Whale shark and manta ray sightings abound in waters north of Phuket

PHUKET: Whale sharks and manta rays are the climax for divers’ wet dreams – though admittedly most divers’ dreams are wet. Unfortunately, the probability of sharing ocean space with both of these majestic marine creatures on a single trip is absurdly low, yet just north of Phuket at the Similan Islands, that’s exactly what’s happening.

While many of us are cooped up in the office on island, and many more shacked away in some godforsaken snow-covered country, there are divers departing Phuket daily on live-aboards for the trip of a lifetime.

Though whale sharks and manta rays are no strangers to the Similans, especially Koh Bon and Koh Ta Chai between January and April, Michael Wallentin of Kon-Tiki Diving explains that there seems to have been a noticeable increase in the number of sightings of both of these awe-inspiring animals.

Even more thrillingly, people taking quick day-trip in the region are being rewarded with just such hefty sightings – and whale sharks, averaging over 20 tons, are heavy-weight champions when it comes to fish.

Only last month, Martin Edwards, who was bound for Racha Yai island, had the opportunity to splash in with a whale shark.

“For over three years, diving between the Similans and Krabi, I’ve wanted to see a whale shark,” Martin said.

“Dave, my dive buddy and I were enjoying a great lunch aboard Andaman Ocean Safaris’ dive boat when we heard a commotion, thinking someone had seen a turtle, we went out to the dive deck to be confronted by a five-meter juvenile whale shark swimming right next to the boat!”

“In a somewhat orderly fashion many scrambled for masks, fins and cameras to witness this amazing event. Some followed it, though I decided to wait and see if it returned. Fortunately, it did.”

Sightings of manta rays at Racha Noi, also on the weekly-rounds for many dive boats, are picking up.
Lastly, people taking southern live-aboard trips to the stunning dive sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are also sending back healthy reports of whale shark sightings.

It feels like the only area off-island that isn’t producing these mega fauna wonders are the beautiful coral reefs of Koh Phi Phi. There have of course still been plenty of sightings of black tip reef sharks and turtles, but that is quite normal, assured Michael.

As they say in the diving industry, there are no guarantees.

However, it seems like now isn’t a bad time to play hooky from work and get your money in while the odds are in your favor.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

Thai Life
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