Thailand Aggressor Captain's Logs

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Aggressor Adventures

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report March 10 – 16, 2013

Our first quest to visit the Southern Islands of Thailand brings excitement with the clear skies and calm waters greeting us. Old fishing boats are aligned on the opposite lines of the channel and constant sounds of fireworks crack off the bows of every sea bound boat with an offering to the sea and the hopes of good luck and safe return back to port. The guests arrive with the waning sun and dinner is just a few minutes away. We take a few seconds to get some sunset pictures and sit down to a wonderful meal. The Thailand Aggressor pivots slowly in the mid channel. Turning the bow to the high seas, our Engineer Weep sets off and sparks the fuse to give our offering on the long line of fire works along with assorted flowers and fruit that rest on top of the bow. The two hours crossing to Phi Phi Island is very smooth. Just what we need to rock us to sleep for the next day our adventure begins underwater.

We wake to the incredible sight of towering limestone rock wall that make up the Phi Phi island chain. Vertical rises of stone with vegetation sprouting from cracks. Words cannot put what eyes are laid on. Captain Amnuey readies the Thailand Aggressor under the shadow cast by the monolith. Take to stride in and drop down. The sea fans are colored in brilliant hue. Red, oranges and yellows cling to the rock walls. Dark yellow snappers cluster under out hard coral ledges. Nudibranchs with tassels, wings and flaring mantles comb the bottom of the sea. During our afternoon break, we take the dinghies into Maya Bay with its beautiful white sand beach hidden by the sheer cliffs of limestone.

The favorable seas below and the black-lit black canvas with tiny bright holes of stars blanket the sky. A few guests go to the top deck to enjoy the view after a full day of diving. The incredible views keep coming the following morning. The sun rises in between the rock structure coming from the ocean. Koh Haa is a group of five islands in the middle of nowhere. Just the right mix of being lost and being in the right place. Get close to the island, the yacht steadies and we all take an easy step off the back of the boat. We head for the lavender fields, a patch of 2-foot high soft corals that clings to everything. It’s like a meadow of purple carnations in the deep. Flowing by the impressive garden, big boulders pile up on each other building an archway for divers to test their buoyancy to reach the other side. The rock face is over grown by plate tiered plate corals stepping down from 30 feet to the bottom on the sand bed at 60 feet. A thousand two-spot snappers cover the steps of the coral. Letting us get close to take pictures.

We have a short run over to a hidden spot in the middle of the ocean. Twin pinnacles, one coming breaching the surface, sit side by side like lonely giants. The current slowly brings the rock to life with nutrients that get caught by the many sea fans and soft corals that cling to the structure. Hin Meung rests at 40 feet below and there is only one mooring line sinking to the site. Fusiliers with yellow and blue swirls set on the outskirts of the rocks. Jacks run in packs like wolves waiting for their chance at launching into the hordes of silversides. Like a swarm of insects the silversides are a common food for many larger fish. Blue lined angelfish glow blue neon with the sun reflecting off their bodies. Eels are plentiful and many are very thick rounded beasts. The night dive here is fantastic. The eels at night come out from their holes and begin to hunt. Over twenty eels are sighted along with barracuda waiting for us to shine our flashlights on an unsuspecting fish for them to jet forward and bite.

Heading further south, we are now in the Adang Rawi Island chain. We look for macro wonders and have a good show in the shallows with soft corals and sea fans that are lit up in the mid afternoon sun. A pair of Pegasus sea moths crawls along the bottom of the sandy slope. Radiant nudibranchs with long white appendages with purple tips attach themselves to the sandy with a sticky underside. A hawksbill turtle finds itself in the middle of the group and doesn’t seem to care, pausing for a few minutes as if it knew we want to take pictures. Anemones blanket the shallows with many anemone fish living in each tentacle home.

The impressive rock structures impress the guests and the diving has been special. The schools of snappers that gather next to the coral heads in Koh Haa have been nothing but spectacular. The yellows shine bright as the sun pierces through the water. Lobsters and other crustaceans, like banded coral shrimp, hide in the many cracks of the reef. The light blue of the sandy lagoon breaks the dark blue of the surrounding waters. With the blend of beautiful surface views and the underwater visions give Thailand a special place in space.

For The Ocean,
Lowel


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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report March 17 – 23, 2013
North Route Itinerary

Sunny & Tropical
Surface Temp: 87 Degrees F
Water Temp: 84 Degrees F
Visibility: 100 plus feet
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
World Travelers From Russia, Israel, Canada & USA

Sitting quietly overlooking Chalong Bay is Buddha, the national figure of religion in Thailand. The Buddha is a pearl white statue atop the highest hill in Chalong Bay. Small panga style boats have car engines mounted at the back with long shafts that drip into the water far behind called long tails, zip over the shallow creamy blue waters of the bay. The Thailand Aggressor rests in wait for the arrival of the new adventures this week. The blazing red sun drops and a haze of red fills the bay full as our first guests board during a beautiful sunset. As the sun vanishes, all guests are warmly greeted and by the night we depart Chalong Bay. Each and every trip in the tradition Thai Seaman way, our engineer Weep lights a string of fireworks that snap constantly as the fuse burns up the line. Finally reaching the end of the string and bulbous knob rests at the end and with a big bang confetti style paper erupts outwardly. Captain Amnuey sounds the horn, as the offerings to the sea are given and good luck on our passage shall be granted.

We sail over night to reach the nine limestone islands that make up the Similan National Park. The weather couldn’t be any better during the night. We awake to find the many shades of blue to the surrounding waters of Similan. Anita’s Reef is a good starting point as we splash for the first time in Thai waters. A sloping sandy bottom drops us down to a small bhommies that is loaded with sea fans and a few anemones that have several anemone fish frolicking through the tentacles. Schools of silverside baitfish linger near the structure and two large moray eels find pockets to wedge themselves in.

The Thailand Aggressor weaves through the rocky outline of islands for another close pass at the next dive. East of Eden is a magnificent sloping sand bank with sea fans attached to coral bhommies deeper on the reef. Some fans are the length of 6 feet in width and keep many yellow damselfish clutching to the fine interwoven latticework close to the center of the fan. Schools of lined snappers sit in mid-water above the rows of coral ledges and allow close approach, while some divers head straight for the middle of the group of snappers and break their formation.

