I finally got my wish and did the 3 day-2night live-aboard snorkelling trip to the Similans put on by Poseidon Bangalows out of Khao Lak in late January 08.
I found it one of the best live aboard trips I’ve done and highly recommend it to not only to people who like snorkelling some pretty good reefs and checking excellent marine-life, but others who simply like chugging around on a comfortable slow-boat thru a series of scenic islands (the Similans are a string of 9 hilly forest clad islands about 70km off the Andaman coast and roughly the same distance north of Phuket’s northern end).
* We snorkelled over a dozen locations at 6 islands, got several hours beach time on 2 gorgeous beaches and had time for a bit of trekking to some pretty nice island viewpoints.
*There were 17 guests on the boat - one Orstrayan, 2 Yanks, 2 Finns and 12 Swedes. Poseidon is a Swedish-Thai owned operation.
5 crew - Lars, the young affable Swedish snorkelling guide (who gave his laid-back review at every new stop in excellent English), the Captain Chuy and his deckhand , plus the 2 cookies, chef Mai and helper Su.
Lars was a good snorkeller and Chuy was the best Thai in the water I’ve seen. He had an amazing eye - he could spot lobsters and octopuses from the surface in 8m of water - I had to take his word and follow him down close before I saw them.
* Food was outstanding - not the usual bungalow stuff (not that I don't enjoy that) but similar to a good Thai banquet where about 5 different courses are handed around. There were always coffee, tea and fruit on offer. You can buy beer and soft drinks on account.
* The boat Duang Ta looks to be a converted small Thai-style ferry and is very comfortable and well appointed.
There is plenty of room so you aren’t tripping over other guests like some of the Aussie trips I’ve done.
Sleeping quarters in the hull is a long dorm-like area with wooden partitions and curtains for privacy, mattresses and pillows I found comfortable, a light for reading and aircon at night for non-swelter zzzzs. About half the guests elected to sleep on deck under the stars.
There are 2 spacious areas for sunbathing, which is an excellent way to spend the time when chugging between islands. The big covered dining area was ideal for shade lovers.
Fresh water is usually limited on smaller boats but we were told we could shower after every snorkel and any other time we liked, but not to stay under for a huge amount of time. The shower is located near the rear platform used to access the ocean - rinse off as soon as you hop out.
There are 2 western style toilets.
*Lars and Chuy take lots of photos both in and out of the water which Lars burns to CD (including top shots from previous trips and a video) and makes available about 20 minutes after return to Poseidon - for 600baht from memory. I had to scoot to try and make an un-booked Phuket bus and so can’t show you any of the shots. But the Poseidon website has some nice general ones.
* Similans coral is supposed to be some of the best in Thailand. It is the best I’ve seen in Thailand.
But it is a step down from the best I’ve seen elsewhere (Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and nearby islands). And it isn’t as good as some Pacific island coral I’ve snorkelled. It lacks the variety of colour and form you see in the best places. And I didn’t swim through any deep coral canyons where you surprise the hell out of divers - or find any submarine caves you can swim into and pop out thru a hole in the top of the reef.
I thought the other marine life was top-grade. Besides the multitude of fish, I saw several turtles following one for about 10 minutes, lots of morays and other eels, several octopuses, one sea-snake, a couple of lobsters and a few small rays.
Maybe BIG fish were lacking - no giant wrasses the size of small cows you see in Australia (I’m not exaggerating). But other people in the party saw barracuda and harmless black-tip reef sharks . We detoured away from the Similans to nearby Ko Bon because dive boats reported manta-rays, but didn’t see any. Ko Bon was a duplication of the Similans otherwise, so was still an interesting snorkel.
Being so far off the coast visibility in all areas was very good.
By the way, the 2 mature age Finns on the trip were diving and snorkelling fanatics - they were always first in the water and last out, and could get way down to where the captain was peering under mushroom corals for lobsters etc. They had just come off a trip to the Surins where they stayed at National Park HQ and took long tails to various locations. They told me the Surins were not quite up to the standards of the Similans coral and fish etc wise. The said nearby Richelieu Rock was slightly better than both, but a step down from the best they’d seen - the Red Sea.
But listen up, even for people who have seen the best, the Similans are still excellent value. They appeared to be having the time of their life and I enjoyed my trip immensely.
