Saturday, February 17, 2024

Thailand - Koh Bida

On Tuesday we went on a whole day snorkelling trip with Hidden depths divers again, this time we were going to Bida islands near Phi Phi islands. Many many years ago we were already diving at Bidas, while we were vacationing on Phi Phi Don and doing our Padi Open Water and Advanced Open Water diving courses there. But I would be lying if I told you I could remember much from then, besides that it was exciting to learn to dive and that all the dive sites we visited were very pretty and that we had a great time.
We were again picked up at our hotel and after a breakfast at dive shop we sailed away. This was our Captain on speedboat, always in good mood and joking.
Tomaz had to take the photo of details of the boat as well.
Here is our snorkelling guide Moo (I hope I'm spelling his name correctly).
And this is the boat with all of us. This time there were not just divers and us, there was another snorkeler there as well.
The Bidas are quite close to Phi Phi islands, behind Koh Bida Nai (behind Tomazs head) you can see Phi Phi Leh on the left, where the famous Maya bay is.
Our first stop was at Koh Bida Nok. The bay was already packed with boats and the water was crowded with people. There are several Black tip sharks living around the islands and they are one of the main attractions there, but looking at all the boats and people our Captain was not optimistic that we would find any. He said they all swam out to the see to avoid the crowd.
We started in the shallow bay and it was very pretty in the water, one just had to be careful not to swim into other people. But the Sea Krait didn't mind any of us.
We also saw many colourful Parrot fish.

Then suddenly Moo pushed me forward and pointed to the shallow - and the shark parade begun. There were several Blacktip sharks circling in and out of the lagoon.
Here the shark is a bit in the background because the Needle fish wanted to be in the front. We were very happy to see that the sharks were still there.
After watching sharks for a while we moved along the island to the East. This to me is just as big a trophy as sharks - these are two nudibranchs, the bigger one is Phyllidia Varicosa and the smaller could be Plyllidiela nigra (both names are from seaslugforum.net ).
And just around the East corner there was another group of Blacktips, Tomaz said there were some dozen of them. These were even less shy and came quite close.

Pinkfin shark named Tomaz....
These are some pretty sponges, I guess.
Here are some anemones with Clown fish.
And some more Bubble corals.
This is the prettiest Triggerfish of them all, it is a Clown Triggerfish. This one was the only one we saw and this is the best photo where you can also see its belly.
This one looks very much like Java Rabitfish or Streaked spinefoot.
After a break on the boat and some delicious snacks and drinks we moved to the next spot, to Hin Bida. It is a bit further East and it's not and island but just a submerged rocky outcrop with its highest point just sticking out of the water at low tide.
This pretty coral is probably one of the Pocilloporas, surrounded by Diadema urchins and guarded by black Three-spot Damselfish.
I love how delicate these Diadema urchins are. Except when their long spines are stuck in your foot...
And this was another highlight of the day - the Leopard or Zebra shark. We saw it only thanks to Moo. It is not the best photo, but we didn't want to get too close and spook it, so that other divers could also see it.
We saw plenty of these fish, hanging in the water in groups. Unfortunately I couldn't find their name.
And here are some more Fussilliers. 
Snorkelling was really great, lots of healthy reefs and lots and lots of fish. Which really surprises me every time, since one sees soooo many fishing ships out at sea every evening. We again didn't see any Whale sharks, I guess I will have to make another plan how to finally meet them.
After snorkelling we sailed back to dive shop and had a delicious lunch there. And our evening was spent at the hotel pool and then with a delicious curry and a few drinks.
 

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Thailand - Koh Haa

Before traveling to Koh Lanta I did a bit of research whether it is possible to snorkel from the shore there. There wasn't much information, some bloggers suggested the NW rocky part of Koh Lanta Yai was somewhat suitable for it, and this is why we chose our hotel here. A bit to the South from our hotel, only a couple of minutes walking, was a big bay with sandy beach and we went there for a swim one day, but also to check if it was possible to snorkel there. It was rather shallow with sand in the water, but we did see two snorkelers at the rocky edge. While swimming was nice, and we always prefer the sea to the pool, we were missing a fresh water shower and a possibility to change from our wet swimsuits.
I also checked the possibilities of going to snorkelling trips with the boat already at home before departure. Once I read that the whale sharks are often seen at Koh Haa, I knew I wanted to go there.
So we decided to make a snorkelling trip to Koh Haa with the Hidden Depths Divers on Saturday. We were picked up at the hotel and once in dive shop we even got breakfast. Next we sailed to Koh Haa with the speedboat, some 40 minutes to SW. Koh Haa is a group of six islands (name actually means five islands) in the middle of Andaman sea.

