The 2014-2015 Similan, Surin & Koh Haa diving season is still very much in its infancy. The first few weeks produced a couple of storms which affected the small & speedboats from taking divers out to Thailand’s best diving spots. However, now that we’re into December, the conditions are perfect. Normally, the season starts with a few interesting sightings, but the likes of Manta Rays are not normally frequently seen until March. However, the season so far looks to be even better than last season (2013-14). The following reports of what has been seen at sea in the south of Thailand in recent weeks are sure to surprise, and some may not even believe them.
Firstly, Richelieu Rock & Koh Tachai have been maintaining their status of Thailand’s premier dive spots, and produced plenty of visiting Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) and Manta Rays (Manta alfredi). These harmless, but huge, filter feeders are perfectly used to excited divers blowing lots of bubbles and trying to swim around to get a better look or the best photo or video footage. Koh Bon, many divers’ favourite for Manta Ray sightings, has also produced some fine reports. The seas are becoming calmer every day and visibility is improving to well over 20 or 30 metres at times. The Similan Islands’ nearly two dozen dive sites are in good condition, and plenty of special species have been reported, too.
However, out of the range of underwater scuba divers, there have been extraordinary sightings of marine mammals, and possibly the most exciting shark species. Starting with the shark, it is with great regret that the specimen was caught and died. The fishermen off the coast of Krabi province pulled up some bycatch like never before in Thailand. It’s so amazing, that verification by experts is still needed. The most feared fish in the sea is the Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) although injuries and deaths to humans are always by accident and statistically you have more chance of being killed by a cow or a coconut. These fierce fish live in cool waters, and even generate heat in their bodies to give them the speed and strength to hunt seals. However, according to a local newspaper (thairath.co.th/content/466413) one has been found and accidentally caught on Thailand’s west coast. This is no cause for alarm at all concerning the safety of humans, including scuba divers. However, it is an amazing story, if true.
Marine mammals, such as Minke Whales (Balaenoptera) and several species of local dolphins are often seen jumping through the waves near to or far from dive and speedboats in Thailand’s seas. These are wonderful creatures, and although not spending time underwater with them, those lucky enough to experience whale and dolphin sightings rarely forget it. However, today (December 1st 2014) two specimens of Orca (Orcinus orca) the largest, and most advanced species of dolphin (or the most exciting toothed whale) were sighted on the way back from Koh Bon to Nam Khem Pier. Like the Great White Shark, these creatures are extreme predators and usually spend their entire lives in cool or cold water, feeding on the fat and blubber of seals. How and why they came to Thailand remains a mystery, but the divers on Blue Dolphin got to see something very special on the way home from their day trip diving this afternoon.
Divers who visit Koh Bon and Koh Tachai often come back to shore with exciting stories, but today’s group of daytrippers on Blue Dolphin have more and better to boast about than the anyone else for a very long time.
For anyone reading this and thinking that Thailand’s seas are infested with deadly animals, please be assured that anyone with any knowledge of marine life in its natural environment can easily explain that this is absolutely untrue. Whale Sharks and Manta Rays are filter feeders, eating plankton while they swim around with their huge mouths open. Manta Rays have the largest brains in proportion to body size of any fish, and frequently dance and play around awestruck scuba divers, because they understand we are no threat or food to them. Whale Sharks swim slowly and smoothly, but disappear into the depths or distance when they become bored or annoyed by their human friends. Great White Sharks are ambush predators which attack seals at the surface, and the only humans in danger are extremely unlucky surfers, whose silhouettes look like a seal. Finally, Orcas are incredibly intelligent and use teamwork to prey on baby whales and other marine mammals. They know what we humans are, and understand that we don’t taste at all good, especially when coated in neoprene wetsuits and attached to large aluminium air tanks.
Whale and shark sightings are something to rejoice, especially in today’s society, where more and more efforts are being made to educate and preserve these majestic creatures. Come and dive on Blue Dolphin or any of our other day trip boats or liveaboards to see the best marine life Thailand has to offer.