Similan Islands Travel Guide
Scuba diving is a recreational sport that is enjoyed by people of all ages, both genders, and from many walks of life. Its popularity grows every year, which means more and more people are in the water, swimming with the marine life and learning about the importance of our oceans. In general, recreational scuba diving is more popular in tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. Warmer water is not only nicer and more enjoyable for us humans to spend time in, it is also where the most colourful fish and other marine species are able to survive.
Corals can only survive and flourish in warm sea waters, and coral reefs provide food and shelter for most of the other creatures we dive to see. Thailand, in South East Asia, is one of the most popular countries in the world for scuba diving, and it is home to dozens of world-class diving sites. Koh Tao in The Gulf of Thailand is where most people learn to dive, but it can become crowded and the underwater visibility is unpredictable. Phuket and Koh Phi Phi have better dive sites than Koh Tao, but are also often crowded and the ever-increasing number of tourists who come for other activities can put people off. Thailand’s best diving can be enjoyed at a small chain of uninhabited islands 60km out into the Andaman Sea.
The Similan Islands are very much part of The Kingdom of Thailand, even though some people may think that they are their own little nation or even within India’s territory. To go diving in Similan Islands Thailand requires nothing more than booking a day trip or liveaboard cruise and paying for entry to the National Marine Parks, which is $12 for day trips and about $45 for a mid-length liveaboard, also referred to as a diving safari.
So what makes diving at The Similan Islands so good? Firstly, being quite far out at sea in this part of the world almost guarantees that the water will be both clean and clear. Visibility can sometimes reach more than 40m, and is almost never less than 20m. The clear seas are thanks to the Andaman Sea’s vast area and it merging into The Indian Ocean. There is a lot of very deep water out to the west and south of The Similan Islands, which is good for its clarity and health. Not only does the surrounding deep sea improve the water conditions, it also ensures that lots of nutrient-rich currents bring food to the reef fish and invertebrates. In addition there are lots of large pelagic species in the area, and many come to The Similan Islands to feed or be cleaned.
As well as enjoying abundant marine life in crystal-clear waters, those diving in Similan Islands Thailand can also feel very much ‘away from it all.’ In most cases, there would be no cell phone signal and certainly no air, water or noise pollution from activities on land. It’s the perfect distance to be enjoying a diving vacation out at sea yet still be able to join a day trip or hurry back to shore in the case of any emergency. Diving trips to the Similan Islands aren’t prohibitively expensive, and online booking can ensure that one’s ideal choice of boat or trip can be reserved in advance. A simple internet search for an agent website with most of the area’s 40 or more diving boats will enable those interested to pick the best one.
Diving at the Similan Islands is a wonderful experience and one that every diver who is in South East Asia should certainly try to do. Boats leave every morning and evening from Khao Lak, which is just an hour’s drive north of Phuket. Some liveaboards even sail from Phuket, but not day trip boats. The tour operators are professional and take good care of every guest, including their safety, fun and food & drinks. The Similan Island diving season starts in mid-October every year and continues through to mid-May. December to March has the calmest seas, and February to April is the best time to see Manta Rays and Whale Sharks.