East of Eden can only be followed up by the opposite, West of Eden. Large rock ridges run down into the deep and many small creatures keep close to the bottom. With a little kick in the current, our underwater explorers glide over the large ridge then to a medium-sized boulder then to the smallest of the group. Just on the outside of the rock peering out from a dug out hole in the sand is a slender light blue ribbon eel with a yellow line running from its gaping mouth down it’s back until it is lost in the sand. The blue ribbon eel is one of the highlights only on this dive and with fear in our group it extends from its white sand burrow, then retracts back every few seconds. Fiery tailed dart fish in a pair flicker thin dorsal fins and bob quickly up and down with a peacock mantis shrimp cleaning the tubular tunnel it has made from old pieces of shells and coral.

The sun falls and the red glow once again turns everything that it touches to a rustic red. The colors of dusk on the surface blended with the wonders of natural beauty of the limestone rock give us a visual feast there not many have seen. Rows of trees grow from the limestone and three specific trees with trunks exposed mark our dusk dive. We have a nice flow of current and azure blue waters filling our senses. During this time of day the aquatic life always seems to be at its best. The transition of light has the day dwellers foraging for their last meals of the day and finding spots in the reef to settle for the night ahead. A scorpionfish has really nothing to hide from, as it wedges in the middle of a break in a coral head. The pink look to the fish, matched by color of the coral, keeps this ambush predator invisible. Swarming around in countless numbers are the silversides. The reflective fish find soft coral and sea fan covered bhommies to spread around.

The night sail over to Koh Bon was like a dream. Many guests didn’t know that we moved during the night. The seas have been very favorable with our crossings. A small half moon bay is where we dropped anchor. The wind bow lightly pushing the yacht with stern to the bay. Rocky cliffs circle the back of the boat. A hole in the middle of the rock is a spy hole for viewing another boat on the opposite side of the bay. Just off the main island is a pinnacle not seen at the surface. Know by our Captain, it is a prime spot for big schools of blue trevally. Covered in small yellow soft corals, the three-mound pinnacle system has nothing but clear blue water passing by in the slight current. In the center of the pinnacle nestled like a bird’s nest, five anemones are protected from the wash of the current stream. The trevally glow electric blue with about 30 to 40 fish swimming in a pack just off the reef. A rush of energy and the trevally dart towards rock to prey on small shiny fish. One at a time the streak of blue file through the mass of fish. The second dive we start out closer to the black rocks that make up the water line. As soon as we are under water we can see football shaped figures above. Tuna continually pass in a never-ending freight train charge. Two different currents push from the deep and shallow. The nutrient rich cold upwelling waters send us north in the deep as the water blends, as shimmering blur thermocline transitions to the sweet warm water on the top pushing us south. Banned sea crates poke in the corals.

High sun and blue skies light up the bay now. A gentle breezy makes the flag of Thailand flutter. On the surface, we have countless snack time treats brought up by our set of chefs, ToTo and Vinai. The trained masters delight us with pastries. The bell is rung and another dive time. We get closer to the mountainous island. Steadied on the dive deck we wait for the right moment. Massive coral heads climb up the side of the coral slope. In the mid water, a serpentine sea crate slithers it’s way up to the surface to take a breath then head back down to forage for food. The banded black and topaz shades of the snake are a different contrast then the yellows and reds of many of the fish on the reef. Two Napoleon wrasses come from nowhere at the point of the rocks. Currents meet from the north and south, which keeps a steady gathering of sea creatures.

Lunchtime we head to the next island of Ta Chai. Known for bigger animals, Ta Chai is several large stones bunched together roughly 300 yards from shore. The stones look as though they were carved by hand and tossed into the sea. The current is brisk as we head down the line. The sea fans wave in the current. We see spots as a long tailed leopard shark easily moves along the outer reaches of the pinnacles. Our group of Russian guests were in for a treat. Patches of brown and tan cover the enormous grouper that is very docile when approached by the group. A few pictures were taken with the rare fish. Currents bring in the barracuda in great numbers. Looking up the azure sky patch is filled with shadows. Broad giant trevally shapes mingle on the perimeter of a darkened patch of barracuda. Numbering in the hundreds, we rest quietly on the bottom while the toothy fish trade depths coming within reaching distance then flutter back out to the shallower waters. Striped batfish keep to the rocks and out of the reach of the hording mass.

Back at the Similans for our final day. The day is starting out right at Christmas Point. The current is taking us on a panoramic view of the north side of the fifth island. Down deep are the spots of the graceful eagle ray hovering next to a coral mass. Moray eels are always present and they are big. As thick as a leg, the eels grow to be 6 feet and hardy have enough room to fit in the small holes of the reef. We have great visibility and the sun illuminates all of the sea. The weather couldn’t be better and the waters as blue. Richelieu Rock, along with Ta Chai and Koh Bon highlight the trip. Thailand is still steep in mystery but once you come aboard and visit the wonders of South East Asia come to life.

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report March 31 – April 6, 2013

Sunny and Tropical
Surface Temp: 94 Degrees F
Water Temp: 82 -84 Degrees F
Visibility: 100 foot
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
World Travelers From USA, England & Australia

The invisible heat draws beads of sweat to the brow. It hasn’t rained in over a month. The breeze soaks in the ocean and is cooling to the touch. Local markets only open in the early morning and in the late afternoon through the night. The crew spends time cleaning the yacht for our new visitors to Thailand. Asia marina is where she rests until the time comes to bring the vessel to life. The tide is high and enough water to navigate through the narrow channel. A roar is released from the back of the boat as the engines are awakened. A soup of muddy water is churned up by the propellers. Leaving the marina, we pass my bright colored fishing boat that comes in each day to off load their catch. Frozen tuna is lifted from the belly of each rustic wooden boat to the dock. It takes one hour to reach Chalong Bay where our eager guests will come aboard for their week of adventure. Passing by several small islands and many freight ships Chalong is in our sight as we use the Statue of Buddha on the hill over looking the bay to guide us in.

