We have been supporting The Manta Trust for some time, and we have now become involved with a project specifically designed to monitor manta ray sightings around the coast of Thailand.
So, we were delighted to host Jamie from The Thailand Manta Project on our trip to Hin Daeng this week. As you can imagine, we were a little nervous about whether we would get to see any rays, but we were very lucky and encountered two beautiful rays, including one who had been sighted previously, named Paw Paw.
As can be expected, everyone on the trip was very excited to dive with these amazing creatures, especially as they stayed around for a whole hour.
We are obviously now more committed than ever to continue our support of the Thailand Manta Project and The Manta Trust. Keep up the good work guys!
On our dive trips, we expect to see sharks at Koh Bida, but in recent years, we haven’t seen many at Koh Haa. This season, we have been lucky to have a number of sightings of leopard sharks at Koh Haa.
As some of you may know, we are working with the Spot the Leopard Shark project, which is a monitoring program being run by Dr Christine Dudgeon from the University of Queensland, Australia.
Recently, we had an amazing encounter with an adult male who was around 2 metres in length. One of our divers,
It is important to discover the sex of the shark. If you look between the pectoral fin and the tail, and see a clasper, you can identify the shark as a male. The absence of a clasper would indicate a female shark.
We will continue to submit photos and hope that we will find a new shark to add to the database.
For the last four weeks, we have been amazingly lucky to see a whale shark around the dive sites at Koh Haa. This male juvenile measures around 3.5 metres and is very playful. He seems to love bubbles and has been spending a lot of time near the surface, meaning snorkelers and divers have had some great opportunities to spend time with him.
The fish that you can see near the whale sharks are called remoras. These are also called suckerfish as they attach themselves to sharks and rays with suction and get transport and protection from the host species, as well as feeding on leftovers.
Whale sharks are filter feeders, using their huge mouths to suck up vast quantities of plankton, rather like a vacuum cleaner. A feeding shark sucks in huge quantities of water, and then expels the water through it’s gills, keeping the plankton.
It has been awe inspiring to watch this magnificent creatures. Let’s hope he stays around for a while longer!
During the low season, we attended a training session run by SAMPAN (Strengthening Andaman Marine Protected Areas Network Programme) and Green Fins. During this session, it was agreed that each dive centre on Koh Lanta would be responsible for an area of reef within the Koh Lanta National Park. There will be monthly surveys of invertebrates, and at the beginning and end of the season, there will be a full survey of the coral.
On Saturday 9th November 2013, Hidden Depths Diving conducted their first survey of our area of reef, located around Koh Haa 2 and into the lagoon. Instructor Gary Eldridge, Divemaster trainee Jack Willans and Assistant Base Manager at GVI Phang Nga Laura Mulvey conducted the survey.
Gary said “I have dived this site hundreds of times over the last few years, but conducting this survey made me look at the reef in a whole new light”
Using the very handy waterproof booklet supplied by Green Fins Thailand, the guys were able to check both the coral and the marine life in the area. All of those who participated in survey concluded that the reef is in very good health, with a wide variety of reef life and lots of healthy hard corals.
This season, we are going to be involved in a research project called Spot the Leopard Shark. This project is being run by the University of Queensland in Australia and its aims are to:
“use photo-identification of individual leopard sharks (Stegostoma fasciatum – also known as zebra sharks) to investigate population abundance and demography, movement and longevity of wild leopard shark populations.”*
Luckily for us, we have leopard sharks right here on our doorstep at the dive sites of Koh Bida and Hin Bida.
So, how do we help this project? It’s simple – when we see a leopard shark, we take a photo! The team at the University of Queensland will try to identify individual sharks, so the aim is to get as much information as possible to help with identification. Photos will be taken of both sides of the shark, as markings are unique to each shark. In addition, information about location, time, date, depth and the sex of the shark should be provided. The team will then compare the photo with other sharks in the database and will either get an idea of the history of the shark if it has been sighted before, or enter a completely new shark in to the database. If a new shark is found, then the person who took the photo gets to name it!
To help our divers along, we have a board with information about the project and tips for help sexing the shark. We also encourage divers to abide by a Code of Conduct to avoid scaring the shark and interfering with the habitat. We hope to provide a large quantity of data for scientists to use and are looking forward to naming our first shark!