Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Diving with Aussie Divers, Phuket.

A very colourful scene to start our first dive...what looks like a furry creature in a spectacular nudibranch.

Now, I know there will be those of you asking ''What's a nudibrach'....and so here are some details courtesy of our knowledgeable companion,  Wikipedia

There are apparently 2,500 different species of nudibranchs in South-east Asian waters!! There's even a PADI Nudibranch Speciality course hosted in Vietnam....I took this course and I have to say I met some very 'interesting' people teaching it!!

Berghia coerulescens (Laurillard, 1830).jpg
Berghia coerulescens
Chromodoris lochi (AA3).jpg
Chromodoris lochi pair in Puerto Galera, the Philippines
Scientific classification
(unranked):clade Heterobranchia
clade Euthyneura
clade Nudipleura
subclade Nudibranchia

Cuvier, 1817
about 3000 species
Nudibranchs (/ˈnjdɪbræŋk/[2]) are a group of soft-bodiedmarine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage.[3] They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms, and they have been given colourful nicknames to match, such as "Clown", "Marigold", "Splendid", "Dancer" and "Dragon".[4] Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.[5]
The word "nudibranch" comes from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek βραγχια, brankhiagills.

 specieNudibranchs (/ˈnjdɪbræŋk/[2]) are a group of soft-bodied, marine gastropod molluscs which shed their shells after their larval stage.[3] They are noted for their often extraordinary colours and striking forms, and they have been given colourful nicknames to match, such as "Clown", "Marigold", "Splendid", "Dancer" and "Dragon".[4] Currently, about 2,300 valid species of nudibranchs are known.[5]

We do a lot of diving from the shore here in Phuket. Because I have all the dive gear, our dives cost just the price of filling the bottle with air (£1.25 per bottle) and he cost of driving to the location. It's a very cheap day out. Sometimes we hire a longtail boat and go out to one of the many Islands in a 10 mile radius of Phuket. This is all very nice indeed and many wonderful things can be seen.                           

Our £ has fallen massively in recent years. When I started coming here to Thailand in 2004, the exchange rate was 75 Baht to each £1. We Brits were rich! We could live like Kings. I even bought a 4 bedroomed detached house which cost £139k fully furnished and with a swimming pool! There was so much money about, Barclays Bank kindly loaned me the money to buy a 0.75% interest rate!!! What???

Times have changed!! Now we are getting about 42 Baht to the £ and significantly less is you change your currency in UK (Don't!! Change it here!!).

I used to go diving with PADI 2 or 3 times a week. It cost about 700 Baht per dive in the 2004 to 2012 period. 700 Baht with such a high exchange rate was about £10. A PADI day at sea with three dives and all the wonderful food you could eat was under £ you could be generous with a tip for the crew.
Now it costs £100 per day to dive with PADI and there are additional costs on top with equipment hire etc. I notice that the crew tips and a nice tip for the Dive Guide has decreased significantly...simply because of the money situation.

BUT...nothing beats going diving with PADI and with expert guides who know the dive sites intimately. It IS well worth the money but now it is more of a special treat rather than a regular event.

Photo amazingly camoflauged scorpion fish. Not a good idea to stick your hand on this little bugger....VERY painful!

Photo left....turtle!

Last year, we went diving with Aussie Divers and had a great day we booked to go with them again. When you book with PADI you must remember that it is an American based Company. Beacuae of this you will be asked a multitude of questions which are designed to check out your profile and how best for the professionals to look after you.

You must have your qualification cards to hand and you should have Medical Insurance...well, you would be utterly insane to be in Thailand (or anywhere) without the very best Medical Insurance you can afford. There is even a 'Diver Insurance' with DAN insurers....I recommend it if you are going to do a lot of diving.

Anyhow...there are many excellent dive companies to dive with in Phuket. I like Aussie Divers. I like Aussies! I like their laid back approach which is underpinned with highly qualified and experienced Instructors and staff. We dived with a superb guide called Jason. Jason is an Instructor and is diving every day so you will always have new things to learn from such experienced people.....but most of all I live diving with Aussies because they are FUN.

 Over the years I have been bollocked by a whole variety of very serious diving professionals; the Germans and Russians, for example, are superb at frightening the life out of you..even when you're just trying to pour yourself a coffee on the boat. They don't 'mean' to be like's just their way!!
Kannika has recently passed her Advanced Open Water Certificate. Many people come on holiday with absolutely no diving experience but want to learn. There are various courses to take but it all starts really with the PADI Open Water Course. Here in Phuket that Course will cost you about £300 and will involve 2 full days at sea (that would normally cost you £200 alone). It is great value for money and a lot less that you would pay back in the UK.

