It's always exciting to have that feeling of a new adventure. It doesn’t matter if you're a first-timer, advanced diver or divemaster, you have the same feeling because each new place gives you a totally different experience to the previous one. People, the diving environment and location, the food, and more, all play a role in shaping each new experience. To appreciate every detail of the marine life is what maintains my passion and energy as a diver and this is why I seek out new scuba experiences.
And so it was that I excitedly boarded the minibus in Phuket, Thailand to take me the 2 hours north to Tab Lamu to join a 4 night cruise to the Similan Islands and beyond on board the Dive Race Class E. The diving action certainly did not disappoint me. The currents attracted half a dozen manta rays to join us at Koh Bon, there were enormous schools of yellow snappers, turtles, a whitetip reef shark and a great diversity of fish life. And all this with a stunning Similan Island setting of aquamarine seas of all shades of blue and large corals the like of which I have never seen before.
When we finally arrived at Tab Lamu, the DiveRACE was one of the larger and certainly the newest boat moored at the port. It must be said that the cooks, cleaners, dive and auxiliary staff, captain and others, were attendant to greet us and were always at our service with great kindness, respect and a warm smile. I felt that the staff would be willing to go the extra mile to help me, and this is an excellent commendation.
After an introduction briefing from the Tour Leader Eric, we settled in to our rooms, assembled our scuba equipment and then were treated to a great dinner as we cruised across to the Similan Islands from the Thai mainland.
The DiveRACE.Class E ship has 4 levels. On the lower and main decks are the guest rooms - 4 Standard cabins on the lower deck and 6 larger Deluxe cabins on the main deck. They are comfortable, fresh and spacious, if a little bare. The Deluxe cabins have been designed in such a way that each is compatible for 2 single beds or one double bed, depending on guest preference. The Standard cabins have bunk beds. But all have private bathrooms with water hot, but I was a little disappointed to note that this new boat does not have enclosed shower cubicles.
Also on the main deck is the kitchen (galley), the dive deck and all related equipment, such as compressors. The deck is spacious and suitable for tech divers too. I like the non-slip floor surface, and the cubbie-holes for guest towels/t-shirts are a good idea. The boat has a facility for those nitrox divers.
On the upper deck is the captain’s cabin (wheelhouse), open-air dining area and a lounge/saloon which some guests used to cool off from the tropical sun, and at the bow a little place to relax. The boat also has a large partially-shaded sun deck with sun beds and a BBQ pit above the upper deck, which proved a popular place to rest between dives. The boat also has a dedicated massage room, although I did not partake in this service myself.
The boat makes use of a sound system to announce information of activities (dives, island visits), food and others.
Each day begins early to take advantage of the best conditions and when you can witness the beautiful sunrises. There were 14 dives in all - 4 dives per day on each of the first 3 days, and 2 morning dives on the final day.
The route taken is quite common here in Thailand, beginning in the Similan Islands, before heading north to dive at Koh Bon and Koh Tachai Islands, and on to Richelieu Rock, before heading back to port and some final dives at the Bunsoong Wreck. My personal favourite was the wreck just outside Khao Lak, because it was so crammed full of macro life and covered in schooling fish.
The 20 guests were split into 4 groups in order to afford even more space and comfort on the dive deck and in the 2 inflatable dive tenders. Briefings are given in the saloon and make use of digital dive site maps. The after-dive hot towels were a real blessing, together with the pre- and post-dive drinks service. And the dive crew and guides all received praise and all were very helpful.
Food was varied with traditional slightly spicy Thai dishes and a few Chinese meals thrown in for variety.
6:30 AM: snacks (before the first dive of the day)
8:30 AM: breakfast (after the first dive) - salad, omelette, toast (Nutella, peanut butter, jams), Coco Pops or cornflakes, khao tom, scrambled egg, sliced ham and chicken sausage. Coffee, tea, hot choc, fruit, orange juice
12:30 PM: lunch (after the second dive)
4:00 PM snacks (after the third dive) - ice creams, muffins. pancakes, Chinese dumplings
7:30 DINNER (after the fourth dive)
I loved the diversity of food, and the effort the attentive chefs made so that everyone was satisfied.
All the guests expressed their satisfaction with the quality, quantity and variety of dishes at meal times. But I was a little disappointed with the choice of desserts and drinks – only Thai beer for alcohol – not really my favourite choice. Only Coke and Sprite for soft drinks (no juices for sale). It wouldn’t take much to improve this aspect of the cruise to give more choice. In any case, soft drinks and beers are not included in the cruise price.
We arrived at the end of the trip with a rousing burst of appreciative applause for the team of workers and all those present for a wonderful cruise experience. DiveRACE Class E liveaboard combines comfort, good service, and the opportunity to experience the richness of marine life which can befound at the similan Islands, Thailand.
Written by Luisa FC Salas, April 2016