The Reef Today – Latest Photos

A collection of the latest underwater photos from Ko Lanta’s reefs. Stay up to date on what diving conditions are like right now. Photos are usually updated daily and are from today or yesterday’s dives.

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Please visit the Liquid Lense Flickr photostream to view more images from Liquid Lense.

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New portfolio of our last AFC 2013

Ko Lanta Dive Sites Unaffected by Closures

Healthy Coral Reef from Lanta Dive Site Ko Haa today

Plenty of coral reefs remain healthy in Thailand. Many top dive sites are still open. Photo taken at Ko Haa today.

All Ko Lanta dive sites remain open after reports that many of Thailand’s top dive sites are to be closed today, due to coral bleaching that occurred at shallow depths during the El Niño period in May 2010.

Healthy Corals - Photo taken today at Ko Haa

Healthy Corals - Photo taken today at Ko Haa

The director of the Department for National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation in Thailand, Sunan Arunnoparat, announced yesterday that eighteen diving and snorkelling sites, located mainly off the west (Andaman) coast of Thailand, will be closed for up to 14 months to allow coral, damaged by unusually high sea temperatures in May 2010, to recover.

The dramatic move was announced last night following a meeting in Bangkok that included marine biologists and researchers.

Dive sites listed to close lie within 7 of Thailand’s 148 National Parks and include sites within the National Marine Parks of; Ko Surin, Similan, Phi Phi, Petra, Tarutao, Chumphon and Hat Chao Mai.

It’s unclear how individual sites were chosen for closure. Although many of the sites listed are within high-profile marine parks that are famous for attracting large numbers of divers each year, none of the actual sites listed as banned are among the major diving destinations in Thailand.

The two sites listed for closure nearest the Ko Lanta area are, Ko Chuak – sometimes included as part of the popular 4-Island Snorkelling Tour, and Hin Klang – a snorkel site near Ko Phi Phi. All other sites remain open for diving and snorkelling.

Closures are due to begin today (Friday 21st January 2011). Divers or snorkeller breaching these closures could incur penalties of 1,000 – 10,000 THB (equivalent to US$30 – US$300).

Dive Sites to be closed due to Coral Bleaching

An announcement, welcomed by many marine environmentalists, stated that Thai authorities have also vowed to step up patrols to stop illegal fishing and increase moorings at spots not affected by the closures, aimed at reducing damage done by boats anchoring on, or using destructive fishing practices, near reefs. There is no indication as to how these steps will be enforced. For decades, illegal fishing has continued on and around marine parks, even though divers have been calling on the authorities to enforce protection laws.

Fishing Net Kills Coral Reef

Scuba diver gently removes a huge fishing net abandoned over a dive site at Ko Rok before it chokes the reef to death

“More than half of southern Thailand’s 15,000 hectares of coral reefs are suffering from the effects of bleaching”, a phenomenon caused largely by rising sea temperatures over an extended period. “We will study the cause and effect and find a way to restore them,” said Sunan Arunnopparat, director of the Department of National Parks.

Many local dive operators in southern Thailand are actively involved in reef monitoring projects in collaboration with Project AWARE, Greenfins and the Phuket Marine Biology Centre in order to study and limit the effects of global warming and coral bleaching.

Diving and snorkelling operators often play a vital role in local communities struggling to cope with growing levels of tourism, communicating reef conservation techniques and environmental awareness to both members of the local community and visiting diving and snorkelling tourists.

There appears to be some controversy in media coverage as to whether or not diving impacts reefs damaged by coral bleaching and why action is being taken so long after the event. Marine conservationists at last night’s meeting, are said to have blamed unregulated tourism – walking on coral, mooring boats over reefs and contaminating the water in the Andaman Sea, a region that draws thousands of tourists each year to enjoy it’s beautiful beaches and reefscapes. Sunan Arunnopparat said global warming was at fault.

A survey by Phuketwan today showed that the diving industry feels it has been made a scapegoat for the continuing failure of authorities to properly protect the reefs from illegal fishing and reef fish poachers.

It’s unclear why the widespread occurrence of coral bleaching has only just come to the attention of the authorities. By taking a look at the latest NOAA HotSpot report from yesterday – you can see that Thailand is not currently experiencing high sea temperatures.

Coral Bleaching HotSpots for Jan 2011

Compare this to their report at the end of May last year:

Degree Heating Weeks Report May 2010

Manta Ray at Hin Muang

Manta Ray at Hin Muang - Photo taken today

Current media coverage seems to incude scant focus on the fact that there are vast areas of coral reef in Thailand that are undamaged or well on their way to recovery, despite the unusually warm water temperatures some 9 months ago.

