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June 2004 Vol. 30, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Two Thai Live-Aboard Options

Ocean Rover and Mermaid I

from the June, 2004 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Dear Fellow Diver,

The Ocean Rover gets every bit as good reviews as the Aqua One, and then some. From a January 2004 trip, long-time Undercurrent correspondent Benjamin Glick (Willamstown, MA) reports "lots of small critters including frogfish, ghost pipefish, and harlequin shrimp too numerous to count. Schools of fish, cuttlefish, squid, octopi, an hour with two whale sharks, four leopard sharks on another dive, and five mantas on one dive. The boat was in pristine condition. Try to visit Cambodia as Angkor Temples at Siem Reap are only a one hour flight from Bangkok. Royal Exclusive Travel in Bangkok made all my travel reservations in SE Asia and were excellent (

Also on a January trip, Linda Gettmann (Deer Harbor, WA) says: "Fabulous service and wonderful diving on this two-year-old, built-for-diving boat. We went up north into Myanmar (Burma) waters and dove the Mergui Archipelago and Burma Banks. Viz wasn't so great, but the marine life made up for it. Excellent accommodations and food, the service is beyond belief, they help you on with your gear, even zip up your wetsuit. Mark Strickland is the photo pro, does an excellent job and will help you with any camera or equipment problem."

In March 2004, Ann Mcgrath (Alexandria, VA) reports the Ocean Rover "is incredibly spacious for 16 divers. Cabins are very large, with plenty of storage. The bathrooms have tile floors and normal-size toilets. The diving in the Burma banks is clear and great -- still plenty of current, but great stuff to see. We didn't encounter whale sharks, but we did see leopard sharks, manta rays, cuttlefish laying eggs, lots of harlequin ghost pipefish, as well as their endemic saddleback anemone fish and the amazing mandarin shrimp! They have a CD burner if you want to copy your digital pictures to CD."

Harry A. Kreigh (Sacramento) took an Ocean Rover trip in April. It's "one of the best live-aboards anywhere. The Thai crew provided topnotch personalized service. A variety of Thai cuisine (noodles, curries, and stir-fry dishes), vegetables, rice and salad, as well as some western choices. When extended travel was required, only three dives were offered (all before lunch, and a 60-minute limit was imposed for the third dive only). Multiple mantas (3-4) were repeatedly encountered during four dives at Black Rock. Several leopard sharks observed at Fan Forest Pinnacle and Koh Bon. A few hawksbill turtles were seen throughout the trip. No whale sharks sighted. Some outstanding dive sites with beautiful, lush soft corals and a variety of reef inhabitants, but also some mediocre sites, few large fish/sharks and typically poor/fair visibility in Myanmar. The corals and fish populations appeared healthier with fewer discarded fishing nets and much less rubble from dynamite fishing than previously seen in 1999. We opted to skip Burma Banks; silvertips have not been seen there regularly all season. Three weeks prior to departure I was informed that Mark Strickland would not make the trip with us. The Wat Chalong temple is worth a visit -- intricate and ornate sculptures and distinctive/colorful architecture."

Another option is the Mermaid 1, at better prices than either the Aqua One or Ocean Rover, which cater to Americans. Mikki Betker and Mike Bush (Mableton, GA), on their fifth live-aboard trip, write of their January trip: "We had an excellent experience with a relatively unknown operation in the U.S., although they have been sailing for over three years. Mermaid 1 and 2 are European-based and German-operated luxury boats. The newer Mermaid 1 has private baths. The service and facilities were outstanding. Our room had two double beds side-byside and our own TV. Our trip included 28 dives, mostly in the renowned Similan Islands and world famous Richelieu Rock. Huge schools of juveniles everywhere. We routinely saw the regulars: anemone fish, lionfish, scorpionfish, Moorish idols, sweetlips, barracuda, triggerfish, parrotfish, batfish, etc. We saw a couple sea horses, blue spotted sting rays, a ghost pipefish, and several octopi. We saw the 'big guys' on at least every third dive: leopard sharks (within inches!), reef sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles. Each meal consisted of three or four dishes, both Thai and western-influenced, with fresh and varied fruits. Alcoholic beverages could be purchased on the 'honor system.' The other crew consisted of seven Thai-born young men who spoke no English yet were very professional; we could not even put on our own wet suits without their assistance. Diving was as easy as it gets: just giant-stride off the back of the boat or backwards-roll off the skiff. Just pop up whenever you want, and the boat or skiff would promptly pick you up."

Diver's Compass: Ten diving days on the Ocean Rover run $3,100. Website is ... Six diving day trips on the Mermaid 1 are $1,500.

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