Friday, July 27, 2007

Snorkelling in Thailand

Last updated Feb 2015

Snorkelling at Khao Lak (image Tourism Authority Thailand)

“Wanted, a nice bungalow place with good snorkelling right off the beach”This question comes up so often on travel forums I thought I’d try to put something together.

Answering is not that clear-cut because there are great differences in snorkelling ability and expectations.
- Ability: the majority of travelers I see snorkelling cruise along on the surface and may not be too impressed with some of those better locations where you have to dive down 3 or 4 meters to check a reef drop-off.
- Expectations: some people are used to top-notch snorkelling places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and the nearby continental islands like the WhitSundays and so consider the best Thailand has to offer is pretty second rate. So if I say the area off Ko Ngai’s main beach is fairly good, they would think it third or fourth rate. Other snorkellers I see seem are easily pleased - are quite enthused about cruising around the swimming enclosure at PP’s Long Beach, which is mainly a sandy bottom and a bit of rock with a few fishies out further.

So keeping that in mind, the following are the good snorkelling spots I know about:


The best I’ve found:
KO NANGYUAN - this has a mid-range resort one km to the north east off KO TAO (which is in the southern Gulf of Thailand north of Kos Samui and Phangan). There is good snorkelling and fishies in the bay to the north west of the sand spit which joins the 3 big rocks which make up the island. The fish are so used to being hand fed, they crowd around when you enter the water.
It is pretty good in the opposite bay, and I have read that if you are prepared to swim around the island some way, there are caves and some real nice fringing coral.
The resort is a dive resort but probably has more non-divers at busy times. I have stayed there twice when prices were a bit lower, once recently (2015) after it has headed upmarket and become a less idyllic destination. But in all visits it got real serene sitting on my elevated balcony after sunset with a bottle of that great Thai rum, watching the lights of the night-diving class flash and arc in the bay below.
You can also day-trip from nearby Tao (long tails shuttle across constantly) but the resort has recently levied a charge on day-trippers.

Nangyuan's attratcive sand spit - best snorkeling off the beach probably in the far (north-east) bay. Western bay on left wasn't too bad. Early in the day in this Feb 2015 pic but already plenty of daytrippers on the beach. 2015 saw general snorkeling poorer than earlier visits - but Thailand in general has deteriorated in recent years. Global warming? Increased tourism?

KO KRADAN (in the Andaman Sea south of Ko Lanta) - The reef off the main eastern beach here is not bad at the southern end where the beach starts to curve around to the National Park Headquarters area, but the best coral is found out from the southern beach - Ao Niang. Technically this does not have accommodation, but Wally’s Paradise Lost budget place which is 10 minutes nice rainforest walk away. The bigger main beach resorts are another 10. UPDATE JUNE 2010 - there is now a budget resort there, Ao Niang Beach Resort. But it may not last long - see the updated Kradan page for details and pix. FURTHER UPDATES DEC 2012/MARCH 2014 - place is still there, seems to be doing okay.
Note my March visit saw the best coral I'd spotted in Thailand in recent years apart from Ko Rok.
There are pretty good small bommies and patches of coral close to the beach, but the best stuff is out on the reef drop-off about 70m from shore. Look for the big and small commercial snorkelling boats from Lo Lanta, Pak Bara and Kradan’s adjacent islands - but note, this bay is big enough that even with the 5+ boats moored during my visits, it was never overcrowded and I found it easy to snorkel on my own.

Far south end of main eastern beach on Ko Kradan - if you swim perpendicularly out from the rocks in shot you will find the reef drop-off not too far out. Follow it in the direction of that snorkelling-trip longtail and further - you will now be off the adjacent Ao Niang for the best stuff.
Note if you swim directly off the beach heading left from the camera you will find Ao Niang's fringing reef continues around the corner of the island - the coral and fish are not bad without being up to the standard of Ao Niang.

The western beach on Kradan (once again 10 minutes walk from Wally‘s) is smaller and has a similar set-up except the quality of coral and fishies etc is not quite as good IMHO.