*COMPLAINTS? - Well I can’t really think of too many.
-About half the sleeping-berths were doubles and these looked a bit narrow for 2 to me. I noticed the Finns who were on their second Poseidon trip, grabbed single bunks.
-Maybe we didn’t make full use of the last day - we left island #4 not too long after luncheon and were in port soon after 4pm. But a few of the guests were wanting to pick up booked Bangkok buses, so maybe this slightly early return isn't always the situation.
In any case it 's balanced by the early start - we were chugging out of harbour at 0745 first morning, all seated around the table up in the scenic dining area as the first delicious trays of breakfast food were passed around.
I have some photos of the trip starting about 65% down this page http://tezza-thailandbeachesandislands.blogspot.com/2007/07/snorkelling-in-thailand.html
I have put a description of Poseidon's bungalow place at Khao Lak on the PLACES WE MISSED section of this forum.
I also put a general description of the Khao Lak area further down this TRIP REPORTS section.
Hi I'm undecided between 2 tours, the 4 Islands (this includes Chicken Island, Miracle Separated Sea, Poda Island, Pranang Cave & Railay Bay) and the Similan Tour (this includes also Honeymoon Bay, Princess Bay, Donald Duck Bay, East of Eden, Barracuda Point and Christmas Point).
I'm not sure which to go for really since they're both new to me.....what is really the dilemma is that I've read that Similan Island is very nice however I've also read that Railay Bay is a must see.
Which would you go for?
These tours you mention are day trips as against the sleep-aboard muli-day trip I detail above. However I have done both day trips too.
The better trip depends a lot on where you are based. Please advise.
If your hotel is in Krabi town the 4 islands is the go. You can do a Similans Islands day trip out of Krabi but just getting to the pier way north at Thap Lamu near Khao Lak will take maybe 3 hours - then you have to add an extra hour+ to get out to the Similans on the speedboat. End of the day you have to turn around and do all this in the opposite direction.
If based in Khao Lak, the opposite applies.
If starting in Phuket distances are roughly equal. 4 weeks ago I did a Similans day trip out of Phuket** and frankly thought all that time spent in the van and speedboat was not worth it.
Comparing the trips starting at the pier.
The Similans these days are disappointing. Global warming/coral bleaching has decimated the coral and fish. As a snorkeling destination it has gone from very good by Thai standards (not global standards) to poor - way behind the stuff I saw off southern Ko Kradan and particularly Ko Rok this past November. The scenery is okay but not gob-smacking like the Railay area. Best thing about the Similans is the beach stops. The beach at Donald Duck bay IMHO is the best in Thailand (maybe Railay's Phra Nang is its equal when uncrowded (good luck on that) on account of the fantastic surrounding limestone cliffs) and the beach at National Park HQ island #4 (the second beach stop) is almost as good.
Because of the sea distances involved starting from the pier, the Similans trip is way more expensive.
In the past I've enjoyed the Krabi area's 4 island trips, but I have always been based in the Krabi area. I have to say everyone who visits Thailand should see Railay/Phra Nang. I enjoyed the stops at the other locations. However I haven't done a trip in recent years - but I was told last year by 2 Aussies on my Ko Hong day trip that the amount of rubbish on Hen and Chicken plus Ko Poda spoiled their visits there. When I did my last 4 islands the snorkeling was interesting without being up to the standard of say the Similans when that area was good. I don't know how 4 islands coral has fared in recent years.
Personally if I wanted to see Railay I'd be looking at one of the day trips that include Railay/Phra Nang, Phi Phi Ley (for gob smacking soaring karst-cliff scenery the equal of Railay/Phra Nang plus of course THE BEACH of movie fame (crowded but still the same awesome scenery)), Phi Phi Don (don't be put off by negative reports - most day tips only spend 60-90 minutes there and part of that is the usual yummy luncheon they bung on) and then Mosquito or Bamboo island (I haven't been to these small unsettled national park islands in recent year but some of my friends report the beaches and water are still pretty idyllic). A problem is these trips tend to start in the Krabi or Ko Lanta areas - if you are starting in Phuket, the Phi Phi day trips will not include Railay/Phra Nang.
**I have a report with more info, maps and pix which you can find on one of my links - haven't got around to putting one on travelfish yet.