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Imperial Shrimp on a sea cucumber

Diving the Similans, Surin islands and Richelieu Rock | the Andaman Sea | Thailand

DESTINATION OVERVIEW

The Similan Islands are the jewel in Thailand's scuba diving crown. A string of nine tiny islands ringed by white sand beaches sit above a wealth of colourful coral reefs. Granted national park status in the 1980s, these reefs are incredibly diverse, full of small fish, pelagic species and pristine corals.

What makes the Similans unusual though, are the two opposing geographical styles. To the east of each island, the reefs are gentle slopes coated with soft corals and fans, while on the western side, facing the Indian Ocean, the landscape is one of dramatic boulders creating tunnels and swim-throughs.

Beyond the Similan chain, are the Surin Islands, and to their east is world-famous Richelieu Rock. The most incredible dive site in this area, even at the worst of times, Richelieu Rock is a superlative dive. This part of the Andaman Sea can be an incredible dive experience.

Similans image gallery Scuba diving features

Marine Life Whalesharks
harlequin shrimp
peacock flounder
leopard sharks
Top dive site Richelieu Rock
Seasons November-May
Visibility 10 – 40 metres, sometimes more
Water temperature 25 – 29º C
Deco chambers Bangkok and Phuket
Flights to Phuket direct or via Bangkok or Singapore
Dive operators and accommodation plentiful on land but the last couple of years have seen a lot changes in the liveaboard scene.
INFORMATION
PROS & CONS

Access to Phuket is simple and Thailand is a lovely country with friendly people, good facilities and some of the best food you will ever eat, assuming you like it hot. Getting from Phuket to the Similans means being on a liveaboard. A few companies run day trips but it's a long way and you will spend more time travelling than diving and are unlikely to get to Richelieu Rock that way. Fortunately, there are liveaboards for all budgets.

Complete reports on this area are in
Diving Southeast Asia.

The digital edition is on iTunes.

Buy the print edition direct from SeaFocus here.

SCUBA DIVING The Similans dive season is from November to May, although the beginning and end months can be rough and the visibility low if monsoon patterns change. However, in the middle of the season the water is mostly mill-pond smooth and you can see for miles. There are currents on the west of the islands, not always bad ones but always there.
OPINION We've done this area several times and have never been disappointed with the dives especially when the trip was like our most recent one – our first ever sighting of a whaleshark and four in one day on Richelieu Rock! This region really is best done from a liveaboard though, you would miss the best sites if you tried to do it all via day trips.
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Leopard shark


More diving around Thailand
Phuket | Similans | Burma
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