So, Koh Phangan, you hear all the divers talk; discussions and sales pitches which exceed the expectations of a dive. Upon their discussions of Sail Rock, they describe the site itself, the coral reefs, the plant life, the clear visibility, the thousands of fish that you are guaranteed to see; and yet, if you’re lucky enough, that one big one which is never to be mentioned out loud (sshhhhhhhh…the whale shark).
As an advanced open water trainee, I had already dived Koh Tao, doing Twin rock, White rock and Tanote bay and although very beautiful and tranquil, I felt disappointed; not in the dive itself, but at the bleached coral and empty reefs and wondered, whether those sales pitches and over heard discussions influenced me more than myself in exploring further into the diving world. However, that was all about to change.
It was the 1st December 2012, and I and the team HAAD YAO DIVERS were heading out to Sail Rock for my Deep Dive and Multilevel Dive. Found in the south of Thailand between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan, Sail Rock is renowned as one of the top 50 sites to dive in the world, and known as ‘the best in the gulf.’ Now, considering my previous statement of influences, you can imagine my apprehension of what to expect; questioning, ‘is it really going to be as beautiful as they say?’; still excitement got the better of me and on arriving to the newly refurbished boat, I climbed aboard with, for once, a known feeling that I was going to be wowed.
Despite the rocky journey, and queezy stomach I couldn’t wait to set up the equipment and jump into the water, partly to get rid of those sickly feelings we all get on our off days, but mostly to explore the huge rock that is always at the topic of conversation.
After prepping the equipment and buddy checks, I stood on the edge; mouth, mask, weights, go! I jumped in and fought my way through the current, using my instructor’s voice as my guide. We finally reached the point of descent, and slowly descended underwater. As we kicked closer towards the reefs, the schools, not school, schoolllllllllsssssss of fish surrounded us;
From Barracuda, to Gold spotted Trevally, to Mangrove Snapper and Big eyed Trevally. The varieties in colour and sizes was breath taking; and upon looking up at the entrance point from which we had just descended from, outlined was the beauty of the two different worlds combined by this mass rock dividing the two outer islands.
As we continued around the rock we came across the famous chimney. With its beautiful topography and a vertical slip, the best way I could describe it to a friend was, the beginning scene within the little mermaid in which she recognises the sunlight travelling through the water from within the vertical cavern. With 3 entrance or exits starting from 18m to 12m and the shallowest at around 7m, it really was a movie like moment.
Once explored, wrapped back within the holes were two boxer shrimps; alongside them were smaller shrimps, known as the manicurist, very hesitantly holding my hand out to experience the grooming of this almost transparent shrimp. Continuing on we came across the beautifully curved batfish and angel fish. Watching the vibrant purples and yellows simultaneously swimming together gave off an almost rainbow effect when looking at it away from the coral; and lurking in the distance were the shimmering queen fish with their mirrored skin bouncing through the water like a silver light. The brownmarbled grouper fish were less interested and a lot harder to see, but when lifted off the beds and swimming, their huge camouflaged stature was hard to miss; at first slowing my pace with a little fear, but then intrigued, moving in a little closer.
Before I knew it, it was time for the safety stop and on ascending to the surface it was evident the calmness of the underwater world in comparison to the rocky, weathered surface and strong current. We exited the water, climbing onto the boat and the engine started. Once equipment was off I turned to look at the dive site.
On the surface the rock is positioned with a shout, as if wanting to be ventured into. Protruding out of the water with its huge pinnacle and staggered edges, Sail Rocks voice and movie like presence still captivates you, even when turning back towards the island; almost knowing as a diver you will definitely return and then, with a whisper “maybe next time”, if you’re lucky enough, you might just get the chance to see that big fish.’
This Blog has been written by our Advanced Student Diver Sophie who’s starting her PADI Divemaster course very soon with us. We’ll keep you posted about her progress on the way to become a PADI Pro. Thanks Sophie for the great Blog.