Diving at the Similan Islands
To be found off the southern coast of Thailand, the Similan Islands are one of the world’s leading diving locations.
Blessed by coral reefs and boulder strewn seafloor sites, the Similans are also heavily regulated by the Thai National Parks authority due to the high level of marine biodiversity that they shelter.
Recent years have seen ecological worries about the health of the reefs surrounding the islands, with a severe ‘bleaching’ event in 2010. The 2004 Tsunami also damaged many reefs, but since 2012 they have begun to regenerate.
Some dive sites are out of use, due to the bleaching and loss of marine life, but most are still thriving. As rising visitor numbers show, the Similan Islands remain Thailand’s most appealing dive site.
When to enjoy diving the Similan Islands
The Similan diving season stretches from mid October until the end of April. Outside of the diving season, conditions can often be rough, with the monsoon rains driving in, making diving and navigating treacherous. For experienced divers, a visit between January and March offers perhaps the best chance of encountering manta rays near Koh Bon and Koh Tachai.
At other sites, larger marine fauna have diminished in recent years, and it pays to find dive boats that visit the lesser known spots where fish like the manta ray still congregate.
Many divers will also probably be alienated by larger dive boats which tend to offer snorkelling and diving packages, all from the same boat. This can mean enduring a daytrip which rushes through five dive sites. A longer liveaboard stay with a knowledgeable skipper would offer much more to those who want to get the most out of their dives.
Diving Courses – Similan Islands are Perfect for Beginners
With its stable conditions and various dive sites, the Similan Islands are a perfect place to learn how to dive for people who want to experience not only the new world of scuba diving but also want to explore some underwater and marine life. Some dive site set-ups with slight currents makes it also a perfect place to continue diving education to the Advanced Open Water Course. Both skill levels are best learnt on a diving safari as this immerses the student fully into the diving world for a couple of days without distractions and the hassle of daytrip operations.
Unlike most popular places to learn scuba diving in Thailand, the Similan Islands offer many marine creatures to bee seen during training dives what makes students often forget, that they are participating in a diving course.
Prices for an Open Water Scuba Diving Course start at 350,- U$ for two daytrips. The preferred option, boarding a safari dive boat and conducting a course on a cruise between the islands will cost the trip itself (between 700,- and 1000,- U$) plus the course fees of around 300,- U$.
Advanced Open Water courses range around 200,- U$. The much higher prices compared to other diving destinations in Thailand are a result of higher fuel consumption for the trips to the islands and a much higher quality level of underwater environment and overall experience for the divers.
Similan Liveaboard for the best experience
Similan liveaboard trips last between 2 and 5 days, and allow divers to experience a number of the more remote sites without large crowds of other divers to contend with. The long journey back to the mainland is eliminated, and they also offer the prospect of evenings on some of the Similan Islands’ beautiful beaches after the daytrip boats have gone home. And living aboard can be a superb social experience, gaining the expertise of the captain and other divers, swapping stories and planning the dives ahead.
While daytrips can be fun and provide a taste of the islands, Similan liveaboard trips let you get to know the best sites in breathtaking detail.
A sample liveaboard itinerary would take divers to wonderful sites like Koh Bon or Koh Tachai, where larger animals can be encountered, or even to further afield Richelieu Rock in the Surin Islands, famed as Thailand’s greatest dive site.
Similan Liveaboard Trip Prices Overview:
|2-3 days||450,- U$||550,- U$||-|
|4 days||700,- U$||1000,- U$||1200,- U$|
|5-6 days||800,- U$||1400,- U$||2000,- U$|
All prices are rough averages and can vary depending on operator and cabin type. Also most of them don’t include the Similan Islands Nationa Park Fee of about 60,- U$ per Trip per Person. For specific prices of boats, trips and cabin types please refer to the Thailand Dive and Sail liveboard database which lists the most reliable options with all details.
While it must be said that Similan diving has suffered from ecological problems and the challenge of mass tourism, a Similan liveaboard can still provide an incredible introduction to diving for beginners and beautiful sights for more experienced divers. The marine life can still astonish, and conditions are crystal clear, and while it may not be paradise any longer, Similan diving can still be unbelievably beautiful.