Diving the Similans: Bigger Fish

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My luck is not too bad for slightly bigger fish. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to see pairs go by, like these white collar butterflyfish. I like how the yellow-green-blue of the main body contrasts with the bright red tail. It’s almost as if the fish was drawn by a very skilled primary school kid who only had the four colours.

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Coral groupers like these always make me feel a bit hungry. I still feel slightly guilty about it, but looking at one of these makes me think of perfectly steamed fish, Cantonese style. I can just imagine the tender flesh of perfectly cooked fresh fish accented by light soy sauce and shredded spring onion. All of it sliding down my throat. It’s amazing how one glance can evoke all these sensations, even underwater.

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Then there’s one of my favourites: the clown triggerfish. It’s just crazy how madly flamboyant this fish is, with the bright white spots and the yellow lipstick. It just looks so comically out of place.

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Then the other joy of slightly bigger fish is watching them at cleaning stations. Here we have some fusiliers, most likely variable-lined fusiliers, mingling around. Look carefully to see what they’re up to.

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Did you see how they’re opening their mouths to let the little cleaner wrasse in? The wrasse goes in to eat up parasites and other edible yuckies in the fusiliers. I’d never seen fish gaping their mouths open so wide for cleaning before!

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And talking about cleaning stations, check out this cool sight. The two fish are the same species, yellowfin surgeonfish, even though they’re such starkly different colours. Better yet, they can change colour at will. When they want to be cleaned, they turn to their black night colours. Isn’t great to change colour at will?

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Diving the Similans: Small Fish

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I’m not very lucky with big fish. Whenever we’re out for a dive to see something like a special sort of shark or bumphead parrotfish or whatever, I rarely get the first glimpse. Also, my group is invariably the one that doesn’t see anything while other people spend ages looking at it. Case in point was that my group was the only one throughout the whole 4-day trip that didn’t see a single leopard shark, not even at the dive site named after them.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t see as many big fish or perhaps just out of sheer perversity, I like taking pictures of small fish. Each trip, I take one of the prerequisite photos of clownfish. These here playing in the anemone are called false clown anemonefish. It’s funny how they look so cute frolicking among the anemone tendrils yet have such grumpy expressions up close.

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Next is a series of my favourite little fish: the hawkfish family. These are infernally difficult to get good pictures of because they’re very shy. The pixy hawkfish is one of the shyer ones. Even though they’re rather common, most of the time I see them peeking out from a coral crevice. Either that, or the dart of a tail into shelter. I like the way it cocks its head very slightly to one side as if posing for a picture.

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Much less frequently, I spot the freckled hawkfish. It’s funny how it comes in two variations. I like the one with bright orange-red and white streaks better.

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The duller version somehow looks a million times grumpier. It still has freckles on its chin, just not the cute bright red ones of its prettier variation.

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The trick to small fish is merely patience, not luck. Once I spot one, I normally lie in wait for it to emerge and get used to me. Most small fish like either pause for a while to rest on a bit of coral, or stay in their own territory. It’s not terribly hard to get in a few shots in good light for fairly decent photos. Plus, good pictures compensate loads for bad luck with big fish.

Diving the Similans: Islands 1 to 9

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The Similan Islands get its name from the Malay word for “nine.” This cluster of nine islands is famed for its underwater boulder landscape and the coral gardens that grow around them.

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Some of the boulders really are bits of island and where sea and land meet, I had a fish-eye view of waves breaking on the boulders above.

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It’s also much of a fish nursery here. Schools and schools of little fish envelop the boulders. It makes for a beautiful sight in the right kind of light.

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Sometimes the schools get so thick that you hardly see anything else beside little fish. Even other divers get obscured in the crowd.

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Most times it’s hard to tell what species the fish are. Other times, when the schools are made of fish destined to be large predators, it’s easier. Here we have a school of juvenile chevron barracuda.

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Those barracuda would probably grow up to feast on the blue schools of these fusiliers.

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Either fusiliers or these snappers that formed a school around me.

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While Islands One to Nine didn’t offer up a great deal of hard-to-find wildlife and the visibility wasn’t as great as we hoped (bad weather the night before), there were lots of great opportunities for good photos (including this one of DC).

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Diving the Similans: The Black Manta

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It’s a pity, my computer still isn’t fixed so the posts from previous trips are still on hold. At least I still go places occasionally now, so here’s a series of my recent trip to Similan Islands in Thailand.

Get ready for a whole load of blue! What else but diving is there to do when you’re on a boat in the middle of the sea? DC and I liked the Black Manta when we were last at Seven Skies. In fact he was so impressed that practically the next week he’d looked up all the available trips and before I knew it we were booked six months ahead.

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We had days with lovely weather, although some evening showers and the edge of a storm caught us. Some of the dives didn’t have the greatest visibility because of bad weather the day before, but it was still great to get away and be uncontactable for a while.

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It’s a lovely boat from all angles isn’t it? I like how spacious it is. All the cabins have aircon and most are ensuite.  They have a water maker on board so there’s no need to ration water and you can shower as many times a day you like and even rinse your gear with fresh water every day! The food is great (Thai crew) and it’s got a big diving deck so it isn’t at all congested before or after a dive.

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And what did we see below the water? More next post!