Note trip reporter wonderingstar has his own snorkelling blog and has a very good page on KRADAN SNORKELLING with lots of info, maps and pretty pix

HING WONG BAY (KO TAO - in the southern Gulf north of Kos Samui and Phangan) - technically not off the beach because this east coast bay has no beach. But some of the best easily accessed coral I've seen in Thailand is immediately to both sides off the end of the Hing Wong Bay Resort's pier in shot below, where big submerged granite boulders have attracted lots of good coral and fish and are spaced closely so that there are many narrow canyons to explore. Note that Hing Wong Resort doesn't mind daytrippers using the pier - everyone else seems to, including dive boats and even fishing boats replenishing supplies. Naturally if you spend a bit of time in their restaurant they appreciate it. I saw lots of daytrip snorkelling boats also working over the southen headland in background and the area around View Rock Resort to about 100m to left of shot
Hing Wong Bay Resort is a budget place as is the adjacent Mol's Homestay and Pub. View Rock is budget/flashpacker. There is a new flash apartment complex Shangrila part of which can be seen sticking out from behind one of the rocks in background.

Ko Tao is a bit of a gem for snorkelling - just about any bay in the eastern half of the island from Shark Bay in the south to Mango Bay in the north - plus the afore-mentioned Ko Nangyuan in the north-west has pretty good snorkelling by Thai standards. I personally found Hing Wong the best but I haven't snorkelled the other places exhaustively (nor Hing Wong come to that). Others claim the best snorkelling is at Ao Leuk, others go for Shark Bay. The headlands at these places get raves. Accommodation of all standard can be found in this wide area - see the Tao page for individual beaches and bays.
Snokelling and dive boats working over western headland of Shark Bay/Ao Thian OK at south-east Ko Tao.

Snorkelers and general visitor get good value from the AROUND ISLAND SNORKELING TRIPS at Ko Tao (see about 70% down THIS PAGE)

Guests enjoying the fish-feeding frenzy (boat staff throw in slices of bread) on the Ko Tao AROUND ISLAND trip.

KO PHI PHI (in the Andaman south of Phuket, north of Ko Lanta) - there is a reef about 70m off Long Beach which is pretty good and attracts the daytrip snorkelling boats. If you swim out from the beach you need to keep going past the broken coral on the inside of the fringing reef. There is also some pretty good coral fringing the low reef-islet at the eastern end of the beach.
Long Beach has some real nice places to stay ranging from budget to upper midrange and is the nicest beach on the island within easy reach of town.
There is pretty good snorkelling around this reef-islet and the rocks to the right off the eastern end of Long Beach. Note the snorkelling longtail boat parked to the left.

Additionally, just about all the east coast beaches have a fringing reef. I have snorkelled a few and they are not bad. I noticed in a recent visits the daytrip snorkelling boats were working over Rantee most intensely. Accommodation ranges from budget to very high end.
Bamboo Island off the north-east of Phi Phi is said to be pretty good too.

Probably the best snorkeling at Phi Phi is found in the various bays of Phi Phi Ley, the non-resort nagtional park island, but unless you are on an overnight camping trip, snorkeling here is not really off your accommodation beach.

Tucker time on the Maya Bay, Phi Phi Ley trip

KO LAO LIANG (in the Andaman south of Ko Kradan) - snorkellers will find the coral (some nice soft coral here) and fish off the northern end of Laoliang’s resort beach pretty good with even better stuff accessed via the snorkelling trips at Ko Ta-Kiang aout 10 km further west.

A nice coral bommie off Ko Ta-Kiang

THE SURINS AND THE SIMILANS (both in the Andaman north of Phuket) - see my comments down page about my Surins and Similans Island visits - the Surins used to be very good off the beach and on short boat trips away from the main beach but was suffering badly from coral bleaching in March 2011. The Similans needs boat trips to the best locations but these too were suffering when I called by in April 2012 and Nov 2014. According to trip reporter MV both were unimproved early 2015.


KO PHANGAN (in the southern Gulf north of Ko Samui) - there are nice coral/fish by Thailand standards around Ko Ma which is joined by a sand spit to Mae Had beach in the north-west of KO PHANGAN. This is a popular spot for the around island trip boats to stop for a snorkel. There are also some okay lumps of coral and rock right off the beach, but this area can get a bit shallow at low tide.
Mae Hat is a laid back beach with mainly budget and flash packer bungalows.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of coral and fish right off the beach at Had Thian (Tien) and adjacent Had Wai (Why) Nam in the south of Phangan's east coast. These quiet and pleasant little beaches have accommodation mainly budget and flashpacker.

Those underwater rocks above are in fact pretty good coral at laid back Had Thian, the new-agers' beach east coast Phangan. Click this shot to expand.

KO PODA (in the Andaman not far from Krabi) - this is one of the offshore karst islands a short distance out from Railay/Ao Nang beaches. It has a fringing reef with okay coral. Note the bungalows here are high range - associated with one of the more expensive hotels in Ao Nang. Most people visit Poda on daytrips out of Railay and Ao Nang - the daytrip area is towards the northern end of the long curved beach - the bungalows are at the far eastern end, so if you shell out big money for a place you will not be inundated with daytrippers. UPDATE - last I heard the bungalows had closed down.

