Yesterday there were some shocking reports from around the world and local Press that the “Similan & Surin island were closed”. The Black Manta is still running and the Similan & Surin islands are open.
Black Manta update; ALL trips CONFIRMED and Similan & Surin Islands OPEN
Some of you will have read in the press this week; Similan & Surin Islands are closed. Do not be alarmed, this is NOT true. The Similan & Surin Islands are very much open. We have had a few dive sites closed for preservation reasons due to the affect of coral bleaching. There are many more wonderful dive sites that remain open in & around the Similian & Surin Islands on the Andaman Seas.
The only dive site that I know of that we regularly dive that has been closed is East of Eden (Island #7). Just around the other side of the same island; West of Eden remains open and unaffected.
MV Black Manta is still running all trips, and guests are coming back very happy from what they have experienced both above & below the water.
While is it not very nice reading articles such as these, we have experienced coral bleaching in the Andaman Sea. We are all divers and do not want to see these natural treasures diminish. We have had coral damage without doubt, but I wish to reiterate there are many outstanding dives to be had, and those that have been affected it is most in the first 10 meters.
Of the many dive sites in the Similan & Surin, some were damaged by the Tsunami, some from dynamite fishing a decade ago, and some from the previous El Nino 8 years before. I cannot stress enough that this damage has not been caused by; unregulated tourism – walking over coral and boats mooring over reefs. Most are very responsible divers and wish to protect our reefs.
I have been diving in the Andaman Sea for almost 5 years now. In my time I have seen the reefs get more & more beautiful. Last year some of the reefs in the Similans were as good as I have seen them, having regenerated since the Tsunami and the last El Nino year 8 years ago as mentioned before.
What has caused this? At the end of last years High Season (May 2010) the expected rain & underwater thermo clines arrived late. This kept the waters warm, too warm. Coral live within a fragile eco-system. If the water stays too warm coral bleaching can take affect. When this natural process happens the first thing the coral does is reject the Algae that gives the coral its colour. If it continues to stay warm the coral itself can die.
This phenomenon has happened across seas over much of the world and is due to the El Nino affect. This is why Europe is experiencing harsher winters, while other place extreme rain, draughts etc.
So yes, we have experienced some coral bleaching mostly in the shallows to harder coral. Some softer corals have suffered too but mostly are already recovering. This damage can be mostly seen in the first 5 – 10 meters where the water is warmer (by sunlight). As you go deeper, 10 meters plus, and below the reefs are really healthy and you would never know the difference. The West side of each island has been virtually untouched. There are so many dive sites in the Similan & Surin Island we have just changed our scheduled dives sites slightly.
For example; North Point (Island #9) still has giant boulders, swim throughs, and channel and beautiful soft coral deep down. This remains the same. We used to finish the dive on a carpet of Staghorn reef where many turtles were seen eating the algae off the hard coral in about 8 to 12 meters of water. Most of this Staqghorn sadly has been bleached now. However its not all doom & gloom as the Press have been reporting; Richelieu Rock, the best dive site in Thailand, thankfully has been unaffected and still remain awesome.
Would I still dive in the Similans? Yes, yes, & yes. Our trip is coming back most weeks with reports of manta rays at our cleaning stations of Koh Bon and sometimes Koh Tachai. West of Eden has new frogfish, ribbon eels, and sea fan city is still as beautiful as ever. Richelieu Rock will speak for itself but give even the most experienced of diver the WOW! factor. When you come you WILL see evidence of coral bleaching. But there is SO much more that still remains B-E-A-U-tiful.
I have been lucky enough to dive many places around the world I love the diving here even after so long and lets not forget that Richelieu ROCKS!!!