Diving a Blue Dream — Southern Thailand’s Similan Islands


For the avid scuba diver, there’s always another quintessential spot of ocean to explore. Fifty-five nautical miles off Phuket, Thailand in the Andaman Sea, you’ll find world-class diving in the Similan and Surin Islands National Park. With 30-meter visibility, divers descend into coral reefs and granite quarries bursting with life in a dance timed with the current.

Welcome to the first article of our Spotlight on Thailand series. This story covers all the amazing marine life divers can see on the west coast. If you’re considering a trip north to the rainforest afterward, read about idyllic retreats and exciting tours and activities.

Due to varying oceanic conditions and topography, divers encounter unique habitats in each the nine islands of the Similan group, and five islands of the Surin group.

The island chains contain a staggering diversity of coral and macro life such as colorful nudibranchs, thorny-faced ghost pipefish, and red and white-banded lobster shrimp. Transient giants too, like whale sharks and graceful manta rays sometimes visit certain dive sites, such as Richelieu Rock.

The stirring hydrosphere of the Andaman Sea is a photographer’s playground, excellent for both digital pictures and video. Just imagine — patrolling schools of barracuda a few meters below the surface, massive curtains of yellow fusiliers that separate and re-form near passive divers, and curious sea turtles gliding over fan corals undulating on the reef surface.

If that’s not enough, still other treasures lie on coral-covered bommies and the sea floor. Divers may spot, among others, black and white clownfish flitting in and out of pink anemone, ornate butterfly fish swimming 90 degrees up the coral shelf, green moray eels in pockets of rock, and wide-lipped trigger fish guarding nests dug out of the sandy bottom.

Dive, Sharkey, Dive

clown fish

A dive trip to the Similan and Surin islands requires planning. Boats depart from the west Thai coast, and take approximately 4 hours to reach the first island group. To experience the reef to its fullest, stay on a liveaboard dive boat provides the best option for divers.

Without local knowledge, choosing a liveaboard may prove complicated, however. Consider an established dive company, such as Sharkey Scuba near Karon Beach in Phuket, to organize your trip.

Sharkey’s friendly and professional team offers 1 to 6 day liveaboard trips, including equipment rental, to the Similians, Phi Phi, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.

Personable instructors run PADI dive courses for open water, advanced, and speciality certifications. Or, if you’re out to discover the secrets of the reef, a Sharkey private guide can show you what the locals know. Look for their pink shark-y logo.

Quick Facts:

  • Lang: Thai, English
  • Currency: THB, baht
  • Time zone: GMT +7 h
  • Tel. country code: +66

Before booking your dive trip, think about the level of service you prefer, and inform the dive company so they can best accommodate you. Whether on a luxury or standard boat, the crew should provide a safe and clean environment in the common areas and launch deck, and may also assist divers to don or remove their equipment. The boat’s dive leader or dive master will explain safety procedures, and may offer tips about each dive site.

A liveaboard package may include: transportation to the boat, meals, snacks, and some drinks (ex. alcohol for additional charge), sleeping quarters, bathroom facilities, and air-fill for scuba tanks. Some boat operators also rent scuba gear.