Most divers’ first ever dive is an Introduction Dive, officially called ‘Discover Scuba Diving,’ and referred to in the industry as a DSD or Intro. Then those people who enjoy the DSD and want to dive again usually take the short course known as Open Water Diver. After completing the Open Water Course, divers can usually enjoy scuba diving around the world, normally with a Divemaster guide leading the way along the reef. This page discusses DSDs at Thailand’s Similan Islands, not taking the Open Water course. From October 2018 it is no longer possible to do a Discovery Dive at The Similans.
Although some people decide to learn to dive at The Similan Islands Thailand, most people who join the trips are already certified to dive. Even fewer take part in DSDs at the Similans. The main reason for there being mostly already-certified divers at The Similans is the distance from the mainland. The islands are more than an hour by speedboat and on average 4-5 hours by liveaboard boat. People who have never dived before tend to prefer to stay near land for their first underwater experience. Also, the high cost of fuel means that learning to scuba dive at The Similan Islands Thailand is generally more expensive than at other places in the country.
What are the new regulations regarding DSDs at The Similan Islands?
The local authorities are constantly trying to improve and increase protection of the reefs in the National Marine Parks. Their job is becoming ever-more difficult considering that the number of divers who visit the Similans increases every year. And in recent years there has been a noticeable increase in divers from countries which don’t have the best reputation for environmental friendliness or awareness, or swimming skills. Therefore, it was decided to help protect damage to the reefs by novice divers who can’t control their own buoyancy. Whereas in the past dive instructors were able to teach complete beginners in shallow waters of The Similan and Surin National Marine Parks, this is now no longer permitted.
So, can I do a DSD at The Similans?
Not any more, from October 2018.
Why have they made this change? What difference does it make?
Although a diver with just one hour of training in the pool is still a complete novice, he or she will have some idea of how to control buoyancy. Bouncing around in a pool and banging into its walls and floor when learning and practising doesn’t damage anything other than a few pool tiles. However, doing this in the sea will damage the coral reef, where fish and other species are trying to survive. It now means that every DSD diver must learn some theory and practise scuba diving skills in a pool before they dive at The Similan Islands. This is nearly always done in Khao Lak (not Phuket) because The Similan Islands are far from the mainland, but Khao Lak is the nearest point.
Is a Similan Islands DSD worth the cost and effort?
In our opinion, no. In most cases, the DSD dives are done on a day trip, and this requires a speedboat transfer to the dive sites. Speedboats are notoriously expensive to run, meaning that the cost is passed on to the customer. Expect to pay more than $200 for your day trip, which includes 2 dives and lunch. Because each DSD diver will be a novice, there are two factors to consider. One is that they will be more easily pleased by what they see underwater, so diving at a nice reef less beautiful than the Similans will still be very impressive but involve a lot less cost & travelling. The other is that new divers are excited (and sometimes nervous) to breathe underwater for the first time. Excited divers will breathe more quickly and more heavily than relaxed experienced divers, meaning that the air supply will deplete sooner and therefore shorten the dive time. Most DSD dives tend to last only 25-40 minutes, whereas experienced divers can usually spend up to an hour underwater.
In summary, due to the cost, distance and now the new regulations, we feel that taking part in a Discover Scuba Diving day trip should not be done at The Similan Islands. Novice and beginner divers would benefit much more from enjoying their first dive around Phuket, Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Tao or Koh Lipe. Taking part in the Open Water Diver course is still possible (and recommended) at the Similans, but not doing a DSD.