After nearly five months of waiting, The Similan Islands National Marine Park is finally open once more! This is excellent news for everyone involved, from boat captains to visiting tourists. Each year the authorities close the marine parks to the public during the wet season in order to give the ecosystem a break and because the seas can be quite rough. Being so far (60km. +) from the mainland means that rescuing anyone who has fallen victim to the waves is difficult and hazardous. But now here we are in mid October and the first day trips have been and returned, reporting wonderful conditions at the start of this 2013-14 diving season.
Some liveaboard vessels are still in dock, waiting to finish refurbishments or to get enough paying passengers to fund a trip, but most have filled their cruise quota and are out there now, being the first to see all the new life that has been born and growing since May. Bookings are flooding in, with some trips already sold out. Every year, the most popular dates, such as over Christmas and New Year, are full from early on, but Thailand’s good recent weather and stable political situation may be factors for this year being even more popular than the past three or four. The Thai Baht isn’t particularly weak, but has remained stable. Whatever the reasons for this season’s popularity are, it’s a wonderful bonus for those in the industry. As for tourists, there’s no need to feel that The Similan Islands has lost its soul to mass tourism. This is not, and will never be the case. There are only a certain amount of boats and people who go out there at any given time, and it is impossible to commercialize this wonderful, serene archipelago with its crystal-clear waters and pristine beaches. They just have to be quick to book a place which best fits their schedule and budget.
On the subject of money, we’re extremely happy to confirm that the Thai authorities did not increase the entrance or diving fees for the national marine parks, as was once rumoured to be the case. In addition, nearly all the boat operators have kept their cruise prices the same as last season, even though costs of fuel and most other necessities have increased. So far, all of the diving sites at the Similan Islands are reported to be open and healthy, which is excellent news.