Similan Islands

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Similan Islands Diving
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Scuba Diving in the Similan Islands
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Similan Islands Dive

Similan Islands


SCUBA DIVING THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

The plentiful marine life of the Andaman Sea is showcased in all its glory in the Similan Islands. Comfortably warm waters and mild currents make for dream-like conditions, where large pelagics are often spotted feeding above the bountiful reefs. 

 

 

THE SIMILAN ISLANDS DIVING HIGHLIGHTS

These world-famous islands stretch north-south in the Andaman Sea, 30 miles off the coast of southern Thailand. Covering an area of approximately 87 square miles, the nine islands of the archipelago, plus Ko Bon and Ko Tachai to the north, make up the Mu Ko Similan National Park

The real draw here is the manta rays and whale sharks that visit the warm waters from December until April each year. Outside these months diving is still spectacular, however, with medium-sized species patrolling the bustling reefs, and plentiful macro hiding amongst the beautiful hard corals. The Similan Islands really do offer an amazing scuba diving liveaboard experience.

 

THE SIMILAN ISLANDS LIVEABOARDS

The Similan Islands National Park was closed to tourists in October 2016 due to the impact of huge numbers of day-trippers, but reopened two years later and has a current cap of 3,325 visitors per day. All tourist accommodation on the islands is now closed, except for a few park-managed tents and bungalows. In addition, access to three of the islands is restricted to protect nesting turtles, and one is privately owned. As such, a liveaboard is the most comfortable, and by far the most convenient way to access all these intriguing islands have to offer.

For a similar liveaboard experience closer to home, check out our Caribbean liveaboards.

 

Diving Information 

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 MARINE LIFE & PHOTOGRAPHY SPECIES

Most of Southeast Asia’s extensive marine catalog can be found in the waters around the Similan Islands. The region’s impressive corals were declared ‘fully recovered’ by the national park authorities in 2019, and the diversity of species living on the vibrant reefs only confirms this.
 
 
A good number of shark species can be found, including blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, zebra sharks, and leopard sharks. Blue-spotted ribbon tail rays and spotted eagle rays can often be seen sweeping across the sand, and schools of barracuda, giant trevally, and Napoleon wrasse are all regular visitors.
 
Four species of marine turtles live in the waters around the Similan Islands, with the beaches of Ko Huyong, Ko Payang, and Ko Payan (also referred to as Islands 1, 2, and 3) recognized as crucial turtle nesting sites for the leatherback and olive ridley turtles. Divers will often be accompanied by green or hawksbill turtles when they explore the outlying atolls.
 
The critter-life is no less exciting, with multicolored nudibranchs, pipefish, scorpionfish, and tiny octopus contributing to the rich macro scene. 
 
 
 

Between December and April each year, manta rays and whale sharks stop-off on their migration to feed in the Andaman Sea’s plankton-rich waters. Individuals will often stick around for several weeks, and can regularly be sighted around the outer reefs and atolls.

 
 
The fascinating underwater topography of these islands creates an ethereal backdrop to an exotic aquarium, where granite columns and stacks appear almost fluid in structure, shimmering and melting in the dazzling sunlight that pierces the crystal water. Diving the Similan Islands is a real treat, and one of the most unique and rewarding liveaboards trips you can experience.
 
 

Diving Conditions

  • Water temperature: 83-87°F (28-30°C) year-round.
  • Visibility: Excellent, up to 150ft.
  • Depth Range: Most dives are less than 100ft.
  • Diving Difficulty: There is a range of sites suitable for all levels, and many dives are easy and quite shallow.




BEST Dive Sites  

 

 

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RICHELIEU ROCK

Fifty-five miles north of the Similan Islands, the lonely pinnacle of Richelieu Rock attracts a wealth of marine life to its spectacular corals. This site is regarded as the best dive in Thailand, due to the great diversity of marine life appearing in vast numbers. The rock’s isolated location makes it a magnet for pelagic giants such as whale sharks and mantas, as well as tuna, barracuda, trevally, and turtles. Schooling snapper and glassfish create a constant ebb and flow of movement above the dense coral reefs, which in turn hide octopus, squid, moray eels, and some superb macro.

KOH TACHAI PINNACLE, KO TACHAI (Island 11)

In the furthest reaches of the national park, Ko Tachai Pinnacle is an exciting and challenging site best suited to intermediate and experienced divers. The dive centers around an open-ocean pinnacle and is the best place to spot passing mantas and whale sharks, as well as barracuda and trevally hunting above the granite rocks.

KO BON WEST, KO BON (Island 10)

This island’s limestone walls are coated in a patchwork of colorful soft corals, and a myriad of macro can be found sheltering from strong currents in the cracks and crevices. Ko Bon West is a favorite cleaning station for manta rays, who visit in the late afternoon to rid themselves of pesky parasites.

