Favorite destination

Top 10 Liveaboards in the Similan Islands in 2022

1/10
2/10
3/10
4/10
5/10
6/10
7/10
8/10
9/10
10/10

See all pictures

The Similan Islands have long been a top destination for divers — if not the number one entry on their bucket list. Situated in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand, these nine granite islands in a national marine park are surrounded by clear blue waters full of lush marine life.

Many dive centers in Phuket and Khao Lak offer day trips to some of the closer dive sites in the Similans. But, with more than 25 sites to choose from that are spread out over a huge area, experiencing the best diving this region has to offer is not possible with day trips. Liveaboards are the only way to dive the best sites in the far-flung Similan Islands.

Top 10 Liveaboards in the Similan Islands in 2022

All the top liveaboards in the Similan Islands:

Sort by your needs:

Price Range

Length of trip

Facilities

liveaboard-thailand-dolphin-queen-boat.jpg
fullscreen
1/20
Read full review

The Dolphin Queen liveaboard is one of the less expensive liveaboards offering diving at the Similan Islands, but you don’t lose quality with the lower price. At 24m she houses twenty-two divers. This “budget boat” provides a great dive trip and a social experience during its tour of the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Surin Islands; including Richelieu Rock, and even 7 or 8-night trips to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2008
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:22
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

3.6

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Some people said the crew was excellent and performed their duties well.
  • check-mark
    Many divers said that the dive master picked the perfect spots to dive.
  • check-mark
    Some people said the liveaboard is in good condition and everything runs smoothly.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people said there was a massive storm that hampered their trip.
  • check-markDivers said that the generator and engine room was a noise factor.
  • check-markSome people were taken back by the small nature of the boat and cabins.
liveaboard-thailand-manta-queen-5-boat-1.jpg
fullscreen
1/15
Read full review

The Manta Queen 5 liveaboard is a good choice when diving the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, and the Boonsung wreck just off the coast of Khao Lak. This 23-meter liveaboard gives great value for the money and plenty of diving on three days and four nights trip.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2013
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:22
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:Yes (free)
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:Yes (free)
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4.5

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many people were happy with the diving instructors as they delivered a stellar brief addresses all the concerns that the divers may have had and also made the new divers ready for what to expect on their first outing.
  • check-mark
    Divers said that the locations picked out for them by the diving master was indicative of the wealth of knowledge he possesses.
  • check-mark
    Many people said the atmosphere was great and they got to make new friends from all over the world.
  • check-mark
    Many people said they would return to the Manta Queen 5 for another awesome experience.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people stated that roof leaked when it rained and the boat needed some maintenance.
  • check-markSome people were taken back by the gas smell that entered their cabins from the engine room.
liveaboard-thailand-the-junk-side-view.jpg
fullscreen
1/12
Read full review

The legendary liveaboard vessel, The Junk, offers luxurious dive safari cruises to the best diving sites in Thailand. Manufactured in 1962 and reconditioned in 1998 it provides unique diving experiences. Discover magnificent sites like the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon diving alongside whale sharks and manta rays. The liveaboard cruises are great for divers as well as non-divers, offering features for snorkeling and land excursions. Dives are done from a zodiac and Nitrox is available for those certified.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:1998
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:12
  • camera_stationCamera station:Yes
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4.3

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many divers says the liveaboard has great equipment to rent
  • check-mark
    The friendliness and service level of the crew exceeded expectations
  • check-mark
    Food is amazing according to many divers
  • check-mark
    Divers says it's a experience they will never forget

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people said the they dives aren't beginner friendly and that you should be at least advanced certificate divers
  • check-markThe boat lacks a little in comfort
liveaboard-thailand-mv-pawara-boat-1.jpg
fullscreen
1/17
Read full review

One of the best parts of a vacation is sharing the pictures, and taking a tour of the Andaman sea aboard the Pawara liveaboard will allow you to share your memories as they happen with their free onboard Wi-Fi access. The Pawara can house twenty divers comfortably. Depart Tablamu Pier in Khao Lak for your four days, four-night dive safari touring the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock & Surin national park.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2016
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:24
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:Yes (free)
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:Yes (free)
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many divers commended Bento for his 10 years on board Pawara and because he ran everything smoothly and well planned.
  • check-mark
    Some people noted that the liveaboard was in excellent condition with full amenities for a awesome diving experience.
  • check-mark
    Some people said in the evening they would hold board game night to pass the time.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome divers were taken back because their trip was hampered due to a monsoon.
  • check-markMany people noted that they served fish on a daily basis and a little variety would not hurt.
  • check-markA problem...
liveaboard-thailand-bavaria-boat.jpg
fullscreen
1/16
Read full review

The MV Bavaria Liveaboard is a baby among boats, built in 2016, but offers top of the line amenities to divers looking to enjoy the world class diving of Thailand and Burma. The MV Bavaria includes twelve luxurious cabins, and accommodates non-divers with a 25% discount. No more compromising on your vacation, the Bavaria gives great food and activities for your entire party.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2016
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:24
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:Yes (free)
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:Yes (free)
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

