Thailand’s Similan Islands are located in the North Andaman Sea, just a few hours by boat off the coast of Phuket. Its nine islands now form a National Park thanks to the abundance of marine life there – during my trip I was hoping to see such creatures as whale sharks, barracudas, and the elusive manta rays, and in general I wasn’t disappointed!

Our dive boat & floating home

Our dive boat & floating home

My trip began with a flight to Phuket & then a 1-hour road transfer to the pier, where I boarded the live-aboard boat that would be my home for the next 4 days & 3 nights, and we set off for our cruise around the islands, reaching the first dive spot some 6 hours later.

AOK! As I glide past plentiful coral in the Similans.

AOK! As I glide past plentiful coral in the Similans.

Straight away I realise what an amazing dive spot this is – within minutes I’m swimming amongst coral and coming face to face with angel fish, trigger fish and Moray eel, as well as a few tasty-looking mantis shrimp & octopus. If all the diving is as good as this, it’s going to be a fantastic trip!

After my first night on board, eating fresh seafood & watching DVD movies with my fellow divers, the next day begins with arguably the best dive of the trip, at Koh Bon – up to 30m in depth alongside a sheer rock wall with coral outgrowths, it’s absolutely stunning and I encounter several colourful fish species. The second dive at Koh Tachai is just as impressive, where I encounter a leopard shark amongst others. After leaving Koh Tachai, a passing boat informs us they have just seen manta ray there, so we quickly head back and dive in again, but sadly no manta ray this time.

I saw many Scorpion Fish

I saw many Scorpion Fish

Day 3 dawns with an early dive at Richelieu, where I come across dogfaced puffer fish, butterfly fish and others, before we continue our search for the elusive manta ray by revisiting Koh Tachai, again without success! Those manta ray are definitely doing their best to avoid us. But we do see more octopus & moray eels.

One of my favorite discoveries was a Leopard Shark.

One of my favorite discoveries was a Leopard Shark.

On day 4 we make a couple of final dives at Koh Bon, encountering white tip reef sharks & sea snakes amongst others. I hope that, like Jeremy Wade from the TV show River Monsters, my persistence will pay off at the last minute and a manta ray or two will finally put in an appearance, but sadly this is real life and the rays are still conspicuous by their absence. A shame, but it doesn’t spoil what has to be the best diving trip I’ve been on.

I spend another day in Phuket resting before my flight (you should never fly within 18-24 hours of a dive), and then head back to Bangkok with wonderful memories of a truly unforgettable trip. As diving in Thailand goes, the Similan Islands are truly as good as it gets.