Similan Islands diving

After many years of hearing that the Similan Islands in Thailand were a must-dive destination from my diving friends, I finally managed to make my way there this month.  It was pretty late in the season, which was beneficial in getting a half-empty (or is that half-full?) liveaboard boat and a cabin all to myself, however the weather was starting to turn slightly foul, with cloudy skies most of the time and lashing rain on occasion.  The glimpses of blue sky were very welcome.

Similan island white sandy beach

The diving was quite easy, although there was often a bit of current at the sites to keep things interesting.  The visibility ranged from 20-40 metres and the water temperature hovered around 29C, which made for easy and comfortable diving.

I love seeing big stuff and colourful reefs, and the sites here were not disappointing.  The coral growth on the reefs was looking pretty healthy, apparently making a good recovery after the tsunami of 2004.  The reefs attracted loads of colourful reef fish, which in turn attracted some bigger fish such as trevally and tuna.  On one particularly memorable dive we saw a majestic manta ray that slowly checked us out, before turning around to swim past us again, then swimming off into the blue.

Liveaboard diving is a continual cycle of diving, eating, sleeping/reading, diving, eating, more sleeping and reading.  The diving can get a bit tiring at the end of the day, but it’s definitely worthwhile.  We even checked out one of the white, sandy beaches of one of the islands, which had the whitest powdery sand I’ve ever seen.  It felt like I was standing on a large strip of flour!

White sandy beach at Similan Islands

Thai fishing boats

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Dive 270: Three Trees, Similan Island #9 (Thailand)

Dive time: 00:58:00
Max depth: 26.2 metres
Temperature: 29 C
Visibility: 30 metres
Buddy: Axl, Stefan
Surface interval: 03:06:00

Another superb dive with a descent into the blue into 20 metres of sand and large boulders. Lots of sea fans, a few barrel sponges, and loads of red and purple soft corals. Axl pointed a few cool things like a spearing mantis shrimp, a cute little juvenile oriental sweetlip swimming like mad on a piece of fishing net, a white feather star walking around on the sand, and a tiny pipefish.

Halfway through the dive, Stefan’s French buddy had a problem so Axl surfaced with him and I completed the dive with Stefan. He was taking photos so swimming along slowly, which suited me fine since he always found some cool stuff to photograph that I always missed.

I also saw a massive circular batfish, a spiny lobster, a lionfish, loads of closed up anemones with anemonefish and clownfish poking out from the top, a clown triggerfish, masked porcupinefish, a parrotfish with a remora clinging to its left side, yellowfin emperors, and right at the end we saw a school of around 30 blackfin barracuda and a lone dogtooth tuna circling around us on the safety stop. Nice dive!

Dive 269: Pinnacles, Similan Island #9 (Thailand)

Dive time: 00:55:00
Max depth: 32.6 metres
Temperature: 28 C
Visibility: 25 metres
Buddy: Axl
Surface interval: 03:02:00

The swell was still tossing the boat around as we jumped in. We descended on some large rocky outcrops with a few gutters that had large fan corals, barrel sponges and plate corals on top. We ended up a bit deeper than originally planned, and I spent a fair bit of the dive coming quite close to the NDL.

The site had some absolutely enormous boulders, including one that just looked like the hull of a ship with a pointy end rising out like the bow. Really majestic and awe-inspiring. There wasn’t much growth on the big boulders save for the occasional small fan or green tube coral but there were quite a few parrotfish or angelfish looking for snacks.

We saw a couple of hawksbill turtles on the dive, one was near the the bottom of a mooring, persistently trying to crack some sort of crustacean that was stuck on a rock. Towards the end of the dive on massive beds of dead coral was another turtle that looked like it was eating a crab, with a few angelfish waiting for scraps.

I also saw a giant moray eel, a couple of giant trevally, a couple of lionfish, Kuhl’s stingray, a pair of clown triggerfish, and blue faced angelfish.

 

Dive 268: Amongst the Rocks, Similan Island #6 (Thailand)

Dive time: 00:54:00
Max depth: 35.4 metres
Temperature: 27 C
Visibility: 20 metres
Buddy: Axl
Surface interval: 15:23:00

The weather turned foul overnight with wind and bigger swells. It was raining on and off during the morning, and there was a fair bit of swell as we were gearing up. I was still feeling a little nauseous as we jumped into the water!

We descended straight into about 20 metres of water over some massive rock platforms that were absolutely covered in fans, coral gardens and fish life. The site is covered with big rocky outcrops and some nice gutters. At the top of the site is a beautiful shallow reef. Absolutely gorgeous dive!

I saw a couple of ribbon eels (one black and one blue and yellow), a lionfish, three seamoths (bizarre looking things as they’re crawling around on the gravelly bottom), lots of fusiliers, oriental sweetlips, angelfishes and butterflyfishes, a pair of scissortail dart gobies that darted back into a hole as I swam over, spotted boxfish, a giant pufferfish, a spiny lobster hiding in the crack of a rock, and a few predatory giant trevally looking for their next meal.

 

Dive 267: Eagle Ray Rock, Similan Island #4 (Thailand)

Dive time: 00:54:00
Max depth: 27.7 metres
Temperature: 30 C
Visibility: 40 metres
Buddy: Axl
Surface interval: 02:59:00

We dropped into a big patch of sand when straight away the Frenchman in our group spotted a giant moray eel sticking its head out from under a small bommie. First moray spotted on the trip!

The first part of the dive was a fairly nice drift until we got to some massive boulders. Here we saw the “Green Monster” come in, which is a crap load of green water and the visibility drops significantly, although we still had 10-15 metres visibility in the Green Monster until we swam up a bit shallower. In amongst the big boulders the current swirls a lot so it felt like I was swimming in a bit of a washing machine, with some moments where I get swept around and then the next moment having to fin quite heavily to get around a big rock into more sheltered water. Some nice swimthroughs. Not as enjoyable as the other relaxing dives due to the changes in current – was surprised that I still had a fair bit of air at the end of the day and hadn’t chewed through it as much as I thought I would have.

I saw a giant triggerfish through a crack, a few dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, an octopus hiding in a hole, ring angelfish, humpback unicornfish, a small egg cowrie and then a couple of large cowries, lots of fusiliers, loads of different angelfish and butterflyfish, and moorish idols.