Thailand Part 4 – Diving the Similan Islands

10 Mar

Having learnt to scuba dive just over a year ago in preparation for our honeymoon to Mozambique, and braving enough cold water dives in Cape Town to get through the Open Water and Advanced PADI courses, I have decided that tropical water is what diving must have been invented for in the first place.

Our liveaboard boat

Our liveaboard boat

After a fantastic week exploring  the culture and beaches of Thailand, it was with huge anticipation that six of us finally boarded the MV Nautica, our liveaboard dive boat for the next 4 days of our epic holiday and the reason we came to Thailand in the first place.

Leaving the port  at Khao Lak late in the evening, the boat cruised overnight and we woke up in the middle of the tranquil Andaman Sea, on top of some of the best diving sites in the world.  With everything planned and organised by our two experienced divemasters, Nacho and Medic, our  daily routine (which I think is quite typical of liveaboard boats)  involved up to 4 dives a day:  7:30, 11:30, 14:30 and a sunset dive at 17:30, each dive being up to an hour long (depth dependent obviously).  It’s tiring stuff but before you think you can’t handle it (especially if you’re used to lugging heavy cylinders down rocky paths while dressed like the Michelin man in cold water Cape Town), consider that you only rig up your gear once at the beginning of the trip then the boat crew just refill the air in the same tanks after each dive, there’s someone to help you into your kit, haul you back on the boat, and basically there to toss you overboard if you’re too lazy roll over the side yourself.  AND those four dives a day were interspersed with FIVE meals a day prepared by the on board cooks.  I don’t mean hostel style spag bol either – I mean, amazing Thai curries and stirfrys (chicken, beef, prawn, fish), veggies, fried rice & noodles, fresh pawpaw and pineapple with every meal, eggs & bacon and French toast for breakfast (besides the cereal), out-of-this-world banana fritters for the afternoon snack and ice-tea or chocolate milk whipped up whenever we appeared on deck.   I know this post is supposed to be about the diving, but the food was amazing!

Us

Us

So about the diving:  The visibility was at least 20m on most of our dives,  and even 25m below the temperature was 28 degree Celsius.  Wetsuits were optional.  At every site we saw thousands of fish of every colour of the rainbow, and the soft coral and sea fans made for truly beautiful scenery.   Huge moray eels, lion fish, turtles, octopus, cuttlefish and sea snakes don’t even begin to complete the picture.  On the second day we were lucky enough to see three huge manta rays which circled around for ages, flying gracefully through the water oblivious to the dozens (we weren’t the only dive boat in the area) of frantic divers leaping off their boats half way through briefings to catch a glimpse of them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0NhFgINPuQ

On the third day we did three dives at Richelieu Rock which is the most beautiful dive site I can imagine.  It was there that Nacho took us to the exact spots where the pineapple fish, the two seahorses (at 28m!), and the harlequin shrimps hang out.  Amazing that they are always in the same spots but I suppose even tiny sea creatures need to call somewhere home!

In the evenings Medic gave us a crash course on speaking Thai and some of the most useful words that came in handy later were:

  • Hello – Sawadee kha/khap (women/men)
  • Thank you – Khop khun kha/khap
  • Very good – Dee mak mak
  • Very delicious – Aroi mak
  • Expensive! – Peng!  (this usually gets some laughs)
  • Cheap – Mai peng

The last two dives were wrecks near to the mainland.  There were pretty murky and a bit desolate in comparison to where we had just come from, but it completed the package experience  and we saw impressive honeycomb morays there that we hadn’t seen anywhere else.

I can’t believe how quickly the time went and  4 days and 14 dives later we landed back at Khao Lak for 2 final days of cocktails by the pool, present shopping, massages and sightseeing at Phang Nga.  Then began the 30 hour journey back across the globe to our other lives so easily left behind.  It was such a privilege being able to travel with our friends and share so many  wonderful experiences with them.  Far from being satisfied though I’ve just added to my list of places I want to go.  I’m not sure what’s next but I’ve heard about these liveaboards on the Rea Sea that are apparently amazing… 😉

We experienced hassle-free booking of the boat and renting of all equipment through Dive-the-World.

All underwater pictures and the video above by Armin Medic (many thanks!).

 

6 Responses to “Thailand Part 4 – Diving the Similan Islands”

  1. Anne March 11, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    You have given us a superb virtual tour of your holiday in Thailand. The description of diving in such warm clear water with all the beautiful and interesting life below opens a new world to those who shudder to think what might be sharing the sea with them. Thank you for the journey!

  2. Hannes March 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    Looks amazing! Enjoyed the reading and the photos 🙂

  3. Brigitte March 13, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    I have just travelled to Thailand by proxy- thanks for the ride, Cathy! And the dive in particular. I’m very impressed with your underwater filming skills! It really is a whole different world down there with amazing life, some creatures so outrageously colourful and others in perfect camouflage. Stunning- and I need to reconsider being a pescaterian now.

    • Cathy March 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks so much I’m glad you enjoyed it! I can’t take any credit for the underwater filming I’m afraid – that was all done by our divemaster – but it is great to have a record of what we saw under the sea 🙂

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