Diving in The Similan & Surin Islands

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Hello again!

Our journey from Bangkok to Khao Lak was interesting to say the least. The train journey could only be described as "David Lynch's Lost Train". It was that strange! A trip to the food cart helped us meet a group of railway police getting pissed up. Maybe it's a European thing but we found it strange to see Policemen in uniform on the lash. Once there we also met this Canadian guy when we were ordered by the train conductor to sit with him and this Asian girl for our meal! For some reason the guy had it in his head that the girl in front of him was a prostitute (she was not) and that she was under age (she was at least 20) and that she was from Burma. (we never found out). Then he was convinced that the train conductor was either going to rape the girl or trying to get him to go with the girl! We weren't sure why he thought this. He clearly had taken too many drugs over the years and his mind has gone a bit haywire and very very paranoid! At one point he called one of the policemen over and pointed to the girl. The police man looked on bemused but not quite understanding what the guy wanted, to be fair, neither did we. As we got our food the guy decided that this girl was really hungry and made us share our food with her. The poor girl was really shy and couldn't speak much English. She kept shaking her head as I offered her half of the tasteless slop that was on my plate. (Maybe she'd seen them preparing it). We ate as quickly as possible and returned to the safety of our carriage half expecting to see paranoid guy following us! 

When we got off the train we got talking to a German couple called Sylvia & Torsten who were with their 4 year old Elizabeth. It turned out that they were on the same live-aboard as us! What a coincidence. We also ended up diving in the same group together. Fate really wanted us to get to know each other. And with good reason, they're a lovely family.

So that's the preliminaries out the way. Let's get on board shall we?

Sharks, Stingrays, Turtles and Dolphins! Just a few of the many many wonderful animals we encountered on our 5 day trip. I will start with the unexpected visitors. The Dolphins. We were in between dive sites and out at open sea when one of our buddies (thanks Django) shouts "Dolphins"! Well as you can imagine, all of us on the boat rush to the side to see these amazing animals. Next to Karen & I was Joe the half Italian half Jamaican dive shop owner who says that he is going to jump in. Karen & I look at each other and say can we come? Joe says "sure". So 2 minutes later all 3 of us are at the dive deck frantically putting on our masks, snorkel and fins. We then jump into the deep blue from a moving boat! We swim like crazy to catch up with the dolphins and then all of a sudden the whole pod were below us! I am smiling as I write this and I know I will always be smiling whenever I think about that moment. It really will live with me forever. We were so lucky. First of all that we had Dolphins at all and secondly that we had Joe on board because if he was not there we would never have been allowed to jump in. After the pod left, it dawned on me that we were in the middle of the ocean with rather large waves! The boat was quite far too. Thankfully we were all strong swimmers and the boat did eventually come back for us! ha ha. The reason is because Joe said he had not paid his staff yet! ha ha. 

The diving was amazing too. Finally I have got to see a shark! It was right above us moving in that typical Shark style. I could not tell what type of shark it was as we could only see the bottom of it but I presume it was a white tip. The turtle we saw on day 3 of our dive and it was happily munching away on the coral while we all just floated above it. Beautiful. The stingray graced us with its presence on 1 of our night dives. It was huge! So big that we thought it may have been a manta ray. Another beautiful animal. Sadly we did not see more of the big fish as like all over the world, the Andaman sea is over-fished. In fact on one of our dives we heard dynamite fishing going on in neighboring Burma (Myanmar) which is highly illegal and one of the reasons why the big fish are no longer in the area. When will humans learn?

On a more positive note, our fellow dive buddies were amazing. We could not have wished for a better bunch. So, David, Grace, Django, Sabine, Sylvia, Torsten, Elizabeth & Jarred, thank you so much for a great 4 days! 

Once again, thank you Karen for a brilliant birthday present. I loved every minute and now over to you.............

Ah! All you divers out there, go on a live-aboard. It's THE way to dive. All the hassle of carrying tanks, changing tanks, walking on rocks etc etc gets taken away and all you're left with is the glorious part of diving - i.e. jumping in the sea. It was with this in mind that I boarded the Dolphin Queen all set for my 4 days of diving. 

That evening, as I started turning a pale shade of green whilst we listened to our plans for the next four days I was having second thoughts. I mean, I'm scared of rough seas, have a tendency towards sea sickness, and I hadn't dived for over a year. Hmmmmm It's amazing how I conveniently forgot these tiny details when I was busy booking the trip. Luckily they had these magic yellow pills on board for sea sickness and one of them helped me float happily away into a deep sleep all throughout the night. Things were already looking much better. Before our first dive I still was slightly nervous and then, a few minutes before we started getting ready this gorgeous turtle swam up to our boat. I've always wanted to dive with turtles and in the 10 years I've been diving I've never seen one. I took it as my lucky omen and decided that everything was going to be all right. One dive in, and I was completely relaxed. The beauty under the sea is overwhelming. It's the closest thing to flying in a different world, and my oh my what a beautiful part of the world the Similan reefs are! 

