely dives, with some coral dives mixed with a drift and muck dive, all the group saw blue spotted sting rays sleeping in the sand, some cuttlefish were spotted, a juvenile pipefish, and even a hump head parrot fish!!
The following day, we sailed to koh Bon for 2 morning dives. The visibility was great and currents allowed us to do 2 dives on the pinnacle. Some of us chose to dive the West ridge and got to hang out with one of the resident octopuses, saw lots of shrimps, nudibranches, while others dropped on the pinnacle, traversed to west ridge and spotted a black tip reef shark.
While Koh Bon had only mild to no current, koh Tachai had stronger currents bringing in a plethora of barracudas, jacks and the usual schooling batfish. On our sunset dive, we sought shelter from the current and began our search for small creatures and found plenty of nudibranchs, lobsters, box fish, baby scorpionfish and more.
In the evening, we feasted on our usual Barbecue, and played a really fun game called the box game. We’ll let you figure out the rules for yourself, photos are better than words sometimes! With all the young and flexible guests onboard, it made for a lot of laughs and good vibes. The cocktails might have also helped.
On our last day, we dove 3 times on Richelieu Rock before setting back to Ranong. On top of the usual harlequin shrimps, ghost pipe fish, frog fish, tiger eye coweries, we were lucky to spot another eagle ray, who came to see us off until next time. No Whaleshark this time, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for the next time.
Thanks everyone for making this trip a great one, and hope to see you back onboard soon and again, congrats to our new AOW!
March 25th marked the departure of a very special liveaboard: our Manta and Whaleshark expedition 2021 and we got lucky!!!
We had been working on putting this exciting trip together for the past few month, and it was an absolute pleasure to welcome onboard 2 lovely marine biologists: Ms. Jamie Piyada Monmaneerat, project leader of Thailand Manta Project and Ms. Kirsty Magson, conservationist currently documenting on the whale shark population in Thailand who alternated giving us daily presentations on Mantas, Sea slugs, Whale Sharks and the damage of plastic on the environment.
We sailed off from Ranong early morning with a boat full of enthusiastic divers and our itinerary took us to Koh Chi in Surin national park, Koh Tachai, Koh Bon, Rocky Point, 3 Trees, Turtle Rock, Nam Chai in the Similan islands before heading back north at Richelieu Rock; A total of 21 beautiful dives.
We had amazing weather conditions with blue skies and sunshine during the whole trip and as could be expected during full moon, we faced a considerable amount current during some of our dives, but this also brought it’s reward: currents make the perfect conditions to bring in large pelagic!
On the first 20 dives, we saw turtles, jenkill rays, an eagle ray, reef sharks, countless amounts of nudibranchs, harlequin shrimp, a giant frog fish, pairs of ghostpipe fish, more anemone fish eggs now showing their eyes, and many schools of jacks, trevallies, barracudas and fusilliers and so much more!
On the very last dive, we were greeted upon entering the water for our very last dive of the trip by a stunning baby male whaleshark who graciously swam around us for the whole duration of our dive on top of Richelieu Rock. What a show!! He passed, disappeared, came back until we ran out of air... As whaleshark sightings have been sparse this season, we felt so privileged to witness this encounter and emotional that it lasted so long. What an amazing way to end our trip!
Kirsty quickly looked into her whale shark database and was delighted to record this new individual as part of the whale shark population!
Another highlight of the trip was the return of Alex Tyrrell onboard, professional photographer who organized 3 black water dives. What an amazing surprise when we saw a Nautilus swimming at 5 meters on our 2nd black water dive! If you haven’t tried Black water diving yet, and you are an avid photographer, we highly recommend it, we are surely hooked!
During our last cruise we also encountered a juvenile sail fish, baby octopuses and so much more! Apparently we found a great spot to find wonderful and rare sea treasures and will incorporate black water dives more regularly on our cruises!
As when all good things come to an end, we felt sad to say goodbye, but happy we made new friends with the lovely guests we had onboard this week and thankful for the fantastic time we have shared.
Keep tuned for more fishy stories! to learn about Marine life in the Andaman Sea.
We still have some space onboard for the Last month of the season! See you soon!
We sailed off from Ranong on March 9th with 15 dive professionals from Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Tao for a unique “Photographer Special” expedition.
Another special trip onboard MV Smiling Seahorse; On the agenda, a total of 15 dives: 10 dives on Richelieu rock, 2 on Koh Bon, 1 on Koh Tachai and 2 amazing black water dives!
