Out of my entire trip to Thailand this was probably the part I was looking forward to the most: to go on a liveaboard trip at the Similan islands, in search of manta rays and whale sharks…
Unfortunately, I found neither. But, three days of living on a boat, doing 10 great and very varied dives at some of the most beautiful dive sites in Thailand, was absolutely incredible!
About Diving at the Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are considered to be home to some of the best dive sites in Thailand. And, some even say some of the best dive sites in the world.
The Similan Islands is a group of 9 beautiful granite islands, located in the Andaman Sea, around 65km (40 miles) from the mainland of Thailand. The Similan Islands were declared a National Park in 1982, in an effort to protect its unique habitat.
In 2014 the National Park expanded its area to include the two islands of Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. The Thai Government restricts access to several islands and beaches to protect the wildlife on the islands. Additionally, the law prohibits sport fishing and commercial fishing in certain areas.
Similan Island liveaboards visit dive sites that feature varied landscapes and vibrant marine life. You will see massive boulders, caves, and beautiful reefs that are home to over 500 species of hard and soft corals.
Note: liveaboard trips to the Similan Islands only run from November through to May. The national park is closed for the rest of the year.
What is Liveaboard Diving?
Liveaboards are what the word suggests: boats you can live on. During your multiple day dive trip you stay on the boat and move from dive site to dive site. This gives you the opportunity to reach dive sites that cannot be reached on a day trip. Liveaboards normally cater to between 10 and 30 people and range from relatively basic to very luxurious boats.
Accommodation is often shared, although many liveaboards do offer private rooms as well. All meals are provided and the staff takes care of all dive logistics.
On most liveaboards you are offered three to five dives a day. This might sound like a lot, but there are long surface intervals between dives, the staff takes care of everything, and you get to relax, eat, take a nap or sunbathe while the captain takes the boat to the next dive site. And obviously, you can decide to skip a dive here and there to just enjoy being on the boat.
Tip: I HIGHLY recommend getting your Nitrox certification if you decide to do a liveaboard trip. Believe me, when you are doing four or more dives per day, you will feel a lot less tired when you use Nitrox!
Why Choose a Liveaboard Trip?
Beginner divers are often intimidated by liveaboards. They assume you have to be an experienced diver to join a liveaboard trip. And that a liveaboard, which often offers four or five dives per day, is too intense for them.
It does depend a little bit on where you go, but especially a 3-day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands is actually very suitable for almost all levels of divers. You will need your PADI Advanced Open Water certificate (or similar) because of the depth of some of the dive sites, but you definitely don’t need years of experience and hundreds of logged dives.
But why go on a liveaboard dive trip? A liveaboard enables you to dive more remote and often better dive sites, which is an important reason to prefer liveaboard trips over day trips.
Additionally, you get to spend your evenings close to nature, out on the ocean gazing at the stars. And you will get to know a group of divers all sharing the same dive experience.
Liveaboard life is summed up as ‘Dive. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.’, which is not far from the truth! In between the dives your trip will be very relaxing; you get to see beautiful scenery all from the comforts of a full-service boat.
Tip: Do you want to go on a liveaboard trip but are you traveling with a partner or friend who doesn’t dive? No problem! Most liveaboards allow non-divers to join at a discounted rate. And, if he or she does want to try diving, there is often an opportunity to do a Discover Scuba Dive or even a complete course.
Review: A 3-Day Liveaboard Dive Trip to the Similan Islands with Sea Bees Diving
When doing some online research to find the best places for diving in Thailand I soon found out how highly rated the Similan islands are. And, they sounded a whole lot less crowded than popular dive destinations such as Koh Tao.
I decided to go for the three-day liveaboard option simply because I love liveaboard diving and because I was sure I would get to dive at better dive sites than when going on a simple day trip.
I have done an 8-day liveaboard before (in the Maldives, which also offers incredible diving by the way) and although that liveaboard trip was great, an 8-day liveaboard does take up a big chunk of your vacation, so a 3-day dive trip sounded perfect to me!
Sea Bees offers 10 dives on their 3-day liveaboard trip. And although that may sound like a lot, the dives were spaced out really well. With a surface interval of at least two hours in between each dive and always a meal or a snack waiting for you, it has been a surprisingly relaxing trip for me!
What I really loved about diving around the Similan islands is how diverse the dives were. From dives with great coral and countless fish to dives with fun swim throughs and huge rock formations. And, since I love both night dives and wreck dives I was happy we got to do each of those once during this trip.
Personally, I was also really happy to hear that the water around the island is always around 29 °C (84 °F) which means I was never cold during the dives, something that, for me, is quite unique!
