Thailand’s Diving Paradise – and How Best to Enjoy It

manta-raysDiving at Thailand’s Similan Islands is a wonderful experience. To be near enough to the mainland to feel safe but far enough away to feel in paradise is just a fraction of the pleasure of diving cruises there. The small archipelago of nine uninhabited islands is 60 kilometres west of Phang Nga, and home to some very special marine life which comes in all shapes and sizes. The diving sites are varied and offer challenging diving along with some easy enough for a first ever dive for absolute beginners. However, most who visit this hidden paradise are already certified PADI divers and looking for deeper or more exciting underwater experiences.
scuba-diving-tripsThe western shores of the Similan Islands are exposed to the Andaman Sea, which soon becomes the Indian Ocean. The diving sites mostly consist of huge granite boulders, most covered with algae and attracting vast amounts of fish and other creatures. The clarity of the water is usually crystal clear, which further improves the feeling of being somewhere very special. Whale shark encounters and visits by manta rays are commonly reported, mostly on the western side of The Similans, as well as the northernmost tip and dives sites known as Boulder City and Shark Fin Reef in the south.
In among the islands and on the archipelago’s eastern side, the reefs are sheltered from sea and weather conditions, resulting in better colour and more corals. Here the underwater scenery is out of this world. East of Eden is one of the most famous and beautiful diving sites in Asia and has recently been re-opened by the authorities. Marine reptiles, such as turtles and snakes are seen on most days, and the reef fish are too numerous to list. From tiny frogfish to Napoleon Wrasse and giant moray eels, there really is something for everyone to get excited about.
The-Junk-Similans-divingSome people want to enjoy the comfort of their hotel beds so they take day trips to the Similans. However, the 60 kilometres needs to be covered by speedboat, and then back again at the end of the day’s diving. Due to there being so many exciting and colourful dive sites out there, just two dives a day is often not enough. The physiological facts of scuba diving insist on long surface intervals between dives, especially deep dives. Therefore, squeezing in three dives, with the journeys from and to the mainland, into a day trip is impossible. Day trip boats visit every day throughout the diving season (Oct-May) but there’s only enough time for two dives.
The best way to enjoy Similan Island diving is to live on the boat. This may sound extreme, but there are twenty or more cruise boats which are specially designed for scuba diving and available to suit all budgets. Similans liveaboard cruises start at approximately $600, but include air-conditioned accommodation and three healthy filling meals per day. It really is the best way to appreciate this wonderful diving paradise in The Andaman Sea.


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