The dark night waters have fallen away to turquoise, aqua and azure hues. The marbled rock structures coastline make perfect bays for the white sand to gather for beautiful beach to wiggle the toes in during our land tours. Anita’s Reef is our first taste of Andaman diving. Glassfish cover each coral head. Rainbow colored grouper lie on the rocks right under the canvas of glassfish. Hanging gardens of soft coral fall from underneath the outcroppings of hard corals. Purple, white and pink soft corals light up when to add just a little light from a camera of flashlight. The Tuna Wreck is a deep so we spend a short time on the wreck that lies on its port side. From the bow to the stern and the rudder and propeller of the starboard side and rusted tight. It’s time to come to the shallower reef and the current takes us along the patch reef with big moray eels tucked with only heads poking and fusiliers with lines bodies are in the upper water column.

East of Eden boasts some the large coral bhommies in trapped in the sea of pearly white sand. The gradual dipping angle of the reef trickles sand down to makes the coral look as though it was sprouting from the ocean bed. Yellow snappers gather in small numbers on arbitrary mounds. A legendary moray eel, big and thick in the neck has been wrapped around the same plate coral for years. Still wrapped around, our divers were able to see the reef favorite.

The morning brings us to the other side of Eden and a different view. West of Eden boasts boulders with rows of sea fans. In the morning light, a hawksbill turtle is tearing apart a soft coral in a small nook between to big ridges of stone. Uncaring of the watchful eyes on it, the turtle continues to little time of the decimated coral. Using its front flippers to cling to the rock, the amphibious animal pushes with fins and pulls back with neck to yank another bit to eat. A long slender pipefish rests in the grooves of the rocks. They are common in this area but are a hard find.

Venturing northward, we reach Kon Bon Island. The anchorage rest in a small bay with the island rising upward in front of us. Green ferns grow on the hillside climbing skyward. Old grey trees penetrate the stone cliffs with their roots to cover the small tropical land on the outskirts of nowhere. Jumping off the back of the yacht. The flow of water sends us from the north to the south ends of the island. As soon as we descend, a sea crate is headed the opposite direction. The banded blue snake is on its way to the surface for another breath and back down again to forage in the rocks. The reef comes to life when we hit the point of reef where the southern route makes a left hand turn into the bay. A white tip reef shark is below us and blue trevally mixed in with black-eyed giant trevally hunt with countless fusiliers schools. Glassfish create a column of brightly lit scales from 20 feet down to 60 feet. Looking up into the sun and a strapping silhouette of a napoleon wrasse comes into view. The big jade fish is there long enough to catch a glimpse then back out to the open ocean.

The dives at Ta Chai have become the highlight of the trip. In the middle of nowhere lies a group of rocks in 40 to 80 feet of water. A haven for brown and tan spotted groupers. With some current it brings a school of barracuda numbering close to 100. Giant trevally are on the hunt again. This time the giant trevally out number the blue trevally in the school. All we see is flashes of yellow from the thousands of fusiliers constantly moving from the aggressive hunters. Batfish hover closer to the surface than usual. Staying away from the onslaught of the trevally. Below, a reef octopus seems unbothered by the commotion above until our cameras get close. Flashing teal and then brown, the octopus freezes on the rocks trying to blend in with the dull colored rocks.

Our most northern part of the trip brings in the early day light for a chance to see bumphead parrotfish. A big rock mound is where they stay in the morning’s early light and a group of six large fish perch on the top of the rock pile into the mild current. Not showing any signs of care, we are able to get right up to the buck toothed fish. The beaks of the fish extend far out of their mouth and is perfect for biting off coral, which they dine on. The fish range in size for a few feet to the biggest at over 3 feet. A remora chooses to cling to the side of the biggest that moves slowly. This fish is massive. Showing signs of age, a ridge of white extends over the bulbous bump where they get their name over their box shaped back. Eels always have good hiding spots here and a few porcelain crabs find shelter in a gorgeous velvety purple anemone. A good way to start a day of travel and diving.

We head back to Kon Bon for a special treat not yet revealed to our guests at the island. A deep pinnacle resting 100 yards off the main island is laden with small bright yellow soft coral. Sometime the area has current but today we have been blessed with excellent condition and plenty of time to navigate around the seamount. A centerpiece of the dive site is a hard coral table with several anemones growing like flowers from the coral soil. We are hovering at 90 feet still looking down and the deep range of pinnacles. The school of trevally seems endless here and always travelling in packs, they are hard to miss with their blue coloration.

We have a long run back to Phuket today and we are lined up on the Similans to finish our last dives. Christmas Point boasts amazing rock formations with many swim through and well-positioned sea fans close to the natural relief. It is like taking a hike through rocky cliffs without the work of climbing. Skipping from one formation to the next, we blaze a path through the entire site finally reach the shallows. During our surface interval, we go shore to leave our last footsteps in the Similan sand and to do some actual rock climbing. Sail Rock is a few hundred feet above the water line and we have incredible viewpoints to the outer lying islands. Sitting in the bay is the Thailand Aggressor and we get a chance to get a few shots of the boat in a gorgeous crystal bay. Prepped for our final dive, Elephant Head Rock wraps us around a circular reef filled with many small tropical reef fish, Moorish idols, multi colored parrotfish and a healthy school of banner fish. Right off the reef is a white tip reef shark meandering slowly in the waning sun.

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report April 7 – 13, 2013

Sunny Tropical
Surface Temp 94 Degrees F
Water Temp 82 -84 Degrees F
Exposure Suit Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
World Travelers From USA

The firecrackers signal another passage out to sea to bring a safe passage to those aboard the Thailand Aggressor. With everyone relaxed and ready for a week of unprecedented diving ahead, the yacht sayings fair well to Chalong Bay as we head south for the Phi Phi Islands; the unreal island chain known for its spectacular island relief. In just a few hours we reach Phi Phi and drop the anchor close to our first dive site.

Ready to make the first stride into the water, we are immersed in a new world but so familiar and comforting to everyone aboard. Fusiliers of blue, yellow and red dance in clouds masses. The sea fans are healthy blossoming bouquets of color. Toothy grins from lizardfish lying on top of each other on the reef rival the smile of Alice in Wonderland’s Cheshire cat. Rounding a bend with the assistance of the light current, a big over hang of coral darkens the sky. Hiding in the shadows is a shimmering school of yellow snappers. When approached they head for the lit water where they begin to radiate their true color. An orange sea fan at least 6 foot wide and 3 foot tall grows out from the overhang. Moray eels of all sizes sit tightly in the coral heads throughout reef. Ornately colored crinoids latch on to high rising coral heads. Yellow and black feathery arms spread out, as a sunflower would do in the mid afternoon sun. Under many of the crinoids squat lobsters find hiding spots. Streaked with the same colors as the crinoid, the tiny twin pincher creature spends most of its time foraging on oncoming food that comes from the current or the reef below.

