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Choosing the Best Diving Day Trips to the Similan Islands & Richelieu Rock

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Blue-Spotted-Singray-and-diverBlue Spotted Singray (Neotrygon kuhlii) and diver Photo by Ola WelinThere are several different ways to enjoy day trip diving at The Similan Islands. And when we say ‘Similan Islands’ we are actually referring to the small archipelago of that name as well as the uninhabited islands of Koh Bon & Koh Tachai and Thailand’s best diving site, the submerged pinnacle known as Richelieu Rock. The three different ways of travelling out to Thailand’s best diving sites for a day trip are by speedboat, larger diving boat, and by catamaran. Each has its own advantages over the other two, and we’re proud to be able options of all three.

Being located 60km out to sea, The Similan Islands are not the most convenient place to take a day trip in Thailand. Also, with Phuket being more popular with tourists than Khao Lak, this distance is even greater for most people who want to enjoy a day trip diving at The Similan Islands in Thailand. However, the distant location means that there are very few people out there, and no pollution, noise, hawkers and usually not even a cell phone signal. Therefore, this almost untouched natural habitat and national marine park reservation is home to thousands of wonderful species of marine life.

Blue-DolphinBlue Dolphin speedboatVisiting The Similan Islands for a diving day trip can be done on a speedboat, which is the fastest way and means getting returning to one’s hotel sooner. Speedboats such as Blue Dolphin can reach most dive sites in less than 60 minutes, and even get to Richelieu Rock in just over an hour. This is excellent news for those who just want to get in the water to dive, and don’t like spending too much time on the boat. Although it’s all about speed, day trips on Blue Dolphin are still safe, comfortable and lots of fun. Some divers are taking part in a PADI or SSI diving course, or breathing enriched air (Nitrox), but most of the 16 on board are recreational scuba divers looking for the best diving in Thailand without wasting time getting there. In addition, the prices for Blue Dolphin are extremely competitive. Another speedboat which offer to take guests on Similan diving day trips is Nawanoppa, and this particular trip is something very special. Guests are taken on this fast and safe speedboat across the sea in usually just over an hour. However, the diving does not take place from Nawanoppa, and nor is lunch eaten aboard. The speedboat meets MV Camic, one of our most popular liveaboard diving boats that stays out at sea. Guests transfer onto the liveaboard and enjoy two day dives and a surface interval, with freshly-cooked Thai and western food served buffet style. Unlike some other boats, where lunch is prepared in the morning or even the night before and taken out in boxes and packages, Nawanoppa guests enjoy a proper meal on a large and stable boat, then have space to move around and even visit a beach on certain days. Prices are very competitive, and the weekly schedule covers all of the best diving sites in the area, including Richelieu Rock on Sundays. Whichever Similan diving speedboat daytrip you choose, you certainly won’t waste any time getting there and back, which gives you more time to enjoy the rest of your diving holiday in Thailand. Travelling by single-hull speedboat is certainly the quickest way to reach the Similan Islands, Koh Bon & Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock.

MV-Nam-SaiMV Nam SaiFor some though, racing against time is far less important, especially when on vacation. The fish don’t know what the time is, and they are out there all day and night, so why rush out to see them? Taking things at a more leisurely pace, while enjoying the advantages of a larger and more stable boat, is more appealing to a lot of our guests. Also, prices for Similan day trips on a diving boat are lower than on a fast boat. Large boats such as Nam Sai return to land a little later than the faster boats, but the whole experience is far more relaxing, with plenty of room to walk about the boat, sit down at a proper table for lunch or a drink and have a conversation without having to shout. Diving guests still get to enjoy two full-length dives of up to an hour, and a surface interval to relax alone or with each other, or even take a dinghy trip to a beach or snorkel around the boat. Some people want to minimize travelling time, but when on vacation a guarantee of being back on land before dark is usually all most Similan Islands day trip divers are interested in. Nam Sai trips are pleasant from start to finish, including sailing across the crystal-clear waters of the Andaman Sea. Guests can arrive at the dive centre in Khao Lak, or meet the boat at the pier, whichever is most convenient for them.

MV-StingrayMV Stingray catamaranFor those who want the best compromise between speed and comfort, there is the option of a catamaran diving daytrip to The Similan Islands. The best of both worlds is to minimize time on board travelling out to Thailand’s best diving sites while at the same time enjoying the stability of a boat which has two hulls. Our most popular Similan diving day trip boats are Wet Cat and Stingray. These two vessels should not be referred to as speedboats, because they are so much more than that. Stingray is a purpose-built boat which can take up to thirty guests in comfort and at speed to The Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and a local wreck. At 7 metres wide, Stingray is wider than many liveaboard boats and her 23 metre length is also comparable with some too. Everyone on board is treated to food and drinks (alcohol can be bought after the final dive of the day) and there’s plenty of room to gear up, enter the water and join in small groups around the boat. Trips tend to focus on the Similan Islands, with one day at Koh Bon and a day offering three dives; Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Premchai Wreck. The management is German, and they take a great deal of pride in the quality and condition of the equipment they offer for rent as well as every other aspect of each day’s trip. In addition, those travelling from Phuket on the morning of the trip can meet the boat at the pier in Khao Lak, providing that the paperwork can be dealt with over the phone, fax or email beforehand. Children are welcome and it’s a great day out for everyone.

wet-catWet Cat is slightly smaller than Stingray, but is extremely popular and, after the modifications of summer 2014, is guaranteed to be even more of a hit for this season. This boat sails from the pier to the north of Khao Lak and only visits the best dive sites of Thailand; Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai & Koh Bon. The boat is also owned and run by a small German team, which ensures excellent organization in every detail. So much so, that guests are asked to check in, in person, for equipment and paperwork the afternoon before diving. This may sound a little inconvenient, but it guarantees that on the day of each trip, everything is prepared, and delays and disappointment are almost unheard of. Diving equipment rental is great value and, just like on Stingray, we have 100% positive customer feedback for our guests which have dived from this boat. Prices on these two wonderful vessels are not that much more than diving at The Similans and ‘Northern Sites’ from a speedboat, but the level of comfort is far greater.

So, with so much choice scuba diving day trips at The Similan Islands, in the end it comes down to personal preference, and sometimes the available budget. The diving boats are the least expensive, and guests have more time to enjoy the free food, snacks and drinks on board. Spending a little more money gets the journey time cut in half, or less, freeing up more holiday time. Finally, a balance of speed and comfort, even at a slightly higher cost, can see guests enjoy the best of both worlds on a high-speed catamaran.

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