Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Khao Lak - Diving Similan Islands

The alternative to Liveaboards to Similans are diving day trips and you can enjoy these beautiful Similan dives sites staying in Khao Lak and diving every day.

Similan Islands are a great destination for snorkeling and sightseeing too and you will be able to take the whole family with you or your friend and partners that are non divers.

So I went to Khao Lak and spent a week there to see how operations work, select the best day trip boats and few hotels to suggest for our holidays packages in Khao Lak. Its beginning of November, the high just started but not many people already around, good weather apart strong wind for one day.

To get there I went on a diving day trip on South Siam III with pick up in Phuket and after the diving day I’ve been drop at my hotel, just 30 minutes from Tab Lamu pier. The first day I went diving at Koh Bon. I did two dives, both very good with clear calm water. A lot of life as usual and was good to see how coral reef is recovering fast here. Koh Bon is famous for diving with Mantas but they normally show up from January. On the way back to Tab Lamu Pier we had a rough sea that puts speed boats to the limit, so it took a while to come back. Next day weather was good but wind to strong and wave to big so all speed boats were canceled.

As I couldn't go diving I rented a motorbike and explored Khao Lak, looking for a friend that run IQ dive. Wasn’t to difficult the dive shop is where it was three years ago and now even easier to find as the shop is just opposite Mc Donald. They operate day trips to Similan with a traditional dive boat – M/V Pinyo. So I booked myself for two days with them to explorer the Similan Islands. More about prices etc here: Scuba Diving Khao Lak

Scuba Diving Khao LakFirst day was a day for divers, two great dives, condition were very good all week, clear water, no current and lot of life around us. Also begin of season so not too many boats on the dive spots. We dived Elephant Head and West of Eden both great. The boat offers comfort and space for everyone, they take maximum of 25 divers and 10 snorkelers and everyone can easily find a place to sit and relax enjoying the two hours and 30 minutes ride to Similan. Air-con saloon with table, upper deck with mats and sun chairs. The dive deck offer space enough for divers and guides. A good fresh breakfast and lunch cooked on board plus after the last dives a sandwich buffet is available with fresh fruit too.

Next day the boat was scheduled to dive sites that allow easy access to the beaches of Island number 4. This is perfect for a family trip to Similan and to discover the great reefs there. Also good for groups or couples with divers and non divers or just all non divers. The boat has a tender boat that takes the people on the beach on beautiful Honeymoon bay. A snorkeling guide will show the great reef that is just in front of white sand beach. The vegetation on the island offers a great shelter from sun and on the other side there is the rangers station with facilities. After pick up the divers from first dive everyone back on boat for lunch. Second dive at East of Eden. Diving on this site is very good but snorkeling is amazing great the tender boat will assist the non divers. Back on boat and a relaxing trip to the mainland.

Now I can really compare the different ways to dive the Similans. Surely Liveaboard is still the best option and for sure the only good option to dive Richelieu Rock and Koh Tachai as well.

For those who love Liveaboard trips, but like flexibility in departure we suggest South Siam III and South Siam IV. The first does Similan and Koh Bon while the second, with a minimum of three days stay, allows diving at Richelieu Rock and Koh Tachai. These boats guest also day trippers from Khao Lak and Phuket. Good service and great fun for snorkeler and non divers.

If a day trip is your option then you can choose between speed boat transfer to a main boat in Similan or traditional diving boats. My suggestion is the traditional diving boat, the day out will be a bit longer but more comfortable and more fun. Speedboat run fast but offer limited space inside, small or no toilette and no space at all to relax. With small wave the trip will be longer and even less comfortable. The traditional boat offer space to read a book, chat with your friends, have a nap or enjoy compulsory sandwiches and your beer (soft drinks are free of charge but beers not). Surely will take more to come back but this is holiday why rush and get stressed, take it easy for another great easy day Thailand diving.

The day out on M/V Pinyo is great if your group is a mix of divers, non divers and snorkeler, just book everyone on Saturdays for an unforgettable day.

We can organize your holiday in Khao Lak. We work with a few selected hotels that we personally know, two are located in Khao Lak main center, one down the beach, the Ocean Breeze and one aon the on Hill side, the Palm Hill. Then we offer a good guest house just outside the most touristy area the Khao Lak City Hotel that is 7 KM from main center and just 2 from Bang Niang Beach.

I know i will go back for a few days in Khao Lak...

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