The five islands of Koh Haa are an oasis in the middle of the ocean. Similar to the Phi Phi islands, trees with bare bark and few leaves cover the small islands. Wavy ferns rest between the roots of the tree sprouting from rock. With botanic fern and tree above, we have meadows of lavender below. Stalks reaching 3 feet from the sea bottom, a translucent purple contrasts with the background water. We have two big caves that we can explore in this island chain. A small cave that goes into the rock about 20 feet then a large gaping mouth entrance of the second cave begin in 60 feet of water. The cave mouth is 40 feet wide and runs 70 feet into the rock with a small ledge at 30 feet where we enter a circular swim through that leads us out to a moray eel thick and green and resting a few feet below exit point.

Hin Muang and Hin Daeng are a highlight on our adventure. The purple and red soft corals that give the twin pinnacles their names respectfully are a haven for jacks to circle around waiting for the large shoals of glass fish that cling to the rock ridges of the pinnacle to come out closer in the blue. Momentary flash of light reflects off the bodies of the attacking jacks. With lightning speed, several jacks bore into the middle of the school of glassfish. The small fish move in wave like motion as the school parts to evade the oncoming charges. Out of harms way resting in the branches of a black coral, a small ornate ghost pipefish blends in well with it’s surrounding. A relative to the seahorse, this pipefish hangs with snout pointed down with little motion, the pinnacles are lit up by the ever-present soft corals that cover the reef.

We head back up north to the King Cruiser wreck. Once a ferryboat shuttling people from Phuket to Phi Phi Island, the ferry hit a reef and sank. Wrecks bring to life a spot in the sea that is usually barren. The King Cruiser has plenty of yellow snappers lying over the top deck and orange and yellow corals brighten the metal of the leviathan. Something that is very rare that grows in this area is blue coral. Brilliant in color even at depth, these coral stand out amongst the rest of the magnificent colors. Hatchet fish sit in dark areas of the twisted metal.

Shark Point lives up to its name. A mound of rocks rises out of the water and a navigational light perches on top creating a perfect area for fish to gather. Multiple Leopard sharks are found lying on the sandy bottom. We are lucky and the sharks are not skittish to approaching divers. The shark is spotted from its snout to its long exaggerated tail, hence giving the shark its name. The shallow area is great for taking picture of big-eyed squirrelfish. The deep red colors of the fish and the numbers of the fish can fill a frame. Anemone Reef is a treat with all things small. Two yellow seahorses are common to see hear and easily found on a large pink sea fan. A little kick to see them in the current is worth the effort. Razor fish with their flat bodies seek out things to hide in. Koh Doc Mai or Flower Island has a vertical wall filled with scores of nudibranchs in all shapes and sizes.

Our final diving day find us at the Ra Cha island chain. There are two bays that we find to be quite exciting. Macro lovers are in heaven with mantis shrimp running over the sand. Nudibranchs again covering the reef and a shy octopus poking it’s round head out from the rocks. For people with bigger tastes, South Point is covered in sea fans and rainbow colored soft corals. In the deep, a leopard shark cruises by again. We have had good shark sightings this week.

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report April 14 – 20, 2013

Weather: Lightly Overcast
Surface Temp: 91 Degrees F
Water Temp: 82 -84 Degrees F
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
World Travelers From USA – Stephen Frink Photography Group
Route: North Andaman Sea

The clouds are lit up with grey and yellow. The Thailand Aggressor sets out for the North Andaman Sea. Several hours crossing over to the Similan Islands give us time to assemble our camera gear, unwind with a glass of wine and begin to take in all of our surroundings. A foreign land and waters with new exploration to be had, there is no better place than Thailand. The nine sets of islands protruding in the middle of the sea harbor create a haven for sea creatures.

Anita’s Reef is always a good starting point to introduce the Similans Islands to our ocean explorers to Thailand. The cascading plate corals run down the reef into the deep bed of sand and yellow snappers in small school seem to find little pockets of reef to call their own. A tall tower of coral that is called “One Roll Rock” has plenty of glassfish and lionfish to photograph. The rock gets its name because of life that gravitates to it. Photographers in the film era would use the entire roll of film on just this rock. The Tuna Wreck is next and with spending a little time on the wreck that is reaching our PO2 limits the reef within 20 feet of the wreck rises up where a perfect multilevel drift dive is planned, Moray eels creep out of their holes and a bountiful area of anemone fish in the shallow is time well spent on the safety stop. Gentle currents are great to have which makes the diving virtually a breeze. All we have to do is watch the scenery change as we breathe. East of Eden brings things small and large into focus. Shrimps and crab cling to crinoid and under sea cucumbers. A patch of corals is brimming with sea fans. Six different sea fans on one small coral head is a huge attraction. Needing a wide-angle lens to get the far reaches of the fans in the frame, the pinks, oranges, purples and reds of the fans really stand out against the dark blue background. Honeymoon Reef is a place for small creatures to make there way during the day. Small crabs sift the sand until detected then burrow deep into the sand to hide. Shrimp cling to urchin spines for protection. Big blue psychedelic puffer fish with slacking under carriages paddle around with opposite moving fins.

Koh Bon Island is a two-hour sail but hopes of mantas are in the forefront of our minds. The cleaning stations on the southwestern tip of Koh Bon bring in mantas. Jumping in, we descend down a steep wall with polyp corals rounding out the bottom in 120 feet of water. Giant trevally patrol the waters as we make our way to the point. Yellow soft coral on the under side of boulders bring color and life to the massive stones. A manta is seen in the distance pass by to give us a quick view of the magic that the ocean holds.

Ta Chai Pinnacle has never been so inviting as we had this week. An amazing phenomenon that is witnessed at this dive sight is the nutrient rich upwelling. The ocean is warm, about 84 degrees F then from out of the blue, literally come schools of trevally and fusiliers. Then hazy water follows. The dive site goes from being blue to brown. The water drops 6 degrees and the fish are in a frenzy of eating the tiny particles in the oncoming flow. With in a few minutes the rush is over and the visibility comes back as we have a small black tips reef shark pass by. Countless batfish are over our head and they are very welcoming to close contact.

