Coke & Som Smith Photography & Travelogue

Dive Safari to the Similand Islands!


There is little doubt that seeing a wild Whale Shark approaching from the deep blue is up there with some of my best mammal watching experiences!  What a treat!


Be sure to check out our Pbase galleries from the Similans


 


Breaking from my normal wildlife adventure, I had the unique experience of spending a full week aboard the spectacular "Junk" exploring the vast marine wilderness of  Thailand's remote Similan Islands, located a full day's steam west/northwest of Phuket, in the Andaman Sea.  This expedition was part of ISB's Global Challenge Week (GCW) during which all ISB students travel to and explore the world!  I had the unique fortune to luck in to chaperoning this amazing expedition.  Sixteen lucky and awesome highschool students, Brenda Perkins, Sonya Roback and I spent the whole week traveling to various dive locations learning about and experiencing first-hand the marine ecosystems of this remote island chain.


(Linked from:  http://www.scubadivingphuket.net/)

 

The islands are home not only to an amazing reef ecosystem.  There is quite a terrestrial rainforest biome as well!

 


"The Junk" is an awesome vessel!  A historical boat, the Junk has starred in several movies ranging from the 007 hit, "The Man with the Golden Gun", "Swiss Family Robinson", and "Shanghai".  Currently it is owned and operated by an outstanding dive operation working out of Phuket.  I highly recommend an adventure on the "Junk"!  (See their website here)

 

What a great group!

 

Great partners - Brenda Perkins & Sonja Roback!



Our students received their "Advance Open Water" certification while exploring the Similans.


Navigation!


We had opportunities to explore various reef ecosystems.


A fragile coral species in the Similans.




Whale Shark!

 Whale Sharks are evidently exceedingly rare in the Similans.  On one of our last dives, four students and I were extremely lucky to have a young but large whale shark swim from the deep blue to check us out.  What an amazing experience!


Whale Shark Similan Islands Koh Bon.  He was clearly interested in us and came out of his way to say hello.


Whale Shark Similan Islands Koh Bon.  His approach was within just a meter or so!


"Bye bye!"


Even our dive-master had never seen one during his seven years in the Similans.



Just a cool graphic I stole somewhere from the web.  I like how it shows the complexity of even a simplified glimpse from a reef food web!


The Fish

So as anyone who follows our travelogue can see, this post is clearly a deviation from our normal, mammal-oriented focus.  Although we did see a mammal (a squirrel...), this trip was about the marine wildlife, so why not start there!



Acanthuridae - Acanthuris lineatus - Blue-lined Surgeonfish

 

Acanthuridae species - Some sort of Unicornfish.

 

Another Acanthuridae species



Acanthuridae - Acanthurus leucosternon - Powderblue Surgeonfish 



Acanthuridae - Stripe-faced Unicornfish - Naso lituratus



Balistidae - Balistapus undulatus - Red-lined Bannerfish


Balistidae - Balistoides viridescens - Titan Triggerfish



Balistidae - Odonus niger - Redtooth Triggerfish



Balistidae - Odonus niger - Redtooth Triggerfish

 

Balistidae - Ebony triggerfish - Melichthys niger



Balistidae - Sufflamen bursa - Pallid Triggerfish


Balistidae - Clown Triggerfish - Balistoides conspicullum



Balistidae - Clown Triggerfish - Balistoides conspicullum

Lunar-tailed Bigeye - Priacanthus hamrur 


Humpnose Big-eye Bream - Monotaxis grandoculis



Caesionidae - Caesio species - Fusilier species 


Caesionidae - Yellow-&-blueback Fusilier - Caesio teres 


Caesionidae - Yellow-&-blueback Fusilier - Caesio teres 


Caesionidae - Yellow-&-blueback Fusilier - Caesio teres 


Caesionidae - Yellow-&-blueback Fusilier - Caesio teres 

Caesionidae - Pterocaesio marri - Marr's Fusilier


Caesionidae - Pterocaesio species - Fusilier species



Carangidae - Bluefin Trevally - Caranx melampygus


Chaetodontidae - Chaetodon collare - Vagabond Butterflyfish



Chaetodontidae - Chaetodon collare - Vagabond Butterflyfish



Chaetodontidae - Heniochus singularis - Singular Bannerfish



Chaetodontidae - Longfin Bannerfish - Heniochus acuminatus & Vagabond Butterflyfish



