This morning at Koh Bon we had no Mantas, but we saw sooo much other cool stuff that we didn't even miss them. We saw schooling Slate Sweetlips above the ridge, and Multibar Pipefish hiding in the nooks and crannies:
Octopus, a Ribbon Eel, and even this highly secretive Hook Jaw Moray Eel. So cool!
After two dives there we headed North to Koh Tachai for a few dives on Tachai Pinnacle. Always a treat, Tachai was in rare form this afternoon. We jumped in with clear blue water and very little current. Five minutes later... HEELLLOOOO mister Manta Ray! A three meter Manta came swimming past on the West side of the pinnacle. We had it for a minute or so, then it was gone. We continued South for a few minutes and found a beautiful Green Turtle heading for a breath at the surface, surrounded by a school of Rainbow Runners. Really beautiful, sorry I don't have a photo of that scene. Trevally and a few Barracuda were kicking around, and then I noticed a very dense school of Rainbow Runners coming out of the blue. Upon closer inspection I saw it - within that school of Rainbow Runners was a small Whaleshark!
She came swimming right by us, and then hung around for a few minutes. It was such a great surprise, to first see a Manta Ray and then a Whaleshark on the same dive! The Whaleshark slowly made its way to the North, eventually leaving us behind. After perhaps five minutes with her (she was a young female, maybe 3 or 4 meters long) she had disappeared into the blue the same way the she had appeared. Little did we know that the show was just beginning...
About this time the beautiful Green Turtle reappeared, swimming directly below us along the bottom, heading back to the pinnacle. It was as if the Manta, Whakeshark and Turtle were taking turns, saying, "Look at me! No, look at me". Of course the story is not over. A minute later the young Whakeshark makes her return to the scene, swimming gracefully back to us before making several loops above and between the groups of amazed divers. She spent another ten minutes or so with us, and as if not to be outdone, the Manta Ray then returned to the scene as well! Now we had a Manta Ray and Whaleshark right in front of us, swimming together!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That is a scene that I will not soon forget. After a few more laps around the top of the Dome, the Whaleshark eventually disappeared into the blue. Ahh, the end of a magical dive.
The sunset dive was wonderful as well, with several groups seeing another Manta, a larger, darker one than that which had accompanied the Whaleshark earlier. All in all, I'd say it was a pretty good day!!! :-)
The following morning we did one more dive at Tachai, where one lucky group found a Leopard shark sleeping on the sandy bottom before we headed North to Richelieu Rock. Three dives there at Richelieu and we saw all kinds of great things. Sunset Pipefish and schools of big Barracuda come to mind, along with Tigertail Seahorses, Juvenile Angelfish, Bent Stick Pipefish, Peacock Mantis Shrimp and even a few Zebra Moray Eels
We also saw quite a few Ornate Ghost Pipefish, including these two sitting right together at about 28 meters. So cute!
The final day brought dives at the stunning Koh Bon Pinnacle and the crowd-pleasing Boonsung Wreck. What a nice end to an absolutely amazing trip. Always a treat in good conditions, we experienced great viz and very little current at the Pinnacle this time around. Our little buddy Stewie the Stonefish was in his home as usual. Add to that schools of Bluefin Trevally, Tuna and Rainbow Runners, and it was a very nice dive indeed.
The final dive of our three day adventure was on the Boonsung Wreck, an old tin mining dredger that sunk in the 1980's. Absolutely teaming with life, the Boonsung wreck is always a fantastic way to finish the trip. Large schools of Baraccuda, Trevally and Fusiliers cover the wreck. Smaller stuff like Nudis and Spearing Mantis Shrimp can be found as well. Ornate Ghost Pipefish are usually around, and there are always tons of Honeycomb Moray Eels hanging out of the nooks and crannies. It really is a great dive, every time. A wonderful finish to an unforgettable three days!
I want to offer a big congratulations to all of our students on board this trip. Daniel, Susannah, Mika and Risto all became newly certified PADI Enriched Air divers, so they are now all in the Nitrox club. Hendrik, Ryan, Johnny and Pauline all completed their PADI Advanced Open Water course during the trip, so they are now advanced divers certified to dive to a depth of 30 meters. Yeah! Great job guys, and welcome to the family!!!
As a side note, their instructor, Mark has been diving for 31! years. He has seen and done so much, but until this trip he had NEVER seen a Whaleshark. We'll this was his lucky trip, as he saw the one at Tachai on the first day. He must have been pretty happy, as I promise you, this is not his normal hat:
It's always a little sad to end the trip, but there is a silver lining... We are going out again tomorrow!!! Come and join us on Manta Queen 2 for our next adventure! We sure would love to have you!!! :-)