CHRISTMAS POINT, KO BANGU (Island 9)

Located on the northwest edge of Ko Bangu, a collection of large boulders and quirky rock formations create exciting swim-throughs and tunnels in an incredibly scenic dive. The rocks are covered in soft corals and sea fans, and a coral garden of immense pore and staghorn corals can be found in the shallower waters. Expect to see the resident school of bluefin trevally, giant sweetlips and grouper in the swim-throughs, and firey goby amongst the coral.

ELEPHANT HEAD ROCK, Ko Bayu (Island 7)

Sitting around a mile offshore, the ocean swell and currents around Elephant Head Rock make it another site suited to more experienced divers. The dive itself is a fascinating maze of boulders and caverns, creating hiding places for all manner of species from curious moray eels, to boxer shrimp, octopus, and the spectacular yet sinister lionfish.

WEST OF EDEN & DEEP SIX, KO BAYU (Island 7)

These two sites merge at the northwestern tip of Ko Bayu and are perhaps the most iconic of the Similan Islands’ dive sites. Showcasing the rich and diverse marine life of the Andaman Sea, West of Eden’s large boulders are covered in sea fans, beautiful anemones, feather stars, tube sponges, and soft coral. This gives way to the sloping reef and deeper walls of Deep Six, where pinnacles and rock clusters create a stunning backdrop. Expect to spot rays, moray eels and turtles, pelagics such as dogtooth tuna and giant trevally, and all manner of critters such as frogfish, shrimp and nudibranchs.

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BEST TIME TO DIVE THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

The dive season of mid-October to mid-May coincides with the warmer, drier months on land, and air temperatures can reach the mid-80s (30°C) in April. The best time to spot mantas and whale sharks is between December and April.

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Travel Information 

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How to Get To THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

Several airlines fly from the US to Thailand’s Phuket International Airport (HKT) with a layover in Europe or Asia. Once in Phuket, it’s a 90-minute drive to Khao Lak to pick up the liveaboard.

 

How to Dive THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

The National Park is open from mid-October through to mid-May, and the dive season runs accordingly. Liveaboards generally visit for 4-nights or 7-nights, and some combine a longer trip with a visit to the nearby Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock. Boats tend to depart from Khao Lak on the mainland, but there are also departures from Ranong and Phuket.  

There is a wide range of liveaboard options, from modern motor yachts to a traditional junk. Trips range from laid-back and budget-friendly through to the more luxurious boats of the Aggressor fleet, and everything in between. Meals are often cooked by local chefs, and they are in a Thai style but catering towards western tastes.

Most boats will run 4 dives a day, including one dusk or night dive. There is also the option to snorkel between dives, and the possibility of a land-based excursion to explore the top-side wildlife.

Some Similan Islands trips also include diving in Myanmar, a unique and rarely visited destination.

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OTHER THINGS TO DO IN THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

Most liveaboards will offer at least one land excursion to visit the islands’ tropical interiors. There are many nature trails and viewpoints, and some migratory birds found nowhere else in Thailand can be spotted. The white sandy beaches will take your breath away, and are perfect for an afternoon’s relaxing.

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OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION 

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Thai Baht (THB).
  • Language: Thai. 
  • Time Zone: Indochina Time (GMT+7).
  • Electricity:  230V. 

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LIVEABOARD AVAILABILITY

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Please contact us for the latest availability of the following boats: Diva Andaman, Similan Explorer, MV Hallelujah, Dolphin Queen, Deep Andaman Queen, MV Giamani, DiveRACEMV Oktavia, and MV Pawara.

 

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GOT QUESTIONS? READY TO BOOK?

Call us today at +1-310-915-6677 or email us info@bluewaterdivetravel.com

And let us book your dream vacation!

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Reviews (1)

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I went on a group trip to the Similan and Surin Islands in February of 2017 on the Junk liveaboard. The trip was a really great price, the liveaboard was clean and met basic necessity, and the food and the crew were really great. Overall, I would say that the wildlife in Thailand is very plentiful, although I would not say any of the dive sites particularly blew me away compared to other destinations except for a few: Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon, Hin Daeng, and Hin Muang.

Many of the sites on the Andaman side of Thailand had very interesting underwater structure -- huge boulder reef structures spotted with cup corals -- that were very unique to the destination, but not necessarily worth the price of the trip alone. However, the 4 sites I listed above were absolutely amazing, and these 4 dive sites alone made the entire trip to Thailand worth it, despite some of the other sites being slightly lackluster.

The pinnacles were covered in abundant soft corals that housed numerous nudibranchs playing hide and seek (spotting nudibranchs is one of my favorite diving activities), surrounded by large schools of fish (both over the reef and in the blue), and sheltering abundant seahorses and cephalopods! I could've stayed on those locations to dive for all 10 days, they were so full of life and so vibrant and colorful.

To top it off, I stayed in Thailand for a few extra days to explore the area on land, and spent a few days traveling in Cambodia, as well. The region is so rich with culture and history -- combining these land activities with the beautiful diving made for one of the best trips for the price that I've taken! Don't forget to travel with your best dive buddies to make the trip irresistible:)

Visited on 03/2020 - Submitted on 03/24/2020

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