Scuba Diving with Mantas- Similan Islands, koh bon

Koh Bon is part of the Similan Islands Archipelago about 31 miles off the western coast of Phuket in the Andaman Sea. Advanced divers adore this spot because it is frequented by giant manta rays (Manta birostris) and occasionally Whale Sharks. The island is uninhabited and surrounded by turquoise waters. Getting there can be done via a day trip on a dive boat from Phuket which I did via South Siam Divers from Thap Lamu.

I had an early pick-up 6:30am from The Lub D Hostel in Patong Beach with nearly a 2 hour ride to Thap Lamu. At the South Siam Divers shop we spent sometime checking in then transported to the actual Live-aboard boat which was already moored off of Koh Bon Island via a speedboat. This took a little over an hour as well. There were other people already on the live-aboard (boat #3) at the site. They are there for one or two nights. Note that Koh means island in Thai, so this is really Bon Island.

Our rental dive gear was already on the boat, so no hassle carrying around any gear. We arrived to the boat about 10:30am and within 1 minute there was a giant manta ray near the surface approaching our boat. This got everyone fairly excited and anxious to jump into the water.

The dive briefing started with our first dive scheduled for 11am. For the day trip divers we have 2 dives total.

We were split into small groups of 4 people per dive guide after the briefing, with Viktor as our guide. He was equipped with a camera for taking photos during our dive. I had as buddies 3 other guys, one from Columbia and another from France, not sure where the 3rd guy was from though.

Our first dive was near the first manta sighting. We descended to a bottom depth of 20m. It was not long before we saw the first manta gliding by. This is not my first manta encounter, the first one was in Belize but nonetheless amazing. This manta glided fairly close by us before disappearing into the blue.

During the rest of our dive we sighted some very large Lionfish, Trumpet Fish, a banded sea snake and a very large octopus. Everything here seemed much larger than I’ve seen elsewhere.

My buddies were all fairly conservative on their air consumption. We did an out 45min before returning to the surface after our 3 min safety stop and swimming back to the boat. Another group had the privilege of a Whale Shark swim by. Unfortunately we did not see that but we still had our manta sighting to talk about.

We all talked about what we saw on the dive and were already happy at the first manta sighting among all the other sea life we saw. We had a nice buffet style lunch after gearing down and time to sit and look out to sea after some conversations. With the next dive time at 1pm I had time to explore the boat.

Our 2nd dive was at the Koh Bon pinnacle with a stronger current you feel as you approach the pinnacle. We had a large school of bannerfish swim by us. I had never seen a school of these so large before.

After rounding the pinnacle it was not long before another manta fly by. It’s giant wings undulating, gliding so gracefully in the water. Viktor has a pic of me and the manta close by but by video only. The video quality was not so good. The manta did a close flyby me before disappearing. All the groups were in the area at the same time.

I was very happy having a total of 4 close manta ray sightings on this second dive. This dive trip hits my top 5 trips now. The first being the Great Barrier Reef, followed by Roatan Honduras, Ambergris Cays Belize, and the Red Sea.

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