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Author Topic: Similan islands trip report - Nov 2016 (updated for 2017)  (Read 1478 times)

spyloretta

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Hello! Just got back from an amazing 5-day liveaboard to the Similan islands and thought I would share.

For those of you who prefer watching videos over reading text:





In April this year I went on a 3-day liveaboard with the same company and had such a great time that I booked this trip with them immediately after I came home!

The company I went with is located in Khao Lak, which is a little bit north of Phuket. In April they arranged a taxi for me from Phuket airport to Khao Lak, but this time round I decided to take the public bus up instead, to save a bit of money. It's about 1,300 baht for a taxi and <500 baht for a bus (including transfers from the airport, etc.). The bus takes around 2 hours and is a pretty pleasant journey. I stayed in a guesthouse called Happy House near the dive shop for the night before and after the liveaboard, which was 400 baht for a private room with a huge bed and decent bathroom with hot water.

On the evening of day 0, we had to take a minivan up to the pier at Kuraburi, which was about 2 hours north of Khao Lak. From there, it was about 4 hours to the Surin islands, where we would be doing our first dives the next morning. The itinerary was 4 dives a day, at 7am, 11am, 3pm and 7pm. On a couple of days the schedule was shifted up by half an hour so we could do sunset dives instead of night dives. We did 18 dives in total (2 days on the last day).

Day 1 - Surin Islands
Sites: Koh Chi, Torinla North, Surin South, Ao Paka (night dive)
Vis was around 10-15m, which honestly was less than I had expected, and the current took us on an unintentional drift dive. Perhaps it was because of the upcoming full moon. In fact, we had the supermoon happen during our trip. More about that later.

We saw maybe a gazillion moray eels, schools of sweetlips and surgeonfish, fusiliers everywhere, and a couple of turtles.

Day 2 - Richelieu Rock & Koh Tachai
Sites: Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai pinnacle
Vis at Richelieu Rock wasn't that fantastic either, about 10m. Current was still strong. We managed to see a seahorse though, so that was cool. It seemed like it was cephalopod mating season there, because we saw a pair of octopuses getting it on during our first dive, and a bunch of cuttlefish fighting over a potential mate on our second dive. Vis at Koh Tachai was a complete 180 degree change and it was perfect. Huge gorgonian fans everywhere, lobsters, and the water was nice and calm.


Day 3 - Koh Bon & Similan Islands
Sites: Koh Bon (wall side), Koh Bon (pinnacle side), Three Trees (Island #9), Donald Duck Bay (Island #8)
Koh Bon had possibly the best conditions when we dived there. Zero current with vis about 30-40m. They were my favourite dives by far. Koh Bon is covered in such pretty pastel blue and yellow soft corals. We saw a napoleon wrasse out looking for breakfast, maldivian sponge snails, and all of the usual suspects. Between the third and fourth dives, we went to the beach on Island #8 and climbed up to Sail Rock. It was an incredible view.



Day 4 - Similan Islands
Sites: Christmas Point (Island #9), Elephant Head Rock (Island #7/8), West of Eden (Island #7), Anita's Reef (Island #5/6)
Interesting topography with lots of gigantic boulders that looked like they were being scooped out with an ice-cream scoop. Plenty of swimthroughs and hiding behind boulders from the current. Marine life was more or less the same as the previous days. Again, between the third and fourth dives, we went onto the beach at Island #4 and took a bit of a walk around the jungle area. Later on, after we surfaced from our sunset dive, we caught sight of the gigantic red supermoon. It was breathtaking. Luckily for us, we didn't experience any crazy currents due to the moon.

Day 5 - Boonsung Wreck & Premchai Wreck
Sites: Boonsung Wreck, Premchai Wreck
On the last day, we were headed back to the pier at Thaplamu, which was about 20 minutes south of Khao Lak. There are a couple wrecks just a short distance from the mainland which serve as a nursery for all sorts of fish. The number of snappers we saw there were ridiculous, and there were a couple of very happy jacks there feeding. Vis was about 10m and we saw honeycomb moray eels, a ton of scorpionfish and a stonefish.

It was a pretty awesome trip overall, as liveaboards usually are. (Who wouldn't like doing nothing but eating, sleeping and diving?) The dive crew and boat crew take really good care of all the guests, and the food is absolutely delicious. There are so many more places to visit, but I'll probably end up going back there again!
« Last Edit: 30 Nov 17, 21:05 by spyloretta »
My heart remains in Nusa Lembongan

spyloretta

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Re: Similan islands trip report - Nov 2016
« Reply #1 on: 25 Nov 16, 22:13 »
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  • Someone PM-ed me for a breakdown of costs for this trip, so here it is!

    Flights - SGD138.63 by Jetstar
    I usually travel without checked baggage, but added 20kg this time for my dive gear which cost me SGD44. Gear rental at the shop was THB250 per day, which would have added up to SGD50 for the whole trip.

