While most holidaymakers who visit Thailand know exactly where Phuket is located, some of the other popular Thai tourist destinations are maybe known by name, but no more. Those wanting to dive in Thailand, especially at the best scuba diving sites, may have heard of places such as The Similan Islands, Hin Daeng and Richelieu Rock, but not know where they are or how to get to them. Two of Thailand’s best diving locations are Richelieu Rock (one large dive site) and The Similan Islands (more than twenty dive sites).
All but the most out-of-touch divers in Thailand will already be aware that both are situated on the west coast, and places such as Koh Tao, Koh Chang and Koh Samui are in The Gulf of Thailand. While geographically not very far away, in logistical terms they may as well be in another country. Therefore, the most popular tourist island in Thailand (Phuket) is regarded as the best place to start a Similan Islands liveaboard cruise or day trip. Although a few of the liveaboard boats leave from Phuket’s bays, such as Chalong and Patong, the most popular and convenient place to board a Similan liveaboard trip is actually to the north of Phuket, in Khao Lak.
Khao Lak has recently developed into a very popular tourist location, offering relaxed resorts along a pristine beach, but without the seedy or noisy nightlife to be found in Phuket. It is very much more for families and middle-aged couples, but has lots to do and enjoy. Khao Lak also benefits from being the nearest point of mainland to the Similan Islands, quite a bit nearer to the dive sites than Phuket is, but Phuket has an international airport. Let’s be honest though, most scuba divers are people who want excitement and many choose to stay in Phuket.
For those based in Phuket and wanting to go diving in The Similan Islands or Richelieu Rock, some of our cruises will either sail directly from Phuket, but most transport guests by car or minivan to where the boats depart from – which is Tab Lamu pier in Khao Lak. Those staying in Khao Lak will easily be able to take the short journey (nearly always included in the dive cruise price) to the Similan liveaboard pier at Tab Lamu. However, it must not be forgotten that there are lots of diving tourists who come into the area at Phuket airport from another domestic airport or overseas, and want to go straight to their pre-booked liveaboard diving boat. For these, it’s important to look at and understand the geography of the area, in particular where the airport, Phuket’s main tourist areas, and Khao Lak are located. The map on this page should be of some help.
Anyone flying into Phuket just for a Richelieu Rock or Similan Islands diving cruise or day trip should be aware that the airport is right at the northern tip of Phuket Island, with the main hotel, resort, and dive centre areas in the south and south west. Tab Lamu pier in Khao Lak is off of Phuket Island to the north. Therefore, it is crazy to land at the airport, be driven down to Chalong, Patong, Karon or Kata only to be driven north back past the airport to Khao Lak. It makes much more sense to travel directly from the airport to Khao Lak, regardless of whether your dive centre is based in Phuket. The car, taxi or minivan trip from the international airport to the main tourist areas of Phuket is 40 minutes to more than an hour (depending on traffic) and a distance of 35-40 kilometres. The journey from the same airport to Khao Lak is 70 kilometres and nearly always way under an hour, simply because there’ll be no traffic delays. So, to go from the airport to a Phuket resort then to Khao Lak will waste an extra two hours while covering an unnecessary 70-80 kilometres.
If the Similan diving cruise which you feel is perfect for your needs, budget and schedule is based in Phuket, but you have no intention of staying at a Phuket hotel, do not worry. If you are landing at the airport on the same day that your cruises departs, we can organize for you to be transported from the airport to Tab Lamu pier in Khao Lak, saving you the hassle of travelling down, and then back up Phuket island. Although Phuket is paradise for many, with beautiful mountains and beaches, the number of vehicles on the roads is growing continuously. The traffic is becoming very heavy, especially around Phuket Town in the south and Patong in the south west.
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