Similan Islands Diving : All You Need To Know
It is generally regarded that the best scuba diving in Thailand is to be found at The Similan Islands (which includes Koh Tachai & Koh Bon) and Richelieu Rock in the Surin Islands. Some people go by day trip, but Similan Islands live aboard cruises are for sure the best way to enjoy the more than twenty world-class dive sites. Scuba diving in Thailand has been very popular for many years, and takes place on both the east and west coasts of the country. The west coast adjoins the Andaman Sea & Indian Ocean, so this area has more exciting marine life and clearer water. There are lots of Similans liveaboards to choose from, and we have something to fit almost any budget and level of luxury. Trip lengths range from overnight (two days & one night) to more than a week at sea. Similan liveaboard diving can be enjoyed by all levels of scuba diver, from beginner to pro. Some dive sites are easier than others, though. For example, Koh Tachai Island is known for its currents, and Richelieu Rock diving is considered one of the best in the world, but is in open sea far from land. If you want to know more about how best to enjoy Similan Islands diving, keep reading.
Similan Islands diving is the best diving Thailand has to offer, but when referring to the Similan Islands we are including Richelieu Rock Thailand, and Koh Tachai Thailand. Visitors usually need to know more information before making a decision or booking. Common questions include the following.
How long are Similan liveaboard trips?
Overnight Similan liveaboard trips
2 Day 1 night liveaboard cruises are very popular, with a morning departure from Khao Lak & return to Khao Lak the next afternoon. Staying in Phuket is not an option for these trips. Divers get up to 6 dives at different locations.
2 night Similan liveaboard trips
Diving cruises of 2 nights may depart in the morning or evening, but always from Khao Lak. They normally either go to just The Similans, The Similans & Koh Bon, or just to the northern dive sites of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock.
3 night Similan liveaboard trips
Diving trips that are 3 nights on a liveaboard may depart in the morning or evening just like the 2 night trips, but always from Khao Lak. They normally either go to just The Similans, The Similans & Koh Bon, or just to the northern dive sites of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock.
4 night Similan liveaboard trips
The most-common trip length is 4 Day 4 Night liveaboard. They always depart in the evening, sometimes from Phuket, but usually from Khao Lak. These trips are long enough for guests to enjoy all of the best diving sites.
5 nights and more - Similan liveaboard trips
These longer trips enable every good dive site to be visited and some to be dived more than once. They depart in the evening from Phuket or Khao Lak, and give you the best of everything.
Trip lengths vary from short Similan liveaboard cruises of one night up to one week on board. 4 days & 4 nights is the most-popular length of Similan live aboard trip.
How much does a Similan live aboard cost?
Budget Similan live aboard
The cheapest trips are still a lot of fun and offer sufficient comfort. Share an air-conditioned cabin with like-minded travellers and enjoy lots of great food & fun. $170US/day & night is a good example of your all-in cost.
Mid-Range Similan live aboard
Between budget and luxury levels we have mid-range boats that have more privacy and space, including some en suite private bathrooms. These trips tend to have fewer divers than the budget boats when compared to the size of the vessel. Organisation is usually better, too.
Luxury Similan liveaboard cruises
The most-luxurious cruises pamper guests with larger cabins that have private bathrooms. Plus the boats have air-conditioned lounge saloons and the food and service is better than the less expensive options.
The price of your Similan live aboard will depend on several things. These include the length of trip, the level of luxury on the boat, and which kind of cabin you choose to stay in. Thailand scuba diving is generally regarded as among the best value in the world, considering all factors. Similan Islands liveaboard trips can be divided into three price/luxury groups.
Who can dive on a Thailand liveaboard?
Absolute Beginners on a Thailand liveaboard
If you have never dived before, it’s a big commitment to learn while on a Thailand liveaboard. Although possible, we recommend learning to dive before going so far out to sea.
Novice divers on a Thailand liveaboard
Liveaboard trips are ideal to improve your skills and maybe do the advanced course. There will be experienced divers on the boat, but they will dive in other groups, and probably offer you some help and advice.
A Thailand liveaboard is ideal for experienced divers
Intermediate & advanced divers make up most of our Thailand liveaboard guests. They know what they’re doing and they know what they want. They can do the more challenging dives, but they still get a kick out of the easy dives, too
Professional divers also join Thailand liveaboards
Even diving professionals on vacation join our trips. They are excellent guests to have on board, and they often help out by pointing out some special species.
Scuba diving in Thailand offers warm clear water, lots of marine life, inexpensive accommodation options, and something for every level of scuba diver. For getting a scuba diving certification Thailand is extremely popular, but most of this is cheap PADI Open Water course deals on Koh Tao. Any level of certified scuba diver can join any of our liveaboard Similan Islands trips.