We spend the entire next day at Richelieu Rock. The dive site is on the ‘top ten dive sites of the world’ and each time we dive the rock it keeps delivering. The rock is actually a large pinnacle running 150 feet long. The top of the pinnacle barely breaks the surface of the ocean. Positioning the boat nicely, Captain Amnuay always puts us in the right spot to be able to drop down to find a fantastic yellow sea horse. About 5 inches in length, the seahorse keeps to a small portion of the reef and all guests are excited to see this solitary creature. Just to the left, the distant relative ornate ghost pipefish sits in the soft-fingered corals and to the right we have a marbled stingray that rest for half the day. Headed up a sand embankment is yet another member of the pipefish family. Two slender pipe fish, one brown and one white sit close to one another on the sand blending in with the whip coral that sprout from the sand. A scooting cuttlefish passes the group that has all these amazing things to look at as well. Moving up the rock, the water is filled with glassfish. Thousands of these shiny 2-inch long fish undulate in waves along the rock face. School of jacks circle just on the outside of the glassfish. The entire day is a struggle between the glassfish moving and confusing the jacks with the changing patterns of the school and the relentless oncoming attacks of the jacks hunger. Quite a sight. If that weren’t enough for stimulus overload, a pair of harlequin shrimp in their decorated white and blue spotted colors are everyone’s favorite.

Back to the Similans on our last day, Christmas Point has outrageous rock formations with swim throughs, arches with big sea fans. And West of Eden is filled with macro delights. Three different species of nudibranchs, a rare winged pipefish lies in the rocks and a cowrie that had just laid eggs rests on a branch of finger coral. The biggest mantis shrimp with squat anemone shrimp circling around the 4-inch wide hole that the shrimp has created for a home. The parrotfish mixing with butterfly fish and powder blue tangs are just breath taking.

For The Ocean,
Lowel



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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report April 20 – 27, 2013
“Dive With The Owners Week”

Weather: Sunny and Tropical
Air Temp: 94 Degrees F
Water Temp: 82 -84 Degrees F
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
Guests: World Travelers From USA & Canada

The high clouds and bright sun shining is just the right way to start our ‘Dive With The Owners’ week. The water is inviting and warm. Our journey starts at a long strip of concrete piers that is in constant movement transporting travelers by high-speed boats to the outer reaches of Thailand waters and exotic islands. Long wooden boats tethered to make shift posts bound to the lower portions of the pier bounce in the small swell that runs through the well-protected bay. Small of the long tailed boat scurry in and out of the moored yachts and sailboats. Hard to miss, the longtails have engines mounted to a 20-foot shaft with a propeller meeting the end. The long shaft is lowered just below the surface of the water as the propeller cuts through the waters pushing the boat forward. The excitement mounts as the shuttle slows to a stop and the end of the piers and the towering yacht; Thailand Aggressor is just a few feet before you. The yacht is the queen of the bay with flowing patterns of blue and white. The crew swiftly takes the meticulously packed luggage into the cabins as you take your first step aboard. The spacious yacht is welcoming in every aspect. The last few hours of sun add a brilliance to the bay. With everyone aboard, the engines fire as we make our way to the bow for a quick champagne toast and fire works display to give offerings for a safe passage to the northerly Similan Islands. The long line of fire crackers drop into the water as they spark until the final round ball explodes as we say cheers.

The day couldn’t be better to start our journey with high skies and crystal clear water of varying blue hue that could be pictured in any post card foreground. Our first entrance into the waters bends the calm sea and shimmers of light burst from the water like fire flies at night. With sloping sand banks and a coral shelf stair casing down into the deep, Anita’s Reef beams with beauty. A large pinnacle coming from the sand is covered with a rainbow of soft corals and sea fans. The pinnacle is called “One Roll Rock”, burgundy and orange sea fans sit on top of one another with yellow damselfish keep close to the branches of the fans. This colorful coral head is a large cleaning station as well. Spending a considerable time just basking in the splendor of the pinnacle, you feel something on your ear then mouth and leg. Blue and white stripper cleaning wrasses peck at your body as though you were one with the reef.

The Tuna Wreck is a small fishing boat that sank just right off the main portion of wonderful reef system where we can make our way down the mooring line then swim along the 60 foot fishing boat and head upward to go with the gentle flowing current. Anemones are plentiful here with several different species of anemone fish. False clownfish and skunk anemone fish tuck down into the balled up anemones. Nudibranchs and flatworms are everywhere and we have been having great timing find the latter laying eggs.

The shallower side of West of Eden is perfect for our third dive of the day. There have been reports of a pink frogfish in the area and along with the many sea fans and amazing rock formations; the dive is a stimulus overload. The many parrotfish species glow during the day. Parrotfish with blue beaks and red eyes, green scales highlighted with purple accents swim past then coming from the other direction is a totally different decorated parrotfish. The sound of a tank bang brings instant excitement and heads turn in all directions to see where the noise came from. Our divemaster Bai has a great find. The pink frogfish lies deep in a staghorn coral patch. Hiding amongst the red spotted crabs and damselfish, the bizarre fish props itself up on between two stalks.

Our night dives have a variety of shrimp, crabs, nudibranchs, lobsters and octopus on every dive. This week we had a treat of using special lights by Light and Motion to cast fluorescence light on the coral that makes them glow brightly. Quite a new way at looking at things at night

In the morning we make our way to Koh Bon for big rock formation that have yellow soft corals and friendly blue lines angelfish. Blue-banded sea crates, a member of the snake family, poke their heads in every crack or hole they can search for food. We have carpet anemones hiding a pair of porcelain crabs that don’t mind us viewing them. This dive is great because the current pushes us along able to view a good portion of the island without having to do any work.

The afternoon dives are at Koh Ta Chai. At times, the rock pinnacle has current, which bring the entire reef to life. Giant trevally and blue trevally are above paying no attention to the on coming current. Behind us is a school of batfish about 25 in the school working a little hard to keep up with the oncoming water. Two lionfish flare out their decorated fins and try their luck at catching the many little fish on the reef. Fusilier come in clouds as they venture on the dive site then head back out into the blue.