It is a part of natural reserve, so one has to pay the entrance fee. The rangers are there on their boat and are watching over the boats, divers and snorkelers. When we arrived, there were already several boats there and plenty of people in the water.
There is even a sandy beach on the biggest of the islands.
The boat got tied to the buoy in front of the sandy beach and first the divers jumped into the water and then us. We were the only snorkelers on this day and we even had the snorkelling guide, which was very nice as we surely would have missed some of the interesting things he was pointing out to us.
This little beauty didn't need pointing out, there were more than plenty of them everywhere and they were stinging, especially in contact with more sensitive skin on the face and neck. But it wasn't too bad, except for one that smacked me under my nose and on upper lip which was quite annoying.
But the pretty scenery distracted us from jelly fish. There were many anemones with clown fish there...
...and plenty of blue star fish.
This cutie is a young Yellow Boxfish, I like the bright colour and especially the lips. We also saw a bigger black one with white spots. So cute!
The corals were healthy and in great shape, this must be one of the leaf or sheet coral, maybe a Lettuce coral.
The Titan Trigger fish didn't pay much attention to us. I still remember an aggressive one in Maledives many years ago that tried to byte Tomazs fins.

This is a cute butterfly fish - according to my books it is a Lined Butterflyfish.
This is a Mat Zoanthid, a colony of animals related to anemones and corals.
This is probably one of the brain corals, not sure which kind.
And a cushion starfish.
I'm in dilemma about this one as well, it is definitely a coral tree, but I'm not sure which. Because of the colour it could be the Black coral, but I don't think they can be found in such relatively shallow water. Next to it to the left there is a Blue Surgeon fish.
And here's another mystery, it is definitely a pelagic predator, but doesn't look like one of the Jacks or Trevallies nor Rainbow Runner. I might need more books about underwater life in this part of world.
And this one I know for sure - it is Barracuda, it was poitned out to us by our snorkelling guide, Moo.
A pretty Giant moray is showing its teeth.
This was a mystery for a while, I was thinking it could be some flatworm (not nudibranch, since ther were no signs of gills). Then the dive guide of Hidden Depth Divers had a genius idea - it is a shell of a crab, because of two arches on front edge, where the eyes would be. I researched a bit and it could maybe be the shell of Red coral crab.
I guess this might be one of the Fusillieres. There are many kinds with different colours and patterns.
This one is a Porcupine fish, if you look closely you can see spines all over its body.
And this is one more thing I learnt while writing this blog - when I was taking the photo of this, I had no clue of what it might be, I was thinking maybe some eggs of some creature. Then I came across a similar photo on Internet and a description, that said it is a Bubble coral. I really enjoy researching and learning these things.
And here are some more Fussiliers, this time of different colour and pattern.
After the first dive and snorkelling we got some delicious snacks and drinks on the boat. And then we moved to a smaller island in hope to escape the jellyfish. There still were some jellyfish in some areas, but we were able to avoid them and it wasn't too bad. And the scenery was again stunning.
This Giant Moray was dancing among the corals and rocks.
This is a very pretty White spotted jellyfish.
We found a whole garden of these Cup Corals in many pretty colours.
I don't know which jelly fish this is, but it was of very unusual bright pink colour. I found one exactly like this one on Internet, photo was titled Pink jellyfish, so I'm not sure if that's the name of jellyfish or just the title of photo and the author does'n know the name of the jellyfish any more than I do.
This is the Scorpion fish, again pointed out to us by Moo. Not easy to spot.
This is one more beautiful coral, that I don't know how it's named.
I was actually taking the photo of the big black fish, but the small fish around it were so dense, it is difficult to see the big one. The big one looks totally similar to Redmouth Grouper from my book of fish of Maledives, I'm not sure about the name of small fish.
We saw several Sea kraits and we've seen them already many years before in Fiji. I know they are highly poisonous, but I never perceived them as threat as they are absolutely not aggressive, always occupied by searching food in corals and rocks and ignoring divers and snorkelers.
These are the Needlefish, there were plenty of them around and they were quite big.
Couldn't resist one more photo of White spotted jellyfish with Tomaz.
It was great to see how many fish were there, these small fish built the biggest schools. I think they are the Silversides.
After the second snorkelling, once we were all aboard, we sailed back to Saladan. We got a delicious lunch at the dive shop and talked about what we saw in the water for a while. Even without seeing Whale sharks it was a great trip.
Back in the hotel we took a shower and washed all our equipment, and then spent the rest of the day by the pool with drinks and eating a delicious curry.