Water temperatures right now are actually a degree or two colder than normal for the time of year and reefs located further south in Thai waters are positively flourishing at the moment.

Famous dive sites Hin Daeng & Hin Muang are attracting Manta Rays in numbers not seen for many years. There have been multiple Manta sightings every day for almost 2 months and both marine and coral life is positively glowing.

Coral bleaching, (the whitening of coral as it loses its natural pigment), is caused by a rise in sea temperatures which has been linked to global warming and El Niño.

Corals start to feel stressed when the sea surface temperature is more than 1°C above the average we expect to see in the hottest month.

During May last year, sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea rose to 34 degrees Celsius or about 4 degrees C above the long-term average. Even more important for corals, is build-up of warm-water stress over time. NOAA also maps this cumulative stress by adding up the HotSpots over a 3-month period. These are called Degree Heating Weeks (DHWs), which pinpoint areas where corals are at risk for bleaching. The status is updated twice per week, and the data is posted to the Coral Reef Watch website for the public to access.

NOAA's Coral Reef Watch Program's satellite data Scientists use the NOAA Coral Reef Watch system to monitor coral reefs around the world – this data is available on Google Earth.

NOAA operates two polar-orbiting satellites, each with an infrared sensor that detects the temperature of the ocean’s surface. Because the satellites constantly orbit the earth, they measure the water temperature around the entire globe each day.

Using this technique NOAA maps ‘HotSpot’ areas that are higher than the expected maximum. Continuous monitoring of sea surface temperature at global scales provides researchers and stakeholders with tools to understand and better manage the complex interactions leading to coral bleaching. When bleaching conditions occur, these tools can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and support appropriate management decisions.

Coral bleaching is a growing global concern and the fact that the Thai government is taking this phenomenon seriously has got to be a good thing. Whether it’s a step in the right direction or a nail in the coffin of Thailand’s diving industry, action does need to be taken. By raising public awareness we have a better chance of taking the global steps desperately needed to slow down or reverse effects of global warming. It’s a shame that there is not a greater focus on controlling and enforcing illegal practices that would have a far more immediate and tangible benefit to Thailand’s reefs, rather than attempting to overcome mother nature.

Lanta – Phi Phi Ferry service resumes 19th Sept

Phi Phi - Lanta FerryThe Lanta – Phi Phi Ferry service is due to resume on 19th September 2010.

The service will operate every other day for now – usually during early-mid October this will change to every day and the service will incorporate the ferry to Phuket too.

  • Departs Lanta – 8:00am
  • Departs Phi Phi – 11:00am

(Journey time approx 50 mins)

Lanta - Phi Phi ferry service

Need help booking tickets?

Please fill out the enquiry form below to check availability and book ferry tickets

Save Our Fins Event – a big success!

Scubafish Shark Fin Race

In July 2010 Ko Lanta’s Dive Centres and Fish4Divers organised a ‘Save our Fins’ 3-legged fin race to help raise awareness about shark finning (and much needed funds) to help the Shark Trust continue their constant fight to protect our ocean’s sharks.

Shark Fin Race

For the event we asked divers, locals and holiday-makers from all over Ko Lanta to grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament, to help raise awareness about shark finning. We were delighted and overwhelmed by the hugely positive response and fantastic turnout to the event. Nine Dive Centres, White Rock Resort, Opium Bar and even the Thai Diving Association joined fins to sponsor the event, and over 80 people from all over the island came to take part in the race, spectate or have a giggle at the fin-wearing racers. It even became a traffic-stopping event with cars and motorbikes pulling up to see what was going on.

Winner Luke and Ben from Blue Planet

Twelve, 3-legged teams raced in 2 heats, with first and second place winners from each heat competing for overall first place in the final. Race winners, Luke and Ben from Blue Planet Divers, used questionable, but dramatic shark-like tactics to secure their win. Reports of them beating other contestants with a giant home-made Leopard shark fin have been confirmed with video evidence that can be viewed on Facebook or You-Tube.

Fin Race Action

Donations for the Shark Trust are still being counted, but if enthusiasm and support for this event had a monetary value, this was certainly a huge success and will be remembered, and hopefully repeated, for a long time to come.

Narima Diving and Scubafish will continue to support events and causes that raise awareness about Shark Finning and other environmental issues facing our oceans and marine life.

Ko Lanta ‘Save Our Fins’ Event Sponsors:

Safe Our Fins Event – Join us to save the sharks!

Shark Fin Race

Grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament, to help raise awareness about shark finning. We’ll meet on 17th July, 5.30pm at White Rock Resort, Klong Nin Beach.

