What Makes Diving At The Similan Islands So Special?
Thailand is a very popular holiday destination. The country’s people, activities, low cost and high value of everything from transport to accommodation, shopping and food all make for enjoyable vacations in good weather without breaking the bank. One of the most popular holiday activities in Thailand is scuba diving. Recreational scuba diving has recently enjoyed a mini boom, and countries such as Thailand have benefitted from increased revenue from tourism.
It depends on each diver’s specific needs and tastes, but stating that a particular location or country is the best in the world for diving is not as easy as it may sound. Qualified and experienced scuba divers are made happy by all kinds of different diving conditions and marine life. Some like deep water or strong currents, while others like the best visibility of healthy coral reefs. There are those who are desperate to see large fish species while others are searching for tiny invertebrates which are extremely difficult to find. Learning to scuba dive is also big business, and this can only really be done at safe dive sites which aren’t too deep or affected by strong currents. For safety reasons, certain regulations need to be abided by, and this is often not possible at extreme diving sites far out at sea.
In addition, most people prefer to have something else to do while on a diving vacation, especially considering they are only able to spend no more than about four hours underwater per day. Beach activities, restaurants, massage, kayaking and so many other factors make us happy when on a scuba diving holiday. Also, the cost and time spent reaching a diving destination is vital to most people who just dive for a hobby or for fun. There may be some awesome dive sites which people feel are just too much time, hassle and cost to visit. Everything needs to be in a good balance.
Due to its location in the centre of South East Asia, its climate and various other factors, Thailand is considered to be among the best places in the world to dive. The Similan Islands is Thailand’s best diving area, and sits 60km. out to sea off the country’s west coast in the southern province of Phang Nga. The mini archipelago is home to more than twenty fantastic diving sites and thousands of species of marine life. Richelieu Rock and two other islets are a short boat trip north of The Similans. Although the dive sites in Thailand aren’t too extreme or can guarantee the sighting of a particular and special species, there are many other things to consider. These include travelling with friends, partners or family, being able to choose between liveaboard or day trip, and being guaranteed to be able to dive on any given day.
It would be fair to say that most recreational scuba divers, especially those on a diving holiday, are with someone they know. This person or people may be a partner, friend, family or just a travel buddy. It’s very difficult in any activity such as scuba diving to find two people whose ability and experience are equal. In fact, there are also many couples who are made up of a diver and a non-diver. This disparity can make it difficult for everyone involved to fully enjoy their trip. Either the more-experienced divers will become bored or the less-experienced will be ‘out of their depth.’ Non-diving guests need something more to do than sunbathe on the boat. The best dive sites in the world are generally for experienced and professional scuba divers, meaning that non-diving or less experienced tourists will have to miss out, and after travelling all this way, that is not fair. Similan diving tours nearly always include time and opportunity for both divers and non-diving guests to relax on a beach or snorkel around some of the best shallow reefs in this part of the world. With the exception of Richelieu Rock and Hin Daeng/Muang, which are exposed undersea pinnacles, just about all of the dive sites the boats visit are suitable for non-diving guests.
Secondly, everyone has different tastes and needs for where they sleep at night. Men are usually easier to please than women, but it would be fair to say that a good night’s sleep is essential to both enjoy a vacation as well as two or more scuba dives the following day. The best diving locations are often far from land, and even further from luxury resorts. Diving day trips usually involve a boat ride of an hour or more, two to three dives and a return trip. Visiting dive sites on a day trip boat is preferred by people who want to walk around choosing a restaurant in the evening and spend the night in a hotel room or resort bungalow. However, the best diving trips are usually onboard liveaboard boats on which the guests sleep for anything from one night and two diving days to more than a week. From the boat, they can dive up to four times per day and take their time cruising around the dive sites during surface intervals. At the Similan Islands guests are able to choose from a whole range of trip lengths. This includes day trips aboard a selection of boats and an even wider range of liveaboard options. The day trips vary in length and price depending on the boat. Due to the distance, it’s important to get everyone there and back efficiently and safely, while leaving at a reasonable time in the morning, allowing enough time for two dives and returning before dark. From Khao Lak, there are large but reasonably-fast diving boats. These are the most comfortable, and have stability and room to walk around. The journey is up to three hours each way, but it’s a comfortable and relaxed one. For those who want to keep travel time to a minimum, speedboats can reach some Similan Islands diving sites in less than an hour. Prices are a little higher, due to fuel costs, but this is often well worth it for divers who want to make the most of every minute of their diving vacation in Thailand. Maybe the best balance of speed and comfort is a catamaran. Although slightly higher in price than Similan speedboat diving day trips, these vessels are both fast and smooth. They offer more space to walk around whether on the move or moored at the reef and can travel both quickly and quietly. Similan Islands liveaboard diving boats and trips are extremely varied and there is a great deal of choice. Some can be joined for as little as two diving days and one night on board. These normally include transfer to and from the pier by speedboat. The most popular trip length for a Similans liveaboard cruise is 4D/4N, but there are lots of other options, including 3D/2N, 3D/3N, 4D/3N, and up to a whole week on board, enjoying Thailand’s best diving spots.
Finally, and for some most-importantly, it is almost guaranteed that diving trips to the Similan Islands are possible every day throughout the diving season (mid-October – mid-May). While some of the smaller and faster day trip boats occasionally cancel due to strong winds causing high waves, the larger boats can nearly always cruise through rough sea conditions. The liveaboard boats which are out at sea can easily adjust their itinerary or schedule to ensure that a great diving experience is had by all on board four times per day. If weather or sea conditions aren’t ideal to dive at the planned location, it’s neither far nor difficult to move to somewhere calmer. Anyone who spends a lot of money to come diving in Thailand wants to be sure that they will be able to dive on the date they choose and at the best place available on that day.
Similan diving tours are safe, flexible and popular. The best dive sites of Thailand are within easy reach for day trips, non-diving guests are nearly always able to join and every day of the diving season there are safe and happy divers under the surface of the crystal-clear water off the west coast of Thailand. The Similan Islands is the best diving location in what some consider the best country in the world to dive in. This includes novices, those wanting to learn, inexperienced divers, and professionals.