Two hours from Pukhet and Krabi, easily accessible by bus or train from Bangkok, in south of Thailand, a paradise area offering amazing white sand beach, turquoise water and plam trees surrounded by karst formations, Khao Lak is also the departure point to the Similan Islands.
Wait, but what are the Similan Islands ?
The Similan Islands are an archipelago of nine paradisiac islands situaded around 50km west of Khao Lak, and protected as a National Park. The marine reserve built a reputation on two things : postcards-like beaches and scuba diving spots, which are amongst the best in the world. And that’s for those last ones that we came there ! To celebrate our 2 birthdays, Christmas and our 10 year anniversary together, we booked a 4 nights, 4 days, 15 dives cruise ! And during this time we’ll also pass our PADI second level : Advanced Diver !
The scuba diving cruise in the Similan Islands
A lot of scuba diving clubs propose you to book a cruise in the Similan Islands, but not all of them possess their own boats, and one name came up more often than others during our researches : Khaolak Scuba Adventures. They own the biggest fleet of the region and have a nice reputation about the quality of service they offer. As a bonus, as they are a big company, they have a lot of dive masters who can speak different languages, from French to Russian, by Spanish, Hungarian, German, and more…
So we boarded on the Manta Queen 3, the biggest boat of the fleet, that can host 31 divers, plus the crew, plus the dive masters. For that cruise, we’ll end up beeing only 21, lucky us ! We even had a cabin just for ourselves ! The boat is made of 3 decks studied for the life aboard during a scuba diving cruise. Up on the roof is the sun deck, with a shady area, perfect for relaxing or getting a tan between two dives. In the middle is the Saloon and the eating area. That’s where the briefings are done and where we relax/study/work (when we pass some certifications like us). And down, at water level, are the cabins and the diving deck where is stored all the diving equipement ! The size of the ship is big enough to let everyone some room and you don’t feel squeezed as if you were in a dinghy. On board, everything is included in the price of the cruise : food, snacks, tea and coffee, … You pay only for sodas and beers.
The rythm of the cruise is quite intense, but everything is made for our comfort. At dawn, the day starts with a quick snack, then it’s time for the first dive. When we’re back breakfast is waiting for us ! Then it’s time to dive again, and when we come up lunch is served. OK, now what about another dive and then having snacks ? And finally, when dusk arrive we end up the day with a last dive before having dinner. And between all of this, there is always some snacks, cereals, coffee, fruits, amazing totally addictive cookies and more at your disposal around the boat.
It’s all perfect to make us appreaciat that cruise, and as their slogan says : « Dive, eat, sleep, repeat ! »
Scuba diving in the Similan Islands
The first thing that the crew will tell you is that a huge part of the corals within the national park has been damaged by the global warming. So the shallow water is quite « dead », but still full of small marine life. The most interessing diving sites are deep ones, and you need to be at least Advanced Diver to enjoy it (or like us to get your certification during the cruise). Then we are split in groups with people of the same level than us (Open Water, Advanced Divers, Deep Divers, Nitrox Divers, …). We won’t be more than 4 per group ! A nice point to enjoy the dives without feeling like your swiming in a jacuzzi.
First dives of the day are at sunrise, with the low golden sun rays. This time a day fishes are hunting, eating, swimming… Every single fish is out ! Then are two dives during the day, most of the time with a 2 or 3 hours long break between. And finally, a last dive close the day at sunset time. Magic !
We can find 2 main kind of sites in the Similan Islands :
- Big round granit boulders, on sites with a medium depth, but full of tunnels, caves and an amazing visual ambiance. Big fishes and hunters are there, but not that much corals.
- Limestones rocky formations with deeper depth, and a lot of marine life, full of little creatures and corals : shrimps, seahorses, crabs, nudibranchs (including the rare velvet coriocella), but also big fishes !
But, most of all, the Similan Islands have some first class guest stars, who help to built the amazing reputation of the archipelago ! We are talking about huge creatures, the ones that makes every divers dream… The national park is indeed on the route of Manta rays and young whalesharks ! It’s not rare to see them cruising around. At nearly every cruise, the crew can tell you they saw one or the other, or for the luckiest both of them ! Concerning our cruise, we had the chance to meet a young female whaleshark around 6m long ! But the big (but still a lot smaller) hunters are here too : parrot fish, humpback parrot fish, napoleons, angels, emperors, barracudas, clowns, lions, scorpions, octopusses, morays, and more… It’s a real aquarium down there !
During our 15 dives, the cruise ship took us into around 10 different sites including a mining platform wreck, and 3 dives at the famous Richelieu rock where there is the more chance to spot Mantas and whalesharks. We also did a night dive, and a drift dive (that we unfortunately failed by the way…)
What do we think about it
Perfect should be the word we could use to describe that experience ! During those 4 days and 4 nights everything was made to make us comfortable and at ease. Nothing to think about, more food than what we could have eaten, and most important over all : amazing underwater environment ! And if we have to consider the price of the cruise compared to the quality of service and the number of dives, it’s pretty cheap !
Only one bad remark about that trip must be made about the over the top/super commercial/boring speech from the cruise director (who, otherwise, has been absolutely perfect during the whole rest of the cruise), trying to sell us every kind of things at the end of the cruise on the way back to the harbor. From T-Shirt of the club, to pictures of the Similan Islands and PDF guides of the sites we dived on, a promo price if we book another cruise now, and a lot of useless things and goodies… It was long and too insistent. He even ask for tips ! So that whole thing was too much ! But we guess it was part of his job…
Informations pratiques :
- Khaolak Scuba Adventures
13/47 Moo 7, T. Khuk Khak, A. Takuapa 82190 Phang Nga, THAILAND
Dive Center Tel: +66 (0)76 485 602 ou 662
Oct – May : 09:00 – 19:00
Jun – Sep : 10:00 – 17:00
- The club has 6 different boats that can take 16 to 31 divers onboard.
They propose 2 kinds of cruise over 3 days and 3 nights or over 4 days and 4 nights, but also day trips in the Similan Islands.
For 3 days and 3 nights, the price they proposed us was 15000B/p
For 4 days and 4 nights, the price they proposed us was 20000B/p
- It’s also possible de get your PADI certification with the full courses, or refreshing dives in a swimming pool if you didn’t dive since a long time.
Price for a refreshing dive was 2000B/p
We paid 8600B for the Advanced Diver course and certification during the cruise, including the rent of the dive computers which are not included in the cruise normally (but every other equipement is).
All the underwater pictures of this article has been taken by Philipp Bilsky during the same cruise than us, and edited by us.