The Course last 3 to 4 days depending on stuff and requires a good deal of homework and reading. To do it thoroughly can be very demanding.....and it IS the course that sets the foundation for the rest of your diving progress.
After the Open Water, which Certifies you to dive to 18 meters, comes The AOW (Advanced Open Water) Course. This requires another 2 days of teaching and diving....and then, if you pass your theory exam, you become an Advanced PADI diver.

There are many discussions about this speed of advancement and other organisations, such as BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) that view this rapd progress with a degree of disbelief and suspicion. To be 'Advanced' within 6 days and with no experience raises many concerns.
It is up to each Individual how they handle this of course. When my son Tom, who right now is in Norway working as a Commercial Diver, finished his Open Water Certification, we decided to try to do at least 50 dives before progressing to the Advanced Open Water Course.

This is what Kannika has done. We are fortunate of course to be able to do so much diving and have been to depths well in excess as that recommended by the Open Water Course but we have done everything very gently and with planning.

Her setting up of her dive gear  (and mine...I make her do mine as well!!) her superb buoyancy control and relaxed style under water with very conservative air consumption is a joy to behold. And when she was back on the boat I noted other divers asking her if she was one of the Instructors. To me, that's how it should be when you are working on your Advanced Open Water should be a level of competence to be worked on, achieved and then be proud of.

I know this is all very idealistic and that we are in a very fortunate position. For many, the time constraints simply do not allow for the luxury of this extended time and multiple dive experience.

 PADI offer lots of Specialty Courses....and taking some will make you an ever more competent diver. Peak Performance Buoyancy is a very good one to consider as it concentrates on balance and weighting under water allowing the diver to build up the confidence and ability to enter situations that might appear daunting.

Kannika's buoyancy control is superb...but there is always more to learn and improvements to be made. She has not taken this particular course...her control comes from the experience build up of about 70 dives now. Here is she is exiting part of a wreck we were on on Monday. The wreck bottoms out at 35 meters and we are in about 25 meters here swimming through what was part of the wheelhouse of this sunken passenger ferry.

We were extremely fortunate to have picked a day with amazing visibility....easily 30 meters...probably more. We were on very gentle neap tides and flat calm sea it really could not have been better.
As anglers know, fishing a wreck can be difficult with so many obstructions ready to snag the fishing tackle...but the rewards can be very high as a wreck produces a terrific concentration of species. 

Just imagine how difficult it would be to extract a fish from such a tangled mess!

The wrecks back home are also covered in Commercial fishing gear...nets, ropes, lines as well as a lot of lost fishing tackle.

The nearby reefs are also full of life with moray eels of various sizes and varieties hiding in the cracks and under rocks. They look ferocious and would no doubt inflict damage on your fingers if you were trying to ram them down its throat.

The PADI maxim is look but don't touch. This is all about admiring the splendour of what is down there and leaving it alone to remain splendid.

This is not as easy as you may think when you dive buddy wants to eat everything...especially squid, lobsters, crabs, fact anything and everything.

It's not easy to find a shark. Here is a leopard shark. I guess it to be a couple of metres long as it has a lengthy tail. They are very docile (usually) and like to snooze on the sea bed.
Seeing a seahorse is always a highlight of any dive. Seahorses are incredibly territorial. This is the same seahorse in exactly the same place that I saw on my first dive of this 'season' back in November!
Coral bleaching from increased water temperatures and and pollution have damaged significant areas of our oceans. Although there is a good deal of bleaching in Phuket...especially due to the massive increase in pollution in the last ten years thanks to the never ending real estate over- development and many would say ruination of the Island, there are still areas of outstanding natural beauty.       
The stunning colours here show what the corals COULD look like....
A final photo of my dive buddy, Kannika, who is an absolute delight to share all these amazing experiences with.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Phuket Fantasea Show photo's

We went to the Phuket Fantasea Show. One of the attractions was to have your photo's taken using the traditional Thai clothes and an appropriate regal background! Kannika looks amazing (she always does) and I look like a right twat (I always do!!) but it was great fun and now we have a lot of photo's to have a laff over.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Final Fishing Chalong Fishing Park.

Today, March 20th, was Katie and Ryan's final day of their holiday and they opted for a final fling on the fishing at our nearby Chalong Fishing Park.

