Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Paul n Michelle at Chalong Fishing Park.

 Jez Wilson has been very busy at his Chalong Fishing Park over the past week. There have been deliveries of Walking Catfish to add to his increasing stock and land is being cleared for future improvements.

Yesterday was like an Offshore Rebel reunion day with  angling customers who are staying in the Chalong area turning up to fish along with Jay and Claire Pullin rom Weymouth, Dorset, and Paul and Michelle Cross from Sheppey.

Here's Paul with one of the Walking Catfish.

 Offshore Rebel skipper Jay has made good friends with the Thai guides at the lake and chief guide, Khun Boy, spent time showing Jay how to master the difficult art of static net throwing. I'm sure many of you have seen this method of fishing taking place all over the world whilst on your own holidays...it IS difficult!! But, as can be seen from Michelle's excellent action picture, Jay was soon getting the hang of this and was the proud captor of a stack of freshwater shrimps!
Khun Boy assists Paul Cross with one of his Mekong Catfish
Michelle caught several pacu and red tail catfish.....here's one of her pacu.
Paul was soon impressed with the power of these fish. Here he is playing a Mekong Catfish on the light tackle provided by Jez. The fight lasted a lengthy and hot 20 minutes with the Mekong weighing in the 30 kg region.
Here's a nice shot of Paul's biggest Mekong of the day....30 kg. Very good sport.

Michelle sensibly opted for smaller fish and had her own trained guide to present the fish for her. Well, a gal on her holiday doesn't need to get mucky when there are very willing assistants offering a professional hand!

Michelle has a 'list' of what she hopes to see and do on this holiday. Catch some freshwater fish was one of them and she's already achieved a remarkable first with a scuba dive lasting over 70 minutes (she doesn't use any air...amazing!)

She and Paul have visited Phuket's China Town Centre, walked along several local beaches, visited the local temple and are now waiting for the mini bus to come to the house to collect them for the unmissable John Grey Sea Kayaking trip which will take them to the picturesque Phang Gna Bay and into the limestone Karst formations via the cave networks. Michelle has already told me that she loves exploring caves so this will be a very memorable trip.
Paul was keen to catch a Red -Tail Catfish...and here he is one of the several landed.

On the anglers return to the house, our hostess Kannika had prepared a selection of Thai dishes for dinner..including the fabulous Massaman Curry.

Sadly, at 0600 this morning, the taxi arrived to take Jay and Claire back to Phuket airport to start their long journey home. Jay has left a marked impression on the Thai skippers and fishing guides he has met. He tried very hard to communicate with them and I have to say he was by far the most successful in doing so. The bond of the sea and fishing can unite people from different countries in friendship and understanding...and surely that's what it's all about!!

Well Done, Jay....and now really starts your massive adventure as full time skipper of Offshore Rebel!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Michelle's First Dive. Photography by Staff Snapper, Jamie Pullin.

Long time Offshore Rebel customer, Paul Cross and his charming partner, Michelle, arrived a couple of days ago. Michelle expressed a desire to have a try at Scuba Diving and so yesterday was spent in the house pool trying out all of sorts of underwater skills for the first time.

We ran through breathing techniques, mask clearance, regulator removal and retrieval, fin pivot, weight balance, dive profiles etc etc...and today, armed with our newly acquired skills, we visited Kata Beach with Jamie Pullin acting as Staff Photographer again.

Kata is just great for first dives. The reef protection rope has a number of free floating ropes tied to it which are just right to hold onto and descend on for the first time. Although just 3 meters deep and clear sand underneath us, the fish soon arrive and provide plenty to look at.

Michelle took her time and enjoyed the experience of being underwater for the first time. We were lucky the visibility was pretty good so there was lots to see without moving!

It does not matter how long it takes for a new diver to 'let go' of the rope for the first time ever. There is  no pressure on us. In fact one of our guests last year was content to just dangle from various points along the reef rope. At low tide you're pretty near the top of the reef anyway so all the corals and reef fish can clearly be seen.