KO LIPE (in the southern Andaman not far from the Malaysian border_ - there is a fringing reef off the southern of the small twin bays where Viewpoint bungalows resort is located. This is just south of the big eastern Andaman beach. Viewpoint is a funky budget place and there is a lot more accomm on Andaman itself. The small islands near Viewpoint have okay coral fringing them.
At each end of the main Pattaya beach are sections of coral which are okay. Acomm here is mainly flash packer and better. I was also pleasantly surprised by the okay coral lumps and fishies in the swimming enclosure in front of Varin resort which is almost mid Pattaya beach.

KO BULON LAE (in the Andaman east of Ko Lipe) - reasonable coral to the west of Bulone Resort and off and to the south of Pansand resort, but we are talking down at least two steps here. The coral directly out from Bulone is okay as is the stuff off the end of the spit where the main beach curves. These two resorts are flash-packer to midrange, but there are some budget bungalows quite close to the beach.

KO NGAI (in the Andaman just to the north of Ko Kradan) - snorkelling is not bad along the fringing reef off the main eastern beach. Accom ranges from budget tents to real high end, with a few very nice midrangers here.
I thought the coral etc was just as good (but we are talking down at least two steps again) across in the south-western bay. The budget Paradise Beach Resort has this nice beach all to itself.

KO WHAI (WAI) (in the eastern Gulf of Thailand south of big Ko Chang) - I had an okay snorkel along the reef off Ko Whai Paradise, which is a nice budget place. On later trips I found this reef extends further south-eastwards to Pakarang beach.

KO LIBONG (in the Andaman east of Ko Kradan) - this one is tricky because I only swam around with my lap-swimming goggles and some posters have mentioned unimpressive snorkelling here. I saw a sandy bottom with lots of lumps of coral, but I couldn’t tell the quality through the weathered plastic lens.
However judging by the time guests of Ko Libong Beach Resort were spending as they snorkelled, it must have been pretty interesting.
UPDATE DEC 08 - I felt duty bound to do a snorkel on my next visit to Libong. Yep, the coral is pretty ordinary in front of Beach Resort/Le Dugong. Gets better towards the north headland but in no way can compare to say Kradan.

I know I should always check the snorkeling if I’m gonna write island reports, but I’m a bit slack in some places unless I think it is going to be totally excellent. This is partly because the best coral in Thailand (SIMILAN ISLANDS) is 2nd rate and partly because I snorkel at home most days in a spectacular place. I go after lobsters and abalone in the small rocky bay behind my house - it has underwater caves, canyons and crevasses, heaps of fish, eels etc plus lots of long seaweed swaying in the swell. And this place often picks up big swell - just getting in and out off the rocks can be exciting.***

Snorkelling in the Similans (image THAILANDMAGIC.COM)

Snorkelling trips are offered on just about every island. Some islands have not got very good snorkelling off the beach but pretty decent stuff on their daytrips.

THE SIMILAN ISLANDS had the best coral in Thailand I have seen (although my latest trips in 2012 and 2914 saw a sad decline due to global warming - see down page).
One reasons coral is normally good here is the distance from the mainland, which ensures cleaner water. But this also gives a problem - the trip out takes a hell of a long time and is expensive. When if first did this I was crammed with a bunch of other people into a not-so-big speedboat, with insufficient room to move around, so it was uncomfortable. In all, I didn’t think it was value - I’ve snorkelled better coral in the Philippines and on Fiji’s barrier islands for a quarter the cost.
Most boat trips leave from the Khao Lak area.
UPDATE - recent years have seen much bigger more comfortable speedboats plus a lot of people from Phuket doing the daytrips. Wow, that's a hell of a long time in minibuses and speedboats, as I found out in November 2014.
Note that you can stay on the Similans in National Park huts and tents. The transport cost plus the 200baht entry fee makes this not all that cheap. Accommodation and food are not top value either. I finally got around to this in 2012 and have a section on this on my Similans page.

I’m a sucker for live-aboard island boat trips.......IMHO a far better way of doing the Similans is by Poseidon Bungalows' 3 day/2night snorkelling trip.
On an early Thailand visit I stayed at the bungalows (flash-packer in a lovely setting - see the website mainpage) but couldn’t afford the trip at the time. Returning guests said it was excellent.
UPDATE - FEB 08 - I did the Poseidon intrip in late January and my report is down page.

