For a lot of divers the Similan Islands in Thailand are one of the worlds top 10 dive sites. The crystal clear waters, variety of dive sites and abundance of marine life make it the perfect place to gear up and jump in.
I think it goes without saying that I was stoked to be heading out there on not 1 but 3 live aboard dive trips this month to check out the Khao Lak Scuba Adventures Manta Queen fleet and see what all the fuss was about…
One of the biggest things with picking any dive live aboard is choosing which boat to go on and with the Similan Islands quickly growing as a destination there’s a heap of vessels bidding for your hard earned dollar.
I jumped aboard Manta Queen 1, 3 and 6 for my trips – all very different boats but all offering the chance to check out some of the diving jewels of the area, so here’s a quick overview;
Manta Queen 1 – takes around 24 customers per trip and is a mid sized vessel with plenty of room to eat, chill and dive. The saloon area is fully air con with TV and movies, there’s a spacious upstairs sun deck for some post diving tan topping and the room range from 4 bed share to deluxe double. 4day, 4 night option.
Manta Queen 3 – this is the flagship vessel of KSA, comfortably holding up to 35 customers. The saloon area is HUGE, as is the dinning area and upstairs sun deck (which comes complete with hammocks!). A open plan dive deck with fresh water showers, nitrox and rinse tanks means this is the creme de la creme of Similan live a boards. Air con rooms range from 4 bed share to deluxe family room. 4 day, 4 night option.
Manta Queen 6 – this is the newest KSA boat and it caters for shorter stays. Although it’s small in size the 12 customer max means it’s super cosy and has a lot of character. The whole front bow is a padded sun lounger and it has more of a feel of a private yacht charter than a dive boat! Twin cabins only. 2 or 3 night option.
If your booking a dive trip it’s obvious that the diving is a MAJOR part of your decision making process! And on the Manta Queen trips you certainly get a good amount of diving crammed in – the 4 day options stack up an impressive 14 dives – including a night dive and a wreck dive and include all the highlights of the national marine park.
World famous sites like Richelieu Rock, Elephant Head Rock, The Dome, Koh Bon West, West of Eden and 3 Trees are all on the dive schedule trip length and weather permitting!
Every divers tastes are catered for and you’ll find yourself surrounded by everything from travelly and barracuda to octopus, tuna and turtles. If you’re really lucky you’ll be joined by manta rays and even whale sharks – so it’s a case of looking into the blue and having a bit of luck on your side!
Macro lovers are spoilt for choice too – nudi branches, shrimps, sea moths and even frog fish are in abundance – so make sure that camera is charged and you have a hefty memory card to use.
The sites themselves are as diverse as the marine life that live there so you’ll find yourself amongst giant granite boulders and swim throughs, vast coral gardens, open pinnacles and amongst the gloomy depths of shipwrecks throughout your trip – you’ll never be short of pre dive stoke!
The Value For Money
If you’re backpacking money is a big decision maker in any trip situation and I’m not going to lie – the Similans will put a pretty solid dent in your budget!
The 4 day, 4 night option starts at £420 and the 3 night at £360.
Still if you put that into perspective you’re getting a bed, 3 solid meals a day, snacks and unlimited water, coffee fruit and tea alongside up to 14 dives – now that aint bad value! To give it some context 2 dives on a day trip boat in Phi Phi Island will set you back around £40 for a half day with lunch.
£100 per day in the Similans gets you 4 dives, 3 meals and a bed for the night…plus you get to be in the Similans!
You can’t really argue with that logic can you?!
If you’re new to diving you can also bolt on a dive course to your trip (everything from open water to dive master) or simply fun dive the whole time. I would highly recommend doing at least your deep adventure dive if you’re open water only though as it means you can get the most out of the dive sites.
It’s best to pre book (especially in peak season) but if you have time to play with then on the odd occasion you can nab a good last minute deal.
The Similan Islands themselves are just a beautiful place to wake up and an even more beautiful place to dive.
Package that with some awesome dive staff, a range of beautiful boats and time and cash options to most budgets and you have a solid combination for a highlight of your time in Thailand.
It’s not necessarily something for every backpackers to do list – but if you like diving and want to see somewhere slightly off the usual backpacking route in Asia it’s something to seriously consider and it’s certainly something that I’d recommend.
Also I’ve manage to wangle some exclusive discounts for Backpacker Banter readers too – so if you’re looking to head that way drop me an email and save yourself some dollar!
Have any of you guys hit up the Similan Islands – what did you think of the diving there?
**PLEASE NOTE; I received my dive trips free of charge through my partnership with Khao Lak Scuba Adventures, but rest assured all opinions are honest and my own – and I had an freaking awesome time!**