Nina Morris

Writen by: Nina Morris

Nina is a PADI specialty instructor whose hobbies include but are not limited to, working out at the gym, crashing her scooter and generally being an awesome diving instructor!

Nina Morris

Get your PADI Advanced Open Water while living aboard the Scuba Explorer

Advanced Open Water Course Similan Islands Phuket ThailandAdvanced Open Water Course Similan Islands Phuket Thailand

Imagine seeing a Whale Shark on your PADI Advanced Open Water Navigation dive? Or getting to identify a White Tip Reef Shark on your Fish Identification dive? If you are thinking of going from PADI Open Water diver to Advanced diver why not complete the course on one of Phuket’s finest luxury liveaboard cruises to the Similans & Surin Islands or South Andaman. This is a fantastic opportunity to not only dive some of the most beautiful dive sites in the world, but also to take your diving to the next level. Spend 3 or 4 days on board diving 4 or 5 times a day and relaxing in between dives in the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Andaman Ocean.

Course Requirements

You do 5 dives to complete the Advanced Open Water course, Deep and Navigation are mandatory; you choose the other 3 from a choice of 15 exciting dives. With 8, 10 or 12 dives in the cruise packages there is plenty of time to complete the course over the few days; your Instructor will choose the best site to complete each AOW dive to get the most enjoyment out of it. There is a bit of reading and a couple knowledge reviews to complete, this gives you a better understanding of all aspects of diving from decompression, to understanding nitrogen narcosis, learning how to identify marine life by shape, colour and habitat, understanding the oceans currents, and learning how to navigate by means of compass and natural features. This not only increases your knowledge and understanding of the marine environment, it will also enhance your diving skills and enjoyment.

Dive Choices

There are 15 dives to choose from. Choose the Fish Identification or Underwater Naturalist dive and you will be spoilt by choice on the marine life, you will learn so much about the different creatures and habitats under the ocean. Practice your buoyancy on Elephant Head Rock with the Peak Performance Buoyancy dive, the swim throughs on this dive will surly perfect your buoyancy as you swim close to the sand careful not to disturb it or hit your head on the overhead rock, some swim throughs are tighter then others, you will certainly be a better diver by the end of it. Where better to do the Deep dive then the magnificent Koh Bon, dropping to depths of 30m, where you may be lucky enough to be surrounded by Manta Rays. Take the Night dive on Richelieu Rock and experience the peace and serenity of the ocean at night, encounter all the wonderful critters that come out at night, Shrimps, Octopus, the Moray Eels hunting. Learn the Drift dive on Koh Tachai where the often strong currents give the perfect conditions for this exciting type of diving.

AOWC Special Offer – 6,000 THB

Take your advanced course on board the Scuba Explorer on a trip to the Similans or South Andaman and get 60% off the normal AOW course price; this is an amazing offer too good to miss. Whether you choose the standard, deluxe or suite cabin option you will only be paying an extra 6000 THB to complete your Advanced Open Water while diving at some of the world’s top dive sites.

There are so many options to choose from on the advanced open water course, and to get to take this course in the Similans means that not only will every dive completely different and equally as exciting, you will also get to see marine life you will never have encountered with visibility ranging from 20m-40m on many of the dive sites.

The dive sites in the Similans are so diverse, with so much marine life; it will be like nothing else you have experienced, an unforgettable lifetime opportunity!

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Same Dive, 1 Whale Shark and 1 Manta Ray

Manta Ray at Koh BonManta Ray on Koh Bon West Ridge

Koh Bon’s West Ridge was particularly stunning this day

Seeing a Whale Shark or a Manta Ray on a dive is something very special, exciting, over powering, fantastic, whatever word comes to mind, it is simply amazing. Seeing them both on the same dive is something else altogether, words can not describe the feeling. Many of the customers on board the Scuba Explorers first Similans trip of the season got to experience this feeling on the first day at Koh Bon.

This dive was the third of the day, we had already done one dive at Anitas reef (or Coral reef, whichever you would like to call it) at Similan Island no 5/6, and the second dive at Koh Bon West Ridge. Both dives, whilst fun were nothing as spectacular as the third. At Anitas reef there is a big bomby full of big schools of shinning Glassfish, beautiful soft corals, Giant Gorgonian sea fans,even a one of a kind pink anemone on the top which had been bleached some years back by the raising water temperatures. the first dive on Koh Bon West ridge gave us 20m visibility, warm waters, a lot of life with schools of Emperor Snappers, Big Eyed Snapper, Chequered Snapper, Red Tooth Trigger fish, all coming in to feed in the morning. We also found a few oddly shaped Maldivian Sponge Snails.

