The Similan Islands are a group of nine islands situated in the Andaman Sea, some 60km west of Khao Lak, or roughly 90km north north west of Phuket, Thailand. It was supposed to have been one of Jacques Cousteau’s favourite diving locations. The liveaboard trip I was about to embark on was for six nights with five days of diving; there would be four dives a day except the last day when there were to be only three, so nineteen dives in all. It would also include the Islands of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock; the island of Koh Surin was no longer visited due to the Tsunami’s damage to the reefs. I was to be accompanied on the trip with two of my dive buddies from the UK, Neville and Sharky.
We were collected from our accommodation in Kata Beach, Phuket, at around 5pm by a minibus and taken to the offices of the boat owner at Chalong. We were there to congregate with the rest of the divers and the tour leaders. We filled in the usual liability waivers and waited for everyone to turn up. Once we were all together, we walked 400m to the pier. Waiting for the pier bus I savoured the air; the last time I would experience these smells for a week, also the last time I would be on terra firma. The pier bus turned up and took us and our equipment down the very long pier to the awaiting boat, the Jonathan Cruiser. We all clambered aboard and headed for the meeting/eating area on the middle deck.
The liveaboard’s normal tour guide, Alex, had had an ear infection and had been told to stay out of the water. Luckily for everyone, Mats and his girlfriend had booked themselves on this trip. Mats had previously been the guide a few years ago for a couple of seasons, before returning to Sweden, and he knew the sites well.
The journey got under way the minute we were all aboard. The sun was now setting and we said goodbye to land. Mats then went through the boat and dive briefing with everyone. Free tea, coffee, water and toast all day, anytime you wanted it, would be available; other drinks you had to pay for. There would only be time for tea and toast during the first dive briefing at 7:30 every morning however, as the first dive of the day would be at 8am – eek! Then breakfast would be served once everyone had surfaced and were back safely on the boat. The next dive would be at 11am, followed by lunch, then the next dive 3pm (or 2:30pm if we were to do a dusk dive at 5:30pm instead of a night dive at 7pm), followed by the evening meal. After the briefing we were shown to our cabins. Neville and Sharky shared, leaving me with Alex (a different Alex from the poorly dive guide Alex). I asked if he snored; he said he didn’t, which is good because I can’t sleep in the same room as someone who snores! I think due to the proximity of the sea it was a good thing he didn’t snore, as he may have found himself inadvertently swimming at 2am. He seemed quite happy that I took over most of the cupboard space with my camera equipment (well he didn’t say anything, anyway). We sat around and got to know some of the other divers for a while, trying to work out which beach was which, as we steamed up the west coast of Phuket .
We were on our way, steaming through the night. The only thing to do now was sleep, as we were going to be up early the next morning.
Read Similan Islands Liveaboard Trip Report: Day 1 here.