The number of scuba diving liveaboards currently operating at The Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock is forever growing. The exact number is impossible to calculate, simply because some vessels change plans, miss a season for maintenance or another reason, get sold or maybe don’t register legally. However, it would be fair to say that the Manta Queen fleet probably makes up for at least 10% of the Similan liveaboard boats currently registered and running regular trips. While some competitors may claim that Manta Queen are attempting to swamp the market, this is not true. It’s actually fair to say that they have a good business model that offers the widest choice of itineraries, cabins, and departure dates. The team’s organisation runs like a Swiss clock, mainly due to the highly-experienced Operations Manager. And the rental equipment rates are lower than all the other boats’.
There are currently seven boats in the Manta Queen Similan islands liveaboard diving safaris fleet, but the number often increases every couple of years. Each boat has a distinctive look to it, with navy blue hulls and white upper walls. All have air-conditioned cabins, parquet floors, on-board Nitrox facilities, free Wi-fi and of course a full range of safety equipment. However, each Manta Queen diving liveaboard boat is different to the others.
Manta Queen 1 is the original diving liveaboard of the fleet. MQ1 is still a favourite among many staff as well as returning guests. The boat is large, but has a guest capacity of just 22. There is an air-conditioned lounge saloon that has library of books and audio-video facilities. The large dining area is both large well laid out. Bathrooms facilities are shared. All the cabins are on the same deck.
Manta Queen 2 is a smaller boat than MQ1, but takes fewer guests and runs shorter trips. There isn’t a lounge saloon, so this enables other communal areas to be more spacious. Cabins are on the main and lower deck. Bathrooms are shared at the rear of the main deck.
Manta Queen 3 is the newest and largest of the fleet. MQ3 is a purpose built diving liveaboard, with a steel hull. It started its life running flexible trips, where guests are transferred by speedboat and stay for 1, 2 or 3 nights. But now MQ3 runs 4D/4N trips. After its 2018 makeover, MQ3 now has private en suite bathrooms in most of its cabins. There is a large lounge saloon, and plenty of space for guests to socialise, eat, sunbathe, read, or clean cameras or Go Pros.
Manta Queen 5 is similar in size to MQ2, takes the same number of guests, and also runs 3D3N trips. The twin-bunk cabins are on two decks, and the shared bathrooms are at the rear of the boat. MQ5 is very popular with new divers and those who want to visit the beach during the trip.
Manta Queen 6 is the most personal of the fleet. This is because the maximum number of guests is just 14. The boat has an air-conditioned lounge saloon on the upper deck, and all of the cabins have en suite bathrooms.
Manta Queen 7 also got a makeover in 2018, and now has even better cabins to choose from. The boat is easily big enough for up to 22 guests to enjoy the cruises. There’s space in the air-conditioned lounge saloon as well as in various places out on deck.
Manta Queen 8 is the newest addition to the fleet. This boat is large & luxurious, and nearly all of its cabins have private bathrooms. There is an air-conditioned lounge and a large dining area. MQ8 has a distinctive and classy décor that sets it apart from the other boats. It is very popular.
All guest cabins on every Manta Queen liveaboard diving boat have air conditioning, nearly all of which are independently-controlled. And many cabins have private en suite bathrooms. It’s very important that guests are able to sleep comfortably, in order to dive up to four times per day. Cabins with private bathrooms not only help the people in those cabins, but also those in cabins without private bathrooms. This is because there are fewer people waiting to use the communal bathrooms. 4-bunk cabins are available on Manta Queens 1, 2, 3 & 7. These are the best value, and ideal for sociable solo divers, backpackers, small groups of friends or families. Guests in the 4-bunk cabins use the communal bathrooms, which are located at the rear of the boat, normally on the same deck.
Every boat in the Manta Queen fleet has twin cabins. Twin cabins have two single beds, but can come in several configurations. Some are bunk beds, some are side-by-side single beds, and some are half-bunk, meaning that part of one bed is above part of the other, in an L-shape. Also, some cabins on Manta Queen 3 & Manta Queen 7 have a double bed and a single bunk above. Although these cabins cabin comfortably accommodate 3 people, they are only sold to two. Some twin cabins have private bathrooms, and others share communal bathrooms. Manta Queen 6 has a unique set up. Its twin-bunk cabins have en suite bathrooms (because en suite means one door from the bedroom to the bathroom) but two cabins share one bathroom. Each bathroom has two doors, one to each cabin.
Double cabins are for couples who want to share a large bed. Double cabins are available on Manta Queens 1, 2, 3, 7 & 8. On Manta Queens 1 & 2, the guests share communal bathrooms, but on Manta Queens 3, 7 & 8 every double cabin has its own bathroom.
One thing that makes the experience start and end well on every Manta Queen liveaboard diving cruise is the transfers. The system runs extremely efficiently, especially considering that many guests need to be picked up or dropped off. In addition, these guests are often new to liveaboard diving and they’re anxious not to be late or miss the bus. Mr Toun (Manta Queen’s Transfer Manager) is extremely experienced, kind, patient, well-organised and has excellent English skills. As well as preparing everything in advance, he is always online and on the phone just in case anyone needs to ask or inform him of anything.
