Friday, January 22, 2010

Scuba Diving in Phuket – King Cruiser Wreck

Our decision on where to stay in Thailand was based on the best / most convenient place to scuba dive. After searching the internet for a while we decided to go with a 2 day / 1 night scuba trip. We spent 2 days aboard the Gretta operated by Calypso Dive Centre (we booked through Dive Travel Asia who then booked us with a company charted the boat for this trip)

We were picked up from our guest house around 8am and then were driven to Chalong Pier where the waters were littered with scuba boats, fishing boats, speed boats, and every other kind of tourist trip that required a boat.

Dive Site Maps_05 [1280x768]

We arrived at the first dive site where we were briefed and in the water by noon for dive #1 at King Cruiser Wreck. There were quite a few people on the boat, our dive group consisted of Krista and I, another young couple and our dive guide.

This was our first time in almost a year so we were a little nervous about descending to the wreck. The average depth of the wreck for things to see is about 20m/65ft. I had a bit of congestion 2 days prior to the dive due to the hot weather during the day and the A/C overnight so I was worried about my ears not equalizing. Unfortunately Krista was unable to descend and make this first dive. She had problems equalizing and after a while of trying she decided to sit this one out. Although I made the dive, it took a while to descend to the wreck and I used up quite a bit of air doing so. That being said, this was a fairly short dive. The couple we were diving with were very understanding as their dive was cut short due to these problems as well.

We took hundreds of pictures and some video. Below are some of the noteworthy from the first dive.

King Cruiser_04 [1280x768]

Soft Coral

King Cruiser_01 Edit [1280x768]

Chromodoris Annulata or Nudibranch. This large nudibranch is mostly found crawling in pairs. Each animal alternately raises and lowers its head as it crawls. It feeds on sponges.

King Cruiser_16 [1280x768]

Knotted Fan Coral. The colonies are fan-shaped with a thick main stem, dividing in many sub-branches. The polyps are distributed over the entire surface. Coloration is variable, mainly deep red with white polyps. Grows on slopes and drop-offs, also on deeper reef terraces. Feeds on micro plankton.

King Cruiser_06 [1280x768]

Toilets aboard the King Cruiser

King Cruiser_07 [1280x768]

School of fish

King Cruiser_11 [1280x768]

Lionfish or scorpion fish. One of the most beautiful reef inhabitants, frequently seen singly or in small groups. Lion fish have a warning coloration of red and white, very long dorsal fin spines and greatly enlarged pectoral fins, often reaching past the anal fin. They are hunt small fish.

Their dorsal fins are venomous that are used only for defence. Lionfish are predators but do not use their fins to capture prey. If a human is envenomed, that person will experience extreme pain, and possibly headaches, vomiting, and breathing difficulties. Lionfish are one of the many reasons divers should never touch anything!

King Cruiser_13-Edit [1280x768]

Knotted Fan Coral

King Cruiser_14 [1280x768]

Sea Urchins are small circular organisms with spines that feed mostly on algae. Although their spines will not kill humans, they will inflict a lot pain and leave tiny barbs within one’s skin.

Although it was a short dive, it was nice to get back in the water with a tank of fresh compressed air ;)

Pictures and video of leopard sharks and jellyfish will be up soon!

Below is a description of the dive site from Dive Travel Asia.

The King Cruiser started life as a car/passenger ferry in Kobe, Japan, until the early 90’s when it was purchased by a Thai marine company who, intended to use it as a passenger ferry between Phuket and Koh Phi Phi. After only a few years in service, and on a glorious summers day, in flat seas, the King Cruiser struck Anemone reef, started taking on water and eventually sank some 25 kilometers from Phuket. On that fateful day in May 1997, the ferry was full on tourists and locals heading out to Koh Phi Phi, but thankfully there were enough available boats in the area to be able to rescue all five hundred people on board. Many people ask what happened? and there are many theories, including, it was an insurance job, the captain was drunk, and my favourite. That the captains daughter was driving the boat while her father slept, whatever happened the captain of the boat remains in a local prison to this day, but thanks to this man, Phuket gained a world class wreck dive.

The King Cruiser sits upright on a sandy bottom, depths range from 32 meters at her propellers to around 14 meters by the wheel house. Over the last eight years the wreck has been deteriorating quite quickly, and it is now possible to penetrate the wreck. What hasn’t been deteriorating is the amount of marine life, the sheer abundance of fish is simply amazing. As divers descend down the mooring lines, huge schools of jacks, tunas and barracuda will greet them, thousands of yellow tail snappers move in and out of the wreckage, while giant puffer fish move slowly out of the sight. Divers must be careful here, as the surface of the wreck, in fact the entire wreck is covered in scorpion fish, ranging from 2cm to 49cm. Large groups of common lionfish can also be seen hunting the enormous swarms of glassfish.

Lucky divers might also catch a glimpse of the wreck resident black banded sea snake, that due to the easy pickings has grown to a huge size, with a head about 5cm in width, which compared to around 2cm for a normal adult, is quite large. Otter marine creatures that can be seen here include Hawksbill turtles and leopard sharks . There are even stories of divers occasionally seeing a Whale Shark cruising by, although by no means is this common.

The King Cruiser Wreck dive can be a challenging dive, with an average depth of over 20 meters, and currents that can be strong, we advise that divers of an intermediate level and above undertake this dive. Your div guide will lead you around pass the front of the ferry, where divers can still make out both hulls of this catamaran, and also the location of the wheel house and upper decks. As divers move along the side of the ship towards the stern, they will see the twisted wreckage on the rear decks, this has been caused by continued battering by the sea, coupled with the deterioration of the steel. Divers reaching the stern are greeted with an unusual site, a set of toilets, which are now home to some large lion fish and even an octopus lives under one of the toilet seats.

The King Cruiser Guide

Reef Type
Wreck dive

Depth Range
14 - 32 meters

5 - 20 meters

Moderate to Strong

Water Temperature

Distance from Phuket
25km East

Experience level
Intermediate to Advanced

Diving Season
Year round