Our next dive was the one not to have missed, we started to the North of the West Ridge this time and had been in the water no more then 5 minutes when I heard the frantic banging of the tour leaders tank, knowing there must be something big out there we all followed where he was pointed, out for the blue came a 4m Whale Shark, not big by Whale Shark standards but impressive by ours, the whole boat saw it and there were people excitedly high fiving in the water, having just ticked something of their ‘bucket list’. Koh Bon being famous for Manta Rays, it is rare to see a Whale hark there, I have not heard of anyone seeing one there before, unfortunately it did not stay with us too long, too many excited divers chasing it to get a better photo.

Whale Shark on Richelieu rock

Whale Shark on Richelieu rock

My group decided against going after more sightings of the Whale Shark and decided to continue onto the Ridge in search of the Majestic Manta Ray. 5 minutes later we were rewarded. We were swimming towards a cold thermocline, with it they bring nutrients the big stuff feed on so we were hoping of a sighting, out of it swimming gracefully towards us was a big 5m Manta Ray. For the next half hour we hung in the water as it swam around us, feeding and playing. Others divers saw us and came to join the spectacle. It turned out half the boat had gone off in pursuit of another Whale Shark Sighting and missed the Manta Ray whilst the other half had done what we did and continued to the ridge.

This Manta Ray was not bothered by the divers watching it, inquisitive animals they stay with you as long as you do not chase them.

Getting back on the Scuba Explorer we couldn’t wait to share our experience, photos and videos with each other. A Whale Shark and a Manta Ray in the same dive, a first for all of us, it does not often happen, it certainly was a special day indeed.

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Night Diving on Richelieu Rock

Night diving on Richelieu RockWhale Shark encounter on a night dive

Richelieu Rock is often the very reason divers want to go on a Liveaboard to the Similans & Surin Islands, it is the dive site people most want to visit and the reason is justified. The dive site itself is breathtakingly beautiful, covered in purple soft corals, Anemones, Gorgonian Fans, Knotted fans, Sea Whips and full of life, it is easy to see why divers want to come back again and again.

No two dives are the same, and it is impossible to see everything in just 1 dive, for that reason the Scuba Explorer spends a whole day at Richelieu Rock making 3/4 dives. We have had the added pleasure of doing a night dive on Richelieu Rock, very few Liveaboards offer this due to currents, depth, customer experience or time. So of course we all jumped at the chance, kitted up and jumped in before the tour leader could change his mind.

The excitement of descending onto Richelieu Rock in the dark was apparent in all us Instructors, I don’t think the customers realised that a night dive here was not often done as they laughed at us all fighting to get in the water first. As we all descended with our torches turned on the colour of the corals light up under the artificial light, glowing in the beam it looks even more beautiful at night. The peacefulness of the Ocean at night and the fact that we were the only Liveaboard diving there made me feel utter calmness, like I was floating through space. I love night diving and this dive was definitely one to remember.

Whale Shark in the Similan Islands

Whale Shark in the Similan Islands

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15% off all cruises in November on the Scuba Explorer

Similan IslandsScuba Diving in the Similan Islands

The High season is nearly upon us, the Similans opens again, and the Scuba Explorer is ready to start its weekly 3 day/3 night or 5 day/5 night cruises to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. Clear turquoise waters, 30 meter visibility, a huge diversity of marine life, excellent macro diving, and nights spent being rocked to sleep by the comforting sound of the calm waves. What better way to spend a holiday then to be diving 4 times a day, with the added option of a night dive, on some of the best dive sites in the world, being guided by some very experienced instructors on board the luxury Scuba Explorer. Not only will they show you creatures you may never have seen before, you will also learn about the different marine species you will encounter, all the instructors on board the Scuba Explorer have a wide range of knowledge about the life in our Oceans.

The first trip of the season leaves on 31st Oct until 5th Nov, a trip all of us are excited about, we can not wait to get back on the Scuba Explorer diving in the Similans. Throughout the month of November the Scuba Explorer is offering a fantastic 15% off all dive cruises, a great opportunity to experience the beautiful wonders of the Similans & Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock.

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Advanced Open Water course on the Southern Andaman Liveaboard cruise

Elephant Statue in Siam BayAdvanced Open Water Deep dive in Siam Bay Racha Yai

Freedom Divers asked me to come on-board the Liveaboard trip to the South Andaman for 2 days/3 nights to teach an Advanced Open Water course, of course I was delighted to accept, even the storm warnings were not enough to put me off.

I met my student to go over a few skills in the pool before we set sail that evening, after a few hours in the pool with her I was quietly confident that she would have no problems with the dives we had coming up. I also learnt that she was very excited and had never spent a night on a boat before, this was to be an experience for her.

