An ecscape from the festivities on Phuket with a Songkran liveaboard trip
Liveaboards in the stunning Similan Islands National Park are rarely disappointing, especially on a great boat like MV Pawara. However, if you’re missing the celebrations on the mainland, a Songkran liveaboard trip needs to be great. Occasionally bad weather or poor visibility can be a bit of a pain but fingers and any other available appendages were firmly crossed to ward off any bad luck. That appeared to be a waste of energy as rain greeted us on arrival to the boat…
The First Evening
The pick ups from all over Phuket Island went smoothly and everybody had arrived by 8pm. Snacks and hot and cold drinks were immediately available for the weary travellers. Some had come directly from the airport. All passengers were quickly allocated cabins and a boat and safety briefing was given in the saloon by the ever friendly tour leader (Beto).
A delicious dinner was served immediately afterwards so the divers could head to bed early and get some rest. The 14 dive schedule begin early the following morning. A quick blessing with firecrackers marked the beginning of our journey as we departed for the Similan Island National Park overnight.
The Diving Begins
A bright and early wake up call at 6:30am gives divers a chance to get fully awake (some couldn’t manage that) for the extended first dive briefing of the trip. Thankfully the clouds had disappeared and we all awoke to a stunning Thai sunrise. The tour leader clearly explained the dive safety and environmental rules that we all should follow for the rest of the trip and then into the dive brief for our first dive into the blue waters of the Similan Islands National Park.
- Anita’s Reef – A check dive on a nice and easy site. On our descent we were greeted by beautiful napoleon wrasse cruising over the reef. Hundreds of sand eels, tonnes of glassfish, bluefin trevally, dogtooth tuna and a large school of milkfish made an impressive start to the trip.
- South of Eden – A new dive site for me and one I hope to visit again. Healthy table corals and some good signs of staghorn regeneration. A cool giant frogfish in the deeper section and a hawksbill turtle in the shallows were the highlights of the dive.
- Three Trees – One of my favourite Similan Island dive sites. The visibility was not so great today but still a nice dive. Regal, emperor and bluering angelfish brightened up the dive as they darted between the fields of whip coral. Three or four lunar tail groupers and another hawksbill turtle in the shallows.
- Donald Duck Bay (night dive) – not a great deal of coral in the bay but lots of shrimps, crabs and sleeping parrotfish. A rare oscillated twin spot lionfish was the highlight of the dive
- North Point – A dramatic dive to start the day, huge, imposing granite boulders litter the dive site. A whitetip reef shark was spotted by the first group, giant moray eels, pygmy pipehorse, spearing mantis shrimp, clown triggerfish and another hawksbill turtle marked the end of our diving in the Similan Islands as we head north to Koh Bon
- Koh Bon – Manta!!!! or mantas I should say. Three of these majestic creatures hung around for the whole dive. Every diver in our group followed the manta etiquette laid out by the tour leader in the briefing. The whole boat was rewarded with an amazing dive to bring in Songkran.
- Koh Bon – Same again? Yes please! Back into see if the mantas were still there. They were cruising around under the boat during lunch so hopes were high. Unfortunately it appears that other boats had been chasing the mantas, they appeared very skittish and quickly swam off, we did get a brief encounter which is still very special. Napoleon wrasse, giant trevally, sweetlips and huge schools of glassfish blanketed the reef, all probably present on the first dive but nobody cared…
- Koh Tachai Pinnacle – A beautiful sunset dive, tonnes of neon, rusty and robust fusiliers cover the pinnacle and at this time of day the very large bluefin and giant trevally are actively hunting. Marbled groupers came out of their hiding holes to join the action
- Richelieu Rock – The first three dives were all taken at the jewel in Thailand’s diving crown. The crew do give guests an option to move on after the second dive. The visibility was so good that everybody wanted to stay for a third. The glassfish that have been ever present on the trip were all over the rock. Marauding gangs of bigeye and juvenile giant trevally were active on all three dives. Thorny and tigertail seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish, napoleon wrasse and huge schools of snapper kept us constantly entertained.
- Koh Tachai Pinnacle – A bit of a late arrival for the sunset dive so it was quite dark but not enough to require torches. The trevallys were hunting again and a huge school of rainbow runners came into the cleaning station at the top of the pinnacle.
- Boonsung Wreck – Close to the mainland, this collection of metal structure is no longer recognisable as a boat.
We were fortunate to have decent visibility for the first dive. As soon as we reached the wreck we found two honeycomb morays, a painted spiny lobster and school of striped catfish. The whole wreck was covered in fish and honeycomb morays seemed to be poking out of every hole.
- Boonsung Wreck – A thermocline had reduced the visibility for the second dive but it was still a good dive. Kuhl’s stingrays, flounders, spearing mantis shrimp, ornate ghost pipefish and again huge schools of trevally, juvenile barracuda and snapper surrounded the wrecks and groups of batfish and porcupinefish made a great end to the trip
The Boonsung Wreck is only just over an hour away from port so a quick lunch and final briefing before docking back at Thaplamu Pier.
MV Pawara is a clean and spacey boat which has held up surprisingly well through the rigours of a long diving season. The only complaint I heard was a slight musty smell in one of the cabins. The dive deck is not huge but the groups were organised in three waves to make sure everybody had plenty of space to kit up.
Efficient and friendly. All the dive staff knew there stuff and took good care of their divers. The tour leader was always available to help with any issues and the Thai boat crew were very helpful and friendly. The catering crew were absolutely stellar, always smiling and serving excellent food.
It just kept coming..After toast/fruit before the first dive. You’ll surface to a waiting cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, cereal, toast and fruit. After the second dive a delicious lunch of varied dishes. Snacks after the third dive and a fantastic dinner after the final dive of the day. Vegetarians were very well catered for on the trip and also agreed that the food was ample and delicious.
MV Pawara remains one of our favourite Similan Island liveaboards. All round good quality and a price that is low for the standard of boat and service. Free nitrox is available to all nitrox certified divers and considering the amount of diving you’ll do over the trip is something that other boats should look at.
Trips fill up quickly and there is a 10% early booking discount for next season. Make sure you get your plans in place as early as possible and contact us soon if you want to book for next season.
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