Author: Nigel Pirie, January 2008
Booking the same diving again might seem less interesting, but over here in Phuket you see and here the phrase "same same but different" so we booked "same same but different" again. Having pre booked everything, even the weather, we eagerly anticipated our return to this underwater paradise.
We met our host Iain and Oui at Dan's bar, and after the hugs and kisses we got down to the serious stuff, our dive plan for the duration of our holiday. Everything was beginning to fall into place, weather forecast good, half moon, current nil to small and clear water. What more could you ask for, a whale shark maybe?
Our first dive, recommended by Iain, was at the dive site of Koh Doc Mai and we were not disappointed. Wow we got it, no current, clear visibility, black tip and bamboo shark, Matt's favourite trigger fish and one solid hour. This was followed by another hour at Koh Bida Nai in Phi Phi with bumphead parrot fish, turtle, octopus, barracuda, lion fish and nudibranches (lots of). What a day, and now for a relaxing boat trip back to port, fantastic.
That night we dined at Lek's bar, and it was so nice to see our old dive buddies from previous years all pop down to see us. Loads of gossip to catch up on and a baby boom appearing. Oui starting it off, now Oor (oui's sister), John's lady, and my dive buddy Stu's girlfriend.
That's enough of that, back to the diving. For tomorrow Iain had booked a three dive day and with Iain booked as our guide, what could go wrong! So lets go, the dive boat was never in doubt of being up to scratch, everything looked good. Our dive plan started at Shark Point, yes one of my favourites, and disappointed I was not: little current, good visibility and just too many fish to mention. What's happened here! A fish population explosion, and yes one solid hour. Afterwards on to our next dive site at Racha Noi, North Tip. This again was over populated with fish, clear visibility, little current and yes, one hour diving. To finish the day of we stopped off at Home run, another of our old dive sites. Can I say it, over populated with fish, clear visibility, yes, yes, yes, and one solid hour!
Still in the water, the last dive of the day, and what's that I here! A whistling noise in the ear, oh no! what, it's making a tune, strange! Hold on a minute what can I see! It's "the Greta" dive boat, and yes, the crew were all whistling at us. Word had got out that we were here, and the Captain moved his boat over to us, and shouted "leave your kit on the boat we will pick it up for you for the morning". Wow what service, what else would you want!
And now here we are again, our favourite dive boat, favourite dive crew, and the biggest welcome you could want. Last year Matt would have said "fantastic", so I'll say it, "fantastic". My all time favourite dive site was on the plan. The King Cruiser, dropping down the line, there it was crystal clear, little current and surrounded by an explosion of fish. Hello what's that? Rainbow runner, come on remember what comes with these fish, yes you've guessed it, whale shark! Wow, excited! Just a bit, keep looking lads, into the blue, it's there somewhere! Sadly it was not to be, so it was of to Shark Point again, and yes, no disappointment here, fish, and more fish, clear visibility, no current and one hour. Shear bliss, cool diving, heaven on Earth.
Iain had booked us on a liveaboard, three day's in the Similan islands, on board "Somboon 4". A chance to see the bigger stuff. Deep Six was to be our first dive followed by East of Eden and Anita's Reef, and boy was it good, clear visibility, no current, giant trevally, turtle, unicorn fish, yellow fusiliers, batfish, titan triggerfish, and more. Stu was inquisitive about some fusiliers with a blue dash on them, and promptly asked Iain to name them, very embarrassingly the reply came back, "Stu those fusiliers with a blue dash on them are called, Blue Dash Fusiliers!".
Tomorrow our dives were at Boulder City , Shark Fin Reef, East of Eden and Beacon Reef so less of the beer and off to bed. Being woken by the boat engines at 06:30hrs we rose had coffee and prepared for our first dive. Triggerfish, fusiliers, rabbit Fish, striped bristle tooth surgeon, black pyramid butterfly fish and more. Oh and let's not forget: clear visibility, no current, and yes one hour. What a shame to end this dive. Still breakfast was waiting and our next dive at Shark Fin Reef. All the meals aboard our dive boat were good with plenty of choice and as much soft drinks you want absolutely free. We were surprised to see a fellow diver suffering from dehydration, so remember drink plenty, and that's not alcohol.
Now back to diving, all kitted up and ready, we giant stride into the sea, drop down into the clear visibility, no current, just heaven. All the usual stuff here, and plenty of it. At the end of this dive we were greeted by eight or nine large batfish who were very inquisitive and followed us to the safety stop and then provided us with a fantastic photographic session. Apparently they were fascinated by my new blue split fins, and so they should be! At the surface the rig greeted us, threw out the line and towed us in, and guess what, the batfish followed us all the way back. Boy my fins must be good looking. Beacon Reef was our last dive of the day and on this dive we explored a small wreck, finding lobster, octopus and crab, no, not a night dive we found these within the wreck hiding in small crevices. We opted out of the night dive.
Relaxing out on the deck, sinking a couple of beers, and listening to the monsoon pouring down on us we pondered over what our last day on the Somboon IV could give us, and checking the dive plan we noticed three new dive sites: Koh Bon Pinnacle, Koh Bon West Ridge and Koh Bon West Bay - excited or what.
Again being woken by the engines we rose, half cleared our rooms, had coffee, kitted up, and waited like little kids at Christmas. Then before you know it in we went. Yes, yes, yes, clear visibility, no current, my favourite clown triggerfish, leopard shark, trevally, everything - fantastic diving. This was followed by West Ridge, and finally the last dive at West Bay. The last dive was a shame to complete because after this we cleared our rooms and prepared for the journey back to Phuket. This was by speed boat, followed by minibus to the bungalows, two hours sleep and down to the bar and catch up the gossip.
Always saving our last days diving for the Greta, we could hardly wait to see them again. The dive plan showed Koh Doc Mai, Shark Point and Anemone Reef: three good dives to end the holiday? Could we get two weeks diving with no current, clear visibility, and a whale shark, NO. Currents were back, visibility dropped and no Whale Shark! Oh well, hey, I've just clocked my 100th dive at Anemone Reef in Phuket. Current, no visibility, and only forty minutes, that's one to surely remember!
Are we coming back, bet your bottom dollar on it! Many thanks to Iain, Oui, Abbie and Max at Sharkey Scuba. Not to forget friends Kerry, Mick, John and Porn. Keep well and see you all next year.
Same Same But Different
Nigel, Stu, Matt.
N.B. Photos by Iain Page. All photos in this article were taken during Nigel's trip.
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