Preparing to hit the water off Poseidon's live-aboard Similans boat (image Similantour)

TRIPS OUT OF KO LIPE are good value. Once again distance from the mainland ensures clear water and pretty good coral. The trip I took included fringing reefs on adjacent Ko Rawa and Ko Adang plus a mid ocean bommie which had a bunch of divers at lower levels.

TRANG ISLAND SNORKELLING TRIPS are pretty good too. You can do these from Ko Lanta (info and pix starting 30% down THIS PAGE) on the fast daytrip speed boats and ferries which go down each day and include the Emerald Cave and beach time on one of the islands, on similar trips from Pak Meng and Ban Chao Mai, and on cheaper long-tail trips from adjacent islands like Muk, Ngai and Libong. The snorkelling usually takes in the southern (and maybe western) bay at Kradan plus the fringing coral around the small karst islets of Ko Ma and Ko Cheuk between Ngai and Muk.

Snorkellers off Ko Ma near Ko Ngai shot from the Petpailin Trang islands daytrip boat out of Lanta. Note my latest visit in December 2012 saw the coral sadly diminished - global warming is not only impacting the Surins and Similans. Fish okay but like just about all Thailand spots, no really big fish.

There are also snorkelling trips to KO ROK and KO HAA, two of the other more western Trang islands in the Andaman. Coral and fish quality have always been said to be very good. Some reports compare these to the Similans/Surins at their best. I haven't done Haa yet but Boleslav has a report of a visit HERE.
I finally got around to visiting ROK in November 2014 and found coral and fish there the best I'd seen in Thailand and much better than any other place in recent years. More info and pix about 65% down THIS PAGE.

KRABI SNORKELLING TRIPS - the 3 AND 5 ISLAND TRIPS out of Railay/Ao Nang/Ton Sai and Krabi town usually include Ko Poda and Hen and Chicken Island. My very first also included a snorkel thru a hollowed karst stack to a big coral bommie on the seaward side which was quite spectacular. But in 2 subsequent trips we did not return there. I haven't done these trips in recent years but 2 Aussies told me in 2014 that Poda and Hen and Chicken are overcrowded, overflowing with trash and that the snorkeling showed signs of over-visits and maybe global warming.

I have done one trip out of Krabi to Ko Hong and Ko Lading in the southern Phang Nga Bay and another out of KoYao Noi to the same area. The snorkelling here is not great (the water this close to the mainland is not all that clear) although the beaches and landscape/seascape are very nice. Once again Boleslav has been ther and has some info and pix in the trip report of that island.

Nice seascape at Pak Bia island on my day trip from Krabi to the southern Ko Hong area (there is also a northern Ko Hong in the same Phang Nga Bay - even more spectacular and with even more cloudy water)

Note that snorkeling off Krabi's more popular mainland beaches (Raily, Phra Nang and Ao Nang) is very ordinary. But again the landscape/seascape is fantastic.

PHI PHI SNORKELLING TRIPS vary in destinations, but full day ones will take in Maya Bay of The Beach fame on PP Ley, Bamboo and/or Mosquito Island to the north east of PP Don (lovely beach stop here) and that reef at Long Beach mentioned before. Many do the fringing reef off the east coast too. All these places have reasonably coral, although it has suffered in recent years.
You can do these trips by long-tail out of PP and big ferry or speedboats from Phuket and Ao Nang/Railay. I have also mentioned I did an overnight live/aboard (was supposed to be live-aboard although we camped) trip to Maya Bay, leaving from Phi Phi Don.

Snorkelling the fringing reef off Bamboo Island's lovely beach (image TheTravellersLounge)

KO RAYA/RACHA is a popular daytrip island a relatively short distance from Phuket. I wasn't whelmed by the snorkelling off the beach when I stayed on the island a few nights (although fun snorkellers won't mind the gorgeously clear water, coral patches and tame fish to the left of the pier at the gorgeous main beach) but a Phuket based dive guy said the daytrip boats visit a few spots hard to access from the shore where the coral and fish are better. Um, well not my boat on my return visit in February 2014.

CORAL ISLAND - another short daytrip from Phuket. Once again I found the snorkelling off the beach pretty ordinary when I stayed there, but unlike Raya the daytrip boats didn't seem to take guests elsewhere. A couple of fellow guests at the resort there were hard-core and spent hours each day in the section between eastern Long Beach and the start of Banana Beach.