The event is organised by Scubafish, Narima Diving, Blue Planet Divers and Fish4Divers.com. Posters and shark-fin shaped leaflets in Thai and English will be distributed around the island the publicize the event and Ko Lanta’s dive centres come together to form teams and enthuse their divers to take part. We’d like to invite all divers, locals and holiday-makers from all over Ko Lanta to grab a buddy and join us for a three-legged fin tournament.

White Rock Resort & Mr. Bean are supplying free beer and curry for the participants. And we guarantee lots of fun!

Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins and the discard at sea of the carcass. The shark is very often still alive when it is tossed back into the water. Unable to swim, the shark slowly sinks toward the bottom where it suffers predation from other fish, starves to death, dies from blood loss or suffocates and drowns, since most sharks need to keep moving to force water through their gills for oxygen. Sharks can take hours or even days to die after being finned.

Fishermen are mainly interested in the fins because shark meat is of low economical value and this conserves room in the hold. Up to 99 per cent of the shark is thrown away, a process as wasteful as slaughtering an elephant for its tusks.

Shark Fin Race

Shark fins are used as the principal ingredient of shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy which is often served at wedding celebrations so that the hosts can impress their guests with their affluence. Shark fin itself is tasteless, it just provides a gelatinous texture for the soup which is flavoured with chicken or other stock. It has also been shown to contain high levels of mercury which is detrimental to our health. Many people, especially the consumers, are unaware of the suffering that finning causes.

Sharks’ life history makes them vulnerable to exploitation. Sharks take between 7 to over 20 years to reach maturity, and produce few young over long lifetimes meaning that it takes populations a long time to recover once depleted. Fishermen report that sharks are getting smaller because they are not being given time to mature.

Sharks are “apex” predators, eco logical stablisers, when they are removed from the ocean the entire eco-system suffers.

Please say “No” to Shark Fin soup and join our three-legged fin tournament to show your support for sharks!

Orientation day in the SSS Recompression Chamber in Phuket

SSS Recompression Chamber Phuket

Divemasters and Instructors of Scubafish and Go Dive Lanta used the Low Season 2010 to get an insight into the work of a real recompression chamber. The SSS Recompression Chamber Network in Phuket offers free orientation days once a week during the low season. The orientation includes an overview of the chamber facilities and setup, recognition and management of Decompression Sickness, a pre-dive briefing and an actual dive down to 60ft in the recompression chamber. There is also plenty of time to ask questions to learn more about the various types of Decompression Sickness.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketDecompression Sickness (DCS) is the result of inadequate decompression following exposure to increased pressure during diving. In some cases, the disease is mild and not an immediate threat. In other cases, serious injury does occur. When this happens, the quicker the treatment begins, the better the chance for a full recovery.

During a dive, the body tissues absorb nitrogen from the breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. As long as the diver remains at pressure, the gas presents no problem. If the pressure is reduced too quickly, however, the nitrogen comes out of solution and forms bubbles in the tissues and bloodstream. This commonly occurs as a result of violating or approaching too closely the diving table limits, but it can also occur even when accepted guidelines have been followed.

Bubbles forming in or near joints are the presumed cause of the joint pain of a classical “bend.” When high levels of bubbles occur, complex reactions can take place in the body, usually in the spinal cord or brain. Numbness, paralysis and disorders of higher cerebral function may result. If great amounts of decompression are missed and large numbers of bubbles enter the venous bloodstream, congestive symptoms in the lung and circulatory shock can then occur.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketSymptons of Decompression Sickness include unusual fatigue, skin itch, pain in joints and/ or muscles of the arms, legs or torso, dizziness, vertigo, ringing in the ears, numbness, tingling and paralysis, shortness of breath. You can also recognise DCS by checking for the following signs: skin may show a blotchy rash, paralysis, muscle weakness, difficulty urinating, confusion, personality changes, bizarre behavior, amnesia, tremors, staggering, coughing up bloody, frothy sputum, collapse or unconsciousness.

Symptoms and signs usually appear within 15 minutes to 12 hours after surfacing. But in severe cases, symptoms may appear before surfacing or immediately afterwards. Delayed occurrence of symptoms is rare, but it does occur, especially if air travel follows diving.

SSS Recompression Chamber PhuketRecreational divers should dive conservatively, whether they are using dive tables or computers. Experienced divers often select a table depth (versus actual depth) of 10 feet (3 meters) deeper than called for by standard procedure. This practice is highly recommended for all divers, especially when diving in cold water or when diving under strenuous conditions. Computer divers should be cautious in approaching no-decompression limits, especially when diving deeper than 100 feet (30 meters).

Avoiding risk factors like deep and/ or long dives, exercise at depth or after a dive will decrease the chance of DCS occurring. Exposure to altitude or flying too soon after a dive can also increase the risk of decompression sickness.

