Two of our team were lucky & grateful to join one of our most-popular Similan Islands liveaboard boats. In early March 2018, Jamie and his daughter Holly enjoyed a 4D4N diving safari on MV Lapat, and absolutely loved it! The Lapat team, management, and owners invited all of us, but only Jamie & Holly were available. Holly is a Jnr. Advanced Open Water diver and this was her first ever liveaboard trip.
On Sunday March 4th they flew from Bangkok to Phuket and an hour later arrived at Lapat’s office in Khao Lak. Even though their flight was delayed, they were still not the last guests to arrive. When everyone had checked in, they were all transferred to Tab Lamu Pier, where Lapat was ready & waiting. This trip had 13 guests from six different countries. Holly & Jamie are British, there were 2 guys from Finland, a young man and a middle-aged lady from Germany, a couple of French guys, an American, and a family from Japan. In addition to 7 Thai crew, there were plenty of diving staff. Jamie & Holly were delighted to be in Dennis’s group with no other divers. Holly is limited to a maximum depth of 21m., which may have been a factor. Dennis was the tour leader, with nearly 20 years’ experience working in diving in Thailand. His happiness, knowledge and service throughout the trip made everyone extremely comfortable & happy.
From very early in the morning of March 5th we were all diving at Hideaway Bay in the central Similan Islands. This is an ideal location for the first dive of the trip, because it is easy for all levels, and the sea conditions are predictably good almost every day. The first dive is always a ‘check dive’ so that the dive guides can properly assess the level & ability of their guests. Dive #2 was at West of Eden, followed by Dive #3 at Elephant Head Rock. Elephant Head Rock is a collection of granite boulders in open water just south of Similan Island #8, and it’s famous for its many swimthroughs at various depths. Some are easy, others not. Holly was not at all worried by the swimthroughs, and she quickly showed herself to be a very competent diver at the tender age of 13. In the afternoon, Lapat pulled up alongside MV Camic at Donald Duck Bay picture and used Camic’s dinghy to take some guests onto the beach. This was the perfect time to visit the beach at Similan Island #8, because all the day trip guests had already left. Holly & Jamie were able to climb up to the viewpoint rock with nobody else there to enjoy the view and take some photos. However, a long day after a late night took its toll on Holly’s energy levels, so she chose not to do her first ever night dive due to being over tired. During the evening everyone got to know their new friends better, and they all slept very well indeed.
On March 6th they woke up at Koh Bon, where the two Finnish guys joined Dennis’s group for the first dive of the day. The visibility was excellent in the bay, but an algae bloom affected the water clarity around the corner. In the bay the divers moved very slowly along, pointing out sea snakes, moray eels & other species to each other. Then they witnessed a rare & remarkable sight, also caught on video.
A large Giant Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus) was fighting something hidden under a rock. Normally moray eels spend the daylight hours hiding in nooks & crannies, but this one was out hunting at 7.30am, and it succeeded in catching & killing an octopus right in front of the divers’ eyes, and cameras. The second dive of the day was at Koh Tachai which is an excellent dive site, but known for its unpredictable and sometimes strong currents. Dennis prepared everyone during his briefing, but they were very lucky to enjoy a dive with almost no current at all.
During lunchtime, Lapat sailed north to the Surin Islands, where they enjoyed a wonderful afternoon dive at a secret dive site on Koh Surin Tai before one of the highlights of the trip. This was a beach visit to the Moken Sea Gypsy Village, also on Koh Surin Tai. This community have recently settled on this beach, given to them by the Thai government. They live in bamboo huts and all share the same family name. The people are very detached from the rest of the world, and they make a living from the sea and from selling handmade souvenirs to visitors. Pictures After waving goodbye to the Mokens, some guests chose a sunset dive and others a night dive. This was Holly’s first ever night dive, and she loved it. In fact, it was difficult to get her out of the water.
March 7th was the day where the best diving was almost guaranteed. Lapat spent all day at Richelieu Rock, and even after 4 long dives, nobody had had enough! From Peacock Mantis Shrimp to White-Eyed Moray Eels, there was plenty to see, especially the vast schools of Snapper, Trevally & Emperor Bream. The Trevally & Emperors work together in hunting packs, and they did plenty of this in front of the divers that day. There was a turtle and a very rare Zebra Moray Eel (Gymnomuraena zebra) for the sunset dive, and an octopus display on Dive #3. But the star of the day was the family of Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera picta) that were hiding under a rock around 12 metres below the surface.
Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera picta) above
On the final evening the guests had become close friends, and there even appeared to be a blossoming French-Japanese romance! This was all helped by a couple of card games called ‘Werewolf’ and ‘Killer.’ There was plenty of drinks for everyone to enjoy their evenings, and the food was simply delicious. It’s remarkable what magic the ladies in such a small kitchen are capable of, especially considering they had to plan everything before departure. Finally, the captain and boat crew were all extremely helpful and friendly, and they deserved their tips!
The final diving day of a liveaboard trip normally has 2 or 3 dives, and usually at dive sites nearer to the mainland. The reasons for this include logistics of getting back to the pier sooner and not having to pay an extra national park fee. However, there are some better reasons to dive at Boonsung Wreck and 813 Wreck. For Boonsung, the main reason is marine life. Even though the visibility is often quite poor when compared to the previous days’ diving, the amount of fish and invertebrates there is unbelievable. Huge schools of snapper, dozens of Honeycomb Moray Eels (Gymnothorax favagineus), Pufferfish, Scorpionfish, stonefish and nudibranchs all call Boonsung their home. 813 Wreck is a new artificial reef and an underwater playground. They saw some interesting marine life here, including Porcelain Crabs sharing an anemone with the resident Anemonefish. But this dive was an opportunity to have fun under water. There is a broken military hull here that was destroyed during the 2004 tsunami, and the Thai authorities recently ‘parked’ 18 military trucks on the sandy seabed. Divers can sit in and pretend to drive them, and it’s a wonderful photo and video opportunity. On this trip, one of the Finnish guys actually swam underneath a truck and went inside the hull of the wreck! We had so much fun on this dive that Jamie had a fit of laughter, flooding his mask and using more air than usual. Luckily, it’s not very deep here.
After the final farewells most divers went their separate ways, but some met up again for dinner and drinks in Khao Lak. Photos, videos and stories were all exchanged, as were email addresses and Facebook IDs. We can’t thank the Lapat team enough for such a wonderful trip. This includes the owners, office staff, dive team, and the local crew. The other guests on board were a mixture of ages, cultures and diving experience, but they all became one big happy family, and many will remain friends for life!