Today was going to be the last of my diving in Thailand for this trip and I was to be accompanied by Sharky and Neville once again. We were picked up from our accommodation at 7:40. I don’t like early mornings really, especially when I am on Holiday. We were taken to the pier at Chalong and then transferred to the boat, Calypso. It was the same boat I had dived on for the Saturation Monday, except this time Mick was working. Mick took us through the usual boat briefing then we kitted up before leaving the protection of the harbour. The trip is about one and a half hours as technically these are Phi Phi dive sites, but as Phi Phi was busy (you had to book accommodation at least one week in advance) we were doing it from Phuket.
I have dived the King Cruiser every year for the past 6 years now and have watched it turn from a sunken boat to a wreck. The first time there was still decking boards and carpet; now the sun deck and first class has collapsed and the bridge is falling backwards. The Tsunami did help it on its way a little. I do like Mick’s briefings, very thorough, his 4 different versions of how the large 84m long ferry came to meet its end are all good. They all end up with it hitting Anemone Reef and holing one of the catamaran’s hulls.
- The Captain was drunk and went off course
- The Captain was now passed out and someone else was steering, maybe the cook
- The company that owned the boat were in financial difficulties and paid the captain to sink it
- The dive shops and operators around Phuket and Phi Phi didn’t have a good wreck to dive, clubbed together and paid the captain to sink it there.
Whatever the reason was, the captain is still in prison for endangering the lives on board his ship.
We descended down the mooring line and made straight for the rear car port door, which was open all the way and touching the sea bed. Usually there are Bamboo sharks lying under the door, but not this time. Not being bothered about my no deco time (I had arranged for nitrox for the next two dives) I stayed while everyone left the area. It was a long time since I swam the length of the ship between the two hulls, pushing the fish out of the way, and I wished I had the air to do it again. The water was quite clear compared to previous visits; normally the bed gets kicked up by divers and you can’t see very much. As I looked at the two propellers and rudders one at a time I saw a turtle swimming towards me above the prop, with Mick outside watching it swim in. You can always spot Mick, he has a Union Jack bandanna. I made my way outside and joined the others. We swam the length of the wreck a couple of times, looking at how quickly it has decayed since it sank in 1997. There is always a lot of scorpion fish all over the wreck and shoals of fish of all kinds – sometimes Barracuda and Jacks fly into the shoals to feed and huge Lionfish hover in the current. One of the funniest things about the wreck is as you pass the bridge; cleaner wrasse come and check your ears. You feel a tiny pinch or two, then they come round to look you in the eye before doing your other ear. All too soon the dive was over. We came up for lunch and the boat headed to Sharkpoint.
I had only dived this site three days ago, when I did Anemone Reef, so I wasn’t getting excited. I was using Nitrox this time, although I didn’t really need it. We jumped into the water close to number two – Sharkpoint is a series of nine rocks heading south getting smaller and deeper. The vis was unbelievable! A few days ago it was o.k. at 8m, this time it was 25m, maybe 30m, maybe more. There is about 25m between no.1 and no.2. You cannot always see one from the other; this time you could see the whole of no.1 from no.2. We headed around no.1 in an anticlockwise direction, marvelling at the beauty of the site; huge Gorgonian sea fans, soft corals of every colour, anemones with clown fish frolicking within. We spotted the tail end of a shark under a small rock. It was probably a young Zebra Shark. During our dive we also saw Flute fish, Boxfish, Titan Triggerfish and more Lion fish. After a couple of circuits of the rock we started to come up into the shallows, a banded sea snake was hunting for its next meal. As we reached the shallows, large shoals of Big Eye Trevally were looking for their next meal. We hung there motionless watching them swarm around us, then, all too soon it was time to exit.
Koh Doc Mai
Koh Doc Mai translates to Lotus Flower Island. No-one knows why; there are no flowers and the island doesn’t look remotely like one. I still remember my first visit to Koh Doc Mai. I thought “What a boring dive after the other two!”. It’s funny how your perspective changes. Gradually I have come to prefer it out of the three sites, and today I had nitrox to make the most of the dive. As a wall dive it drops straight down to around 22m on all sides. There are two caves, but after two dives already that day we would only have enough no deco time to enter one cave, unless you were on Nitrox. Koh Doc Mai is a photographer’s dream; lots of little interesting things that don’t move. Frog fish, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, nudibranchs and seahorses to name a few of the attractions.
As we entered the water and headed to the bottom we saw what looked like another tail end of a young Zebra Shark. We slowly made our way to the recess where the Seahorses normally live. We looked for a few minutes, but they were obviously not coming out to play. Eventually we came across the first cave. As we were only on single Ali 80 cylinders we didn’t want to go in too far. We swam in about 10m just to get a look from the inside; thousands of glassfish swam quickly outside the entrance as well as all the other small fish feeding on the walls. As we exited the cave our dive guide pointed at his computer and gestured we were out of no deco time and should go shallower. I pointed at my computer, gave the OK signal and carried on – I still had 44 minutes of no deco time. As I made my way along the wall, with the others 10m above me, I felt I had all the time in the world to look into all the cracks and recesses, seeing all the things I never noticed the first time I dived here. I then came across the second cave; it had a large entrance. I started to swim inside and it really opened up. My little BCD torch wasn’t going to be man enough for this. I was about 15m in. I turned and looked out from within the cave again. Such a pretty view – fish darting everywhere, some feeding off the walls, no divers in the way or kicking up the bottom. Marvellous!
I headed back out and acknowledged the rest of my group still 10m above me; a banded sea snake hunting for food, Devil Scorpion fish lying camouflaged all over the place, white eyed Morays peeked out of several cracks. Soon the one hour allotted time was nearly up so I headed up to join the rest of my group, even though I still had 17 minutes if no deco time and 80 bar of nitrox. There were a couple more nudibranchs in the shallows and a giant moray. Time was over and our dive guide went to the surface, followed by Sharky. Neville signalled me, and gave me a signal for one more minute. I looked at my watch, 59 minutes. So we swam underwater to the boat and came out dead on 60 minutes. He then reminded me that it was his 60th dive and 60 minutes seemed appropriate.
We got back onto the boat to the smell of freshly cooked pancakes; a speciality of the boat boys on Calypso for the trip home. It always helps the tip tin!