This outing we hosted a full boat of dive professionals from Big Blue in Koh Tao. They were a fun bunch, and the sun deck and canopied lounge were often lively with socializing, and the evening beer fridge needed frequent restocking. It was really nice to guide a group of well-experienced divers. Many dive groups were able to take full advantage of their tank pressure for a full 60 minute dive, and everyone was diving in good form with streamlined hovers, using a slow and relaxed frog kicks, and clearly able to handle themselves underwater. However, there was a little pressure on the guides to impress these seasoned divers, many of who had hundreds, even thousands of dives logged. Fortunately, the cards were stacked in our favor with this roster of dive sites, and everyone left well satisfied with tales to tell from 3 days of awesome experiences underwater and lots of laughs aboard the Mariner.
Dive 1 – Koh Stok – Swam around the big granite boulders into the sloping reef.
Saw octopus, lobster and peacock mantis shrimp amidst the bounty of common reef fish
Dive 2 – Castle Rock – Drifted with mild current surrounded by thousands of fusiliers and clouds of glass fish along the rocky reef. Found lionfish, moreys, marbled groupers, oriental sweetlips and a ridge with a dozen lobsters on the way.
Dive 3 – Richelieu Rock – Followed the mooring line in medium current and dropped into the inside garden of the crescent behind a school of emperor passing through. Saw two cuttlefish in courtship, 5 massive great barracuda tucked under an over hang, schools of yellow snapper close to reef and a school of batfish overhead. Surfaced to a lovely sunset after exploring some of the upper outer wall.
Dive 4 – Richelieu Rock – Dropped from the mooring line to the outer wall and enjoyed the brilliant soft corals and fans on the deeper rocks. Found 4 different cuttlefish as we drifted gently along the wall. Lots of big silver trevali were hunting overhead. With such a bonanza of fish life and colorful soft corals all around, it was difficult to choose where to direct your attention.
Dive 5 – Richelieu Rock – No one is complaining about 3 dives at RR. Tried to make it around to the so far unvisited north corner, but the current is a little strong, so we cut over the ridge from garden and enjoy a nice wall drift back to the mooring line. Schools of emperors, blue fin trevali and rainbow runners are out hunting and we find multiple scorpionfish camouflaged on the wall
Dive 6 – Tachai Pinnacle – We drop on to the massive boulders on the south side of the pinnacle and weave our way into the beautiful coral gardens rife with giant gorgonian fans and whip corals. Marbled groupers and big sweetlips hover close to the rocks. We see tuna, rainbow runners and trevali hunting, and a school of batfish near the top of the pinnacle. Current is very mild, so we have an easy time swimming a full lap.
Dive 7 – Koh Bon Bay Night Dive – Could the dive day get any better? Apparently so. We are getting spoiled with so many great sites in one day. Night dive scores a 10 as we follow a hunting octopus, a hunting giant morey eel and find ourselves closely followed by 2 large lionfish using our torchlights to see and eat little fish. It was an underwater dinner party and everyone is comparing excited stories on the dive deck as we return. Later we see an absolutely huge great barracuda from the stern lights of the Mariner. It’s so big, we think it may be a reef shark until it gets closer.
Dive 8 – Koh Bon Ridge – Current is very mild, so we swim all the way out the ridge and catch a spotted eagle ray gracefully flying by the outer edge and off into the big blue beyond. The ridge garden is beautifully colored with bright green and purple soft corals and whips…and we woke up early and already onsite, so we have the place all to ourselves. We swim back along the wall and find Maldivian sponge blobs and blue dragon nudibranchs on the way and look up to see the ‘waterfall’ crashing into the surface overhead.
Dive 9 – Boon Sung Wreck – Many of the group choose to dive 32% Nitrox to enjoy a full 60 minute last dive around 18 meters. The wreck houses lots of lionfish, plenty of big bearded scorpionfish, and we stop pointing out honeycomb moreys after number 6. We find 2 different cuttlefish hovering in the sand outside the wreck structure and visit the motorcycle at the dark cavernous edge of one of the larger pieces of the old tin trawler. The south side is so dense with schools of snapper, for a moment it’s difficult to see your buddy.