We boarded the boat at 8pm ready to leave for Koh Phi Phi early morning for our first dive at 7am. The first dive I decided was to be a fun dive as my student had not dived in a year I thought it better to ease her into it and not throw her in the deep end with skills and knowledge, this turned out to be a good idea as there was limited visibility and fairly strong current on the first dive, it was still enjoyable and gave my student time to get used to diving again. Swimming through schools of Big Eyed Snapper my student gave my the thumbs up (wrong sign but I knew what she meant) to say she loved it, mental note here to recap some of the underwater hand signals. The following dives I got the correct signal of ‘awesome’ a lot.

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Diving West of Eden – Similan Islands

Juvenile Ribbon Eel on West of Eden

West of Eden is a beautiful mixture of granite boulders and coral gardens intertwined, it is part of the Similan Islands, near to Island 7. This is another deep dive site with many of the rare and interesting critters that make this location a must dive, found at depths of 25-30m. This dive site is also known for the famous ‘big green monster’ a particularly nasty thermo-cline bringing with it freezing (well 23°C) temperatures, 5m visibility and current, this does pass though and you are not in it for long.

Your dive guide will lead you along the main channel, looking in the sand for Spearing Mantis Shrimp a rather wonderful and powerful creature with spear like claws to catch their prey, on the walls for many colourful Nudibranchs and Network Pipefish or in the corals for the tiny Tiger Egg Cowrie. Also often seen on this dive site are very rare and beautiful Ribbon Eels sticking out from the sand, the black ones are juvenile in both sexes, changing to blue for the males and yellow for the females as they get older.

The picturesque coral gardens are a perfect place to end this dive, not only are they shallow they also house some fantastic fish life from Yellow Tail Fusilier to Orange Stripe Trigger fish, you may also encounter the colourful Clown Trigger fish. West of Eden offers a diverse range of marine life making it a spectacular dive and a favourite among many a diver.

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Diving Elephant Head Rock – Similan Islands

Hanging out with the night crittersHanging out with the night critters

Elephant Head Rock is a dive site in the Similan Islands on island number 8, as with most of the dive sites in the Similans it is named after the shapes the rocks make above the water, so called as it is thought to look like the top of the head of an Elephant with its trunk coming out of the water, although it is hard to see. This dive site is a great first morning dive where you may be able to catch an early glimpse of the sleeping White Tip Reef Sharks before they are scared away by snorkelers.

A favourite amongst many dive professional of the Similan Islandss dive sites and it is easy to see why. With all the giant boulders creating excellent swim throughs, each instructor has their own route around the site. Along the way you encounter Phylidia and Chromodoris Nudibranchs, Starry Dragonet Gobies, Red Toothed Trigger fish, Trevallies, Snapper and Wrasse.

Keep an eye on the ground to see the camouflaged Sea Moth often seen in pairs walking along the floor, or under rocks to spot the shy and wonderful Octopus, if you are lucky enough to see them swimming and changing colour to the rocks it is a fantastic sight. The swim throughs are certainly the highlight of this dive presenting many photo opportunities and a great chance to test your buoyancy skills.

This is a great chance to practice your buoyancy as you swim through the gaps in the boulders, some of them a smaller than others, adding excitement to the dive. Finish the dive with the safety stop on top of the boulders where you may get another chance to see White Tip Reef Sharks or Barracuda.

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Diving Koh Tachai – Similan Islands

Napolean Wrasse on Koh Tachai

Koh Tachai Pinnacle (or Twin Peaks) is known for its impressive boulders, beautiful coral gardens and crazy currents, this makes it one of the most exciting dives on the Similan Islands liveaboard cruise. You descend down the buoy line on the east side of the pinnacle, using your arms to pull you down the rope as the current takes the rest of your body forcing you horizontal, make sure to hold onto your mask if you turn around to look behind you else the current can take it. Once down your dive guide will find ways around the pinnacle hiding you from the currents, weaving in and out of the massive granite boulders. The currents not only make for an interesting dive, they also bring with them the big fish which make this site a must to dive.

Schools of Long-fin Bat fish hang around nonplussed by the divers around them, huge schools of circling Barracuda on top of this pinnacle make a beautiful photo opportunity as you look up at them silhouetted in the light of the sun through the ocean ceiling. Giant Trevally, Tuna and Napoleon Wrasse are frequent here. As well as the graceful Manta Ray magically swimming back and forth, it is such an amazing sight that you will want to make more than one dive here.

