As one of the top diving areas in the world, the Similan Islands in Thailand boast impressive marine biodiversity and are almost exclusively reachable by liveaboard.
Similan Islands liveaboards
The Similan Islands consist of 9 granite islands located 40 miles (65km) off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. There are no dive resorts on the islands because they have been protected as a marine park since 1982. Diving in the Similan Islands is almost exclusively possible by liveaboard. Most of the liveaboard cruises in the Similan Islands last between 2 and 7 nights.
Diviac offers 7 high-quality liveaboards for online booking. The Junk and the SY Diva Andaman are both sailing vessels built in a traditional, wooden style. While these boats can be a bit noisy when compared to steel vessels, the luxury and style of their interiors woo divers. On the other hand, the Thailand Aggressor and the MV Andaman Queen are both steel-hulled ships with an emphasis on service. Finally, the Flying Seahorse and the Marco Polo offer dive safaris for budget-conscious divers.
The Similan Islands are most popular among lovers of colorful coral reefs and big marine life. The strong currents and deep channels off their west coast attract whale sharks and manta rays during scuba diving season. In addition, the reef life is fantastic. On a good trip, you might spot giant trevally, scorpion fish, mantis shrimp, blue-spotted rays and cleaner shrimp.
Dive sites in the Similan Islands can be split into two categories. The first are found along the eastern edge of the islands. These boast (mostly) healthy coral reefs, pristine visibility and weak current. On the other hand, the dive sites found along the western edge of the islands feature steep drop-offs, heavy current and the opportunity to spot the aforementioned pelagic species. Don’t expect to see many wrecks in the Similan Islands. The dive sites are almost exclusively coral reefs and drifts among walls and boulders.
Some of the dive sites in the Similan Islands are suitable to beginners while other should be reserved for advanced divers due to their depths and heavy currents. It’s best to check with the dive operator regarding the necessary level for a specific itinerary.
BEST TIME TO GO
November to May
The best time to dive in the Similan Islands is from November to May.
The islands are only open during these months. From June to October, local authorities close access to the Similan Islands because of the monsoon season and for conservation purposes.
Within the period from November to May, several important events occur for optimal diving. In February, currents increase, attracting several pelagic species such as whale sharks and manta rays.
Also during November to May, you can expect sea temperatures of 79 to 84°F (26 to 29°C). These warm temperatures mean that most likely you’ll be comfortable in a 3mm shorty or full wetsuit.
Because of the remote location afforded to the Similan Islands, visibility is very good on average. While visibility can change from west to east, more than likely it will fall within the 82-130 feet (25-40m) range.
Finally, surface conditions in the Similan Islands are generally stable from November to May. Dive site moorings are protected from the ocean open, and the journey to the islands is fairly easy during non-monsoon months.
There are two main departure ports for Similan Islands liveaboards. The first is Chalong Pier in Phuket while the second, and more popular port, is Thap Lamu Pier in Khao Lak.
The most popular airport to fly into is Phuket International Airport. Some liveaboard operators provide transfers to and from the airport. Other liveaboards will require that you make your way to the port on your own accord.