Guests in Phuket pay a small fee for the road transfer to the dive centre in Khao Lak. The transfers begin in southern Phuket and (using several vans & routes) they collect Manta Queen guests along the way. Normally, Phuket Airport is the final pick-up point before the drive to Khao Lak. Guests staying in Khao Lak can get picked up for free from their hotel or resort. These pickups are later in the afternoon because the journey is very short. Manta Queen’s transfer team are all full-time employees and they only collect Manta Queen guests. They are not private taxi drivers and they do not pick up other members of the public or divers getting on other boats.
There are several different itineraries available on the Manta Queen liveaboard diving fleet. Two boats have different 3D/3N itineraries, one boat has a 5D/5N itinerary, and the remaining four boats have the standard and most-popular 4D/4N itinerary. All the itineraries have an evening departure, with a light meal served on board. The first dive is the following morning at a dive site that is not too challenging. Unless there are special circumstances, all of the itineraries start and finish at Khao Lak’s Tab Lamu Pier, and the final dive is at a local wreck, normally Boonsung.
Manta Queen 5’s itinerary is ideal for divers who may be less experienced, or who want relaxing diving with the opportunity to visit the beach at the famous Donald Duck Bay. But divers who still want the chance to see a Manta Ray or something else special. The 3D/3N itinerary has 11 dives around the Similan Islands & Koh Bon.
Manta Queen 2 starts the diving at Koh Bon, then moves north to Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. This 3D/3N 11-dive itinerary is perfect for divers who want the most-exciting dive sites. There are no beach visits on MQ2’s itinerary because Koh Bon & Richelieu Rock have no beaches, and Koh Tachai’s beach is closed to the public (2016-?).
The 4D/4N itinerary is the most popular for Similan Island liveaboard diving. Four days and nights is the perfect length of time to make sure you get to see the varied dive sites of the Similans, get some sand between your toes on a beach, and also get to visit Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock for at least two dives per location. After sailing through the night on departure day, divers have 4 dives per day for 3 days, and 3 dives on the final day. The total of 15 dives is more than most other 4D/4N itineraries, which normally only have 14.
Manta Queen 7’s itinerary is 5D/5N and gives and extra day and 4 extra dives. This means that the best dive sites can be repeated and some rarer or further-away dive sites can be visited. Manta Queen 7 goes to all the best dive sites, including Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock, as well as at least one beach visit. There are 19 dives on MQ7 trips.
At least 50% of guests need or choose to rent some or a whole set of diving equipment. While other dive centres’ rental fees are higher, and increase each year, the rental fees for Manta Queens’ diving equipment is still the cheapest of all our Similan diving liveaboards. A full standard set of diving equipment is currently (2018) available to hire for just 400 THB/diving day, which is considerately less than many competitors’ rates. The equipment is in good condition, due to regular services and replacements. In addition, the Manta Queen office has plenty of items in all sizes, plus prescription masks and long wetsuits in some sizes.
After being picked up from Phuket or Khao Lak, Manta Queen divers come to the office in Khao Lak to complete a little paperwork and try on any rental gear. It’s important to try everything on first, so that you know it fits. Some other dive centres just require each diver’s height, weight & shoe size, but this method is not perfect. Also, each boat has several spare items, just in case divers need to change during the cruise.
Finally, the booking policy for the Manta Queen liveaboard diving boats is very good for customers. The official booking policy is that the diver pays just 30% of the trip price as a deposit, and the balance is due when they arrive in the Khao Lak office on departure day. Some other online agents (especially larger ones) take full payment from guests when they book. This is not fair for two reasons. One is that guests often book many months in advance, and this will affect the way that they manage their personal cash flow. The other is that if the customer has to cancel, then only the ‘official cancellation terms’ can be applied. These official terms are that customer cancellations less than 29 days before departure mean forfeiting 30%. And the refunded 70% will most likely be subject to banking fees. Therefore, if Manta Queen customers book through us or other agents that follow their standard booking procedures are better off. Their funds which make up 70% of the trip price, plus park fees and equipment rental can be kept safely by the customer until it’s the correct time to pay. In addition, as one of Manta Queen’s preferred agents (made from excellent business & personal relationships) we are normally able to offer even better terms for customers who have to cancel. It’s quite common that when one of our Manta Queen guests cancels within one month of departure, but not less than one week, we are able to fully refund their 30% deposit in full.
So, in summary, the fleet of Manta Queen Similan Island diving liveaboard boats has something for everyone. There is the widest choice of cabins, itineraries, and departures almost every day. The trips can meet all budgets and luxury needs. The transfers run extremely efficiently and the equipment rental fees are the lowest. So, what are you waiting for? Choose your next Similan liveaboard diving trip on a Manta Queen boat!