In Richelieu Rock it is always a difficult to select what lense to use for a dive as the marine life is so diverse from the smallest to the biggest critters, we alternated wide angle and macro lenses to capture the best of Richelieu Rock; our regular underwater friends the harlequin shrimp (we even saw a few cute little babies this time), the giant frog fish (yay, he is back after hiding so well on our last visit), the ghost pipe fish (2 pairs), the baby seahorse (as well as an adult yellow tiger tail seahorse) were all dashing and ready to pose for our cameras. We also saw so many cowries, they seem to be in season at the moment!
The visibility was a good allowing 30m of crystal clarity on most dives which paved the way for glorious encounters with a few tornados of jacks and schools of barracudas to please the videographers. One group of lucky divers even spent a nice moment with a passing eagle ray!
Our 8th dive of the trip on March 11th was something completely new to us and to many of our divers: a blackwater dive. Due to logistics, we split the groups in 2 and organized 2 back-to-back dives for an intimate group of 10. The principle for this is to set up a floating line in the blue with multiple lights attached to it, that attract plankton which in turn attract small fish, which potentially attract bigger fish. Depth for the dive was capped at 18 meters, and we ran approximately 45 minutes dive in the dark, in awe face to the plankton, larvaes, squids and jellyfish.
On Friday, we headed towards Koh Bon where we dove the coral-covered pinnacle. We love it for the mystical feeling it gives us knowing that there are always chances of a glimpse at something big! One group enjoyed a beautiful eagle ray at depth, while the others discovered a cool stone fish hiding on the top. Dive 2 and 3 saw us diving koh Tachai, where the usual school of barracudas was hanging out in the blue, as well as the trigger fish and the sweet lips. One group even lucked out by sighting a leopard shark!
At night, we were all ready for our second black water dive! We inverted groups and those who jumped in first the previous night jumped in second this time and off we went for an incredible 45 minutes dive. Much to our surprise and awe, the waters were full of newly hatched baby sailfish that we felt so incredibly privileged to admire and capture on camera as well as a deep water fish rarely seen by any diver: a juvenile tripod fish, still living the pelagic life befor settling down on the deep sea floor!
There were also lots of squids, alien looking plancton shapes, jellys, baby crabs, little fish larvea, squid and even a pelagic yellow snake! It was a truly a amazing dive! Now that we have discovered blackwater diving, we are surely hooked!!
We celebrated our underwater discoveries with our customary bbq night and drinks, and sailed back to Richelieu rock for our last day.
You might know the saying "less is more"? Well, this surely didn’t apply to our last day at Richelieu rock and we would even go further and say we just can’t get enough of this dive site!! If you want to take a cruise of a week on Richelieu Rock, we might be the right boat for you!
Highlight of the day was going back to visit the clark’s anemone nest we had seen on our last trip, and even finding a new nest this time of tomatoe anemone fish full of tinny little eye-baring eggs! A cuttlefish made an appearance and we spotted a bamboo shark resting in a crevasse. We bid farewell to all our regular buddies: the ghost pipefish, the giant frog fish, the harlequin shrimp, the school of fusiliers and can’t wait to visit them on our next trip.
See you again next Week Richelieu and to all our wonderful guests onboard this trip, we certainly look forward to have you back onboard (next week for some, soon & later for the others) !
Our Liveaboard trips
Only one month left of this "out-of-this-word season"!
Join us for an unforgettable cruise, Thailand has never offered such fantastic dives away from the crowd! Conditions are amazing with more than 30-40 m visibility, Macro life is striving and we just can't get enough!
The Smiling Seahorse’s last trip felt very exclusive with only 9 guests onboard, including 6 members of the “girls that scuba” group and it was also the occasion to welcome a new female team member: Laurence, dive master who wrote this blogpost today :)
We started the itinerary with a check dive on Surin islands, were we bumped into a cute yellow box fish, some peacock mantis shrimp and an eagle ray, who came to greet us. One group saw again the elusive Giant guitar shark who is often seen but never photographed this season!
We knew then that this trip was going to be a good one! The day continued at the South of Surin with a night dive. There, the highlight was seeing the sleeping parrot fish in their bubble, the beautiful sail-fin surgeon fish, and active moray eels hunting out of their holes. Our night dive was a bit late this week, we jumped in at 8pm when the sea was completely dark and night critters already well on their way.
After a good night sleep, we made it to Koh Bon, were the first dive saw us jumping on the Pinnacle. Here, we were lucky enough to encounter 4 massive marble rays at the bottom who shallowed up so we could enjoy spending time with them, and in the blue, we were mesmerized by a school of barracuda and a second eagle ray swimming right towards us. The curious batfish buddied up with us for a while as well.
