A Similan Islands liveaboard trip report from February 2023, diving the Similans from the Blue Dolphin liveaboard.
Batfish and divers, Richelieu Rock © firstname.lastname@example.org
With Thailand’s borders fully open again, more and more tourists are returning to dive the Similan Islands. There are now plenty of Similan liveaboards operating again and it effectively feels like it did before Covid. February to April has always been my favourite time to dive the Similan Islands – the weather is usually at its best and the Andaman sea at its calmest.
This was a return trip for me on the newly launched Blue Dolphin liveaboard. The trip followed the same itinerary as the previous liveaboard I did on the Blue Dolphin in December 2022. You can see more info about the Blue Dolphin on their website and at Liveaboard.com
Here’s a dive by dive rundown of where we went and what we saw in the Similan Islands, as well as Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock and the Surin Islands.
Tuna Wreck and Hideaway Bay
Sudesh and the Tuna wreck © email@example.com
This dive is always a great start to a Similans liveaboard. The calm waters of Hideaway Bay are perfect for a check out dive and the Tuna Wreck makes for a dramatic beginning. Divers either drop down to 28 metres and pay a visit or pass over the wreck and head straight to the coral slope nearby.
Pook and the tsunami memorial © firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a large coral garden with patches of brilliant white sand and the dive eventually ends in the sandy shallows where the 2004 tsunami memorial is located.
West Of Eden
Fans covering West Of Eden’s boulders © email@example.com
One of the Similan Islands’ signature big boulder sites, West Of Eden has some spectacular fan coral growth covering the huge rocks – they’re often several storeys high.
Huge school of fusiliers © firstname.lastname@example.org
The site also sees a lot of fish activity out in the blue, with a huge thousand-strong school of fusiliers racing around during our dive. Magical.
Pook and the giant barrel sponge, Three Trees © email@example.com
One of my favourite sites in the Similans, Three Trees has some spectacular coral bommies which also have a lot of resident fish life. The barrel sponge as big as a person is a landmark on the dive site.
Hard corals and glassfish, Three Trees © firstname.lastname@example.org
There are also lots of healthy hard and soft corals at Three Trees which also attract a lot of marine life. After Three Trees, there was the choice of a sunset dive or night dive at Turtle Rock, which I skipped.
Curved rock, Christmas Point © email@example.com
Another of the Similan big boulder sites, Christmas Point has some remarkable rocks, the size of a house and shaped by the tides over hundreds of years.
3 fans and soft corals, Christmas Point © firstname.lastname@example.org
The boulders give shelter in some places for corals to flourish, and there are some beautiful fan corals and soft corals clustered together between the rocks.
Koh Bon (coral garden)
Koh Bon coral garden soft corals © email@example.com
Strong currents at Koh Bon pushed us off the ridge and into the coral garden to the south, which is a pleasant noodle around a coral garden with a lot of lettuce coral and some big bommies. Some outcrops of rocks are covered in coral and are a magnet for marine life.
Glassfish and coral bommie, Koh Tachai © firstname.lastname@example.org
Two afternoon dives at Koh Tachai were uncharacteristically quiet. Decent visibility was one compensation, and there was still some life on the reef with glass fish teeming around the coral.
Ao Suthep, Surin Islands
Sunburst over hard corals, Ao Suthep © email@example.com
Starting the day in Ao Suthep’s magnificent hard coral garden is hard to beat – on my previous visit here it had been overcast whereas this time we had some glorious sunshine. Viz is quite murky due to all the nutrients in the water but as that’s what makes the coral grow so large, there’s no complaints. I put together a separate page on Ao Suthep’s coral garden as I like it so much.
Batfish, Richelieu Rock © firstname.lastname@example.org
The three dives at Richelieu were great, with big schools of batfish and barracuda hanging out in the current which dictated where everyone could go around the horseshoe shaped rock.
Soft corals and glassfish, Richelieu Rock © email@example.com
The first two dives did suffer a bit from too many divers in the water. It’s definitely starting to get busy again in Similan islands in the first season back after the end of Covid restrictions. It’s not quite as busy as it was before Covid, as I talked about in my February 2020 Similan liveaboard trip report which was just before Thailand’s borders closed to tourists, but it’s getting there.
Barracuda, Richelieu Rock © firstname.lastname@example.org
The fourth dive of the day was the best as the other boats had left and there was still a lot of light in the late afternoon, so it definitely pays off to have a schedule where you get three dives on Richelieu to be in with a chance of beating the crowds.
Pook and yellow snapper, Richelieu Rock © email@example.com
The dive site seemed even more alive and dynamic than our visit in December, with the glass fish skittering over Richelieu’s signature red soft corals and the big group of resident yellow snapper and fusiliers also constantly shifting about. Every time I dive Richelieu I ask myself “Do I really need yet another photo of glass fish and soft corals?” And the answer is always “Yes. Yes I do.”
Koh Bon x 2
Starfish hanging out, Koh Bon © firstname.lastname@example.org
Our final two dives on the morning of the fourth day were back at Koh Bon. Good visibility but a strong current meant we didn’t stay too long on the ridge, which is where you normally hang out hoping to get a glimpse of manta rays. But when the mantas don’t show up at Koh Bon, you can always console yourself with a clownfish. They’re always around.
Clownfish, Koh Bon © email@example.com