The best choice of & value Similan, Richelieu Rock and Surin dive trips
People all over the world are looking for somewhere new, somewhere different and unexplored. Tropical islands in paradise are usually the things of dreams, and very difficult to become reality. Decades ago the Mediterranean and Caribbean had virgin islands which were undeveloped and never visited by international tourists. Nowadays, however, every beach and bay of every island in such areas has been exploited by locals, entrepreneurs, developers, and investors. Other than the 17,200 islands of Indonesia, there really isn’t anywhere left in the world that can be called ‘unexplored’ or ‘new’ to tourism. As exciting and interesting that Indonesia’s islands are, the country’s still developing and has quite a long way to go with regards to infrastructure, including transport, and safety.
Not far from Indonesia is Thailand. Although much of Thailand’s coastline and islands have been discovered, developed and exploited, sometimes too much, there are still a few places to really feel away from everyone else. The Gulf of Thailand has very few secrets remaining, but Koh Kud (Kood) is still quite ‘out of the way’ and very undeveloped. Most of the new places are in the far south of Thailand’s west coast. Koh Lipe and Koh Tarutao have recently followed the ways of Koh Mook (Muk), but sadly all habitable islands, even those within National Marine Park Boundaries, fall victim to a certain amount of profiteering and even some mafia-controlled price fixing. Admittedly, getting electricity and supplies to the island, and keeping them cool and fresh all costs more than on the mainland, but some Thai islands are unnecessarily expensive just because they can be. Although not one of the newest tropical island locations the Similan Islands Thailand is still paradise with all the right boxes ticked.
The Similan Islands are in a National Marine Park and protected by the Thai authorities. This goes as far as them being completely closed to the public between the middle of May and late October each year. Adding to the real protection of the islands’ beauty and ecosystems is the fact that a few of the Similan Islands in the south of the group are owned and used by members of the royal family. Finally, The Similan Islands Thailand are considered better value than many other new or virgin islands in the country simply because the local mafia can’t and don’t control and raise the prices of everything. It’s a sad truth that local ‘influential figures’ have a large say in the prices of such tourist necessities as transport in Phuket and Phi Phi (tuk tuks, taxis and longtail boats respectively). There is even a government crackdown on scams in Phuket in an attempt to increase the number of happy tourists and stop driving people away. Luckily, The Similan Islands Thailand has no such problems. Although Thai law states that each company must have a locally-owned majority, the businesses which run tours out to the Similan Islands are usually controlled and part-owned by Westerners who understand how to look after their customers and the paradise they visit. They are extremely well run and know how to treat tourists well enough for them to want to return. Most importantly, there is very little of the ‘price fixing’ which is prevalent among dive centres on Koh Phi Phi. Each boat which takes passengers and guests out to the Similan Islands Thailand is different in some way to all the others. The variety of trips is also an issue. Because of these factors, trips to The Similan Islands are competitively priced because each company wants the business. No, they’re not cheap, but one must consider that they include air-conditioned accommodation and all meals for every guest. Once these have been accounted for, each dive is actually less expensive than local dives on day trip dive boats. And the underwater experiences are certainly much more exhilarating.
So, what is there to see at the Similan Islands Thailand? The small archipelago of eight islands is 60 kilometres west of Thailand’s Phang Nga province and therefore a two-hour trip by speedboat or a night’s cruise on a larger vessel. One of the islands has a few wooden huts and there are some tents. This is the only accommodation there and it is controlled by the national park rangers and staff. In fact, most visitors sleep on whichever boat they came on, but some just come for a day trip. The Similan Islands Thailand are a mixture of small and very small islands, some of which have bays and beaches, along with some small jungles and rainforests. Most visitors come to scuba dive or snorkel in the crystal-clear turquoise waters which have colourful and healthy reefs teeming with life. Snorkellers can enjoy swimming with lots of colourful reef fish as well as turtles, sea snakes and cuttlefish. Divers are able to go deeper and are likely to see Barracuda, Snapper, Triggerfish, Moray Eels, octopuses, crustaceans and sharks. The two most popular fish that people come to see at the Similan Islands Thailand are Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. These giant filter feeders are completely harmless and swimming with either is a truly unforgettable experience. There really are some great things to see and enjoy out at the Similan Islands, and it’s all the better for not being developed or exploited at all. Take a trip there, before it’s too late.