overland-underwater.com - A charity drive from the UK to New Zealand
Pic of the week: (previous - fav video clip)
Pic of the week
Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Liveaboard Trip Delight

Written by Maz Towns. Uploaded 22 June 2006.

Thailand, Country 19, Diary entry 28th-29th April 2006, Total distance in Thailand (first pass!): 4099 KM

Eventually leaving Phuket, we drove the few hours north to Ko Lak. Having camped on the beach, in between the stumps of concrete pillars, foundations from where hotels once stood, we took a walk along the soft sands. Pictures with poems and remembrance lines had been nailed to trees lining the beach, poignant reminders of all the lives lost on the 26th December 2004. With lumps in our throats, submersed in our own thoughts, we wandered hand in hand down the beach. With the sea mirror calm, it was hard to even imagine the chaos that hit the beach as the tidal wave came in.

A reminder of events the devastated this region

After brekkie we rocked up at Siam Adventure Divers ready for our next underwater adventure. Not really knowing what the plan was, we found we were to follow Bea, Nigel and Jazzy and drive a couple more hours north to Ranong where the boat was returning from The Similan Islands to take us further north into Myanmar. Another bonus country…..Martin wasn’t to outdo us that easily! With it being the last trip of the season, onboard was a mix of half customers, half staff. We chatted away a couple of hours with Nigel, Bea and Jazzy while waiting for the boat to return to shore.

MV Jazz, our chariot to Myanmar

Greeted with huge friendly smiles as the boat sailed into port to pick us up, Pat the owner of Siam Adventure Divers , jumped off the boat to give us a warm welcome. Bea, with the patience of an angel, sorted out customs making sure we were all stamped out of Thailand and paid the extortionate visa fee for Myanmar. Once all kit had been loaded and Tinfish parked up safely for a rest, the sky was turning a blazing orange as the sun was beginning to set. Once again, the captain and his crew before raising the anchor gave offerings and prayed for a safe passage finishing with the setting off of the strip of Chinese crackers. The boat set sail for Burmese waters.

The loud offerings to the gods

Myanmar, Country 20, Diary entry 29th April – 3rd May 2006, Total distance in Myanmar 0 KM by car, no idea of the nautical miles!

Rik, our dive guide first gave a boat briefing; top deck was for dining, drinking and relaxing, covered so you didn’t burn in the midday sun. Next deck down consisted of the bow for sun bathing, mid ships with the luxurious air-conditioned lounge stacked with DVDs to watch and music to listen to, with the aft providing a spacious kitting up area. The bedrooms were a deck down again, where we found a double bed with ensuite bathroom.

Maz makes herself at home

We couldn’t have asked for more. We settled into the evening with a beer and some great grub cooked by Porn, chatting to Pat, Jazzy, Rik, Nigel, Bea and Chris, a fellow brit. There were also a couple of Germans and Swiss on board but they tended to keep themselves to themselves.

The Siam Adventure team.. Jazzy, Pat, Rik, Nigel & Bea

Having wanted to dive Myanmar for a long time having heard of the big pelagic fish to see, we were looking forward to getting back in the water. With the Mantas just adding to the excitement for our desire to see more big fish, we hoped for tiger sharks, shoals of tuna or barracuda and maybe the possibility of the whale shark…….

JAWS..!!

With a knock on the door at 6.30am the next morning, we wearily dragged ourselves out of bed. We are not morning people! The first dive of the trip was an exploration dive; i.e. drop down on a rock never dived before by Siam Adventures and see what’s down there. Alex armed with his camera and Nigel his video we jumped into the waters, surprised at how green and murky they were, with viz only 5 to 10m it was a stark contrast to waters further south we’d just come from.

Can you spot the Scorpion fish? Profile of what they actually look like.

