Friday, March 06, 2009

March 5, 2009 - Koh Bangu, Similan Isands, Thailand

Since there doesn't seem to be any wind in the near forecast, and we don't really want to burn a full tank of diesel motoring for three days to reach the Andamans, we decided to gunkhole our way north through the islands just off the west coast of Thailand. Weather that sucks for passagemaking can be absolutely perfect for island hopping and all it entails: exploring, snorkeling, dinners with friends, watching the sunset, etc. By the time we reach the Burmese border hopefully we'll have improved our angle relative to the wind for the sail west. If nothing else, we should see some beautiful scenery along the way.

We started our trip north with a whopping five mile jump up to Koh Bangu, the northernmost of the Similan Islands. We picked up a park mooring and grabbed our fins. As soon as we jumped in the water, we realized what a special place this is. Not only are there whole families of cowries and lionfish living in the crevices among the boulders fringing this spectacular bay, there are fish who seem to think Mata'irea's bottom growth is the best buffet in town. A beautiful anchorage where the fish clean my bottom for me? I could certainly stay here a while.

However, there is a slight drawback. Koh Bangu is on the itinerary for all of the speedboats that do daytrips to the Similans out of Phuket. So from 9:30 to 10:45 and again from 2:30 to 4:00, it is a bit of a zoo. But the rest of the day and during the night it has just been us, Alishan (the adventurous Dutch couple we met in Phuket), Freebird (the friendly folks we drifted down into when our mooring line parted in Bali), Bristolian (a newly minted NZed built megayacht), and a couple of liveaboard diveboats.

According to our cruising guide, we should be struggling to find an empty mooring buoy in the Similans this time of year. But thanks to the protests that closed the Bangkok airport last November and the struggling global economy, tourism in Thailand is way down this spring. There are empty mooring buoys dotting the bays all around the Similans. Usually we take the dinghy to explore; but, with so many empty moorings around, we decided to spend a day gunking around Koh Bangu on Mata'irea, checking out the beautiful bays that surround this island. We had lunch in the northern bay, surrounded by massive schools of fish. It has been a real treat to snorkel right off the mothership. One of the most incredible sunsets we've ever seen capped off a day that will likely go down as one of the top ten days of this trip.

No comments: