Thailand has long had the reputation of being one of the best and most fun dive destinations in the world. There is no better way to take in the finest sites on offer than by a Similan Islands diving cruise along Thailand's spectacular west coast. Not only do these Phuket liveaboards take in some of its world-famous dive sites against the backdrop of stunning scenery, but they also represent great value for money dive trips.
The most popular Thailand liveaboards run to the diving capital of the country - the Similan Islands - where there are a range of dive boats, from cheap backpacker standard to top notch luxury. The tours visit these stunning islands along with sites further north that are frequented by larger marine life.
Here in the Andaman Sea you can expect to scuba dive in beautiful warm water around submerged pinnacles and around huge granite boulders, which create channels and swimthroughs galore. Turtles, batfish, barracuda, leopard sharks, manta rays and mighty whale sharks are just some of the creatures on show.
The Similans boast many great sites, including North Point which features excellent examples of the swim-throughs and arches that typify the topography of these beautiful islands. Elephant Head Rock is a curiously named site which also features dramatic underwater boulders, in and around which lives an impressive array of marine life, such as blue-ringed angelfish, Andaman sweetlips and the occasional Olive Ridley's turtle. Some of the other Similans sites you will visit are Batfish Bend, West of Eden and Sharkfin Reef. [More details on these dive sites: Similan Islands].
Similan liveaboard trips often include Koh Bon - one of the best sites for manta ray sightings - Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock - a world-renowned dive site famed for the frequency of visits by passing whale sharks. [More details on these dive sites: Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock].
The remote and infrequently visited Surin Islands in the far northern region of Thailand's Andaman Sea have some of the healthiest and most extensive reef systems in Thailand. Koh Surin is well worth a visit though, as you'll often encounter fish species here that you won't see in other parts of the country, such as such as Napoleon wrasse, bumphead parrotfish, barramundi and yellow-mask angelfish.
At Koh Torinla you can dive with blacktip and whitetip reef sharks, turtles, guitarsharks and barracudas, and at South East Point there are blue-spotted jawfish, ribbon eels, titan triggerfish and ghost pipefish. [More details on these dive sites: Surin Islands].
Several liveaboards visit both the Similans and the south of Burma, and the 2 destinations go very well together. The Burma dive sites feature walls, caverns, tunnels, pinnacles, soft corals and sea fans. The marine life sparkles with diversity and there are chance encounters with some rare species such as frogfish and silvertip sharks. [More details on these dive sites: Myanmar].
Similan Islands - Liveaboard trips to the Similan islands can take a number of slightly different routes. Trips called Similan Islands & Richelieu Rock dive a number of areas of the Similan Islands plus Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. A similar route, with the addition of a couple of Khao Lak sites, is Similan, Richelieu Rock & Khao Lak. Other itineraries include the Surin Islands such as Similan Islands, Surin & Khao Lak and Similan, Surin & Richelieu Rock These safaris vary only slightly in itinerary from one another and can be viewed as the standard Similan Islands liveaboard tours. Most divers join these liveaboards for anything between 4 and 7 nights, although shorter experiences are available.
Other ways to experience the Similans include the Similans, Richelieu Rock & Hin Daeng itinerary which takes in Racha Yai, Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, the Simlans, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. These 5 or 6 night trips are much less frequent than the standard Similan trips and operated by fewer boats. If you fancy something a little bit different, you can join a 7 night cruise to the Similan Islands & Burma South. This option adds a number of dive sites in the waters of southern Myanmar to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.
Thailand has long been a favourite place among divers of all experience levels. You do not need to be a very experienced diver to join one of these charters. Conditions are generally manageable by all scuba divers who are comfortable in the water.
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The Thai dive season is year round. However, for liveaboard cruises, you will be diving in the Andaman Sea off the west coast where the best conditions exist from November to April (the liveaboard season), with whale sharks visiting most frequently from February to May, and manta rays throughout the year.
During the months of November to April the seas are at their calmest, the visibility (20-30m) and water temperature (28-30°C) at their highest, especially during the latter half of this period.
Ports of Departure and How to Get There
Liveaboard trips to the Similan and Surin Islands depart from Patong Beach in Phuket or Khao Lak (1½ hours ride north of Phuket). Similans, Richelieu Rock & Hin Daeng cruises usually depart from Chalong Bay (in Phuket) or Thap Lamu, Khao Lak. Similan Islands & Burma South tours usually depart from Thap Lamu in Khao Lak.
Departure ports are detailed for every trip in the 'Departures & Prices' section of each of our liveaboard boat pages. They will also be sent to you during the inquiry and booking process. Hotel-boat transfers are often provided free of charge from all of Phuket's main beach areas (Patong, Kata and Karon). Transfers from other areas may be subject to a small extra charge.
Most visitors arrive in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, and connect onwards on a domestic flight to Phuket but there are also a few international airlines that fly direct to the island. Flights to Phuket from Bangkok are frequent, take just over 1 hour, and are inexpensive. More information on: How to get to Thailand.
We recommend you take out insurance to cover diving and travel activities, including trip cancellation. See our insurance programme for a competitive quotation:
Places to Stay
If you plan on staying in Thailand before or after your diving safari, you'll find a huge range of accommodation options on hotelscombined.com's website, our affiliated hotel reservation specialist. Browse their website to find options that you're interested in, use their on-line chat to seek answers to your questions, and then simply use your credit card to make your booking:
Every booking carries their 'Low Price Guarantee' to ensure you always get the best value for money.
If you prefer, it's possible to dive at most of the sites in the Andaman Sea by staying at a resort and making daily trips, from: Phuket or Khao Lak.