Our next stop was Koh Tachai, where we dove twice, first on the second pinnacle, and then on the first pinnacle. The visibility was exceptional and the schools of fish remined us of a ballet until the green monster hit us, showing a varied temperature from 31 degrees to 27 degrees in an instant. The feeling of it passing by is quite special, one second the visibility is perfect and the water is warm, and the next your sight is blurry and the water becomes colder. Fish tend to avoid it so the closer the Green monster gets to you; the more schools of fishes are pushed towards you. We especially enjoyed the swim through on the first pinnacle, as well as the beautiful purple coral.
From there, we sailed to Richelieu rock, for a 4 dives day. Our new favorite friend, the baby seahorse was in the same spot where we had seen him last week. Our regular partners in crime, the harlequin shrimps, cowries, ghost pipe fish, batfish and the schools or fusiliers were all here too, and during the afternoon dives, what a thrill it was to look into the blue at the schools of giant trevallies, schools of jacks, yellow fin barracudas out for the hunt. A few of us were lucky enough to get a glimpse at the future generation of clark’s anemonefish before they hatch. We can’t wait to visit them on the 10th to see how they grow.
We finished off the trip with our usual Ti’ Ponch and Barbecue night, under the shinning stars as we sailed back to Ranong. It’s was nice to meet you all, guys and can’t wait to have you back onboard again.
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Richelieu Rock was fantastic but so busy!
We had the pleasure to welcome once more a bunch of lovely british expats from Bangkok and Hua Hin onboard MV Smiling Seahorse. The 26th of February was Makha Bucha, a public holidays and the second most important Buddhist festival, celebrated on the full moon day of the third lunar month in Thailand. Because of this it seems like all divers in Thailand congregated to Surin and Similan National Park to celebrate together! And we found ourself in the middle of 12 liveaboard in Richelieu Rock.
This didn't stop us from having a fantastic time and conditions where stunning with a sea as flat as a lake, visibility of 30 meters and an abundance of sealife!
We started in the North of Surin islands National park at Koh chi where we saw again a guitar shark on the sandy bottom. Once more it passed in front of mesmerised divers but away from the cameras! We also spotted a sleeping white tip and all of this only on the very first dive... great way to get back into diving!
We started the second day on Koh Bon pinnacle at slack time with no current and Franck spotted there 3 of the biggest giant barracudas he has ever seen. They came towards him and opened their giant mouth full of needle like teeth. A bit scary, but also thrilling! (once more no camera, damn!)
This week was also a full moon week so we had some current when the tide was going up and down, which attracted so much life closer to the reef for a giant hunt!
Koh Tachai pinnacle in the afternoon was even more fishy with a tornado of trevallis: blue fins, giant, golden and bigeye trevalli swirling in front of us in deep blue water! Wow!
The friendly Batfish were still here and came to say hello and we found a red reef rose: the eggs of a Spanish dancer nudibranch which lay hundreds of thousands of tiny eggs all stuck together in a soft, gelatinous material in circular rows giving it the appearance of rose petals. If you look close you can see each small eggs!
To continue, in the sea slug family, we saw many false-cowries this week: Ovulids are a type of seashells with colourful ornamental patterns on mantles they can stretch over their shells to cover it in incredible colours, some of them really look like aliens!
We did 4 dives at Richelieu Rock and didn't get bored of it! 4 harlequin shrimps, 2 ghost pipe fish, a tornado of trevallis and more schooling baracudas kept us entertained!
The sea was so flat that we slept and partied on top of Richelieu Rock with no one remaining to enjoy our music!
Thanks to all participants for the awesome time we had with you and we hope to see you again very soon!
A big congratulation to 3 new Nitrox divers: Sam, Christine and Gregor!
Keep tuned for more fishy stories and join us to be a part of one of them!
If you are looking for a special cruise, we are running Thailand's first Manta and Whale Shark expedition in collaboration with 2 local marine biologists specialized in these gentle giants!
Thank you so much for your lovely reviews!
This week was something new for us as we welcomed 8 tech divers + 3 tech guides onboard going on 2 hours long dives on Thailand's best dive sites. Our itinerary changed slightly this week and we started on the stunning Richelieu Rock for a days, spent a second day at Koh Bon, a full day at Koh Tachai and a dive at Richelieu before heading back.
What was neither new, nor a surprise was the quality of the dives. Diving conditions are at their best this time of the year and over 30 m viz is becoming the norm!
Richelieu was the highlight for macro life seekers, there are many ghost pipe fish and tiger egg cowries to be found on the seafans at the moment, the harlequin shrimps were posing for us and we met a new baby seahorse, isn't he sooo cute!
We were also delighted to find again the Giant frog fish which lives at the bottom of Thailand's best dive site since the beginning of the season. Let's hope he stay there until the end!
We also found 3 red Freckled Frogfishes camouflaging so well in the crack they hide in!
Koh Tachai was the highlight for those loving big schools of fishes. In particular the baraccudas who formed a giant tornado around us!
