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!
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.
Christmas 2020 cruise, a festive and exciting week of diving in Thailand
We just returned from a festive and exciting week of diving in Thailand. After our departure from Ranong, we picked up Gary and Lisa from Ko Phayam and had our diving group ready for an adventure into the Similan and Surin Islands!
Our first day was spent exploring Surin National Park where we were delighted to be greeted by friendly turtles and roaming napoleon wrasses. We looked a bit closer to search out iridescent peacock mantis shrimp, ghost pipefish, and loads of vibrant nudibranchs, including the cutest little Pikatchu nudibranch. The divers were especially excited when we sited a tiger shark! As calm and cute as a teddy bear.
The following day we cruised south to Ko Tachai and Ko Bon in Similan National Park. As we hopped into a calm sea, we were in luck and found awesome visibility. We descended into swarming schools of fishes such as batfish, goatfish, cobias and trevallies. As we peaked through corals to find colorful juvenile angelfish, groupers and parrotfish, we also spotted an eagle ray!
Even though we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the schooling fish, we had an exciting moment of finding a rare psychedelic batwing slug. What a trip!
In between dives, a friendly green turtle swam up for some air right next to our boat! We grabbed some snorkels and hopped in to say hello. It was so friendly that he stayed with us for some time to have a close look at us as well.
After a comfortable night’s rest we traveled to our southernmost destinations. Beneath the famous submerged boulders, we spotted two juvenile white tipped reef sharks at Anita Reef and Shark Fin Reef.
Our sunset dive at Elephant Head Rock was filled with exhilarating swim throughs and lots of fish nibbling on their evening meals. The most beautiful ribbon eels in all three colours came out of their rocks to watch us swim by: yellow, blue and black, what a treat!
During this cruise we also partnered with the Similan National Park Rangers for a clean-up dive. We met the Rangers on the island and learned more about maintaining the natural beauty of these marine parks and were rewarded with awesome t-shirts to remember our time and work together in preserving the majestic homes of our underwater friends...
Our night dive at Ko Bon was full of excitement and oddities. A funky frogfish was hanging out with a Spanish dancer nudibranch in the rocks, and we spotted eerie sea snakes and ornate ghost pipefish.
Our festive cruise had come to an end so we headed home, dropping Wendi off at Ko Phayam.
Thank you to all the divers who made it so memorable! And a big congratulations to Gabriella for her junior advanced open water diver certification, to Sylvia and Ben for their advanced open water diver certification, and to Nici for her advanced open water diver and nitrox certifications!
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4 days of diving bliss in Surin and Similan national parks, November 2020
What a way to kick off the season aboard the MV Smiling Seahorse! Although international travel is still at a standstill and we couldn't visit our beloved Mergui Archipelago there is nothing to do but make the most of it! We had a magnificent tour through the Thai Surin and Similan Islands with a multicultural group of local vacationers happy to be on the sea away from the hustle and bustle of life. We have been waiting for this trip since Covid stole our heart and sea in March!
The first day was blessed with a gorgeous sunrise to set us off on our merry way. A bit of cloud cover over the course of the weekend made for very pleasant weather to go along with the up to 30m visibility and fish soup underwater.
We had a beautiful second day at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai where we got swarmed by fish, found gorgeous Nudibranchs and harlequin shrimp and one group even sighted the first Giant Manta ray of the season!
The last day of the trip brought big wind and waves so we headed to Surin island for a quiet night and first dive. We started the day at Yellow rock, with a lovely appearance from an Octopus and so many sweetlips everywhere. We then moved over to do two marvelous dives at Richelieu Rock featuring cuttlefish, ghost pipefish, giant frogfish, seahorses and all of the beautiful usual suspects.
We ended our cruise night diving in the Surin islands where we had the chance to encounter a shaded batfish, a little party of pipefish, some nice nudibranchs and cuttlefish!
Special mentions and a HUGE congratulations to Menno and Sanne for becoming Advanced Open Water divers and also to Claire and Eva for completing their Enriched Air Nitrox course while on the trip! Happy future bubbles to you all!
Also wishing Sawittree all the best on her birthday! Thank you so much for choosing to celebrate with us!
Thanks for all the fish, friends. Hope to dive with you again soon!
Where are the best dive sites in Thailand? Discover the Surin and Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea… The best of Thailand the MV Smiling seahorse way!
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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