Back on a Similan Liveaboard – Hallelujah #5

After a stormy start to the new high season, with the choppy seas subsiding we departed on MV Hallelujah for trip number five. Just how choppy the seas had been around the Similan Islands, I wasn’t exactly sure, I’d just returned from a holiday  in the cooler climes of England but Chris, our manager had been relieved to be relieved of his temporary tour leader duties and let me take over. Apparently it had been quite rough but for us the forecast was fine.

MV Hallelujah Liveaboard Group Photo 9th November 2017

It just so happened I was also returning from a few years of retirement from boat master duties. Not that I’d given up diving entirely, like that would ever happen, but I had reduced my time on boats to a part time basis to concentrate more on family life. With my twin girls now 7 years old, it was time to get back to work. And what better way than on MV Hallelujah, picking up where I left off in 2012, tour leading once more with Big Blue along with fellow tour leader Matt.

Why Hallelujah?

Having worked on many Similan liveaboards over the last 13 years, Hallelujah has become my favourite. You know you’ve found a good boat when the boat crew return year after year and it was great to see everyone back once more. Another season of amazing food from Anne and Rat and good laughs with our dive deck crew to come. There is also an additional boat boy on the team, Mad, who I’ve worked with a few times over the years. He’s on board to man our brand new, second chase dingy, ensuring faster pick-ups after the dives.

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Okay, enough sentimental background info, how was trip #5 on MV Hallelujah? We departed with thirteen guests which was nice for me. I was feeling a little rusty so not having a full boat of 25 guests felt more manageable as I eased back into the job. We had a nice international crowd from the USA, Russian, Japan, Korea and Sweden. Kyo and Ben filled two more spaces, our two new instructors from Japan and France. We’re pretty multilingual at Big Blue 🙂

Waking in the Similans

Waking up in the Similans Islands was great. It’s always great. It is one view I will never tire of. 13 years being greeted by the same morning view and it’s still great. We were moored in Princess Bay at Similan Island 4 surrounded by turquoise water with a view of the immaculate white sandy beach, edged by familiar ancient granite rising into lush rain forest. Welcome (back) to the Similans. Great.

MV Hallelujah liveaboard dive guides at the Similan Islands

Our first day was diving at West of Eden, Shark Fin Reef, Elephant Head Rock and Turtle Rock. Am not sure if Ho would agree but an unexpected highlight of the first dive was getting to see a large spearing mantis shrimp attack Ho’s camera. It was a spectacular flurry of spearing mayhem with the shrimp seemingly wanting to steal the camera and drag it back into its lair.

Ribbon Eel at Elephant Head Rock

Elephant Head Rock was the dive for big fish sightings that day with plenty of massive giant trevallies and one of the largest dogtooth tuna I’ve ever encountered Similan diving. Good first day in the Similans, great to be back.

Some Great Similan Diving

For me personally, day two was the best days diving. Christmas Point was spectacular in the early morning light. Plenty of colourful fish life and just before the end of the dive, a nice long encounter with a white tip reef shark. Dive two at the Three Trees started where the first dive had left off. The elasmobranch this time was a large spotted eagle ray that slowly circled our group. It was also very encouraging to see a lot of new table corals growing on the old reef. The reef along the east side of Similan Island 9 has been slow to recover since the 2010 coral bleaching but there are at last signs of new coral life.

Coral Grouper in the SImilan Islands

For most of the 2016-2017 Similan diving season Koh Bon was sadly lacking its usual abundance of fish life but returning to the site early this season was completely different. Heading to the ridge from the bay there were large schools of glass fish, plenty of groupers and large grey sweetlips. Large packs of longnose emperors and trevally patrolled along the wall, often bursting into action feeding on the glass fish.

Snapper in the Similan Islands

The ridge was equally entertaining with schools of bigeye snapper, golden trevally and surgeon fish mating in the moderate current blowing over the ridge. Another good dive. If Koh Bon keeps that kind of form it’s going to be fun diving while we wait for Manta season.

Large school of fish at Richelieu Rock

On Form Richelieu Rock

Koh Tachai on the other hand was easily summarised with the two words, ‘green’ and ‘monster’! Both dives there were tough, setting the stage for upcoming Richelieu Rock to steal the show.

After the morning dive at cold, green monster Koh Tachai we headed to Richelieu on the third day of our liveaboard trip. The Rock was on fine form, good visibility with just enough current to liven up the pelagics but not enough to make diving difficult.

Pharoah Cuttlefish at Richelieu Rock

The cuttlefish were openly getting amorous with each other, the seahorse was posing nicely for photos and all around the dive site there was life and activity.

MV Hallelujah #5 a Job Well Done

We wrapped up day four with an early morning dive at Koh Bon and a nice dive at the Boonsung Wreck before heading back to Khao Lak. Considering I was feeling a little rusty back in my role as tour leader I thought the trip had been smashing. Having a cool bunch of easy going divers on board certainly helped me ease back into the job. So thanks to everyone on the trip, it was a real pleasure 🙂

After an easy start let’s see how it goes on the next one. Full boat, professional photographers with a mountain of equipment, divers of varying experience and some extra staff. Keep you posted how that goes, stay tuned.

Were you diving on the trip? Please leave us a comment below…