We had 2 rebreather onboard, 10 divers in side mounts and 12 divers in single tanks. With 4 tech and 4 recreational drop of and pick up per day, we kept well busy!
Time onboard was also well appreciated: we dived, we ate (4 delicious meals per day!) and we slept! And that's the recipe for a fantastic long diving gateway!
And on the way back we were welcomed back into Ranong province by a great pod of dolphin!
Thank you all for coming from Bangkok, Koh Tao and Lipe and we look forward to seeing you again very soon!
You can find all the photos from this trip in this facebook album.
Wow, what a trip!
Thailand has experienced a new covid wave this last month so we had to cancel all our cruises. But we were able to return to the sea last week to superb conditions in the Surin and Similan Islands. We also had to the pleasure to welcome back 6 return guests and made 9 new friends which made it even more exciting to go back to these beautiful sites with a bunch of fun people for an amazing trip!
And we were so lucky! Mother Nature provided wonderful gifts to us on this cruise.
On our very first dive we were welcomed to Surin Islands National Park by a majestic giant guitar fish swimming towards us and giving us a good show before departing. It stayed around us long enough to take in all the details of this interesting creature and it was certainly the highlight of the dive.
Our second dive was special as we spotted a wonderpus octopus poking out of its sand burrow. We didn't think these cute creatures lived in Thailand so it was a great surprise!
PS: we unfortunately didn't get the photo of the rare critter and the bellow is a photo of the less rare but always charming reef octopus we encountered in Koh Bon :)
Our third dive was highlighted by a huge Napoleon Fish at Kitten City. In the large sand patches we also found many rays, including some blue spotted ribbon tail rays and the larger Jenkins rays. When we cruised over to the rocky area, we encountered quite a number of shy brown marbled groupers who snuck into the cracks as we got closer.
As we were taking a break on the boat between dives, we got to see another sea life show as a marlin jumped dozens of times around the boat. The Surin Islands delivered a truly fantastic day this week!
At Ko Bon we were all hoping for something big in the blue and kept our eyes peeled. You see, there had been a big bull shark sighted there last week and that was quite an exciting prospect. One diver was lucky enough to spot a giant manta ray at Koh Bon ridge but the rest of the group missed it - bummer!
Some of us found luck later when we saw a black tip reef shark cruising along the ridge, along with a Maldive sponge snail on the pinnacle, and plenty of chevron barracuda and tunas hunting in the blue. A sea snake came by us as it was surfacing for a breath of air, and most of us got to see two mating octopus performing their Valentine dance. I swear I heard dolphin songs at the safety stop but never saw them.
This week's visit to Ko Tachai was out of this world! We dived into 40 meter visibility and massive amounts of fish. We loved the giant trevallies most of all - they were absolutely huge! They had loads of friends around with schools of blue trevallies, jacks, emperor fish, and surgeon fish all hunting together in balls of glass fish. Impressive big lobsters were showing off on the sea floor and porcelain crabs delighted us in anemones.
Our barbecue night was again loads of fun and Simon gave us a scuba diving celebratory dance... I'll just leave those moves to your imagination haha!
We were so lucky to be alone underwater at the famous Richelieu Rock! Only one other boat was on site with us so we could get some diving away from the others and had the site to ourselves.
Thailand's number one dive site was not as fishy as Ko Tachai this week but was still exquisite. A school of chevron barracudas mingled with their cousins the yellowtail barracudas. We saw schools of batfish with a zebra murray at the safety stop. Hermit crabs were playing hide and seek at every crevace. We saw many colorful tiger egg cowries hanging out in sea fans, mantis shrimps, thazard fish tomato anemone fish, immaculate ghost pipefish, and frogfish all while being surrounded by trevallies. Some big tunas also passed by to gran up the smaller fish nearby.
We had an amazing trip with new and return friends!
A big thank you to Chris, Pook, Andrew, Mike and Gabriela for coming back!
A special congratulations to four new Open Water and Adventure Deep Diver students David, Gerard, Laura, and Arnaud.
And Congratulations as well to Lena on becoming an Enriched Air Diver and to Nikita and Rianne for their Adventure Deep Dive Certifications.
We hope to see you all again soon for new underwater adventures!
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The Smiling Seahorse Diving Blog
A blog about our diving adventures in Burma and Thailand. Diving trip reports, guest reviews, fishy stories, wildlife fun facts and much more...
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The Smiling Seahorse has been running dive cruises from Ranong since 2012.
Our team of instructors are reporting with a short blogpost after every trip.
Camille, Franck and some guest writers also contribute during the off season writing on various topics.
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- About Myanmar liveaboards
- Best Burma dive sites
- Marine life in Andaman Sea
- The Mergui Archipelago
- Best dive site in Thailand