Ever wonder what it would be like to jump into the water and look around 40m below the surface? The underwater world is mysterious and yet inviting, the experience of diving it provides and addictive sense of zen. There’s no better place to have your first dive experience than the Similan Islands, Thailand – with good conditions year round.
While there are a few dive centers based in Phuekt that still offer trips to the Similan Islands – they drive people 2-3 hours north to Khao Lak and then depart from there. Khao Lak is the real center of Similan Diving operations.
Most dive shops in Khao Lak offer SSI or PADI certifications. Many schools prefer SSI because it offers greater safety and flexibility, while others choose PADI. Beginners may choose to do some training in the swimming pool or in the sea. Also you can join a Similan liveaboard or simply do daytrips.
More advanced divers and those beginners who are confident in their abilities will also consider the local wrecks! Plenty of great marine life as well as incredible scenery. There is also some seriously awesome muck-diving.
Khao Lak offers an excellent choice of dive shops and also has a good range of accommodation to suit most tastes. It is also the closest jumping off point to the Similan Islands.
The Similan Islands, technically located in Phang Nga province, provide some of the best dive sites in the world. Protected within a marine national park, the nine islands are still pristine and rich with wildlife above and below the water. Most dive operators will take you ashore at one of the islands, where you can enjoy the powder-white beaches and see exotic birds and monkeys.
Under the waves, the colourful reefs and boulder formations are teeming with coral and a variety of marine life. Sometimes whale sharks are even spotted in the waters, as well as rays and other sharks. Visibility is good, varying from 30-50m. The best way to see the Similan Islands is by liveaboard, and most dive operators will allow you to do your Open Water dives from the boat if you’ve completed the paper and pool work ashore beforehand.
Not all dive instructors are the same, and some are downright scary. Likewise, equipment standards can vary, and you’ll want to make sure any shop you choose has quality equipment and maintains it properly and hygienically. You should also check into the insurance policy of the dive shop and enquire as to if you should purchase your own dive insurance for the hyperbaric chamber if you have an accident. Also see if there equipment is serviced by certified techinicians (they should be able to provide detailed information on this) and if their boats are insured.
Most the dive operations in Thailand are run by foreigners, which is just as well since Thais have a rather different approach to safety and responsibility, but you’ll find yourself diving with plenty of Thai staff who are their usual friendly easy-going selves.