Decompression Sickness could affect divers every day. Fast recognition is probabaly the most important key for a full recovery. Joining orientation days like these certainly helps to raise the awareness of the risk of decompression sickness. If you need more information about decompression sickness or other diving-related injuries, please visit the website of the Divers Alert Network(www.diversalertnetwork.org). More information about SSS Recompression Chamber Network you can find on www.sssnetwork.com.

Ko Lanta Wins 1st Place in Thailand – TripAdvisor 2010 Awards

Award Winning Ko Lanta Sunsets

KO LANTA HONORED AS A TOP DESTINATION IN TRIPADVISOR’S 2010 TRAVELERS’ CHOICE DESTINATION AWARDS

Ko Lanta, Thailand, was chosen as a Best Destination in 3 categories, Beach & Sun, Romance, and Relaxation & Spa by TripAdvisor® in the 2010 Travelers’ Choice® Destination Awards, with Kantiang Bay and Lanta Klong Nin Beach being given a special mention in the ‘Don’t Miss’ section of each award.

  • Beach & Sun: Ko Lanta – 1st Place in Thailand, 3rd Place in Asia
  • Romance: Ko Lanta – 1st Place in Thailand, 4th Place in Asia
  • Relaxation & Spa: Ko Lanta – 2nd Place in Thailand, 6th Place in Asia

The TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Destination awards and honours the world’s top destinations, earning their distinction from those who know them best – real travelers.

Coral Bleaching Occurring at Shallow Depths

Coral Bleaching at Ko Haa

Coral bleaching is occurring at shallow depths in dive sites throughout the Andaman Sea. According to the Bangkok Post, coral reefs off Phuket, Krabi and Phang-Nga, including popular scuba diving sites such as the Similan, Surin and Phi Phi islands, have been damaged by the phenomenon.

The bleaching could get worse if sea temperatures continue to rise, says Niphon Phongsuwan, a marine biologist at the Phuket Marine Biological Centre (PMBC). The bleached corals may die if they cannot tolerate the stress, but if we’re lucky – and the monsoon winds come soon, those corals that are bleached already might survive and recover as was the case in 2003.

Temperatures in the Andaman Sea have stood as high as 31-32C for a long period this year and we are seeing temperatures as high as 33C in the shallow areas at Ko Haa, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, Ko Rok and Ko Phi Phi.

Coral reefs in shallow waters at depths of up to 10m will take three to four years to recover. Coral at greater depths will take more time.

Coral bleaching is the whitening of corals, due to stress-induced expulsion or the death of zooxanthellae – symbiotic, algae-like micro-organisms. Under stress, corals may expel their zooxanthellae, which leads to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term ‘bleached’. Coral bleaching occurs when the conditions necessary to sustain the coral’s zooxanthellae cannot be maintained. If the coral colony survives the stress period, zooxanthellae often require weeks, or even months, to return to normal density.

You can report instances of coral bleaching to the NOAA Global Coral Reef Watch Project. Please follow this link to submit data: http://www.reefbase.org/contribute/bleachingreport.aspx

Other organisations that support coral bleaching monitoring include:

Nudey calendar raises money for charity projects

The male Divemasters and Instructors of Blue Planet Divers showed a lot of courage by posing naked for a nudey calendar to raise funds for two local charities, Children of the Forest and Lanta Animal Welfare.

Both Children of the Forest and Lanta Animal Welfare are close to the heart of Mellisa Bunyan, co-owner of Blue Planet Divers, who came up with the idea for the calendar. She decided that both should benefit equally once the project took on a life of its own.

She credits Lanta Animal Welfare with doing wonderful work in providing treatment for injured animals who would have to leave the island for medical attention otherwise, while Children of the Forest bring Burmese children to Ko Lanta on holidays every year.

“Lanta Animal Welfare have done an incredible amount of work to reduce the numbers of packs of stray dogs on the island. They have provided a place where injured animals can be taken to, instead of having to make a two hour trip to Krabi.”

Based on the Thai-Burmese border, Children of the Forest provide facilities, education and shelter for children at risk who have crossed into Thailand from Burma. Melissa explains the work of the project:

“If it wasn’t for Children of the Forest, these children would have no rights, no schooling and no-one to look after them, and this charity has a close bond with companies on Koh Lanta because they bring these children on holidays to the island every year. Many of these children have never even seen the ocean before they come to Ko Lanta and a lot of the businesses here on Lanta help them out with free accommodation during their stay on the island.

I think the reason why so many of our guys were willing to support this unusual project was because they were aware that all funds raised would go to these two very worth charities.”

Ko Lanta’s most unusual 2011 calendar is on sale in bars and restaurants throughout the island and over the internet from www.blueplanetdivers.net