After checkin, on a damp and rainy October evening we headed off from Khao Lak, all packed and ready to the pier, where the gorgeous Manta Queen 1 waiting for us!
We were 19 guests and 5 dive staff. Nineteen guests from all over the world. It pretty much looked like we had a delegation from all around the world to come and dive with us! Czech, English, French, German, Spanish, Israeli and Chinese… all come together with a common motto … to dive the wonderful Similan Islands.
The first morning started at 7 a.m. with our trip leader Garry’s typical wakeup call followed by some nice toasts with the magnificent Similan Island no 4, 5 and 6 in the backdrop and briefing about our first dive at Anita’s Reef. A clam chilled out dive made sure that those who hadn’t dove in a while got back into the rhythm and worked on their buoyancy. Lars from Germany decided to dive Nitrox as he had just finished his PADI Nitrox course with Garry on board. He was joined by David from France for some Nitrox diving from the next dive. So we now had well defined groups. The Spanish with our wonderful Divemaster and soon to be PADI Instructor Development Course candidate Fedrica, Monja had a good group of Swiss, Hardik was diving Nitrox with David and Lars, Tik had some English guests and Garry had some English and Chinese guests. Gian was conducting the PADI Open Water course training dives one two and three today! Our second dive was at West of Eden! Gorgeous dive site with the typical Similan Island topography… Boulders!! Passing thru the passages, we came across some amazing marine life. Especially the star attraction, The Spearing Mantis Shrimp. Dive three was at Deep Six! Woah… that maze of swim troughs and amazing topography and of course loads of marine life. Our fourth dive was the night dive at Honeymoon Bay! Oh those wonderful critters at night! The dinner was followed by a small birthday song and celebration for one of our guests (Angus) on board.
Day 2: Garry’s wake up rant went off at 6 am this morning. And yeah… everyone woke up pretty excited to get into the water again. Elephant Head Rock was the first dive of the day. A juvenile ribbon eel was the first treat of the day. Then were the awesome swim troughs, the wonderful blue spotted sting rays and amazing marine life typical to the Similan Islands. The second dive of the day was at North Point… Garry the trip leaders favourite site… and yeah.. Why not… it was a magnificent dive with amazing macro life as well as the big stuff… Here, we managed to see the pygmy pipe fish, the pygmy horse pipe fish, nudi branchs, Turtle, bearded scorpion fish and yes.. Thousands of other fish! Dive 3 was at Koh Bon. Those coral clad steep walls and amazing topography have been an absolute treat. And yes.. the visibility so far has been absolute awesome! A pair of Napoleon wrasse paid us a visit underwater, along with many groupers and the Maldivian sponge
The last dive of the day was at Koh Tachai. Dive four was an action packed thriller! A Barracuda school was circling all above the dive site. The banded sea krait was also in a playful mood and the Octopus couple were in a romantic mood! What a dive to end day 2!!
Day 3: The third morning started with the roaring of the engine at 5 am… well… we were on our way to the most awaited dive destination… Richelieu Rock!! We didn’t need Garry to wake anyone up today. Everyone was ready and at the top deck for the briefing before time.
The first dive of the day was nice and deep… 30mtrs… and yeah.. so much to see. Amazing coral clad underwater peaks and tiny nudi branchs in there. One of my favourite photo subjects – The Yellow Box fish, was not shy today and gave the guests plenty of time to capture some very good pictures. Garry pointed out to some amazing tiny nudi branchs and of course, the marine life here was as awesome as always!
The second dive of the day was on the other edge of the submerged horseshoe shaped rock. The marine life was as awesome as always…. A special thanks to the wonderful cuttle fish for making the dive a memorable one! But hey! By the time we were at the safety stop….. A young WHALESHARK decided to pay us a visit and yeah.. we were over the moon!
It was unanimously agreed that the third dive of the day be at Richelieu Rock itself as we all hoped to see the Whaleshark again! On the third dive at Richelieu Rock, we didn’t see the Whaleshark again, however, we saw some amazing marine life. Already content with the big stuff, we went in search for the critters! And guess what… we saw peacock mantis shrimps, Nudi Branchs, Yellow box fish, a pregnant puffer fish and hundreds of different species. Out in the blue, all the hunting action was in full swing. After 3 dives, we bid adieu to the wonderful Richelieu Rock and the captain started to move towards Koh Tachai for the last dive of the day.
Last dive of Day 3 was at Koh Tachai The Dome Well, the Wonderful free swimming octopus and the huge barracuda school made the evening dive awesome. The barracuda school came over to check us out from very close range during our safety stop.
Before the last dinner was served, the captain started enroute to Koh Bon where we woud have the next morning dives. The best part about the Manta Queen Liveaboard Fleet is that no one goes hungry! The vegetarians on board have had special meals prepared for them by our wonderful chef onboard! And yes, tonight will surely be some beers, songs and traditional Czech folk dance from our patrons from The Czech Republic.
The final morning started with Garry calling out to everyone in his usual wakeup style. After a quick bite and a good detailed briefing, we started our 13th dive at Koh Bon Hin Yuang. The awesome topography along with amazing viz was one of the highlights of this dive. However, the main star was the Stone fish… chilling carelessly under a rocky ledge. Once we were back from the dive, it was breakfast time and time for a nice group photo.
After the group photo, it was time for the guests to pack up their cabin and keep it ready.
The second last dive of the trip was at the Western Ridge of Koh Bon. A place known for its leopard sharks. However, the 14th dive was made special by the presence of the wonderful Eagle Ray!!!
After the dive, it was food again and then we set off towards Boonsung Wreck which is halfway through back to Khao Lak from the Similan Islands. On the closing dive at the wonderful wreck, we saw tonnes of scorpion fish, many honeycomb moray eels, batfish, and the speciality of the wreck… different types of nudi branchs.
A special congratulations to our students this trip. Yuan Yuan on her PADI Open Water course. Zhu Xi, Kuok, and Yuan Yuan on PADI Advanced Open Water course. Also Lars on completing the PADI Enriched Air Diver course.
With a heavy heart, we say good bye to our guests and wish them luck for their travels ahead!
Hardik and the Manta Queen dive staff signing off from Manta Queen 1 … will write back to you soon! Tc.