Down another step IMHO is the snorkelling on the ANG THONG MARINE NATIONAL PARK TRIP out of Samui or Phangan (the trip itself is great but I though the snorkelling was ordinary) - and down two steps: the KO CHANG SNORKELLING TRIP out of White Sand Beach which goes to the  fringing coral around a small islet a few km south.
However people tell me the longer trips from Chang to the areas near Whai and Muk are pretty good, but I haven’t done them. I have snorkelled the reef at Whai itself and off tiny Ko Kham near Mak both of which are stops on most of these trips and these are not too bad at all.

People would argue whether the Surins has the best coral and fish in Thailand or if it was the Similans. I can't say even though I have snorkelled both.
In March 2011 I went to the Surins, stayed in the camping area and snorkelled off the beach and on boat trips - sadly the place was under the influence of global warming and the coral and fish were very very underwhelming. Not worth the effort of getting out there. However I knew beforehand it had suffered badly - my main reason for visiting was to see just how good an island destination it is. Sadly that disappointed me too as you can read on my Surins page.
Similarly, I found snorkelling conditions pretty poor when I returned to the Similans in April 2012 and November 2014, way down on earlier visits.
Hopefully both locations will recover in the near future although my mate MV reporting in early 2015 said things had deteriorated further..

Ao Mai Ngam, the main camping beach on the Surins is a pretty nice beach - good enough to make my list of Thailand's best beaches. But the snorkelling both off the beach and on the National Park snorkelling boat trips was pretty poor in early 2011.

This includes locations like BIG KO CHANG itself, KO MAC (MAK, MAAK), KO SAMET, KO SAMUI, KHAO LAK, PHUKET, RAILAY/PHRA NANG/TON SAI/AO NANG, KO JUM, KO LANTA itself and KO MUK - these places aren’t known for their snorkelling. BUT all have headlands and other rocky areas, and so there would always be patches of coral and fish which could keep a not too discerning snorkeller occupied.

Some places are a bit too close to rivers on the coast and so have cloudy water at times which aint good for either coral or visibility - examples: KO PHAYAM, LITTLE KO CHANG, KO SUKORN and KO YAO NOI (although I found reasonable coral off the lovely little sand spit on KO NOK, a small uninhabited double-karst islet about a km out from the south east corner of the Yao Noi. I hired a kayak from Coconut Corner bungalows for 300 a day and paddled the 3km or so from there in maybe a half hour).

Many bungalows, beach-eats places and similar hire gear - 100baht per day is common.
Snorkelling daytrips usually have no extra charge for their gear.
In the past, problems with old and leaking gear were widespread, but I’ve noticed that most of the stuff now is in pretty good condition. However it is often a hassle adjusting the fit to ensure comfort and no leaks, so if you have your own gear, I’d advise bringing it.
I always carry my snorkel and mask; they take up little room in my pack - forget about the fins, they are heavy and bulky and can damage coral badly.

Why Tezza likes snorkelling

The following information was provided by Thorntree posters when I published the above account on that forum:

Bob1971 - I seem to recall Had Yao, KPN being pretty good snorkelling, The immediate bay is very shallow and sandy but if you venture out through the tiny boat channel onto the reef it was pretty impressive with some serious coral and great variety of fish. Tanote Bay KT was pretty good as well. Less for the Coral but more for the spotted rays, coral trout and odd reef shark cruising around.

islandboi321 - Regarding snorkelling trips out of Ko Lipe to the other nearby islands such as Ko Adang or Ko Rawi:
Try to get a decent sized group together to rent a longtail... Up to seven is a good number. It works out to be very economical for everyone. Most of the tours out of Lipe take you to some decent snorkellin/coral.
Some of tours also give you a lunch included in the price. Ask around.

gregybn - A fav. spot on Lipe - swim across 400m from Sunlight beach to small Koh Kra (can be about 1 kn. current)
kinda shallow on the W,S,N sides... but swim around and it's a pretty nice deeper area with lots to see on the E side.
if you head out there at sunrise, guaranteed you will be the only ones there... with a couple very pleasant, small private beaches on the N & S.
a very nice circumsnork., about 1.5 km. total swim, depending on how much you meander... private rest beach is a bonus.
don't know the name of the other small island off Viewpoint... about a 200m. swim over, but no beaches on it, even so, a nice trip to circumsnork.

KevinCorr - Because you mention Ko Maak near KoChang, Trat, I must say that MOST of Ko Maak and Ko Chang should be on the list of places NOT good...
... although there are places nearby by boat.
(I am a surface snorkeler, not a dive down snorkeler.)