Our most recent trips have resulted in some lively action with mekong catfish.

Here's some information from Wikipedia about this iconic species.

Mekong giant catfish
AquatottoGifu mekonoonamazu.jpg
Scientific classificatione
Species:P. gigas
Binomial name
Pangasianodon gigas
Chevey, 1931
  • Pangasius gigas (Chevey, 1931)
  • Pangasius paucidensFang & Chaux, 1949

Representation of a Mekong giant catfish at a Buddhist temple in Chiang Khong.

The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigasThaiปลาบึกRTGSpla buekpronounced [plāː bɯ̀k]Khmerត្រីរាជ /trəy riec/; Vietnamesecá tra dầu), is a large, critically endangered species of catfish (order Siluriformes) in the shark catfish family (Pangasiidae), native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia and adjacent China. In Thai folklore, this fish is regarded with reverence, and special rituals are followed and offerings are made before fishing it.[2]

The first mekong giant catfish fell to our very own Weymouth Quayside Fuel supplier, Mr Andy Alcock with a mekong catfish estimated to be 35kg kg. These fish are so powerful that they can make runs clear to the other side of the water. It's really important for all anglers to retrieve their tackle ASAP to avoid the inevitable line crossings and tangles that will ensue should not this action be taken with the utmost alacrity.
Soon after Andy's fish, wife Gill was also into a an even livelier catfish.

 Her lengthy battle with said beastie drew in an appreciative crowd of onlookers....

One of the guides can be seen in the foreground indicating his respect for the fish....

And here is Gill's fine fish...estimated at 25 kg.

The Thai guides are always on hand to leap in and assist with fish presentation. It's not easy hanging on to one of these fish and still retain your footing when standing in the water.

Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the bank, Captain Ryan was gently toying with his equally hard fighting fish....but this was a different sort of fight with the fish staying close to and deep rather than racing off across the lake.
Aha...those hours spent on Chesil beach playing big blonde rays and conger through the surf were paying off!
The guide enters the lake to guide the lively fish into the net.
And here we have a very nice Siamese carp. These are magnificent fish with boldly coloured black and silver scales. They too are amazingly strong and must be held carefully for a photo shot. (I watched a big carp slap a young angler right across his back when I was at Gillhams fishing several years looked like the lad had been lashed with a whip! T'weren't pretty!!)
And Katie was soon into a smaller species...the sawai catfish which was one of a number of these caught.
No...she's not having a crafty fag. Here we see Kannika and Jen, soon to have her first baby, waiting for me to turn my back so that they could start eating......

And here comes lunch courtesy of Khun Noiey.

It is actually quite difficult to spot a Thai lady when she is NOT eating.

Chalong Fishing Park has a nice menu with a mixture of Thai and Western foods including a fine selection of meat pies!!
Here's another very fine mekong catfish with the fishing guide cradling the fish in order to gently remove the hook and then give the hook area a squirt of iodine.
Keen to show she has other talents than just eating when with her Thai lady friends at the lake, Kannika lets me know what we are actually here for....yeah, right.
Good job Katie has her priorities as she bends into another fish. Katie landed four different species of catfish with a redtail, a walking catfish, several sawai and a mekong catfish.
Wandering around with my camera, I discovered that the rumours of Jez intending to start growing various indigenous flora as well as a few imported species was indeed correct. Here we see a particularly pretty example of the  rare leafless bush, known for its uncanny ability to appear to be dead. Apparently it bursts into a myriad of spectacular coloured flowers at night....but no-one has ever been fast enough to capture this display.
And to finish up with, our newest, youngest and best looking skipper (apart from my cousin David, that is) in Weymouth presents the final fish of the 6 hour session with another dazzling mekong.

Our merry pair, as said above, depart today for the sub zero temperatures of the UK with Katie hoping to go to sea on Sunday aboard 'Eclipse'. We wish her luck for her first season as a skipper and hope that plenty of anglers will book up with her......
Here's Weymouth's young skippers, Ryan and Katie and it has been a great pleasure having them come to stay with us for their two week Phuket holiday.
Right at the end of the session, Kannika scooped out a load of tiny freshwater prawns and announced that she would not be accompanying us to the nearest hostelry for a well earned cooling beverage. It was her intention to help her two Thai lady friends eat these little critters along with lashing of chillies and fish sauce.

Food, food, food......and more food.

Thailand is certainly a bountiful land!!