Saturday, September 10, 2016

Manta Ray Diving At Koh Bon on a Similan Islands Liveaboard.

Amazing  Manta Ray Diving at Koh Bon in the Similan islands.

Phuket Thailand has always been a big draw for scuba diving for people from all over the world and for Phuket snorkel tours alike. Now what  makes Thailand Phuket especially popular is the great diving with mild currents and shallow depths which makes for very easy and colourful diving. Ok there are many other places with shallow diving but very few are as stunningly beautiful with such a varies sea life as when scuba diving Thailand.

The island of phuket is best location to use as a base when diving Phuket there are many choices of  places to dive. To the east side in the gulf of Thailand where you have Phi phi, shark point and many more stunning day trips.   Then there is the west side in the Andaman ocean and the Similan and surin islands?   When is the best time to dive in phuket? When to dive and how do you get the best out of the scuba diving Phuket has to offer. It does not matter if you have never tried it before or are an experienced diver diving in Thailand will will impress you.

Many people have heard of the amazing  in the Similan islands. These are a chain of nine islands in the andaman ocean to the north west of Phuket. Then just to the north of islands number nine but still in the Similan island national park lies the island of Koh Bon. This is a vast difference from the shallow reefs and white sandy bays that are the trademark of similan island diving chain so far. The most popular dive location is known as west ridge. This lies right on the most western tip of the islands and can be spotted from a good distance by the hole in the granite cliffs that connect the north and south sides of the ridge. The island of Koh Bon is the first real chance that people have to see the giant Manta Ray as the other locations are further north again up in to the Surin island national park. 

The Island of Koh Bon really has three dive sites. West ridge North and west ridge south. The similan island boats will normally drop divers off in the bay to the north or south of the ridge and allow the divers to work their way to the ridge. Both the ridge and the northern bay are great manta spotting locations. The ridge itself drops to around 35 meters to the sandy floor. There is no need to go even close to this depth as its far better to spend some time in the bays first before heading to the ridge. Many inexperienced guides head straight to the ridge and then have their customer hang on to the rock to wait for a manta.  This is not what similan island diving is all about. 

But all experienced guides know manta's swim in large circles when feeding and cleaning. By staying in the bays (especially the north bay) the manta have to come here either before the ridge or after it. This way you are out of the crowds, not damaging the coral by clinging to a coral covered ridge, in a nice protected bay and a great chance to see the Manta ray alone. Plus there is also plenty of other things to look at while waiting. 

The south side of the ridge has far more colour on the wall with plenty of soft corals too and sea fans. Plenty of small stuff and also a great place to shelter from the current on the top of the ridge. The other good thing about the south bay is many people cut the corner and dont go into the bay but head directly down the south side of the island. One thing you learn with experience on a similan liveaboard is look everywhere. Go where the others dont go. 

Fish and marine creatures like peace and quiet too. The number of times I have seen the Manta's in the bays then just swim around the ridge with all the novice and lazy guides clinging to the rock. Found all manor of small stuff on the walls of the ridge and followed it right into the bay where in 5 -7  meters of water found a black tip or two, a turtle just keeping out of the way of the divers. 

liveaboard similan islands does have a good reputation but with an experience guide can be even better. They really are the best islands in Thailand and offer some of the best diving on the planet.  This brings us to the third dive site. Koh Bon Pinnacle. This lies 800 meters to the north west of the island. Do not try to get there from the island as the pinnacle is small and the top is at 18 meters. That plus the current and an 800 meter swim in the blue means you will almost certainly miss it. This is where the Similan islands diving comes in to its own as few divers choose this dive but for the good diver its well worth it. The way this is done is for the advanced divers only. The boat locates the pinnacle and 2 experienced guide jump in directly and swim down fast with bright dive lights. They hover at the top of the pinnacle and everyone else aims at the lights. This is a stunning dive as the pinnacle is covered in yellow soft corals and large sea fans. The amount of life here is amazing. Just one of the really great things to do in phuket.

This is why a similan island liveaboard is as good as they are as they offer all divers a chance to get away and see something new away from the others. Be warned that you do need to be aware of your no decompression limit. The other thing that can put may off this site is the 800 meter swim back to the island just out in the blue. Just set the compass to south east and you will hit the island. This can be a bit worrying for some but you are swimming towards the west ridge which is where many go to see the Manta. Keep an eye on depth and compass but the other looking around and above you as you may well run into a manta just out in the blue on its way to the island too.  To arrive at the west ridge where all the other divers from all the other similan liveaboards are waiting alongside the Manta is a great feeling. 

Koh Bon may not be the most pretty underwater but it sure does offer some amazing sights if you know where to find them. A liveaboard similan islands will be one of the greatest dive trips that you will ever do.

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