Dropping down through a school of Barracuda, a promising sign, we landed on sand. We ended up swimming for about 10minutes into a current to find the rock we were supposed to be diving. Unfortunately, with dynamite fishing still rife in these waters, the site was pretty bare. The ever frequent scorpion fish however littered the rocks, but first you had to see them as they are experts at camouflage! Whip corals were still climbing into the emptiness, and a lot of corals beginning to form, but it was decided that it wasn’t a site to return to in a hurry.

Land Ho… one of the many islands of Mynamar

We ventured on to one of the islands for a while during the surface interval to splash in the waves before descending once more into the murk. This time there was lots of life around. With the briefing promising a cave to swim through and the possibility of a nurse shark lurking in the dark, anticipation was high as we entered the crevice. Alas, the shark was out playing rather than at home, so we busied ourselves with looking at cowrie shells and spider conchs littering the rocks.

Say Ah..! A moral eel shows us his teeth

Back on deck, knowing we’d brought the laptop on board to catch up on website admin, we went straight into the lounge and watched the pink panther movie :O) Relishing in the feeling of being on holiday, after the next dive, our last of the day, we returned to the lounge once more for another movie, Deuce Bigalo in Europe. Obviously this was all fitted around the fantastic food dished up in between dives, and a power nap every so often! For some reason, it felt like we had much more time on our hands in between dives, so there would be plenty of time for work later in the trip.

Alex tucks into another feed.

Chris being a budding PADI dive master in training, volunteered to take the others who wanted to go (i.e. the others customers except Alex and I) for a night dive. Actually, Rik, being fed up of night dives, felt it would be good training for Chris if he did so. This became the order of the night, which suited both parties down to the ground.

A wee box fish

Up again early, but delayed by the huge swell coming in from the west, the viz was remarkably better than the day before. We were now in remoter waters. Pinnacles and huge boulder shaped rocks were the order of the day. Big colourful fan corals for me to pose in front of, to be the perfect model for Alex while he snapped away. Rocks covered in soft corals of varying colours, dropping down from above, looked like a patchwork quilt. Mean looking barracuda circling around with fusiliers darting about and the odd parrot fish gnawing away at the coral. Rik was lucky enough to boast about seeing a white tip reef shark, and indeed knowing we wouldn’t believe him brought us a picture back as proof!

The beautiful fan corals

Deciding 2 dives were enough for us, we managed to fit in the movie Johnie English, well I saw the opening credits and woke to the end ones, a couple of games of chess and then when Alex went to crash out for the arvo, I spent the afternoon with his mistress, Loretta. Chris again took charge of the night dive team, while the rest of us relaxed on deck with a beer.

Hard a work again..!

Settling into the routine of dropping into the blue with the anticipation of the big fish lurking nearby, the next day brought calmer weather, along with a great dive watching 2 octopuses. Catching one out of its hole, it soon shot back into it as our darkening shadows descended near them. Once we’d settled ourselves on the sand, it felt safe to begin venturing out again to tickle its friend. Slowly, a tentacle crept out, followed by another. Knowing the friend was in the next door hole, found a tentacle and slowly entwined its own around it. This behaviour went on for awhile, gently easing it’s way out of the hole, before getting too scared and dipping back in it again. As the octopus emerged, it changed colours dramatically to a mottling of purple and white and changed the texture of it’s skin from smooth to lumpy. Transfixing to see.

The entertaining octuopus

We had some dancing spinner dolphins in the surface interval to entertain us, along with pirates of the Caribbean. With no big fish again we decided to finish diving for the day, and spent some time on photos for the website before having a change of heart and deciding to get wet again for a night dive.

Ready for another dive..

Again, Chris in charge of the ‘regulars’, Alex and I jumped in behind them and pootled along for a while. Lots of stag horn coral, with a few sleeping fish nestled in between. A couple of squid welcomed us by jetting their ink at us and shooting off, with lots of triangle box fish bumping their way along the coral. The long nose pipe fish had a hard time navigating their way through the coral, as their nose got in the way!