Another thing worth mentioning is that the Thai government has recently drastically limited the number of people that are allowed to visit the national park. This, in my opinion, is a great thing because it will help protect the reef and make sure the dives stay as pristine as they are.
According to one of our dive instructors, the Similan islands are actually one of the very few places he has seen, anywhere in the world, where the reef is improving instead of deteriorating. Having seen so many coral reefs in such bad shape all over the world myself, that news made me very happy and more than willing to contribute to this national park!
Unfortunately I am not a great videographer and my cheap Go Pro knockoff does not do the dive sites justice, but this is a small compilation of 3 great days of diving at the Similan Islands:
MV Genesis, the boat we were on, is a cozy boat that holds a maximum of 12 guests.
You can either opt for a shared room with two bunk beds or a private room with one single bed. All rooms are air-conditioned and what I appreciated the most is that they all have large windows. Rooms on boats often only have small portholes. Having a window that’s almost as wide as the room itself was great, especially when relaxing in between dives (to just enjoy the scenery from the privacy of my room) and in the morning, waking up at sunrise for our first dives, quietly watching the world wake up…
The boat offers two shower rooms, two toilets and two outdoor showers on the diving deck. Unfortunately there are no rooms with private bathrooms.
I initially kept comparing this liveaboard to my very luxurious liveaboard experience in the Maldives. Compared to that the boat is more basic and the rooms are small, but all in all it was a great liveaboard experience on a nice boat with really good staff! Oh and the delicious food that was waiting for us after every dive definitely deserves a mention! Diving makes you hungry and the great variety of food they served was perfect!
Plus the common areas are spacious and there is a really nice sun deck to relax, sunbathe and maybe take a nap in between dives.
Value for Money
Liveaboard diving really is a very comfortable way to dive, and See Beas Diving was no exception.
Their incredibly friendly staff did everything for us: from helping us get ready for our dives to making sure everything on the boat was dry, clean and comfortable as we returned from our dives. Delicious food was waiting for us after each dive – having seen how small the kitchen is I am really impressed with the wide range of food they managed to prepare! And I don’t know if this is more of a female diver thing but to be able to have a hot shower in between dives, to dry off properly, sunbathe for a bit, read a book… The combination of all of that made this trip perfect!
I loved that the Genesis is a smaller boat which means you will be diving with fewer people and I think that’s worth a lot! Sea Bees Diving is also one of the very few companies offering 3-day liveaboard dive trips to the Similan Islands. Most other companies offer either day trips or longer liveaboard trips. And although part of me wanted to stay on the boat forever and just continue a life of ‘Dive. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.’ another part of me was also quite tired after 10 dives and just wanted to see more of Thailand in the limited time I had in the country. So a 3-day liveaboard I think is a great option.
Compared to other liveaboard options in the Similan islands Sea Bees’ prices are competitive and I would definitely say it’s well worth it and without a doubt one of the highlights of my three weeks in Thailand!
Please note that the National Park charges a park fee, so this will be an extra charge on top of the price of the Similan liveaboard trip. Contact Sea Bees Diving for the current park fees and any other information you may want.
Diving the Similan Islands From Khao Lak
Sea Bees Diving’s 3-day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands starts from Khao Lak. They will pick you up from your hotel in Khao Lak to take you to the boat, and bring you back after the trip. They can also arrange a transfer from Phuket to Khao Lak early on the first day of the dive trip but I would recommend staying in Khao Lak the night before your trip. Or even longer than that since Khao Lak is actually a really nice, laid-back, tourist-oriented coastal area.
There are public buses from both Bangkok and Phuket to Khao Lak and therefore most people will fly into either of those airports and travel to Khao Lak from there.
Sea Beas Diving, along with other dive companies, also offers day trips to take you diving at the Similan islands. But with so many incredible dive sites and the relatively remote location, I highly recommend opting for a 3-day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands!
About Sea Bees Diving
Sea Bees Diving has been operating an award-winning dive resort for over twenty years. As an SSI Diamond Instructor Dive Center, they offer a full range of dive courses and excursions.
Their dive centers and outlets are strategically located in the best dive destinations in Southern Thailand: in Phuket (Nai Yang and Chalong) and Khao Lak. Combined with their custom built fleet of dive boats and dive resorts in Khao Lak and Phuket, they are able to offer a great overall dive experience.
All locations offer great dive experiences that showcase the fascinating underwater world of the Andaman Sea. For more information go to Sea-Bees.com
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Disclosure: My 3-day liveaboard trip to the Similan Islands was sponsored by Sea Bees Diving. This however in no way affects my opinions. I would never recommend anything I didn’t enjoy myself and I only share my honest opinion.