The first of our four dives for the day began with a 7 o’clock leap into the temperate waters of the Andaman Sea. Until we reached the salty bottom, much of the water was thick and unclear to the point I could not see the sand that normally awaited me at the bottom. As we descended it felt very rogue like something from ‘Mission Impossible’ or a James Bond movie. The group of us lowered ourselves deeper and deeper into the water as a team of bandits might through a series of booby traps and lasers to reach the precious diamond jewels that stood at the center of the room. Once we got below that hazy cloud of dust, the water opened up and shortly into the dive I could see a white-tip reef shark sitting patiently on the white sand slyly awaiting its prey. The rest of the dive covered some tuna, trevallys, anemonefish, gorgonian coral fans, and other wildly colorful coral sprouting up everywhere, a sight I could never get sick of. After more French fries, eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast (how overly stereotypical can we get for an American style breakfast?), we jumped in for dive number five. This dive was highlighted by Kuhl’s stingray, garden eels popping out of the sand and wriggling their bodies like a belly dancer before pulling themselves back into their holes whenever a predator or scuba diver approached (kind of like whack-a-mole), a chevron barracuda stretching to a good couple meters, and the most spotfin and common lionfish I have ever seen. As common as lionfish have now become with this liveaboard I still find them extremely intriguing. They are normally well hidden under rocks and just sit there cool as a sea cucumber unafraid of a diver. Besides their mane of waving tentacles?, they have the added cool factor of being extremely poisonous. After another large helping of Thai food, I needed to work some of it off. Luckily we stopped at one of the islands. The island has some bungalows but is largely undeveloped and, luckily for us, uncrowded with sand so white an albino for once would feel jealous. Best of all, the island has a killer viewpoint up amongst the boulders. From atop this motley crew of boulders and granite stone, which sound as hollow as wood when tapped, I could see two bays. The bay to my left held our barely noticeable MV Nanguan boat and the clearest water I may ever lay my eyes on. The water is so pure and and clear, I could see straight through all the way to the coral that etched the white sandy depths. After taking my time to imprint this godly wondrous image in my memory, I played around the boulders like a monkey might. The next dive was easily my favorite. Elephant Head Rock has many towering and lengthy boulders hidden in its depths (like much of the dive sites we have and will continue to see) but this site has them positioned so well for swim throughs and other acrobatics. Beyond the marine life of a great barracuda, batfish, tiger cowrie, three-spot angelfish (a yellow fish with lips so blue you might have thought it was low on oxygen), long-nose emperor, etc., we got to swim under, through, and between rocks, large and small gaps alike. With the current at its most powerful rushing in my face and holding me back, I sometimes struggled to get through a passageway (an instant panic attack for any claustrophobe) until the current reversed its direction and pulled me out with as great of a force as it held me in place. After a rush like that I wanted more. During the dive briefing and before the dive could even begin, we saw two green turtles, one large and one small (what I would like to think was a mama and a baby), swim towards the boat and lift their heads out of water just off the boat to the point I probably could have touched them. Having probably been fed by other boats they continued to circle our tiny dingy, popping up ever once in awhile. So far, I could not have asked for a better experience. This dive treated us with an unusual sight, something I would have never noticed in a million years. On one orange gorgonian coral, the Swiss master diver noticed an orange orangutan crab, the first of which he has ever seen around Thailand in all his years of diving in the area. To me it looked nothing like a crab but more so like a fuzzy filament but it made his day and dive. After all that diving, I had no troubles falling asleep.
Thailand Day 81: Simply Similan