Part Two - Da Junk on Da Junk (continued)
Day 4 – Surin Islands
These beautiful islands were hard hit by the tsunamis. Sea Gypsies have inhabited the islands forever, and continue to do so. Somehow, unlike the unfortunate masses elsewhere, they knew the waves were coming and went to higher land, so there was little to no loss of life, but their villages were devastated. Since rebuilt with foreign aid assistance, the Sea Gypsies continue to prosper.
Although beautiful islands topside, I found these dives to be less than spectacular, mostly because the sites we visited were mostly rocky ridges, with little coral encrustation and often with a fair amount of current. Is it possible that I have become a lazy diver? ;^)
As well, there was some clear evidence of prior dynamite fishing (reportedly no longer happening) – it was most peculiar – we would be diving through a pretty coral garden in the fringing reef, and would come across these huge rubble fields. Initially, I assumed that this damage was a result of the tsunamis, but not so – unfortunately it was caused by short-sighted blast fishing practices.
Dive 1 – Torinla Ridge
A rocky ridge dive, with a fair amount of current swirling. Highlights were some nice eels in the cracks, and the end of the dive brought us into a beautiful, lively coral garden (depth about 20 feet) that looked uncannily like a computer aquarium screensaver.
Dive 2 – South East Point
Another rocky ridge dive. This was one of those dives where you really need to stop and look for the small stuff, as the reef structure itself is not particularly interesting. P1 found a not-so-little mantis shrimp in a crevice under a rock. I stayed back a respectful distance to take a shot, fully expecting it to scuttle into the hole (all others I had seen on this trip did exactly that) but this little guy held his ground. I slowly approached to try to get a close up, remembering stories of their lethal claw (used for smashing shellfish) and what it could do to my camera housing port. I am happy to report that he did not kill my camera.
Dive 3 – Expedition Dive – Hin Kong
The Junk always tries to do one “expedition dive” during their weeklong trips – a site that is not usually visited by other boats. This one ended up being a winner – a rocky islet reef with benign current (just some surge in the shallows) and some really nice life, including neat little swim-thru crevasses hosting all sorts of cool stuff.
No night dive was offered as there was a late afternoon departure for the Similan Islands, but instead we got to go sailing…
Sailing on The Junk
Once a week the Junk gathers crew and guests on the foredeck and, under the direction of the bosun (who is the master sailor) everyone takes a turn helping to hoist the red sails. All sail raising is done manually – and man, are those things heavy. Once the sails were fully deployed, engines were shut off and we enjoyed that particular quiet of sailing for a bit across the Andaman Sea.
Here we are, back in the Similans, as we head back towards Phuket. I am not complaining – there is some really lovely diving in these islands, although a little pale after the outrageous Richelieu Rock.
Dive 1 – Songkran Reef
Another of those “I’m not quite clear why we are swimming into the current” dives. Payoff was the only sighting (and shot) I got of a Napoleon Wrasse who emerged out of a swarm of baitfish, as well as an obliging turtle who let me swim alongside him (down current, bless his heart ;^) for several minutes.
Dive 2 – East of Eden
This dive is all about bommies. I got so engrossed in a big beautiful bommie – despite less than optimal viz, I had the wide angle lens on for this dive, as opposed to a 28-105mm zoom lens for that outrageous bommie on Day One – that I missed the excitement of seeing mating octopi just off the bommie in a heap of rocks at 80 feet. And so it goes…
Dive 3 – Sharkfin Reef
Our last dive off The Junk. More massive boulders and rocky ridges. On this site there is a large population of inquisitive Longfin Batfish – really, they are just like dogs – waiting to greet us as we dropped in the water, they tailed us for the duration of the dive. They nibbled the P’s fins and gobbled exhaled bubbles, much to their delight. Such fun. Highlights, in addition to the batfish, were a juvenile blue ribbon eel (juvies are exposure-defying black with yellow dorsal fin), some funky blue boxfish and a groovy corkscrewy anemone. I ran out of bottom time long before I ran out of interesting stuff to photograph. Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba Batfish!
After an overnight navigation, we woke up moored in the bay off Patong Beach. After packing the last bits of our stuff, breakfast, distributing tips (we were encouraged to tip our DM separately, and then leave a tip for the rest of the crew in the Tip Box) and saying our fond farewells, we were dropped off by a Junk crewmember at our hotel, where we would be staying for the next three days as we off-gassed before our two day trip to Phi Phi.