Jay's photo shows how clear it was today so that was a very nice opening experience for Michelle.

The 12 Litre tank looks enormous on Michelle who is a small lady. Good job her man is a big, strong chap who carried all of Michelle's gear into the sea for her and held her steady whilst 'suiting up'.
I think this is a great photo. Well Done to Jay for his artistic eye. This is a shot of one of the twisted ropes coming from the reef protection rope. Even the ropes attract plenty of life...
And we're off! Jay has caught Michelle's very first fin kicks....it's always a moment to remember for ever.
With such clarity we were able to show Michelle stacks and stacks of fish. It was a great first dive. Well...it was a great dive full stop! I have been to Kata many times and this was one of those dives to remember being so rich in colour and life.

Here is a fine example of a Spotted Hawk Fish.
The sand running along the Kata reef is super fine. The slightest fin kick or even fish feeding activity stirs up the sand and affects the visibility. It is important to be as gentle as possible with your dive movements..
The amount of fish life on this reef is amazing. There are so many different species that I gave up long ago trying to name them all...I just enjoy the ever changing spectacle and colours.
The reef abounds with many different types of coral crowded around each other with shoals of fish 'sitting' above them. The soft sand allows one to drop gently to the knees and just remain still and allow this mass of visual sensations to play out in front of you...it's stunning.
The Moorish Idol, one of the coral reef's iconic species.

There are so many different colours which ever way you look.

When we're enjoying a dive like this, I would love to transport all underwater sealife lovers here to experience what we are seeing.

Jay has done very well with his photography. He has captured this dive very well. Of course I am including just a few of his photographs here...such is the amazing bonus of digital photography. Everyone goes back to good old UK with a CD full of every photo collected during their holiday...Jay must be up in the 100's already!
This is the very cute dog-faced puffer fish. It has other names such as seal-face puffer in other parts of the world...I guess our 'English' name for this species reflects the British love of dogs!!
The lengthy dorsal fin of the Moorish Idol is clearly seen in this shot.
And here we are at the end of the dive just before the visibility shut closed in with the turn of the tide. I particularly enjoy listening to the outpouring of enthusiastic exclamations and descriptions of what has been seen by someone on their very first dive...and Michelle was no exception...with a burst of infectious enthusiasm for her new experience.

It's so great introducing people to the wonderful world of Scuba Diving!!

Friday, 26 January 2018

Jay the Photographer

A Giant Puffer fish, Arothron Stellatus, set against the rocks and corals of Kata reef.

There are a multitude of different corals all over the Kata reef. Here is an Acropora Coral. Acropora means a porous stem or branch.
Goniopora, often called the Flower Pot Coral. As well as being expensive to purchase, these coralsare apparently very difficult to keep alive in an aquarium.
It is PADI policy to encourage divers to 'look but don't touch' as marine organisms are so delicate and easily damaged. Jay has been explaining to me that even putting his hand inside his large tropical asquarium can have a detrimental effect on the creatures living in it.

Branchin Acropora...very easy to snap by an uncontrolled fin or a clumsy touch.
Another feature of the Kata reef is the amount of Featherstars.

The  Featherstar is a member of the Crinoid family of the class Crinoidea of the echinoderms. Echinoderm comes from  Greek word 'krinon' meaning a lily and 'eidos' meaning form.

You see....a dive with Jay and his knowledge of corals takes us back in time into the world of the Greeks......!!

Tube form or Feather Duster, latin name sabellidae. I thought it important to share this with you!!

These past few days have been highly informative for me. With Offshore Rebel's new Capitano, Jamie Pullin (Jay) here, I have been learning stacks about the corals we are finding. Jay has a large Tropical Aquarium in his front room back home in Wonderful Weymouth and in it is a very colourful array of corals which, Jay assures me, are very difficult to keep in pristinely healthy condition. The aquarium needs constant attention.

