Sunday, 21 January 2007

Similan Islands

Date: 21 Jan 07 - 27 Jan 07 [7D/6N]
Location: Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon, Thailand [Dive]
Location: Khao Lak(Phang Nga), Ao-Nang(Krabi), Trang and Satun, Thailand [Stop over]
No. of dives: 15

Dive mode: Live onboard 4D/4N
Dive Operator: South Siam
Dive type: Fringing Reefs, submerged seamount
Depth: 15 - >30m
Visibility: 15-20m[Similan Islands], 15m[Koh Bon], 10m[Richelieu Rock]
Currents: Can be strong
Surface Conditions: Calm
Water Temperature: 26 - 29°C
Experience Level: Beginner - Advanced
Transport: Car (Penang-Khao Lak 10 hours)
Camera: Canon Powershot A80
Underwater casing: Canon Waterproof Case WP-DC900 for Powershot A80 by Canon
Strobe: NIL
Oraganizer: Dan
Members: Rockson and Ah Kang
My reason to go there: One of the many famous diving locations that I have dreamt of going to.

Togather with another 2 friends, we drove for 10 hours; all the way up to to Khao Lak and get on a 4D/4N Similan Islands dive boat. The entire journey was smooth and always interesting with new discoveries everywhere... 

The Journey
Departure Day
18.30 Pick up from your hotel
20.00 Dinner on board
21.00 Departure to the Similan Islands

1st day Similan Islands, 2nd day Koh Bon, 3rd day Richelieu Rock, 4th day Similan Islands
07.00 Wake up call
07.30 Light breakfast
08.00 1st dive
09.30 Full breakfast
12.00 2nd dive
13.30 Lunch
15.30 3rd dive
17.00 Snack / Visit to a beach
19.00 Night dive
20.30 Dinner

Last day
12.30 Traveling back to the pier
15.00 Arrival at the pier

and 2 nights at Ao Nang....

Similan Islands can certainly lay claim to being one of Phuket, Thailand's top scuba dive sites. Thriving reefs with abundant hard and soft corals highlight the dramatic terrain, the tremendous diversity of marine life makes it a fantastic observation point for the larger pelagics. Richelieu Rock has the reputation as being the place to see Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in good numbers. The Similan Islands lies about 100 km Northwest of Phuket, Thailand. Declared a National Park in 1982, the Similans are comprised of 9 islands which run roughly North to South and numerous smaller rock outcroppings. With snow-white beaches and a tropical jungle above the water and spectacular scuba diving sites in often crystal clear water below, it's not surprising that the Similans are ranked as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world! 
Nearly all of the 9 islands are surrounded by huge underwater rock formations, eroded by the action of a relentless sea. These stone giants are home to an amazing variety of marine life and reach down to 40 meters or more, with passages, caves and gorges forming a unique underwater landscape. All this has made names like Elephant Head, Shark Fin Reef and Christmas Point justly famous. A world of giant underwater boulders, caves, narrow passages, some 500 species of hard and soft corals and an amazing variety of marine life including Leopard Sharks, Guitar Rays, Whale Sharks and Manta Rays is waiting to be explored. 

Koh Bon is an island located 13 miles northeast of the Similan Islands. You can dive all around this island but mainly on the west tip where we have seen Manta Rays so often during the years that it has led me to believe they breed there. Whale Sharks are also seen here occasionally while scuba diving. Diving down the west ridge you can see Big schools of Trevallies and Tunas as well as big Marble Rays and Leopard Sharks. On the way back to the shallows you can see schools of Yellow Snappers, Oriental Sweetlips as well as mating Cuttlefish, Octopus and Banded Sea Snakes. Definitely a site not to miss. 

Koh Tachai is an island located 25 miles north-east of the Similan islands. Tachai Reef is a round reef located at the south of the island, the reef is surrounded by big boulders and big fans where you start the dive enjoying the site of big barrel sponges and encounters with leopard sharks and rays lying on the sand. The top of the reef is all hard and soft corals of incredible variety. We've also seen the most rare Nudibranches you can imagine. The encounters with manta rays and whale sharks are frequent. We’ve seen up to three Manta Rays and one Whale Shark in a single dive! 