Dominic77 - From the north-eastern end of the bay (Shark Bay-Ko Tao) at Rocky Resort (Ko Lanta), enter the water and snorkel around the headland to the north. There is an excellent reef there where there we saw not only sharks, but also Barracuda, Batfish and plenty of other species of fish.

***One time I was hauling myself out of the water in the small bay behind my house in a really nasty swell - one-handed, with a fishing-line ensnared gull in the other. Gulls often swoop on fishing baits and get hooked - this fisherman cut the line off long and that bird couldn’t have got itself bound up better by Barbie The Bondage Bitch at Barry’s Bad Boys' Barn in backstreet Byron Bay.
Ol’ Jonathon Livingston was being blown towards the rocks and certain oblivion. I was sinking the usual 5pm 2 to 5 glasses of elcheapo red with Lady Tezza in the sunroom checking the gnarly Pacific - she suggested it might be worthwhile to go down and haul the dumbass bird out.
Just as I was regaining my footing, I got smashed by a big wave. So there I was on a blustery winter day, no protective wetsuit on, getting dragged across the rocks by the swash and then sucked back into the water by the backwash, all the time holding the gull up so it didn’t get mashed. Real exciting.
But Lady T was right - it was worth it. The seagull stew was great.
See the pictures at the foot of the Ko Libong page.

Why Tezza LOVES snorkelling (image ?? - arrived by email from Sam)


Back-bay and beach at Similan Island #4 - some opportunities for beach time and short treks on Poseidon's Similan Islands snorkelling trip.
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.
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).

I intend to do a newspaper submission when I get the time, so I’ll just give a summary in point form for the time being:

* 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.

Viewpoint at Donald Duck Bay, island #8.
* 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.
Tucker-time - snorkelling all day builds a good appetite - food quality and quantity matched it.

* 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 (see Cruising Tropical Islands on a Budget)
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.

The Swedish connection gets some sun between islands.
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.
Duang Ta (image Poseidon Bungalows)
* 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 Ranong 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. AndI 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.
Similans coral shot by Crocodrilo - hey, the water is pretty clear here!

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.

Captain Chuy had a good eye on the surface too and spotted this turtle as we were chugging along. The turtle hung around for about 15 minutes.
Update July 2011 - I was recently checking some websites to see what other live-aboard Similans snorkelling trips were available, and found my pic above on one dive-snorkelling outfit's site - no acknowledgement to me or to Poseidon. Cheeky but typical. I bet they won't offer me a discount on one of their trips for later this year.

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.

Lisa from Idaho tries fire-stick twirling under the tutelage of fellow countryman Blaiz at Donald Duck Bay on island #8. The sand here is about the whitest I've seen in Thailand. As a matter of fact it don't get too much whiter anywhere. My 1999 daytrip visited this beach, the old NP Headquarter's beach - the nicely tree-shaded area behind was packed with tents, picnic tables, NP bungalows and admin buildings. The tsunami trashed them - there was a small group of Thais rebuilding but it will be a long time before this area reopens to accommodation. The other NP Headquarters beach on island #4 faces north and had minor damage. It is a real nice location, again with bungalows and tents where I aim to spend a few days during some future trip.

* 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.
Beach at National Park HQ, island #4.

For an update and some nice underwater shots, see Crocodrilo's
photo trip report in the new Trip Report section.
You can also check MV's interesting photo-report about his stay on Ko Tachie - this lovely little island is a fair distance north of Similans 1 to 9 islands but is part of the Similans National Park.

If you want to do a trip report on the Similans or any other location please send text and any shots to

PEOPLE CONSIDERING DAY TRIPS TO THE SIMILANS - I did a day trip out of Phuket in November 2014 - I have a report HERE


If you are planning to visit the Similans you may be interested in nearby Khao Lak
and the Surins Islands.
A couple of very relaxed seldom visited islands in the area are Ko Kho Khao and Ko Phra Thong. The latter has a dive operation, Blue Guru which must be the closest such outfit to the Surins and Richelieu Rock.


OCT 2012 - trip reporter wonderingstar has started his own snorkelling website - it's a work in progress and eventually will have stuff on Thailand, Malaysia, Indo and the Philippines. Already it has a heap of useful info and maps plus a lot nice underwater pix. WHAT'S THE SNORKELLING LIKE?

If you have any questions, please ask them in THE FORUM rather than below. I don't get a chance to check all threads daily, but unless I'm travelling I'll try to monitor THE FORUM regularly.