Day 5 - The Andaman Sea (Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai)
Sunrise at Richelieu Rock.
The day began before 6.00 am today. We washed up and got ready for the first dive briefing at about 6.15 am. As the orange rays of the rising sun began to wash over the once indigo sky, we could see that we were moored in the middle of the open sea with no land in sight. The topography of the Richelieu Rock dive site is that of a completely submerged rocky outcrop, whereby only the tip is visible during low tide.
We were slated to make 3 dives at Richelieu Rock today with the hopes of sighting whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, that often swim by the area during this time of the year. Other large pelagics such as manta rays are also often seen in the area as it is noted to be a 'cleaning station'.
Anticipation was high today, although we (or at least I did) tried to manage our expectations realistically. After all, there was really no such thing as a 'guaranteed' sighting in open seas.
Dive #1 came and went. So did Dive #2, and then Dive #3. Sadly, no whale shark. But the dives were all pretty significant in themselves. The underwater topography of Richelieu Rock and the rich diversity of its marine life definitely made it one of the best places I've ever dived.
It was beautiful in short. Large schools of fishes of various shapes and sizes thronged the area. Corals were bountiful and one section featured a HUGE anemone garden. It was a sight for sore eyes. Rich colours danced around us as if all of creation decided to put on an elaborate show just for us. We spotted colourful nudibranchs, shrimps and even the elusive seahorse! So we really had little reason to be disappointed, really =)
[Photo from Kyle] A shy mantis prawn.
[Photo from Kyle] Harlequin shrimp having a sea star for lunch.
[Photo from Kyle] Tiger egg cowrie. These things are so small!!
By this time, we had gotten so used to living on the boat that Yao and I decided to make ourselves a little more 'at home' =)
Last dive of the day was back at Koh Tachai. Tonight was to be our last night on board the MQII. We spent it lying on the sun deck watching the moon and stars, chilling out with a couple of beers, and mulling over the trip that was soon to end...boo hoo!
Day 6 - The Andaman Sea (Koh Bon), Khao Lak
The last two dives of the trip were to be made in Koh Bon, a little island also famed to be a 'cleaning station' for manta rays and other pelagics. It turned out we didn't see manta rays, but this was where I had my close encounter with a leopard shark that wanted to get up close and personal. A swim-by less than 2 feet away was an awesome opportunity for me to observe the fish really close, watch its beady eyes, gills in rhythmic movement, spotted hide, graceful fin. A totally awesome experience.
One of the 10 or so leopard sharks that we encountered in that single dive.
Watching our dive video.
Photo time...Team KL, Aussie Kyle and Miko.
[Photo from Angie] All the divers and divemasters minus Tom who was taking the shot.
And shortly after that, we bade goodbye and went our separate ways. We checked into the Nang Thong Bay Resort, which was just a stone's throw away from the dive centre and spent the night in Khao Lak.
Back in Khao Lak. Colourful fishing boats at Thaplamu Pier.
Hungry divers need good Thai food.
Tired divers need good Thai massage.
Day 7 - Khao Lak, Phuket
Our room at the Nang Thong Bay Resort. Quite a mess but it was pretty comfortable and luxurious actually. Even had a jacuzzi and a separate shower area!
The beach right at our door step.
Environs at the resort.
The pool. Nice chill out place.
Mickey helps you swim!
Shadows and contrast.
Khao Lak was badly hit by the tsunami in 2006, hence the signboards all around.
Last minute shopping.
A final shot outside the reception before heading to Phuket Airport.
The end. *sob*