It's also very rewarding to see how well Jay's diving and underwater photography is improving daily. These are all his photographs....very nice indeed!!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Debbie's first Salty Submergence

 After  a good session in the house pool, Debbie decided 9as did I!) that she was ready to try her first ever sea dive using Scuba gear. We headed off to Kata Beach with fellow Weymouthian Jamie Pullin sporting his new Underwater Camera as keen to act as photographer for the dive.

We started as usual by swimming out 200 yards on our backs so that the nutters on the Jet Skis could see us (and avoid us??) more easily and the Thai longtail boat operators had a better target to aim for.

Once we had reached the reef rope, we were able to relax a bit before hanging on and allowing ourselves to sink whist still retaining an initially comforting hold on the rope. With ears sorted out and breathing under control, it was time for the very first drop to the seabed  be made. This is often accompanied by an equally swift return to the surface for a multitude of reasons...!!
 Once we'd settled down.after only 10 minutes or so....we found our first little moray eel hiding in a rock straight under us. Although shallow at just 4 metres in depth, the visibility was poor and made photography difficult....but Jamie persevered and took loads....so we were able to get a few together to remember Deb's first dive!

Here's the honeycombe moray eels.
 There were patches of clarity in which the bright white sand was able to illuminate the darker fish and highlight the reef.
 The poorer the visibility, the more the fish life. Everywhere was teaming with the usual massive array of species associated with tropical waters.
 There's always plenty of goat fish grazing around...if the diver moves gently so as not to scare them the they will carry on feeding and allow close up photography. In the shallow water there is no need for flash so the fish remain calm and in position!
 All sorts of gobies and blennies inhabit the sand along the edge of the rock and coral reef.
As an unexpected bonus, a massive shoal of surgeon fish swam by and then completely encircled us going round and round our little dive group of three. It was a spectacular and completely unexpected sight. 

Jay was everywhere with his camera...and remember this was only his third ever dive so his buoyancy is already improving fast as was his ability to get all of his subject 'into the frame'.

And, a similar shot to finish Deb's first dive. This dive lasted....68 minutes and Debbie came up with half a tank of air left. Debbie involves herself in a range of sporting activities including running and cycling and has rowed with the Weymouth gigs for 10 years. She is extremely fit and also mentally very strong. She was explaining to me afterwards that her standing pulse count is very low at 54 per minute which may be why her air usage is so low.

It's great meeting such talented and outstanding people and sharing, in this case, my love of diving with two friends, Jay and Debbie,  who have taken to it instantly.

                         May there be many more diving adventures to come!!!

Chalong Fishing Park

A 10 minutes drive takes us from the house to Jez Wilson's Chalong Fishing Park. Jez already works crazy hours per day but on Wednesday the Park stays open well into the night for a BBQ plus two extra bonus hours of fishing concluding at 2200.

We enjoy the mid afternoon into the evening sessions and, if it ties in with our own hectic schedule of diverse activities,  coming on a Wednesday gives us that added bonus....and the BBQ is really excellent.

(The BBQ is only available to angling customers!!)

Here's Jamie Pullin with a pacu....the manic cousin of the pirhana but which favours nuts over legs.
 This session was to encourage Jamie's (Jay's) wife Claire to get involved.And she soon was....indeed Claire soon developed that arm ache that is associated with using a lengthy fixed spool rod and jamming the butt into the stomach this making it even harder to stretch above the reel to control the balance of the rod.

This over-extension under tension has provided my guests with the opportunity to display an array of contortionist positions around the house the following day in order to ease 'the pain'.

Here's Claire with a nice little redtail catfish...just right to get one started into the bountiful world of Phuket lake fishing.

 And here's Claire with a much larger beast....a striped catfish.
 As the evening drew in, the fish came on the feed all around the lake. I spent some time with Stephane from Switzerland who told me that Jez's lake and the way the wonderful way the staff treated him had restored his faith. Earlier in the week Stephane  was on the verge of giving up fishing altogether after  visiting a relatively nearby Thai run lake and was left horrified to see how badly the fish were treated and what he described as the shocking state of the tackle which kept snapping when he had a fish on.

Jay, meanwhile, was bringing in a steady run of various catfish.

