M.V. PHILKADE: 7th - 13th March 2007

“The final meal was served before everyone went to bed feeling good knowing that they had chosen M.V Philkade for their Similans experience.”

On the evening of the 7th, M.V Philkade cruised from Chalong Bay on the island of Phuket. With guest from England and America we cruised of into the moonlit waters of the Andaman Sea. Whilst being served by the fantastic Thai staff we dinned on white snapper and traditional Thai green curry. Some of guests even treated themselves to chilled white wine. After dinner everyone onboard sat around the outside dinning table exchanging diving stories and getting to know each other so that we could make this their best diving trip ever.

On the morning of the 8th the guests awoke to the sun rising over the stunning scenery of the Similan Islands, with clear waters and flat seas everybody was eager to get their diving holiday started. With great diving throughout the day with hardly currents and encountering marine life such as octopus, nudibranchs, cuttle fish mating, ornate ghost pipefish and a white mouthed moray. The blue spotted rays swimming in formation was also a sight to see underwater especially for beginner divers Sean Donnelley and his wife Temesia Donnelley, who also encountered her favorite fish of all, time the Angelfish. This was a dream for her as she has privately raised one from a juvenile in her marine tank back home in Los Angeles. The afternoon walk with the divemasters on island number 4 also gave the customers a perfect way to relax. Walking along the jungle trail and with pristine white sand beaches it was a perfect way to forget about their normal day jobs back home, really make them feel like they were in paradise. Whilst laughing and joking over dinner about different things and enjoying the moment the divemasters announced that the following afternoon the famous M.V Philkade treasure hunt would take place on one of the dive sites in the Similans. The guests where then given seven clues all which would lead them to seven presents hidden around the dive site. The rest of the evening was spent with the guests talking amongst themselves trying to figure out the clues to the presents one of which has a value of 3,000 Baht.

The morning of day two everybody awoke with a light breakfast before the first dive. Two guests were not answering their phone, after a search around the boat we eventually found them cuddled up on the sundeck. Alan and Elena had fallen asleep under the moonlit sky the night before (I bet they can???t do that in England). The early morning dive and mid morning dive were entertaining, with us coming across nudibranchs, giant jacks and 7 white tip sharks, along with the usual marine life found in Thai waters. Over lunch the topic of conversation was about the third dive that would be the Treasure Hunt, with the guests discussing which clue would lead to which present. One of the guests, Alan was like a kid in a sweet shop getting ready for the gifts. Whilst on the dive, another boat had entered the water there divers looked amused to see the guests of M.V Philkade collecting presents with smiles showing through there regulators and even posing for camera shots. Alan was eventually the one to find the big prize and was showing it off on the surface (congratulations from the divmasters Tony and Ayala). After a cool refreshing coconut drink another Philkade walk was on schedule to the famous blue waters and white sandy beaches of Donald duck Bay (island eight). After some good snaps everyone returned back to the boat to prepare for the night dive where the guests came across two large octopus and some lobsters. The evening was then spent talking about the greatest movies of all time and enjoying the fantastic Thai food, before an early night for everybody.

After an early night the customers awoke to a new day a-head, forcing Keith out of bed the first dive was the hardest part of the day. Dive one was made on North Point (divemaster Tony???s favorite site) here we encountered two leopard sharks and a huge lobster. We then progressed north to the manta dive site known as Koh Bon. Congratulations to Sean and Tamesia for completing their deep dive of the advanced course even though they were distracted by two 5meter manta rays circling above their head, they still managed to fulfill their timed tasks. With the guests choosing to do a second dive at the same dive site, they saw 4 mantas playing in the shallow waters (10 meters), they also came across large schools of fusiliers being grouped together by giant trevallies for their afternoon hunt. We left the island Koh Bon behind us and began cruising north towards the island of Koh Tachai where our captain (named Eiyed) had received radio reports saying that there had been two sightings of whale sharks that afternoon. Whilst the guests where being briefed on the local house reef, a Thai zodiac driver from a different company spotted a Whale Shark fin at another part of the island. Quickly getting ready all of our guests jumped into the zodiac. Instantly upon descending we came across a 5-meter whale shark playing in 7 meters of water. With no current and 20 meter visibility we came within inches of this magnicifant creature. With strobes firing and divers in ore, the whale shark continually played among the divers, (we still don???t know who was having more fun). Forty minutes later yes!! 40 minutes later the shark had decided that he was to be the winner as we were losing sunlight and air! Upon surfacing to a pure red sky with the sun going down it was then that everybody realized how rare and lucky that we all were including the divemasters. With another three-course meal being served on the aft wheelhouse the topic of conversation was still about the fantastic days diving that we???d had and the dives that where to come.

Arriving at the famous Richelieu Rock in the early morning of the 11th, our guests once again had the dive site to themselves due to the experience of the divemasters who go early to miss the other boats. This enabled our guests to get a perfect opportunity to photograph two tiger tail sea horses, ghost pipefish and even three harlequin shrimp where out from their rock having their starfish leg for breakfast, as well as schools of snapper, barracuda and fusiliers. The second dive on this fabulous site gave our divers a clown frogfish, mantis shrimp and even a two-meter nurse shark resting in his cave. In the afternoon the guests enjoyed a two and half hour surface interval where they had the opportunity to relax and sunbathe on the fly bridge. It was up to the guests on the third dive what they wanted to see. Some chose to look for critters and small things, whilst others decided to practice their photography skills on the beautiful soft corals that cover the rock. Once everybody was back onboard M.V Philkade cruised south, back to the island of Koh Tachai for the final dusk dive of the trip. The evening was spent with the guests relaxing on the upper deck talking about their top three destinations in the world, one now being the similans.

Arriving back at Koh Bon by customer request we once again had the dive site to ourselves. Descending this time into the deeper section of the dive site, we headed along the edge of the reef looking for leopard sharks but unfortunately none was to be found. Then after ten minutes into the dive out of the blue came a 5m manta to cruising past us effortlessly. Sitting on the ridge itself we then encountered another 5 mantas at the same time playing in the currents. Irena was content sitting at ten meters talking photos of these alien type creatures, shortly after M.V Philkade headed back into the Similans to finish off the final end of the trip. Returning back to island nine (koh bangu) we chose the dive site named Three Trees, with all of the guests still on a high after the first dive (especially Elena who came within touching distance of the mantas), we descended on to the boulder formation and came across a baby leopard shark who lay there whilst the guests Alan, Oliver, Sean and Irena got some fantastic photos to put back onto there desk tops at work. Heading into the shallow waters of 8 meters we briefly encountered a white tip shark as well as a hawksbill turtle having a good time munching on the staghorn coral. Last dive of the day was on the beautiful reef of East of Eden, where Sean and Tamesia completed their Advanced Navigation dive. The other guests where able to meet the friendly 1.5m moray eel (also known as scar face). With the divemasters washing the equipment for the guests they had nothing else to do except shower and relax. As the boat was cruising back to Phuket the guests sat on the fly bridge enjoying a few beers and Alan with half a bottle of Tequila, it was then time for the really bad jokes to come out (Sean being the one to blame). The final meal was served before everyone went to bed feeling good knowing that they had chosen M.V Philkade for their Similans experience.