With calm seas in our favor we head to open ocean and Richelieu Rock. A highlight of any diver is to find a diversity of big animals with tiny creatures that dazzling your senses and make you wonder about the design of such. Jacks and small dog-toothed tuna are abundant. The rock brings shelter to many small species and that brings in the all the feeders. The soft corals are like bouquets of flowers. The deeper reaches of the rock harbor the most fascinating creatures. A yellow sea horse, ornate ghost pipefish and two slender pipefish stay in a 20 foot radius of one another which makes it easy for the guests to see all the spectacular sights at Richelieu. Moray eels litter that site and two pairs of harlequin shrimp are found. The white and blue polka dotted shrimp not much bigger than 3 inches long hide in holes that the local dive guides know exactly where to find them.

We head back to Koh Bon for a hidden treat. Our Kon Bon pinnacle dive is one of the favorites and with the visibility being endless, the colors really come out. The yellow soft corals just cover the site. Stonehenge-like rocks plough skyward and are yellow. Moorish idols blend in with their yellows. We head back to the Similans to North Point. Filled with nudibranchs and a friendly turtle that pays no attention to us and some pipefish that are hard to find but not for our guests that actually show our dive guides. Countless critters are here and we keep bouncing from on to the next. Time to take to the land and hike up to the picturesque sail rock overlooking the Thailand Aggressor. The bay is blue and jade. Most post cards memories.

Our Turtle Rock night dive was amazing. An octopus came out from hiding and put on a show taking shapes and turning different colors. We had a tiny orange and black pipefish with a white and red tail. More nudibranchs than we can name.

The last day of diving is packed from Christmas Point and yet another octopus sighting during the day to the twists and turn of Elephant Head Rocks structure. Ambient light shining into chambers made by the rock structure. Swim throughs with a collection of squirrelfish. We headed back to West of Eden to venture deeper where we know there are good opportunities to see mantis shrimp. We had been seeing a blue ribbon eel but in the past few weeks it has moved from its spot. However the keen eye of the Aggressor Fleet owner, Wayne Brown finds the treasure out farther off the reef. Good find to be able to show many guests in the future.

At sunset we are treated to a wonderful barbeque dinner by the staff and we take in the last few moments in the Similans to reflect on all the amazing experience we had this week. Thank you to all the guests for making this a very memorable charter.

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report April 28 – May 4, 2013

Weather: Sunny and Tropical
Surface Temp: 94 Degrees F
Water Temp: 82 -86 Degrees F
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
World Travelers from USA & Japan

The Thailand Aggressor sits at the dock awaiting its new cast of guests from around the world. Come to find out that all guests aboard are veterans of the Aggressor Fleet and have been waiting for this destination for some time. Always good to see return guests keeping the spirit of underwater exploring alive. All packed and ready to go, we head north to the Similan Islands and outer islands for a full week of adventure.

The morning is off with a bang as Anita’s Reef produces some great moments at One Roll Rock. The sea fans and soft coral beam with color and small cleaning wrasses peck away at divers close to the rock. A good way to get the feet wet again and the wetsuits as well. The Tuna Wreck is an easy drift with the wall on the right. Sloping walls filled with yellow snappers and nice patch work of corals reflecting off the brilliant white sand give life and hue to the seascape. West of Eden is always a promising dive and with the new find of a pink frogfish lurking in a patch of coral. East of Eden is next on the other side of the granite island. Big coral heads and ornate staghorn corals fill the eyes with many different species of topical fish in the shallows and deeper parts of the site.

We make the morning sail to Koh Bon Island and go with the flow of the current. Keeping the wall on the left this time, we head south. Sea snakes dive down into the reef after a big gulp of air and yellow trimmed soft coral cling to the under side of most of the rocks. Lionfish in pairs wave up and down in the light surge. An octopus is found under a rock. The head is big on it, about the size of an ostrich egg. Just to the left of the octopus is a carpet anemone with two porcelain crabs stay close to the middle of the anemone.

Ta Chai Pinnacle is our afternoon stop with a small current, which we are pleased to see. A school of 30 batfish stay around one of the rigged rock formation and show no fear of us as we hang on to the rock as we watch giant trevally and fusiliers roam in the mid water.

Richelieu Rock was at its finest and the guests were excited about staying for two days at ‘The Rock’. We had a seahorse next to a brown and a white slender pipefish, and just a few feet from them, an ornate ghost pipefish. Harlequin shrimp in pairs were everywhere. We find four pairs of the blue polka dotted shrimp. Red soft corals radiate, the current picks up in the afternoon. The small amount of current brings a feeding frenzy. Jacks dashing in eating small fish. Spanish mackerel with lightning speed come in from the deeper blues. For hours, this goes on. We can perch on a rock overlooking the entire scene. Just a beautiful two days at ‘The Rock’.

Heading back to Koh Bon, the pinnacle off the island is filled with yellow corals. Although deeper, the reef has beautiful ridges of rock. We head over to the Similans to Christmas Point of the swim thrus there. Formidable stones fall on top of one another creating holes for sun to peak through. Pink sea fans accent the underwater playground. Elephant Head Rock has more swim thrus with two different rays. Dropping down we have a marbled stingray in 90 feet of water followed by a hawksbill turtle under a rock ledge, then a cow tailed ray laying at the bottom without a care as diver take pictures. We save deep West of Eden last where we find a blue ribbon eel and an octopus that stick to the deeper side of 100 feet.

Another great week here in Thailand. Hope to see everyone soon!!!

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report May 5 – 11th, 2013

Topside: Sunny Tropical
Surface Temp: 94 Degrees F
Water Temp: 82 -86 Degrees F
Exposure Suit: Board shorts to 3mm Full Wetsuit
Guests: World travelers from USA, Canada, Russia and Saudi Arabia

The “Land of Smiles”, Thailand. The thought of the busy streets of Bangkok and the floating market, exotic eyes casting inquisitive looks in your direction. Mini-sized trucks called Tuk Tuks painted in bright reds with neon signs and light designs are an equal to their blazing stereo system. Phuket is a picture of two sides of Thailand. The humble life of Thailand past and the ever-present desire for growth. Fixed streams of guests file through the Phuket airport daily is search for hot climate, sandy beaches and warm water. The late afternoon heat slows the area down. The Thailand Aggressor is an oasis for the international group that we have this week. We head out to sea as all guests board the yacht. The sea breeze cools. We are headed to the South Andaman Sea.

