Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Poseidon Live-aboard Snorkelling Trip to the Similans

FEB 08 - 3 DAY SNORKELLING TRIP TO THE SIMILAN ISLANDS

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.
http://www.similantour.com/photos.html

* 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 lajolla22@hotmail.com


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In April 2012 I finally got to stay on the Similan islands themselves. I have a page here for people who are interested in the same. There is a sublink to MV's excellent trip report to the lesser known outer Similan island of Ko Tachai.
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. You can also do Similans day boat trips from these islands..
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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.


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