Besides the wonderful reefs we also got to visit some pretty impressive beaches. Picture perfect beaches which took our breath away. White sands, the most brilliant turquoise waters and pretty much deserted except for us. In between dives we also got to chill out on the top deck chatting to our fellow divers, comparing notes on what we'd spotted during the day or just reading our books. It was sheer bliss and even as I write about it now I'm feeling so nostalgic. 


If you're ever considering a live-aboard the key thing I've learnt is to ask about the experience of the guides you'll be diving with. Unfortunately we ended up with a very inexperienced guide who had the attitude from hell. On our way to the boat she had already started regaling us with stories about some of her stupid customers, clearly forgetting the fact that we belonged to the same group she was being so rude about. Underwater she was much worse insisting on showing us the same tiny creature over and over again whilst being blind to everything else around her. Unfortunately it was her first season diving in the Similans and she did not know the sites too well. 

  On one occasion she completely missed 2 giant sponge crabs. These crabs are called as such because of how they try to disguise themselves.  Basically they'll pick a huge piece of sponge and carry it on their backs, thinking (just like and ostrich might when it puts its head in the sand) that no one else can see it. The result is very comical, especially when they start running away. It was a great sight to see and luckily we spotted them whilst she was busy pointing out another nudie branch. 

 But I digress. The real low point came when during one of the dives she stopped to point something under a rock. I let everyone else have a look and then went down myself to see what was there. As I went down I tried to balance myself and held on to what I thought was a rock. As I'm looking for this tiny creature I feel someone shoving me violently to the side. I got the shock from hell and looked to the right only to find our mad guide attacking me like a crazy woman. A shove above water is already shocking enough, but underwater, by your guide, is positively terrifying. I was shaking all over and couldn't believe that someone who's meant to be guiding you could turn so aggressive 30 metres under water. Above water I found out that the reason for the attack was that I'd held on to a sponge (which felt like a rock, so I'm still not sure about what it was). I was so angry at her as I felt she'd put my life in danger. She made it worse by rolling her eyes at me and telling me 'I expected you to be able to recognize a fish'. I felt positively homicidal and it took a lot of self control not jump on her and strangle her. I did get quite a lot of pleasure imagining it though! So if you ever dive with Similan Liveaboard Safaris, make sure to avoid a guide called Ila like the plague! Having said that, the rest of the crew were great and I loved everything else about our time on the boat. 

The best thing was that I realised I do have sea legs and after the shaky start I got used to swaying for most of the day. I got a lot more comfortable with the deep dark ocean, so much so that as Paul mentioned I jumped in with him to chase after the dolphins. It really made me think about the limits we sometimes put on ourselves by telling ourselves 'we can't do it' or 'we won't like it'. I'm really glad I didn't dwell on my fears too much and just went for it. It was definitely worth the risk! 

So that was the end of our trip in Southern Thailand. as we returned to Khao Lak we found out that two of our friends had actually booked their tickets to the Philippines. We had to get there by the 20th March and we still had 3 countries to visit. So with that in mind we decided to call it a day in Thailand and legged it to our next destination.....Cambodia! 

More from there on our next blog!!!

Lots of love
Karen and Paul

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Ethan on

I just got back from a snorkeling trip to the Similans, and am Phuket for another couple days until I go...somewhere. Not really sure, but maybe we'll run into each other again. Safe travels!

Tukkie on

So awesome that you got to dive with the dolphins!!! Wish we could see photos of that :) It's lovely to keep up to date with your travels XXXXX Look forward to the next..........

auntyp on

Super Great pics guys!!!....Swimming with dolphins is amazing, but you know me I would kill to swim with the turtles!!!!!! Wish you had some photos of that!!!!!
Awesome guys , take care xxx

mom on

another great read keep them coming xx

Janet Silvio on

If you are going to Malaysia, either on this trip or in another...DO NOT MISS Malaysia Borneo, especially SIPADAN if you love diving...to be honest I am in love with Malaysia, been there twice and I believe it's an incredible country...pop by if you have the time, if not, make sure you go some other time :) Who knows, maybe one day we will meet in one of our travels - once you get the bug it stays with you forever ;)


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