I might have maligned the Similans a bit by pointing out that the coral is kinda dead, the diversity is lacking, and the tourists outnumber almost everything else. It’s true, but it’s not the whole story. The truth is that we still had a great time and saw some amazing things underwater. It’s just not the in-your-face marine lushness that we’ve been completely spoiled by in the past.
The first and most striking aspect was how crystal clear the water is- really, the clearest we’ve seen since French Polynesia. The viz dropped a little at the northern end, but apparently that’s partly because we’re still at the front edge of the NE monsoon season- it will be better still in January.
Another really crazy, I have no idea what the heck it is, underwater critter were these transparent batwing things. I have no idea how to even categorize it. Can you see it in the image below? Anyone with more marine smarts than we have who can ID? The boomerang-like shapes averaged about a foot long, and an inch or two tall. There was a school of hundreds of these that came through, and just kind of bounced off our bodies as we swam against the current that carried them along. Update: thanks to the comment from Mark below, and on our facebook page from a couple of marine biologists + former cruisers, this cool little critter is identified as Cestum veneris, a Ctenophore- “which are related to the jellyfish (cnidarians) but in their own phylum. They differ by their mode if propulsion – they use thousands of microscopic “combs (elaborate cilia) to create water currents – as opposed to the pumping action of a jellyfish.” Thanks Emmanuelle and Mike!
We saw more holothurians (sea cuccumbers) than we’ve seen in a long time. Not just more, and a variety, but some really big ones- see the shape next to my body below?
These are sought after for the Chinese culinary market, and completely fished out in may places we visited. If you are wondering what they taste like, let me just save you the experience and say- it’s gross, don’t. You’re welcome.
I was so excited to even see a fan, that I took a picture of it. It’s really unremarkable, except for the pathetic fact that it was so very much alone.
The sheer volume of wee little baitfish schools everywhere was one of the most consistent impressions of the Similans. Almost any panned-out photo you look at, they’re the speckles in the distance or the blob that makes a coral head’s otherwise sharp edges appear a litlte fuzzy.
It seemed to be the nursery for many fish. Check out this crazy little translucent one: it was about the size of my pinkie finger. That’s it. Teeny. There were a pile of them right next to Totem.
These four trevally spent most of the day around a coral head that was under Totem. It was FULL of tiny fish- see the fuzzy stuff in the photo? Fish. They move in a school almost like they share a brain. Most of the time, the trevally were just acting cool, but every once in a while one of them would blast through the school for a little snack. It was wild to watch.
Gratuitous anemone shot, because clownfish are just so dang cute. Yes, I’m a sucker for the whole Nemo thing, fine, laugh at my expense. I’ll just leave you with that cuteness.
This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world