Once again, the diving season at The Similan Islands has come to an end. From mid-May to mid-October, the local authorities need to close the national marine parks due to extreme or unpredictable weather and sea conditions. This applies to all the national parks on Thailand’s west coast, adjoining the Andaman Sea. Our 2015/16 diving season was awesome for so many reasons. Here we would like to say a big THANK YOU to everyone involved who helped to make it such a wonderful 7 months.
The season began in October 2015, but we had already customers pre-booked from as early as back in January. As usual, the Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year trips filled up early, especially in the cabins with en suite bathrooms. Right from the 3rd week of October, we had divers joining liveaboard trips almost on a daily basis. Even those early-season guests came back extremely happy with the sea conditions and marine life that they had experienced.
Most divers come to the Similan Islands (inc. Koh Bon & Koh Tachai) and Richelieu Rock (part of the Surin National Marine Park) in the hope of seeing something large and special in the water. Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) and Manta Rays (Manta alfredi) are the two large species which are most popular and often seen off the west coast of Thailand. Sightings of both were reported from as early as November 2015, ensuring many divers returned to land with large smiles and stories to tell. In fact, with the growing popularity of underwater cameras and Go Pros, lots of videos and pictures were taken, too. Traditionally, March is the best month for Manta Ray sightings at The Similans, but this season they came in February and stayed for more than a month. Divers in late February and early March 2016 visiting Koh Bon were almost guaranteed to see Manta Rays.
This season the sea conditions were a little different from what we normally experience, and this could have had an effect on the amount of Manta Ray & Whale Shark sightings. Towards the end of the season (March & April 2016), the visibility was not as good/far as it normally is. There were thermoclines that were just like cold green fog underwater. This was especially noticeable at Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, where underwater visibility can be as good as 40 metres sometimes. However, reduced visibility due to plankton blooms may reduce visibility for us divers, but it is great news for the fish, especially the large filter feeders. Contrary to some reports, the amount of fish at the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai & Richelieu Rock has been vast! This is very good news and bodes well for the future, both for the islands’ ecosystems and for visiting scuba divers. More good news is that the surface waves were manageable even when extreme. There were much fewer instances than usual of boats being unable to reach Richelieu Rock or not even sail due to strong winds and high waves. For this we are all very grateful to Mother Nature and the skills & judgment of our experienced boat captains.
This is a good time to extend our thanks to the many unsung heroes of the diving season. Our customers usually know the names of their Divemaster guide or instructor and even become social media friends and maybe enjoy a post-trip drink together. However, there are so many more people involved in making a Similan Islands diving trip safe, comfortable and enjoyable. These include the captains, boat boys, housekeeping & kitchen staff and those who transfer guests from and back to their hotels. These Thai & Burmese staff often don’t get the appreciation that they deserve. We at Similan Diving Tours remember and appreciate them all. There are also dozens of office (dive centre) staff who had to deal with customers’ requests and questions, but rarely got any reward or went diving themselves. Without these people, the logistics of getting divers fitted with equipment and on the right boats on time would have been impossible.
Some news at the end of the season came from the Thai authorities about Koh Tachai. The island’s beach is now closed to the public until further notice. Every year it is out of bounds to the public during the low season anyway, but when the parks open again in October 2016, Koh Tachai’s land and beach will be a prohibited area. In the recent past, more and more day trip speedboats have been visiting Koh Tachai and the number of ‘selfie-taking tourists’ has become unbearable. The only thing that could be done was to close the island and let its flora and fauna recover. How does this affect our guests? Well, from a diving point of view it is good news. The world-class dive sites around Koh Tachai will be open as usual from mid-October, and much less boat traffic can only be good for the resident and visiting marine life. In the past, our diving and non-diving guests enjoyed some beach time on Koh Tachai, and that will not be possible for the new season. However, with hundreds of others already on the pristine beach, it wasn’t much of a remote tropical paradise island anymore. Now Koh Tachai can return to its former natural beauty, and the plants and animals can enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet for at least 17 months.
Finally, due to us booking so many more guests compared to past seasons, we had the opportunity to supply lots of free ‘No Troubles, Just Bubbles’ t-shirts. Some of our guests were kind enough to photograph themselves wearing the t-shirts, and these can be seen on this link www.similandivingtours.com/blog/testimonials You can also read our TripAdvisor review on a link on the same page. Many thanks to everyone who helped us with this positive feedback and promoting our service.
Now, Similan Diving Tours and No Troubles Just Bubbles are working hard to prepare for the new season that begins in October. Some previously popular boats will skip a season in Thailand and sail in Indonesia instead. These include Panunee and White Manta, but guests can still book through us to join these boats’ cruises in the southern hemisphere. New boats are coming too, and the pages of our websites are updated every day. Most boats already have new schedules, and some are offering ‘Early Bird Discounts.’ Please contact us for details.