And, not to be outdone, Claire was holding her own with walking and striped catfish along a couple more redtails.

 They are a very fine fish...the redtail!

The honours fell to Claire though as with the very last cast she hooked into this fantastic Mekong catfish which we were assured was in the 30-35kg range. It took ages to coax in and Claire handled it all very well thanks to the encouragement of the gathering male crowd. Well Done, Claire.

Now...with all the excitement of the scuba diving and the fishing, I have two very excited Pullins in my house boinging all over the place.

And today the pace is maintained as out Weymouth team (including Debbie and Dick from Weymouth) are off our sea kayaking on the fabulous John Grey 'Hong by Starlight' trip. Many guests rate this trip as the ONE unforgettable experience not to miss...apart from the fishing and diving of course!!

Well Done to our Weymouth friends and well done to JezWilson and his fantastic team for creating such a wonderful and welcoming experience for all to enjoy.

Friday, 19 January 2018

First dive...in a warm 'aquarium'.

One of the greatest pleasure being here in Phuket for these few months is that it gives me the chance to introduce guests to scuba diving. Jay (Jamie Pullin, Offshore Rebel's new skipper) had experienced the delights of going under boats to free their propellers of ropes picked up in the English Channel so already had a bit of experience.

Being a fit young man, it was pretty easy for him to get to grips with the gear and the basics in the swimming pool and then for us to progress to our shore diving venue.

The first thing we do is to learn to dangle. here's Jay hanging on to the rope that surrounds the Kata coral reef. Just dangling like this allows the new diver to get comfortable with his surrounds, calm the inevitably excited breathing down and see a few friedly fish before we drop to the bottom.
The sand at this beach is extremely fine and very easy to stir up. It is a perfect venue for diving students and there were many there....so we entered a veritable sandstorm. we decided to take things very gently and let the sand settle a bit and thus benefit from increased visibility.

Because we were waiting in an area of the reef that I did not normally investigate and because Jay is highly observant, being a keen tropical saltwater aquarianist, he was soon pointing to all sorts of stuff and wanting photo's.
It was very illuminating for me to have different corals explained. This is an acan coral and is, when in its best condition, vividly coloured. Jay explained to me that the coral heads have retracted leaving the skeleton exposed. Well...I never knew that! I am hoping after more dives here I will learn a lot more about the  many corals.
I must have passed this bright yellow sponge many times and never noticed it...but, as the viz improved, the striking colour shone through the fading sand mist....

Now young Jay is what anyone woukd call enthusiastic! His eyes were everywhere and his excitement was clear to see. I knew he was going to love this especially as he was able to identify so many of the corals and fish, many of which he had in his aquarium. For him to see it all in its natural setting was something very special...I know he will never forget this, his first dive.
Even though we were in very shallow water and within a couple of hundred yards from the beach, there was masses of sea life to see. Here's a colourful nudibranch for example. It's great that such a mixture of fish and little creatures are so readily available to see on a 'training' dive .....the chance are anyone who sees all this life on their first ever dive is going to be 'hooked' on diving.
It's not easy to spot scorpion fish...but Jay pointed this one out to me.
And, as I was busy trying to get an angle on the scorpion fish, we were visited by a couple of inquisitive cuttlefish.

Cuttlefish are amazing creatures and able to change colour very quickly. They can blend into the background and become very hard to spot. Very beautiful creatures.
Jay couldn't get over the density of fish life on this reef. It is like diving into a warm, well stocked aquarium. Fish everywhere...sometimes so many that it is difficult to see through them.
Jay soon got the hang of this.....and was buzzing when we surface after 50 minutes...and carried on buzzing for the rest of the day.

This is why I like to introduce people to diving here in Phuket...the overwhelming pleasure I see in people faces (through their scuba masks of course!) is a joy to behold.
The varicose sea slug....a charming little creature hiding in amongst the rocks.
And here is our overwhelming happy Jay at the end of the dive...what fun!! And we have just begun!! More diving tomorrow.