Five small rock masses come from the deep, raising some 150 feet out of the water. The surrounding area is a haven for aquatic life. In the middle of the towering rock is a lagoon filled with crystal clear blues. The sunlight pierces the water, bends and hits the white sand below. Reflecting back upward, the light shines off the glistening sand. The yacht spins with the stern next to one of the towers. Like the wildebeest migration, there is a pause, anticipation it thick on what is down below the azure sea at our finned feet. All at once the wait is over. Constant explosions of water jet skyward as each of our divers feel the Thai sea for the first time. A ridge of sand bridges the gap between two rock towers. Shallow sand drifts down the sloping deep. Coral heads mingle with the sand like tiny islands. Penguin-like motion is coming from the sand. Two sea moths waddle over the sand. A checker pattern of white, tan and a hint of red splotch the backs of the winged creature. Resembling more of a bird with its beaked snout, the 4-inch wide sea moths climb over the grainy substrate on a constant move. An octopus comes out of its hiding and dazzles the group with a color display. Changing from black to white, the octopus flashes then hides. Staying out skirting the coral. One large polka dotted blue harlequin shrimp highlights the already stellar first dive. A piece of sea star that the shrimp has found to eat is held tight by its ornate claws.

We dive the northern island of Koh Haa next. The sweeping fields of lavender soft corals below us and the sea fan laden rock with structures that cover both sides of us with false clownfish hiding in the many anemones and skunk anemone fish filling the rest. The rock turn into a plate coral slope where hundreds of two spot snapper and yellow snapper mix together. The two spots are multicolored in with red and white stripes and the two spot on its middle section next to the dorsal fin. As we venture past the slope various coral heads pop up and two pharaoh cuttlefish hover above the coral covered rocks. Finding a small hole in the reef, the female slowly extends her tentacles inside the hole to deposit her eggs. The cuttlefish spend the morning repeating the cycle of transferring the eggs from the female to the reef.

Koh Haa Pinnacle is a wall face with several ledges cutting into the wall. Glassy eyed sweepers prefer the dark regions of the reef and find the ledge with big cuts in the reef as hiding places. Reddish gold colors reflect as the sweepers make their way into the sunlight after a few of our divers come to the entrance of the cut. Three different species of lionfish inhabit the reefs here in Thailand and are usually sightings close to the reef chasing after glassfish.

The skies are threatening rain but that doesn’t slow our charge to the two pinnacles of Hin Muang and Hin Daeng. The middle of the ocean holds two wonders of diving. The purple and red soft coral covered rocks bring in fusiliers by the thousands. Each site has its own identity. Hin Muang is the more ominous of the two. Deeper and for the most part darker, the purple soft corals light up the reef with the sun breaking through. The eels at both Hin Muang and Hin Daeng lurk in many of the cracks of the reef. Titan triggerfish turn the over large rocks and peck away with their massive canine teeth. The night dive is spectacular. The eels that were hiding during the day are now out in big numbers. Free swimming, the eels are out hunting. They search the dark for fish that hide in the reef at night. A fusilier rests quietly in a nook invisible by the lack of light. The moray slithers out in the open seeking a wayward fish. The lights of the divers illuminate the fusilier. The half blind eel makes contact with the fish. There is a flash of motion and the moray has the fusilier embedded in its gaping mouth. Shaking its head up and down, the eel makes the meal disappear as it heads back into the darkness.

Headed to Phi Phi Island chain. Known for its beautiful island views, the island is a treat just to cast your eyes on. The pinnacles out lying the outer reaches of the Phi Phi islands are perfect to dive. Circular form where we keep the wall on one side and flow with the current. Nudibranchs of different colors and shapes are plentiful here. Bida Nok and Bida Nai are a fun ride around the pinnacles. Schooling yellow snapper sit close to the rocky wall. Commotion on the outside of the reef draws attention. Small glassfish are being corralled by a green branching hard coral. Jacks and needlefish circle to keep the glassfish tight to the hard coral. The needlefish slowly creep in and with their long snouts they grab the lingering glassfish on the outside of the mass. Jacks run into the coral slamming into it with mouths open taking in fish after fish. Palong Wall was a little surgey but we had a great dive with the small creatures. A long white slender pipefish was resting amongst the whip corals and two peacock mantis shrimp were found in a hole. One of the mantis shrimps was out of the hole crawling on the bottom and when it was spotted it scurried into the hole and our guests looked closer to find another sharing the lair.

We move the boat to a not often visited dive site of Hin Bida, a pinnacle far off the Phi Phi Island chain. Waves of yellow snapper bask in the waning sun of the afternoon. Beautiful rock formations fall to the sand bed in 60 feet of water. Swimming away from the guests was a long-tailed leopard shark.

The day is spent at the ASK region. Anemone Reef, Shark Point and King Cruiser dives sites. King Cruiser is first for the deep part of the program. The ferry ship struck a reef and found the bottom at 100 feet. A good thing about wrecks is that the fish love to use them as an artificial dive site. Yellow snapper cling to the top and sweepers stay hidden in the heart of the wreck. Blue corals light up the rusting wreck. Anemone Reef is a diver’s delight. Two yellow seahorses are the top attraction drawing all the attention. Shy as they are, their clinging tails rest on the orange sea fans. A thick-banded sea crate makes its way over all the dive area. Having to move between the thousands of anemones here, the aquatic reptile pokes in cracks searching for food. Shark Point turned out to be one of the top dives this week. We drop down to the reef and a leopard shark swims within 2 feet of the group. A red saddleback anemone fish braves the rocking surge to hover close to its anemone home. Within minutes we move down the slope of the reef and a sleeping leopard shark rests quietly out of the current. The group approaches slowly and the shark doesn’t flinch. A remora and a black striped pilot fish keep close to the still shark. Spending 15 minutes with the shark everyone is overjoyed at the great encounter we had. Koh Doc Mai is the last dive of the day and we turn our sights to macro visions. Seven different species of nudibranchs are found and on the night dive we have a fist sized white frogfish.

