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Dive trip report, Colona II , Thailand

Boat      : Colona II
Dive shop : Boat is run by the owner 
            Freddie Stroheim
Dates     : 24 of March to 1 of April 1997
Dives     : 19
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I took this trip mostly because there is a big chance to see Whale sharks in Thailand in the end of March and beginning of April. It is said to be the second best place to see Whale sharks after Ningaloo reef in on the west couste of Australia. We where unlucky and didn't see any, but 1 buddy team on the boat saw one on the last dive near Phi-phi island, the comment from one of the divers after that dive was 'It looked just like the opening scene in Starwars', the one with the star destroyer that glides over you and just keeps coming and anc coming and never seams to end. Otherwise we didn't expect the underwater life to be that good, and that turned out to be mostly true although it was better than I had expected.

 Colona route

Colona picking me up after a diveThe boat leaves from Shalong beach in Phuket, it usually does 4 or 5 day cruises to Similan island but I took it on a longer trip called 'Whale shark safari', we sailed to Similan, Surin, Richelieu rock, Surin, Similan,Shalong for refuelling and then down to Hin daeng, Hin Muang, Ko Rok Nok and then via Phi-Phi´s shark point ( Hin Bida ) back to Shalong beach again. Now it is doing trips in Burma at Burma Banks.

The Colona II is a liveaboard that have sailed for a long time in the red sea. It is a 18m/60ft long sailing boat with 3 twin cabins for guests, it has 2 showers. Se a layout of the boat on Fantaseas web site. It is not the boat to take if you want to take showers after each dive or if you want air-conditioning during the day. When I took the trip we where allowed 1 shower a day and the air-conditioning was turned on late at night most night. One night it was not turned on at all to save fuel and one night it was broken. On this liveaboard we only did about 2 dives a day ( to few for a liveaboard IMHO ), This was partly due to that the compressor is not powerful enoughl for 8 divers and partly due to the long distances we traveled and the slow speed of the boat, maybe you get to do three dives on the shorter Similan trips but I doubt it.

We had no planned night dives, we asked for night dives and where told that NO night dives where planned at all, we demanded night dives and got 2, both at non dives sights, one was VERY BAD ( I had 8 minutes bottomtime and then we decided that we where not going to see anything so we quit) and one was OK. On our trip one guest who had paid full price thinking he would get a bed in a cabin was forced to sleep in the galley, because 7 people where booked on a boat with only 6 beds, we where told that this was the case for the next trip also.

Coral Hind photographed at Phantasea reef

Coral hind photographed at Phantasea reef in Similan Islands

Recommendation:

The diving on sites like Richelieu rock is very good, it can be compared to Sipadan, not as good but similar, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang is supposed to be very good as well but I thought Richelieu rock was better. Most of the dive sites that we where on is rated among the best in Thailand according to the book ´The DIVE SITES OF THAILAND´ by Paul Lees, and that tells me that if you are going to Thailand for diving take a big, fast, good liveaboard that can take you to all the best places don't do day boat diving and don't take a slow sailboat like Colona II. Similan has some good spots so a short 4 or 5 day liveaboard might be OK.

Highlights:

Barracuda school at Richelieu, jack school at Richelieu, cuttle fishes mating at Richelieu and unafraid fishes to photograph at Fantasy reef.

Disappointments:

No planned night dives, bad air con, low on water, no Whale sharks, 2 dives a day.

Related links:

More tripreport from the same area

Dive sites visited:

Similan #4 eastern front*2, Koh Bon, Koh Tachi, Richelieu Rock*5!, night dive Surin somewhere, Koh Tachi, Koh Bon, Fantasy Reef!, Elephant Head!, Koh Racha Yai, Hin Daeng, Hin Mouang, Ko Rok Nok, Koh Ha Yai, Hin Bida

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Last modified: January 21 1999
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