Diving in the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock is the best Thailand scuba diving on offer. The topography of the dive sites is varied, the water is crystal clear and sometimes the Similan Islands can be full of surprises.
The diving season is from mid October to end of April!
From May to mid October the Similan National Marine Park is closed and entering within these months is illegal and also highly dangerous because of the prevailing weather conditions!
In the past couple of years a lot of attention has been drawn to the current conditions of the Similan Islands. To a small extent the 2004 Tsunami, but more importantly the South East Asian coral bleaching of 2010 has had a dramatic effect on Thailand's dive sites in general leaving some areas in a depressing and sad state. The Similan Islands, once hailed as one of the top ten dive destinations in the world has lost some of it's shine in recent years.
Few Similan dive sites escaped the bleaching unscathed. Unregulated and unsustainable commercial fishing is also taking its toll on the Andaman Sea area as a whole and there are clear signs of a dramatic fall in shark and manta ray sightings. Nevertheless, you will be hard pressed to find better diving on offer in Thailand especially if you include the more remote and lesser known dive sites, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock which most Similan liveaboards include on their itinerary.
Not wanting to gloss over facts, the marine ecosystem, especially here in Southeast Asia is under considerable pressure. However there were signs of improvement in the 2011/2012 diving season with a lot of new coral growth observed. Whether this is only short term or long term remains to be seen.
We logged many breathtaking dives during this season, you just have to know where the good spots are. Guests were often surprised as to the amount of reef fish at many places as well having the opportunity to dive with Manta rays at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. Richelieu Rock remains in a class of it's own and is still worth it's world's top ten ranking. Unfortunately guide books, PADI and other websites are slow to react to changes in conditions and reports of frequent whale shark sightings at Richelieu Rock should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Whale sharks, sadly, no longer orbit Richelieu Rock like satellites. The Andaman Sea and especially the Similan Islands has seen a dramatic fall in whale shark sightings over the last few years, along with sightings of white and black tip reef sharks, nurse sharks and leopard sharks.
As long as you are well informed and have a realistic idea of what to expect, not relying on false promises made by many operators and you dive with experienced dive guides, you can certainly have exciting and thrilling dives in the Similan Islands.
Since 2010, there are many bad reviews and comments about diving in the Similan Islands on various scuba forums. Most of these reports are authentic, underwater deserts do exist, but there are still some areas that are largely intact. These tend to be for more advanced divers and led by the experienced dive guides. Reports on great dives since 2010 can also be found on the Internet and in equal in numbers. So what can you expect from diving in the Similan Islands?
If you are a novice diver, diving the Similan Islands is often a wonderful experience. Many of the sites offer easy diving conditions, crystal clear water and the good chance to see firm favourites such as turtles, anemone fish, moray eels, stingrays, pufferfish, lion fish, batfish and occasionally larger pelagic species such as barracuda and trevally. If you include diving at Koh Bon which is often included in a weekly Similans schedule then there is a good chance to see Giant manta rays at certain times of the season. The diversity of dive site types is a strong point of the Similan Islands. Gentle sloping coral reefs form on the east side of the islands, while rocky reefs dominate the west sides. There are also a number of submerged pinnacles that form dramatic underwater seascapes and create adventurous dives through caves and swim throughs which adds appeal for more experienced divers.
If you are a more experienced diver or have already logged a lot of dives at some of the world's great locations (e.g. the Red Sea) you may find diving at the Similan Islands not quite what you expected. Apart from notable Similan dive sites such as Elephant Head Rock, Christmas Point and West of Eden you will find the dive sites to the north of the Similan Islands more fitting to your experience level and expectations. Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock are more advanced dive sites and due to positioning and stronger currents offer a better chance to see larger marine life. Manta ray sightings, although on the decline are frequent at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, especially between the months of January and March. Whale sharks do occasionally pass by Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. Abundant soft corals and sea fans coupled with large quantities of fish life and larger pelagic species set Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock in a much higher class of diving.
Do not expect to be alone at the Similan Islands. With all guide books, internet sites and local operators selling the Similan Islands as one of Thailand's top destinations you will find the islands and dive sites crowded. Unless your Similan Island trip includes divers, snorkelers or beach lovers in one group, avoid trips to the Similan Islands offering all activities from only the one large vessel, otherwise you will be snorkelling at dive spots or diving snorkelling spots whilst feeling the tremendous time pressure to complete your planned day! Thailand Dive and Sail recommend trips that separate their diving and snorkelling activities, with fast transfers to the Islands and also offering weekly schedules that include the better diving at Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. Boats offering only a Similan Island and Koh Bon weekly schedule are not offering you the best of the Andaman Sea area.
Our photo blog, updated daily, gives a perfect overview of what you can expect to see diving the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. You can browse the photos by serval categories including by dive sites, by locations and by fish common names and species names.
If you plan your diving activities to be conducted as day trips, Thailand Dive and Sail recommend the following trips for the scuba diver who wants to get the most out of their limited time in Khao Lak.
A day trip to Richelieu Rock must top the list. This is by far Thailand's premiere dive site. We offer a fantastic speedboat day trip to Richelieu Rock. Diving from our speedboat limits the number of divers jumping in at the same time whilst every attempt is made to jump in at different times from the busy live aboard schedule operated at Richelieu. Fast transfers to and from Richelieu Rock means a later pick-up time in the morning and an earlier arrival back at you hotel.
A day trip to either Koh Bon or Koh Tachai to hopefully dive with larger marine species such as Manta Rays. Thailand Dive and Sail offer a speedboat trip which visits both of these top destinations in one dive day.
A local dive trip to the amazing Boonsung Wreck, just off Khao Lak's coastline. Thailand Dive and Sail offer a true Thai diving experience to the wreck. Our traditional longtail boat departs directly from one of the areas most beautiful white sandy beaches and takes a mere 30 minutes to reach the dive site. Although the visibility is often not as clear as the islands further out in the Andaman Sea, the quantity and quality of the fish life there is surpassed only by Richelieu Rock. Experience has shown us that the wreck is regularly quoted as one of the best dives on offer.
If you have the time, by far the best way to maximise your dive time in the area is on a Similan Island Liveaboard. You get the chance to see the Similan Islands at quieter times of the day and spend some time on the beaches there before heading north to the better dive sites. Most live aboard trips are four day/four nights although Thailand Dive and Sail also offer flexible two, three, four and five day trips. Read more about Similan Island liveaboards.
"We had a great day out with Thailand Dive & Sail for my boyfriend's birthday. We were picked up from our hotel in the morning and taken to White Sand beach. I happened to mention to Ric at Thailand Dive & Sail that it was my boyfriend's birthday and Ric had arranged a birthday cake for the morning! A lovely surprise and great start to the day. The longtail boat departed from White Sand beach which was fantastic as it is a nice and easy departure from a beautiful sandy beach (all the other diving boats depart from Taplamu which is a busy, noisy port). We had two great dives at the Boonsung wreck and Ric was an excellent dive guide. We saw loads of fish life including morays, cuttlefish, ornate ghost pipefish, unusual nudibranches, barracuda, trevallies etc. We were also treated to delicious food for lunch on the boat - just what you need when you're diving! The day ended with drinks on the beach. What a perfect day. Would highly recommend diving at the Boonsung wreck with Thailand Dive & Sail and will definitely be back for another trip."★★★★★ by DXCLondon 03.12.2011 0.3