Our last few dives of the charter at Ra Cha Noi Island are coated with splendor. Our dive at South Tip has black wings and white-lighted streaks. When we first hit the water, the first two guests descending motion with arms extended and flapping. A massive manta ray is below us making it’s way out of the visibility. After a few second of giving chase we descend down again only to have the back of the group scream into their regulators. We turn upward and see the winged leviathan slowly making its way to us. Passing by the group, on its exiting act, it does a barrel roll. As the manta rolls it turns from black to white. The white radiates a glow at the apex of its rotation diving back down to right itself. With all divers failing to make the reef, we exit the water after the manta departs. We get back into the dinghy and charge up current to try it again. Without interruption, we find the reef and begin our dive. Heading over large boulders and sea fans at 70 feet we cross a large patch of small corals and sand. Headed our way is the manta again. Passing by one more time the guests get a closer look and the manta fades out of sight.

For The Ocean,
Lowel

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report June 2 – 8, 2013

This week we welcomed aboard Ron & Karyn, Jason & Jessica, Andrew & Katrina all from the US, David from the UK, Denis from Canada, and Moses from Malaysia. With all passengers on board, we left Chalong Bay Sunday at 18:00 to take advantage of the good weather before us and decided to head straight to the Adang/Lipe group of Islands. Our divers quickly socialized while enjoying a flute of champagne followed by a delicious dinner of tender baby chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables.

After a night of navigation, we arrived at our first dive site and jumped in the water at 08:00. We spent the day diving the small islands east of Adang, which include Stonehenge, Talang Reef and Talu Islands. These beautiful reefs are teeming with life such as the streams of yellow snappers flowing around bommies that are covered with soft and hard corals. These bommies are home to a multitude of creatures including nudibranchs, seahorses, ghost pipefish and other mysterious critters.

We spent a quiet night on the flat waters in the lee of Adang Island and on Tuesday morning we raised anchor before dawn to reach 8 Mile Rock in time for our first dive. A large swell and some current made the dive quite an adventure, but our divers were rewarded with a warm welcome from a large school of batfish who decided to accompany us the whole dive. After the breathtaking dive at 8 Mile Rock, we headed back to Adang and explored more dazzling reefs like Langcha and Bitsi. The clear water, with 80ft visibility made these dives even more enjoyable.

Wednesday morning we left our sheltered anchorage once again before dawn to go diving at our star dive site, Hin Muang. Strong tidal currents slowed the boat a bit, but spotting a 12-foot Manta ray within minutes of being underwater largely compensated our late start. She was resting, swimming lazily in the current and enjoying skincare at a shallow cleaning station. The weather was clear, with a long, 4-5 foot swell that allowed us to stay moored at Hin Muang all day and do another 3 dives, with a night dive at Hin Daeng to close the day. Dinner was served during the navigation to the Haa Islands.

We woke Thursday morning surrounded by the majestic limestone cliffs of the Haa Islands and we spent the day diving around them. These islands are home to a number of rare critters, such as dragon sea moth, harlequin shrimp, the spiny wasp fish, and some very colorful nudibranches and sea slugs. Our next stop was the Phi-Phi Islands where we anchored for the rest of the night. Everyone on board enjoyed an evening of socializing and laughter around another delicious dinner washed down by copious amounts of our house wine.

Friday we woke up east of the Phi-Phi islands and witnessed their sheer 300-foot limestone cliffs being painted in red by the rising sun. We went diving for sharks and found a very cooperative leopard shark that offered itself to the lenses of our keen photographers. Black tip reef sharks were elusive in the surge of Phi-Phi’s shallow western reefs. We closed the trip by a last dive on Shark Point and had another great evening enjoying the seafood barbecue prepared by Captain Amnuey and the crew.

There has been a lot of “first time” sightings for many of our guests this week and they will go back home with lasting memories of their trip aboard the Thailand Aggressor and warm smiles all around from the crew!

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Thailand Aggressor Captain’s Report June 9 – 15, 2013

This trip we welcomed back on board Ron and Karyn for their second trip. Deborah, Lauren, Krista, Hamilton and his son Hamilton Jr., Rick and Bob, all from the US, along with Vilia from Indonesia, joined them. We left Chalong Bay under a tropical shower and found a safe anchor on the lee side of a nearby island where we had a nice dinner and slept for the night.

Monday morning we raised anchor at dawn and headed for the Phi Phi Islands where once underwater, our divers found turtles and leopard sharks, as well as many macro photo subjects. Evening came and we celebrated the 22nd birthday of Hamilton Jr. on board with his favorite cake before heading to shore for a little celebration “Phi Phi-style” where he was treated with fire shows and delicious drinks.

Tuesday saw an improvement in the weather, so our Captain decided to head to Koh Haa, 3 hours away. We arrived at these five small islands, mysterious with their sheer, brown limestone cliffs, and spent the day diving four different dive sites and one night dive. Our divers found plenty of interesting critters that most had never seen before like the harlequin shrimp, the dragon sea moth and some colorful nudibranchs.

Wednesday we raised anchor at dawn and sailed back to the Phi Phi Islands to get shelter from the squalls that are due to hit the region this day. We enjoyed three dives around Phi Phi, and despite our less than ideal conditions, our divers found some pretty pipefish, giant morays, mantis shrimps and small stingrays.

Thursday morning at the break of dawn, the weather looked to have cleared up a bit, so we decided to head for the Racha Islands, 30 nautical miles away and there we would have new dive sites to explore. We decided to raise anchor before 6am and started the 4-hour crossing. Mid-morning we encountered a strong squall that slowed down our speed, but we finally reached Racha Island well before lunch. Not wasting any time, our guests jumped in the water immediately to explore the wreck of a dive boat sunk there on purpose 4-5 years ago. The rest of the day was spent diving the reefs surrounding Racha and enjoying the clear waters bathing the island.

Friday morning we left for Racha Noi Island, the smaller of the two Racha islands. We did two dives that morning in the clearest waters of the trip yet. After a delicious lunch of freshly prepared pizzas, we began our cruise back to Racha Yai Island for a last dive. Later, as we started back toward Phuket we encountered another squall. Once we arrived back in Chalong Bay we found a well-protected anchorage and our guests enjoyed a last BBQ dinner and the weekly slideshow before heading to their cabins.

Despite the ‘weather gods” not being in our favor this week, we thoroughly enjoyed our guests and hope to welcome them back to Thailand again.

Best regards,
Ben Capitaine / Trip Director

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