The most commonly-offered trip length for Similan diving safaris is a 4 day 4 night Similan Liveaboard, usually offering around 14 dives at all of the best spots around the westernmost areas of Thailand’s southern provinces. Nearly all of the established Similan liveaboard diving centres offer dive cruises of this length because it enables divers to fully enjoy all of the best dive sites in Thailand without missing any or spending too long out at sea. The popularity of these trips can be seen in that we offer plenty of choices at all budget levels.
After more than 20 years of liveaboard scuba diving at Thailand’s Similan Islands, the ‘standard trip length’ is still 4 days and 4 nights, and there are several reasons for this. They include how much time is required to enjoy the best dive sites in Thailand, how long divers are prepared to spend at sea, and a few practical factors which include the ability of the boats and the provisions required for all on board.
The amount of time required to fully enjoy the Similan Islands diving, plus the ‘Northern Sites’ of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock diving is more than three diving days and nights on board. This doesn’t just depend on how quickly a dive boat can travel to them all, but about the limits of recreational scuba diving. Each scuba dive is 35 minutes to an hour long, reaching depths of 20-30 metres in most cases. For reasons every scuba diver should understand, there is a limit to how many dives are possible each day. This limit is usually four complete scuba dives, and even then that is quite tiring. Considering that there are at least a dozen fantastic diving sites just around the ‘regular Similan Islands #1-#9’ a diver needs time to properly explore this area as well as Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. Richelieu Rock itself can easily be dived and enjoyed three times in one day, and both Tachai & Bon have at least a couple of independent dive sites each. For a diver to properly explore the area known as ‘Similans & Richelieu’ 12-15 dives are necessary, and this requires at least four diving days.
Even though the boats nowadays are more luxurious than in the past, and guests can stay in touch with cell phones and internet connections, there is only so much time divers are prepared to spend out at sea. And this doesn’t just refer to tolerating life at sea. ‘Spend’ also refers to the financial side of things. Life at sea is certainly an acquired taste, and not everyone is comfortable making sacrifices on living space, rolling on waves, rarely setting foot on land. Liveaboard diving is known as such because the guests spend all day and night working around a schedule of scuba dives at set times of day. Even the most-hardened scuba diving guests need their creature comforts. This is not about the diving staff and crew who are happy living on a boat for many months per year. The paying guests are the ones who choose how long the most popular diving cruises are. One must remember that the trips need to be attractive to those who pay to join, and it appears evident that for Similan liveaboard diving cruises, 4 days & 4 nights is most common. Also, one must not forget that these trips are not cheap. Liveaboard diving at The Similan Islands costs at least $150 per night/day per diver, and for our mid-range diving cruises, $300/night is quite normal. As trips get longer, the price obviously increases. 4 Day 4 Night liveabord is a nice length of diving cruise for the paying guests to sacrifice their creature comforts and hard-earned money to pay for them.
Practical & logistical factors are also a reason why 4 day and 4 night liveaboard trips are so common for Similan diving. Firstly, we need to understand that the liveaboard diving boats are designed (or modified) to accommodate a certain number of passengers in a certain amount of comfort and at a certain cost. This normally means that they are not designed for high speed. Also, comfortable journeys are important for the enjoyment of everyone on board. Sailing from the pier in Khao Lak or Phuket out to the Similan Islands takes several hours on a diving liveaboard boat. And even if they could go faster, it would waste fuel, be less comfortable and isn’t necessary because most sail at night. From the southernmost tip of the Similan chain to the tip of Island #9 is 24km in a straight line, and more like 30km while sailing around the reefs. Then from the tip of Island #9 to Richelieu Rock the distance is around 80km, and more when stopping at Koh Bon & Koh Tachai on the way or way back. To ensure guest comfort, not waste fuel (fuel that would need to be bought & stored on board before departure), and properly stop at up to four different dive sites per day, it takes time to visit all of the best dive sites in the area. Therefore, a diving cruise of 4 days and 4 nights in length is most practical. Also, we need to consider that all of the provisions for the diving trips are bought and prepared before departure. There are no shops or markets out at the Similan Islands, and fishing is of course prohibited. To ensure plenty of fresh food for the diving guests, there is obviously a practical limit about how long certain food items can be kept fresh before being served.
All in all, it is no fluke that 4 day 4 night diving liveaboard trips are the most common length at The Similan Islands. Both customers and boat operators feel that this length of trip is ideal. Many customers want to see all of the best dive sites in Thailand in one trip, but they may not want to spend too much time out at sea away from civilisation, nor pay too much to do so. The Similan diving liveaboard boats can only travel at certain maximum speeds to ensure passenger comfort and to stop off at all the wonderful scuba diving sites. Also, the team who manage the trips need to prepare enough fuel and fresh food for the whole trip. More than 4 days and 4 nights is possible, but 4-day 4-night liveaboard trips appear to be the perfect length for everyone involved.