Happy hour onboard & the beer flows freely!

Once back on the boat, with the season ending and the boat returning to shore the next day, beers were on the house and we had a little party. With one of the days dives not having a name, we had a competition with who could come up with the best name for the dive site. Everyone thought up a suitable (ish) name, Nigel managing to put at least five in, and wrote them on a piece of paper to be picked out of the cup. In turn, one by one we read out the names and had a show of thumbs – up or down - as to whether we liked it or not. Narrowing it down to the last 4, we (surprisingly) ended up with Nigels choice. I’m sure it was rigged :o)

Nigel comes up with his fifth suggestion!

Waking up a little tired the next day, we had a couple of morning dives, the highlight being Crayfish cave. A huge cave to swim through with lots of crayfish tucked away in the narrower end, hence the name! I spotted another octopus, who less friendly than the ones the previous day, squirted its ink and zapped back into its hole. Back on deck we celebrated the end of a very enjoyable trip with a beer and Chris teaching me some pointers in Chess (it’s true; I have become a chess bore). We then sailed back to Thai shores and stamp ourselves back into the country. A crayfish in the cave

We had a fantastic trip away, thanks to Pat and the team, Bea, Nigel, Rik & Jazzy, not to mention the crew who worked hard getting us in and out of the water safely. Not only were we lucky enough to go away with them, but Pat has generously donated Enter Raffle2 FREE PLACES ON THE LIVEABOARD TO THE SIMILAN ISLANDS NEXT SEASON. These places will be raffled off in aid of raising as much money as possible for CARE International... Entry to the Raffle is only £10 and you can enter as many times as you wish. A HUGE thanks Pat for all your help with organising the trip and for the fabulous prize to be raffled.

Thailand, Country 19, Diary entry 3-5th May 2006, Total distance in Thailand (first pass!): 4099 KM

Posing before they take the plunge

After saying goodbye to the guys and packing Tinfish, we ended up driving north for a few hours towards Bangkok and camping in the same spot we’d found heading south previously. Having to navigate the wrath of traffic in Bangkok to pick up our camera lens which we’d sent off to be mended as it wasn’t focusing properly, we turned up to (surprise surprise) no fault could be found with the lens and they needed the camera body too to check if there was a problem. Needing the camera for Cambodia, we said we’d test out the lens again and if there was still a problem, bring it back when we returned to Bangkok in 3 weeks time.

Wait for us..!

With it now being rush hour, we were stuck in traffic moving nowhere fast. Not being able to find a road to the flyover, we kept heading east and found a Carrefour. Deciding to stop and stock up the fridge, we ended up spending two hours in the air conditioned metropolis, eating as many tasters as we could and having tea. Alex getting giddy with excitement at all the foods from home, we came across a stall selling good ol’ country soups, unfortunately named ‘Deli Belly!’ Having tasted over half of them, we settled for mushroom & spinach and broccoli & cheddar (Jerry you would have delighted at the choice – better than Lickity Split’s!) Alex had also spied desert but when we went to find the lady with jam tart tasters, she’s packed up and gone home for the night. After eventually buying some food, we managed to find a road out of town and find camp.

Before heading into Cambodia we spent a few hours in an internet café catching up with bits. We received a mail from Frazer, Alex’s brother, asking where we were as he happened to be in Vietnam and if we were ‘nearby’, how about meeting up. With a flurry of emails and text to follow, we’d arranged to meet Frazer in Cambodia the next day for lunch and a spot of sightseeing! Most things on this trip take a certain amount of organisation, however the two times we’ve met Frazer he seems to simply appear from nowhere with no prior arrangements! So with a lunch appointment in Siem Reap to look forward to, we pushed on into Cambodia…

Many thanks to Rik for the underwater pictures

All content copyright © overland-underwater.com - please do not use without permission.

Comment from Taimur Mirza
Thanks for the update,

'The Network"
22 Jun 2006 @ 10:08:01