2016-17 Similan & Surin Diving Season Review

Donald Duck Bay Similan Islands Metcalfe and Clayton families March 2017Anyone wanting to dive Similan Islands needs to choose the right time to ensure that the area is open for scuba diving & snorkelling. Diving in Thailand takes place off the country’s west coast, and in The Gulf of Thailand, which is on the east side. Each area’s high and low seasons are different, and they overlap a little. The diving season for the best dive spots in Thailand, is from mid-October to mid-May. During this period, the Similan & Surin National Marine Parks are open to the public, but for the other five months the local authorities close the area because of the Indian monsoon. Although we take bookings every day of the calendar year, our guests are only permitted to visit Thailand’s best dive spots during the scuba diving season.

Similan Diving Tours have been busier than ever throughout the just-finished diving season, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make this season our best ever. While we are able to actually thank some of the people who have been instrumental in our success, it’s impossible to reach everyone. We are in constant communication with our customers and the reservation staff, management and owners of all our dive centre partners, but a huge thanks is also owed to the staff on the boats. Not just the Divemasters & instructors, but the captains & crew as well. Everyone from the boat boys to the kitchen staff, and even the transfer teams for collecting our guests from hotels and Phuket & Krabi airports, or dropping them off there. As well as using each dive centre’s scheduled transfer vehicles, we would like to extend a big thank you to Boss and his team of private taxi drivers at ‘Cheaper than Hotel’ taxi company. Without all of these people, such a successful Similan Islands diving season would not have been possible.

What made this Similan Diving season so special?

The people who we deal with have been awesome. This includes both diving centre staff and of course our customers. Some staff are new for this season and therefore keen to impress, but most are dive centre managers and reservation staff who we have been dealing with during previous seasons. Most of these guys and girls spend eight continuous months in a seaside holiday resort town, but stuck in an office less than one kilometre from a beach that they rarely have chance to visit, and they sell dive trips to a place where they don’t get the opportunity to dive at. Customers come in with questions, luggage, requests for a special deal, service or meal, or a complaint that the free pick up was 10 minutes late. But the office staff in Khao Lak have been awesome all season, and let’s not forget that they start early each morning and finish late at night, and work six or more days per week, all season long! Without the incredible staff at our Khao Lak dive centres, this Similan islands diving season would not have been as awesome as it has been. You, our customers, have also been incredible. Record numbers were achieved for a 4th successive season and we can’t thank you enough. Your patience and understanding when things aren’t perfect is greatly appreciated, as of course is your return business and recommendations. Finally, those of you who sent us pictures of you wearing No Troubles, Just Bubbles t-shirts, or wrote a TripAdvisor or direct Similan liveaboard review get a special thanks!

The boats are incredibly important, of course. Not only did all of the boats perform as expected, we got some new ones. These include MV Sawasdee Fasai, MV Lapat, & Bunmee 3 & 4 just to name a few. Sawasdee Fasai and Lapat became instant hits, and are already among our most popular. One of our team even managed to join a Sawasdee Fasai trip in late April. And Bunmee 3 was our saviour at New Year, but more about that a little later. Nemo 1 had her best season so far with us, but this boat will be replaced by the ‘all new’ Nemo 1 for next season, which will be a larger steel-hulled boat offering flexible (overnight) liveaboard diving trips from October. However for numbers of guests booked, MV Camic was our best-selling diving boat for this season. This is mainly due to the fact that Camic ran from the beginning to the end of the season, offering flexible trips, with three cabin types and dive staff from a wide range of countries.

The Fish can’t read, and they don’t understand the concept of gratitude, but without them (and their invertebrate, mammal & reptilian cousins) there would be no diving at the Similan Islands. From the largest to the smallest, they have all behaved themselves throughout the season, especially when visited, photographed or even chased by scuba divers every day. Manta Rays were seen at Koh Bon during most days for the final two months of the season, as well as around Koh Tachai and Similan Islands #7-#9. Whale Shark sightings appear to be less common each year, but this season our divers saw them many times, with the end of the season better than the start. Lest we forget the little Yellow Thorny Seahorse at the bottom of Richelieu Rock, which isn’t a fish that can swim off into the blue to get away from divers. This popular resident has to suffer dozens of divers, all day every day from October to May. Well, now she gets a well-earned holiday from now until October 2017 because the national marine parks are closed to the public.

Why was this Similan Diving season not as good as recent years for some of our partners?

The weather was not so good this season. Some people have blamed it on the upcoming El Niño, while others have their own ideas or excuses. What we can’t change is that the rains caused floods in the south, and the winds created waves that forced some diving boats to miss out on visits to Richelieu Rock or not sail at all. Our flexible boats rely on speedboats to transfer guests, and these are more affected by the waves, and for them speed is of course so important. The wind and rain did have a very negative effect for a few of our dive operators this season, but nobody can be blamed for this, and we really appreciate our guests’ patience and understanding for itineraries that were changed or trips that had to be cancelled. We can only hope and pray that the weird weather that Thailand is experiencing will (literally) blow over in time for October.

Unfinished boats are never a good thing, and although ‘time is of the essence’ especially when tourists have flights and hotels booked, safety can’t be compromised in preparing a new or renovated diving boat for seven months at sea. While the first trips of a couple of our more popular boats were delayed, our biggest problem came at New Year. This is the moment when Bunmee 3 became our saviour. The most popular diving dates of any Similan Islands diving season are of course over New Year. We had thirteen people booked to go on a boat that was based in Phuket on the evening of December 29th. This particular boat had been very popular for many years, but under new management it wasn’t ready on time. However, we didn’t find out this crucial piece of information until December 28th! Luckily, we were saved by Dominic, our new associate based in Khao Lak. Dominic allowed us to charter Bunmee 3 for the New Year period with just 24 hours’ notice and at a very reasonable rate. We will be eternally grateful to Dominic and his team on Bunmee 3. The ill-fated boat from Phuket has since been removed from our pages.

All in all, we are very happy with how the season went. We took lots of bookings from early in 2016 and the numbers continued to grow through the summer low season. During this period most guests were booking for the larger and more luxurious boats and for trips at premium periods, such as Christmas & New Year. Then as October approached the more mainstream bookings became the most numerous. More than 92% of our bookings were for liveaboard trips, and the remainder were for Similan diving day trips. As for nationality, Germans accounted for the highest percentage of divers once again, but our total included guests from all over the world, including India, China, and of course Europe, Australasia, North & South America.

Now preparations are already underway for both the new Similan Islands diving season starting in October 2017, as well as areas outside of Thailand. We never stop building and improving our pages and systems, and we are very grateful to our Webmaster team for implementing new systems and databases. Don’t for a moment think that we take a break or stop answering emails or replying as quickly as we’re famous for. Every day of the year, Similan Diving Tours’ & No Troubles, Just Bubbles’ team are on hand and ready to help you book your next scuba diving adventure in Asia. In fact, during this quiet period we have more time to give detailed and the most-helpful responses. We always look forward to helping new and returning diving guests.

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