When is the best to go Similan Islands diving?
Similan Islands diving peak season
December to March is the best time of year to come, due to ideal weather and sea conditions. Manta Rays are more-commonly seen at Koh Bon in March than in any other month.
Similan Islands diving high season
November & April are still excellent times to enjoy Similan Islands diving, but the weather or sea may be slightly unpredictable.
Similan Islands diving at the start & end of the season
It’s possible to dive at the Similans during the final two weeks of October and the first two weeks of May. But sometimes the weather is overcast or rainy. Also, high waves or a lack of guests causes some trips to be cancelled.
Closed for Similan Islands diving
From May 15th-October 15th the national marine parks are closed to all public activity. It is against local law to go out to the islands during this period.
The Thailand diving season is all year round. But the better dive sites are usually located in national marine parks, which close during the months of the Indian Ocean monsoon.
Liveaboard Similan Dive Sites
The Similan Islands
This area is a small archipelago of 8-9 uninhabited islands, a few of which have pristine sandy beaches. However, only two beaches are open to the public. Diving is possible by all levels of diver, and best enjoyed on a liveaboard Thailand cruise more than a day trip. Similan Islands diving is very good, but the northern sites are more exciting.
Koh Bon & Koh Tachai
These are two small islands north of the Similans. Most liveaboard Similan trips visit Koh Bon and sometimes Koh Tachai. Day trips are possible. Koh Tachai’s beach is closed to the public and Koh Bon has no beach. Manta Rays are often seen at Koh Bon. These islands aren’t ideal for novices, but Open Water divers with 20+ logged dives will be very happy.
This offers the best scuba diving Thailand has. Millions of fish and other animals are there all year, and Whale Sharks are seen from time to time. For Whale Shark diving Thailand is among the best countries in Asia. Scuba diving in Thailand doesn’t get any better than at Richelieu Rock. Usually visited on the final day of a liveaboard Similian trip, Richelieu Rock diving is truly awesome.
For the very best scuba diving Thailand has to offer, it’s important to visit the top dive sites, and all of these are on the west coast, not far from the border with Myanmar. There are a few main areas, divided in different ways by different people. Officially, The Similan Islands National Marine Park contains the 8 or 9 Similan Islands, plus Koh Bon & Koh Tachai. And The Surin National Marine Park has the Surin Islands & Richelieu Rock. But most people in the business divide the area into ‘The Similans’ & ‘The Northern Sites’ (Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock)
Choosing the Best Boat
When choosing liveaboards Similans & the northern sites there are many options. It’s important to know which is most important to you out of the price, when you plan to go, & how long you want to be at sea. Plus what level of luxury is important, or how much luxury you’re prepared to sacrifice. All of our Similan liveaboard boats' cabins are air conditioned, and they all include full-board accommodation. But some people want more luxury while others want to focus on the price. Use our date search feature to get a selection of trips then use the special filter to include only what’s important to you.
Where else to go for the Best Diving in Thailand
Thailand liveaboard diving isn’t restricted to The Similan Islands. There are some excellent dive spots on the other side of Phuket. Hin Daeng & Koh Haa are perfect for short Thailand liveaboard cruises. They are not far from Phuket & Koh Phi Phi diving sites. These trips, which include Koh Phi Phi scuba diving, are usually referred to as a Phuket liveaboard. Some people get confused about Phuket for diving and diving Similan Islands. Although Phuket has some good dive sites, they are normally visited on day trips. Phuket Airport is the main arrival point for Similan Island liveaboard guests. And this is why there is often confusion about where to go, stay, and dive at. From Phuket to Similan Islands can be done directly by boat, but is normally done by a land transfer to Khao Lak first. So, there are a couple of ways to get to The Similan Islands from Phuket but it’s important to check schedules, itineraries and ports/harbours before booking a hotel for or after your Similan liveaboard. Thailand diving is a wonderful experience, and it just depends on which factors are most important to you to choose the best trip.
Diving in Myanmar
Scuba diving in Thailand is easy, excellent and popular, but just over the border lies the Mergui Archipelago, in what used to be known as Burma. Myanmar diving trips tend to be a minimum of 5 days, and usually a week long. Although these trips are in Myanmar, they start and finish in Thailand, usually Ranong or Khao Lak. Diving Thailand is more popular than in Myanmar, but the latter is becoming asked for by our guests more every year. Many want to see a Manta Ray or Whale Shark, which is what this area is famous for. It’s important to make sure you’re aware of the visa requirements and diving permit fees to join these trips.