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Flexible (Overnight) Liveaboard Cruises at Thailand’s Similan Islands

Similan Islands flexible or platform overnight liveaboard cruises are different to ‘scheduled liveaboards’ but only in the way they operate, and not in their physical appearance, facilities, diving locations or your potential enjoyment. They are called ‘flexible liveaboards’ because you can join on any day and stay for as long as you like. People in the diving industry sometimes call them ‘platform boats’ because they’re stationed out at sea for the whole season, but we feel that this term is unfair because these boats are constantly moving around dive sites, and not fixed in one place. Our flexible liveaboard boats are our most popular every season, simply because they always have a schedule to fit divers’ needs. However, there are some things to know or be aware of before choosing this kind of trip. That way, prior knowledge can prevent confusion, surprises and possible disappointment.

Why do we need to stay in Khao Lak (not Phuket) the night before departure?

Our Similan Islands flexible trips depart from Khao Lak’s Tab Lamu Pier at 8.00am. This pier is at least 1 hour and 10 minutes from the northernmost (nearest) parts of Phuket Island, and more than 2 hours from Phuket’s southern tourist beaches. Not only is it expensive and tiring for guests to pay a taxi or drive so far before boarding the boat, the dive centres don’t want divers coming from Phuket for a morning departure. The potential problems, delays and stress are too high if divers can’t find the pier, arrive too early and have nothing to do while waiting, or come late and miss the trip. In addition, it’s necessary to ‘check in’ at the dive centre the day before your trip. These dive centres are in Khao Lak and they require every diver to show certification cards, logbooks, sign a little paperwork and usually pay a balance and/or fit diving equipment. Then they collect all the guests from Khao Lak hotels, resorts and guesthouses for free in the morning and drive everyone to the pier.

Some divers & staff join and leave the boat every day

It is important to understand that the flexibility of these trips comes from the boat staying at sea, and guests, staff and provisions are transferred out to the boat and back every day by speedboat. Don’t worry, if you have booked for 2 days and 1 night or longer, you will sleep on the boat, and not be brought back each day. Every morning the transfer speedboat brings new guests and necessary food, drinks and fuel to the main ship. Then at 3.30pm the same speedboat takes back people and things that are due to return to land. Therefore, sometimes your diving buddies and/or Divemaster guide will change from one day to the next. Other divers change because they join and leave on the dates that are not the same as yours. The staff can’t stay on the boat all the time for two reasons, which are their personal lives and needs, plus it’s not safe for anyone do dive continuously 4 times per day without a break. In addition to ‘overnight’ divers changing most days, there may also be a few ‘daytrip divers’ who join in the morning and leave the same afternoon. Don’t worry, there is still enough space, food, equipment and staff for all the booked divers on any day. The teams are experts in organising this.

Do the boats stay in one place all the time?

No, they run a weekly schedule, and dive at different locations all the time. Even if you join a 2D1N 6-dive cruise, you will dive at up to six different locations. They only repeat a dive spot for good reasons, such as the dive site being extra special or exciting marine life sightings. Each boat sets a schedule for Monday to Sunday, which they stick to. And on each day there are four dives at different places.

How about check in & check out times for the cabins? How can they clean and prepare them?

cabinsThis is something that is important to know and understand before you arrive at the main ship. The crew need to clean and prepare the cabins after guests check out and before the new ones check in. Also, on your first morning upon arriving there isn’t enough time to unpack, make yourself beautiful and relax. You arrive on the main boat, listen to a dive briefing, set your equipment up, and jump in to go diving. However, on your final day, after diving you probably want a shower and to prepare for the speedboat transfer back to Khao Lak. Therefore, arriving guests are not able to check in to cabins until after their first dive, but you gain the benefit of a later check out on your final day on board.

 

Do we get breakfast on the first day?

coffee light breakfastYes, but not much, so prepare yourself. There are a few reasons why it’s impossible for the flexible liveaboard teams to provide a full and hearty breakfast on your first day. These include logistics and common sense.

  • They collect guests from Khao Lak hotels from 6.45-7.45am every day and take them directly to the pier. The speedboat leaves at 8.00am, and guests arrive on the main boat around 9.30am. You start diving soon after 10am. You will get some food on the main boat, and then a proper lunch after your first dive.
  • A large breakfast before a speedboat journey is not a good idea. And eating or drinking while travelling on a speedboat needs care and common sense, and is better avoided all together.
  • We recommend guests to prepare their own breakfast or be aware what time their hotels offer breakfast. It’s important to remember that the morning transfers can’t wait for people who are late or still eating. It’s also a good idea to take a seasickness pill before you board the speedboat. These pills are cheap, easy to swallow, and have no side effects.

Are towels provided?

free towelYes, all our flexible boats provide each guest with a clean towel. But if you take your own, it’s also fine. Don’t forget that we offer free beach towels to liveaboard guests, and these are ideal for going out on a liveaboard because they’re thin and can be packed easily and they become dry quickly.

 

Why do overnight divers need to use a computer when diving on Nemo?

dive computerThe Nemo team are very safety conscious and they ensure that everyone on board (staff & guests) dives safely within their limits. Due to the fact that it’s possible your Divemaster may change from one day to the next on a flexible liveaboard diving cruise, you can’t rely on the information of your DM’s computer. Maybe you dived yesterday but your DM didn’t. It’s important that every overnight guest uses a computer in order for them to properly monitor their diving limits. If you’re unsure on how to use or understand the rental computer, don’t worry, the staff will help you.

What’s included and what’s extra?

Like all our liveaboard trips, there are some things which are included at no extra cost, and a few things which are extra. Only the national park fees are an inescapable extra cost.

Included:

  • Scheduled pick up and drop off transfers at set times from and back to hotels around Khao Lak
  • Divemaster guide services, standard tanks of air, weightbelts & weights
  • Full-board accommodation (buffet meals, drinking water, tea, coffee and some juice)

Optional extras:

  • Diving equipment (500-600B/diver/day) if you don’t have your own
  • Soft drinks/Sodas (normally 40B/can)
  • Beer (normally 70B/can)
  • Nitrox (available on some flexible boats, but not all)
  • Tips/Gratuities for the staff and/or local crew

Mandatory extras:

  • National park fees (900-1,800 THB/diver, depending on trip length and destination. Thai locals pay a bit less.)
  • Dive computer for all guests on Nemo (for divers who don’t have their own). Available free of charge for bookings from October 2018.
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Similan Islands Liveaboards Thailand: 9 out of 10 based on 311 scuba diver ratings.

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