Surin Islands National Park lies just a few miles south of Burmese border. Surin Islands are more appropriately famous for their beautiful coves, bays and dense jungle than they are for their diving. The five islands are closely grouped together; the main islands larger than any of the Similans and covered in verdant rainforest. A small Sea Gypsy community lives on the east coast. The diving here is mainly on fringing hard coral reefs, similar to the east side of the Similans. Besides hawksbill turtles one can also observe juvenile tallfin batfish and a wide variety of colorful reef fishes.

Surin Islands National Park has an ace up it's sleeve though:

Richelieu Rock is one of the most amazing dives sites we’ve ever done in our entire lives. Located 9 miles east of the Surin Islands, this rock comes out of the water approximately 1 meter during low tide. Diving around this pinnacle is something not to miss. There are schools of Barracudas and Big-Eye Trevallies, so many of them you can’t see your buddy anymore. Schools of Batfish, Sergeant Majors, Long Nose Emperors, Snappers, Rainbow Runners and Cobias are always around. You also find big Potato Cod, Marble Rays and, during the last two seasons on the north and west side, about 200 Blue Spotted Stingrays were lying on the sand. The best are the White-Spotted Shovelnose Rays and the Whale Sharks, a rare site in any other part of the world, but a very common here. During last season we saw Whale Sharks while scuba diving on every trip from the end of January to beginning of May and on four different occasions two swimming together! 

All shots here were taken using a 
Canon Powershot A80 compact camera with its' underwater casing.

Richelieu Rock
Accessibility to dive sites: 6.0
Marine Animal Density: 9.5
Dive site terrain Quality: 9.0
Marine Animal Diversity: 8.5
Visibility: 8.0
Overall Score: 8.2

Entry: LOB
Difficulty: AOW
Dive Sites: Pinnacles/Walls

Koh Bon
Accessibility to dive sites: 6.0
Marine Animal Density: 7.9
Dive site terrain Quality: 8.5
Marine Animal Diversity: 7.7
Visibility: 8.0
Overall Score: 7.6

Entry: LOB
Difficulty: OW
Dive Sites: Open water

Accessibility to dive sites: 7.0
Marine Animal Density: 7.9
Dive site terrain Quality: 8.5
Marine Animal Diversity: 7.7
Visibility: 8.0
Overall Score: 7.8

Entry: LOB
Difficulty: OW-AOW
Dive Sites: Fringing reefs/Boulders/Pinnacles


Monday, 1 January 2007

Gunung Bintang 1,862m 2007

Date: New year's eve of 2007 [2D/1N]
Location: Gunung Bintang + Gunung Bintang South, Kedah/Perak
From: Sebonton, Selama, Perak
Altitude: 1,862m ASL
Difficulty: 8.1/10 (
Camera: Canon Powershot A80
Lens: add-on wide angle adapter
Filter: NIL
Post editing: PS CS1
Organizer: Taiping Goh
Members: Dan, Lucy, KL Tan, Doreen, CS Law and other from KL/Johor
Guide: Taiping Goh
My reason to go there: Because I wanna hike Gunung Bintang, a mountain I see in front of me everyday when I drive to work along the Butterworth-Kulim Highway(BKE)

New year's eve of 2007 was spent hiking from Sebonton Perak to Bintang South(1560m) and Gunung Bintang(1862m). It was a long hike from the starting point passing Bintang South peak and then to the summit of Gunung Bintang. The trail was over grown with bamboos and Resam Ferns at many places, Ratan or the Malay Rotan thrive at places below 1700m yielded us many scars, multiple vertical climbs, indistinguishable path ways, muddy terrain and abundant animal paw marks from 1700m onwards, mossy forest with their gnarled tree trunks near the summit region, 15 Celsius and misty at night/morning. … and the scariest part was Tiger paw marks seems to be everywhere near the summit region and we had to hike until night fall when there’s no light except those of our headlamps emitting thru the thick mist and moisted montane forest, along pathways filled with animal foot prints ….. Elephant prints, tiger prints, rhino prints, bear prints, goat prints, wild boar prints, mouse deer prints, etc….