Chaetodontidae - Vagabond Vutterflyfish - Chaetodon vagabundus



Sea Fan - Semperina species


Faviidae - Faviid Coral - Diploastrea heliopora


Unidentified cool fish!


Most of the little ones were lumped in one category - "Glassfish!"


Spectacular


The base of the foodchain looks very intact in the Similans.


Swimming through the massive schools of "glassfish" was an outstanding experience.


Glassfish


Gobiidae - Amblyeleotris wheeleri - Wheeler's Shrimpgoby 



A walking sea cucumber graizing on the reef.


Sea Cuc!



Lutjanidae - Bigeye seaperch - Lutianus lutjanus



Lutjanidae - Blue-stripped Seaperch - Lutjanus kasmira



Lutjanidae - Lutjanus decussatus - Chequered Snapper



Malacanthidae - Malacanthus latovittatus - Blue Blanquillo


Mullidae - Parupeneus barberinus - Dash-dot Goatfish



Muraenidae - Giant Moray - Gymnothorax javanicus



Muraenidae - Giant moray - Gymnothorax javanicus



Nice Octopus species!


Ostraciidae - Spotted Boxfish - Ostracion meleagris 



Pomacanthidae - Pomacanthus annularis - Blue-ringed Angelfish 



Pomacanthidae - Pomacanthus imperator - Emperor Angelfish



Pomacanthidae - Pomacanthus imperator - Emperor Angelfish


Pomacanthidae - Pygoplites diacanthus - Regal Anglefish



Pomacentradae - Chromis iomelas - Half & Half Chromis 


Pomacentridae - Clark's Anemonefish - Amphiprion clarkii



Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Pomacentridae - False Clown Anemonefish - Amphiprion ocellaris


Hawksbill Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata


Hawksbill Turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata 


Hawksbill turtle - Eretmochelys imbricata


Scaridae - Scarus rubroviolaceus - Ember Parrotfish



Scaridae - Scarus species - Parrotbill species



Scaridae - Scarus species - Parrotbill species 


Scorpaenidae - Scorpaenodes barbatus - Bearded Scorpionfish



Serranidae - Peacock Rockcod - Cephalopholis argus


Siganidae - Siganus species - Spinefoot species



Siganidae


Giant Sweetlips - Plectorhinchus obscurum


Tetraodontidae - Black-spotted Toadfish - Arothron nigropunctatus 


Tetraodontidae - Porcupinefish - Diodon species


Tetraodontidae - Starry Pufferfish - Arothron stellatus



Tetraodontidae - Stars & Stripes Toadfish - Arothron hispidus 


Zanclidae - Morish Idol - Zanclus cornutus


Tridacnai species!

 

Giant Clam up close and personal!

 

 



Terrestrial Critters!

The Similans are in an interesting location being very remote and a full-day's steam from mainland Thailand, yet close enough for the mainland species to be somewhat represented.  One on the questions I have, is how many got there through human introduction and how many got there naturally....hmmm...



Similan Island Grey-bellied Squirrel (Callosciurus caniceps bimaculatus)


Similan Island Grey-bellied Squirrel.


Water Monitor Lizards are very common on the islands.


Water Monitor Lizard


Imperial Pigeons were common as well.  I was hoping to see the Nicobar Pigeon but no luck this trip.  I did hear it though!


Wild Junglefowl




The Junk


A spectacular Similan Islands sunset.


Similan Islands