The beautiful coral gardens on the north side of the pinnacle have some hidden wonders in them, Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Hawksbill Turtles, Sea Snakes, Devil Scorpion fish to name but a few. Explore the powerful granite boulders or the colourful corals, or just hang in the current holding onto the tops of the rock waiting for Mantas to pass you by, whatever dive you do you will love Koh Tachai Pinnacle.

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Diving Koh Bon – Similan Islands

Manta Ray on Koh Bon

This Island offers a few different dive sites, the most impressive and most dived is the Koh Bon West ridge, this is a known Manta Ray cleaning station and the main reason people want to do this dive. The ridge comes down from the island under the water to depths of 40m and is covered in table corals, soft corals and plate coral. The visibility here is normally 20/30m but on a good day can go to 40+m and is simply stunning.

You tend to descend near the wall on the South side of the island where current is lax and swim along to the ridge, taking in many sites as you go, schools of Yellow Back Fusilier, Big Eyed Snapper, Oriental Sweetlips, the fish life here is extremely diverse and there is plenty to see. Always make sure you keep a look out into the blue to catch a glimpse of the Manta Rays swimming magically past you. At times you can have up to 5 Manta Rays playfully gliding around the divers as they hang in the water, no really this happens a lot, these beautiful creatures put on an amazing show some days for us, even the mythical rarely seen Black Manta has been spotted here.

There can sometimes be a strong current that changes direction as you swim over the ridge, you will encounter many other divers hanging onto the top of the rock waiting for the Manta Rays coming to get cleaned. Look out for Octopus hiding in the cracks of the rock, Clarks Anemone fish in their homes, Moray Eels in the corals, and Nudibranchs of all types and colour. This makes a fantastic early morning dive and if you are lucky enough to see a Manta a wonderful way to start the day. More than 1 dive is needed on this site to take everything in, it really is a must do dive on the Similan Islands cruise.

The other site occasionally dived here is the Koh Bon Pinnacle, this is a deep dive so is often the early morning dive. The top of the pinnacle is 18m and goes to 45m on one side, 30m on the other. This is set apart from the island itself and can have strong currents, for this reason your dive guide doesn’t hang on the surface too long descending straight down onto the pinnacle taking in the mass of yellow soft corals covering it, it is a spectacular sight.

Look out for the Shrimps, Moray Eels, Octopus and even a grumpy looking Stone fish camouflaged on the top. After 15 minutes or so swimming around the pinnacle you can make your way to the reef on the North west side of the island, always looking for Manta Rays and White Tip Reef Sharks as you go.

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Diving Richelieu Rock – Similan Islands

Whale Shark on Richelieu rocWhale Shark on Richelieu roc

Be sure to hold your regulator in your mouth when you first dive Richelieu Rock as your jaw drops open at the sheer beauty of it. This dive site is part of the Surin National Marine Park, although it is set apart from the islands in the middle of the Andaman ocean.

Only the first 1 meter of Richelieu Rock breaks the surface at low tide, it was discovered by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and the dive site is so named from the shape, it is said to resemble Cardinal Richelieu’s collar as a series of pinnacles form a horse shoe shape under the water. The stunning array of colours will leave you breathless as you descend into a vision of purple corals, surrounded by all manner of marine life imaginable.

This dive site offers a vast range of pelagic life, you will be swimming through huge schools of Snapper, Trevally, Barracuda, Fusilier, looking for Seahorses, Pipefish of every kind, an abundance of all types of shrimp and Moray Eels including the rare and incredibly beautiful Harlequin shrimp. But the main attractions of this dive site are the Whale Sharks that visit the area regularly.

Being shy creatures they do not like to be chased, but hang in the water and wait and they will reward you by swimming up nice and close, back and forth, coming close to you for as long as your air will last. As they are most regularly seen at depths of 5m this definitely makes for one spectacular safety stop.

There is a buoy on the south east pinnacle; this is used as reference point to descend by. Each dive is different, your dive guide may spend the first dive exploring deep on the east side to find the Tiger Tail Seahorses, then take you up around the north pinnacle to shallower depths looking for Durban Dancing shrimp, Banded Boxer shrimp, Moray Eels and the rare Tomato Anemone fish seen swimming in the colourful anemones at the top of the pinnacle.

Your following dives may explore the west side, or in the middle of the horseshoe looking upside down under rocks for the shy and wonderful Harlequin shrimp, whichever way around you go always remember to look up into the blue for the Whale Sharks. 1, 2 or even 3 dives in a day are not enough for this Surin dive site, there is so much to take in, so much to encounter, it is the most talked about dive site on a Similans Liveaboard cruise for a reason, just come and see for yourself why it’s one of the worlds and definitely Thailand’s top dive site.

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