    Liveaboard - THB24,500 (SGD983) for a 4-bed cabin for 5D/5N
    The company offers a 15% discount for returning guests, so I only had to pay THB20,825 (SGD836). I chose the cheapest accommodation option which didn't really matter to be honest, because I slept on the sundeck/in the dining area every night anyway.

    There's a marine park fee of THB2,000 (SGD80) to be paid, and it's for the whole 5 days. A photographer on board goes around taking photos of everyone during the dives, and you have the option of purchasing all of the photos for THB2,500 (SGD100) at the end of the trip. I also tipped my guide and the boat crew.

    Transport - THB2,000 (SGD80.25)
    I arrived a couple of days earlier, and went down to Patong beach for my first night. From the airport to Patong beach was THB200 (I think I might have gotten shafted on that one... Probably could have had it cheaper).

    The hostel that I stayed at on Patong beach arranged my transport to Khao Lak for THB500 (SGD20). It was a half-hour minivan ride together with a bunch of severely-hungover backpackers heading to the Full-Moon party in Koh Samui (we left late because someone was still busy throwing up) and then they dropped me off at the side of the road to wait for the public bus, which was another hour and a half to reach Khao Lak.

    On my way back, I couldn't be bothered with all the hassle of catching a bus again, so I had the dive shop arrange a taxi for me directly to Phuket airport. It cost THB1,300 (SGD52).

    Additional accommodation costs - THB1,150 (SGD46)
    I stayed a total of 3 nights on land, the first of which was in a 3-bed dorm in a hostel at Patong beach (it was advertised as a 4-bed dorm but only had 3 beds in it...?) and it cost THB350 (SGD14). The nights before and after the liveaboard, I stayed in a place next to the dive shop which was a pretty basic but spacious room for THB400 (SGD16) a night.

    Food & Drinks - Around SGD150
    Food in Khao Lak itself was pretty expensive as most of the places have tourist prices. A meal was usually about THB200-300 (SGD8-12). There were cheaper places, of course, but you had to search for them. Meals on the liveaboard were all included in the price, and there were always fruits for snacks and electrolyte drinks. Beer was THB70 (SGD2.80) a can on board. Most of my F&B expenditure was due to spending two nights at Gecko Bar.

    Total cost - SGD1,500 for 9D/8N

    Hope this helps! Feel free to ask anything else. I loved diving in the Similans and am really happy to share.
    My heart remains in Nusa Lembongan

    spyloretta

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    Re: Similan islands trip report - Nov 2016
    « Reply #2 on: 30 Nov 17, 21:05 »
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  • I returned to the Similans this year, with the same operator, for their first trip of the season! This trip was a 3-night trip, leaving from Thaplamu pier in the evening of the first night, visiting a couple of the Similan Islands (#8 and #9), Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock before the last dive at Boonsung wreck on the way back to Thaplamu.

    It was a pretty last-minute trip, and I was pretty broke, so I had to find some ways of doing this trip on the cheap. Perhaps this post can help some of you guys who are also on a tight budget. But first, a video! (This one is way better than the ones I did last year, I promise.)


    Transport - THB150 (SGD6.20) from Phuket airport to Khao Lak, THB350 (SGD14.50) from Khao Lak back to Phuket airport
    I wasn't able to save on the air tickets since it was a last-minute trip, but I did manage to save on the transport up to Khao Lak from Phuket airport. The cheapest I've seen was 1,000 baht for a car... I only spent 150 baht.

    The catch is that you spend about two hours in total to get up there, and involves taking the airport shuttle to the highway, then changing to a public bus. Still, if you're on a budget and have the time to spare, it's worth it. You can find specific instructions on how to do this here. On the way back, I didn't have a lot of time, so I took the public bus back down to Phuket for 50 baht, got off near the airport, and took a taxi.

    Accommodation - THB480 (SGD20) a night
    Unfortunately the place I stayed at last year had closed, so I went to another place just off the main road called Fasai House. Nice place with air-con and fridge, about 10 minutes' walk from the dive shop. It's close to Go Pong, which is probably like the cheapest food in Khao Lak.

    Food - THB100 a meal
    Like I mentioned last year, most places are pretty expensive as they cater to tourists. Go Pong, which is about 5 minutes north of the Nang Thong supermarket, has relatively cheap local food at 100 baht for a meal. A lot of my friends who work in Khao Lak swear by that place.

    Aside from drinking at Monkey Bar and Gecko Bar, I got my beer from the Nang Thong supermarket, which was about 50 baht per large bottle.


    Hope this has helped anyone else who likes to travel and dive on a budget. Are there even any here? Haha. Let me know so we can share tips :)
    « Last Edit: 30 Nov 17, 21:11 by spyloretta »
    My heart remains in Nusa Lembongan