While it is commonly written and said that diving at The Similan Islands on Thailand's west coast is only for experienced and certified scuba divers, this is not absolutely true. Although most visiting tourists on the day trip boats and liveaboard cruise ships are scuba divers with experience, looking for something better than they can find near the mainland, it is also worth mentioning that the demographic of passengers on Similans boats is extremely diverse. Not only do novice divers enjoy Similan diving safaris, non-divers and even children are frequently found to be relaxing on boats, snorkelling and exploring the beaches.
Almost all of the boats, from budget liveaboards to luxury cruise ships and day trip catamarans are well geared-up to accommodate non-divers, and even babies. My daughter spent five days out at the Similan Islands before her first birthday! Of course, the trips are designed for diving experiences which can't be found around Phuket and Phi Phi, but it's absolutely possible to learn to dive at the Similan Islands, take part in an introductory dive (Discover Scuba Diving) there, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, or just chill out, explore or play a sport on the beach. Just about all of the dive operators offer worthwhile discounts for non-divers as well as PADI/SSI Open Water courses for those who want to obtain certification at the best diving Thailand has to offer.
Where can novice divers take their first breaths underwater and enjoy Similan diving safely? Most of the dive sites on the eastern side of the archipelago, especially in the middle (islands 4, 5 & 6) are neither too deep nor suffer from regular or strong currents. Underwater locations such as Breakfast Bend, Anita's Reef, Donald Duck Bay, Beacon Reef, East of Eden, Honeymoon Bay, and Hideaway are all perfectly suited for divers who want to see the best of the Similans without exerting themselves or having to worry about extreme conditions. These diving sites still have huge amounts of healthy, colourful and diverse marine life, but the sea conditions are far easier to dive in. Even a group of divers who claim to be certified and experienced will be taken to an 'easy' Similan dive site for the first dive of a liveaboard cruise. These 'check dives' enable tour leaders to properly assess the ability and air consumption of the divers on their cruise, thus allowing them to best plan dives for the following days.
For those who want to snorkel at The Similan Islands, there are at least half a dozen different spots where the reef is near enough to the surface to enable them to get involved with the marine life without having to don a set of scuba gear and a heavy tank. All divers know that the best colour and clearest waters are just a few metres from the surface, so snorkelling is a great way to enjoy tropical marine life.
Finally, those who just don't want to get in the water at all but want to join a Similan Islands cruise or day trip, can relax on a beach on several islands in the Similan archipelago and even Koh Tachai. There are mini jungles to explore and boulders to climb, especially at Donald Duck Bay on Island 8. Yes, The Similans is great for diving, but there are plenty of reasons for non divers to join a cruise, including taking part in an intro dive, getting themselves certified as PADI divers, or just enjoying the trip with a little snorkelling and beach time away from the traffic and pollution on the mainland.