3.5

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Several divers reported that they had great diving instructors that knew what they were doing and found the best diving locations.
  • check-mark
    Some people noted that the liveaboard was spacious with big cabins with a balcony and the boat all the luxury amenities you would expect from a A-Class liveaboard.
  • check-mark
    Several divers commended the crew on being professional and hospitable while engaging with the guest.
  • check-mark
    Many people noted that the food was amazing and it resembled a 5-star restaurant.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome divers said that the locations of the dives were lacking in larger marine life.
  • check-markA few people claimed that they would have liked more land excursions.
liveaboard-thailand-deep-andaman-queen-side-view.jpg
fullscreen
1/20
Read full review

The Deep Andaman Queen liveaboard is a 30m beauty providing a comfortable and relaxing dive vacation. The Deep Andaman Queen offers four to seven days liveaboard safaris traveling the Similan Islands, Surin Islands, Richelieu Rock, and Burma Banks. She was custom designed for diving and even offers separate entry and exit platforms.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2012
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:21
  • camera_stationCamera station:Yes
  • internetInternet:Yes (free)
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:Yes (free)
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4.1

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Several divers stated that the itinerary was well planned and executed by the crew and staff.
  • check-mark
    Many people were happy with the fact that they could meet like minded people that loved the under water life.
  • check-mark
    The food was well prepared and everyone gave the chef compliments on the excellent work he did.
  • check-mark
    A lot of divers said they would return to this magical liveaboard.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people said they were disappointed that they did not get to spot manta and whale sharks.
  • check-markA couple of people noted that the engine room was close to the lower decks and this caused a disturbance.
liveaboard-thailand-manta-queen-6-boat-1.jpg
fullscreen
1/16
Read full review

The 25 meters/82 feet Manta Queen 6 liveaboard provides enough diving and snorkeling opportunities to satisfy any diver doing a 5 days/ 4 nights liveaboard trip to Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock and the Boonsung Wreck.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:14
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many people loved the service of the Manta Queen as you were picked up before your hotel or airport and taken to the liveaboard.
  • check-mark
    Some people stated that they were taken to many diving sites and the diving master was crucial in informing the divers of the richness of the sites.
  • check-mark
    Many divers said that this is a adventure that they will certainly do again.
  • check-mark
    The food on board was delicious and the chef original Thai dishes.
  • check-mark
    In the evening everyone would get together and to play board games to pass the time.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markMany people claimed that the cabins are cramped and not suitable for a lot of luggage.
  • check-markSome people were taken back at the vigorous movement of the boat once it was in motion.
liveaboard-thailand-giamani-boat-1.jpg
fullscreen
1/17
Read full review

If you want great liveaboard diving and personal experience then the MV Giamani liveaboard is for you. The 24m steel-hulled boat only services ten divers at a time. The Giamani offers a one to six-night dive trips that will give divers an unmatched tour of the Andaman Sea.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2013
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:10
  • camera_stationCamera station:Yes
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many people said the staff took good care of the equipment and helped with getting in and out of the water.
  • check-mark
    Some people stated that there is a lot of room on the boat and the cabins are spacious.
  • check-mark
    Some divers said they encountered a whale shark on their beautiful dives around Similan.
  • check-mark
    Many divers said it was fantastic to do so many dives with a professional dive master who balanced safety with plenty opportunities to see marine life.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome divers said you must go with low expectations as you are not always lucky to encounter large fish.
liveaboard-thailand-diverace-classe-front-view.jpg
fullscreen
1/14
Read full review

The MV DiveRACE is a 35m luxury dive liveaboard on the Andaman Sea. Not only will divers experience some of the world’s best diving, but private massages and a BBQ pit as well. Diving with the DiveRace Class E makes reaching Thailand and Burma’s remote dive spots anything but rough. With fifteen staff on-board, guests will never be left wanting when on a dive safari.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2015
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:20
  • camera_stationCamera station:No
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4.1

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many people were happy with all that activities there wasn't one moment where you would get bored because there is always something to do.
  • check-mark
    Some divers mentioned that the instructors were knowledgeable and they catered the dives according to your skill level.
  • check-mark
    The crew was friendly and upbeat and always greeted you with a smile.
  • check-mark
    The food prepared by the chef was amazing and he always had a special treat lined up.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people noted that it was disheartening not being able to have seen a whale shark.
  • check-markDivers said the only drawback was the fact that there are to many dive boats at one location.
liveaboard-thailand-thailand-aggressor-side-view.jpg
fullscreen
1/18
Read full review

The 35m Thai Aggressor diving liveaboard has everything you could desire to complete you diving vacation. The crew is ready and willing to attend to your needs; providing comfort and opportunities for fun to all levels of divers. The Thai aggressor even offers a full array of PADI courses to catch you up to speed or help you increase your diving knowledge and expertise.

Key facts:

  • yearbuiltYear built:2013
  • rentalRental equip:Yes ($)
  • diversMax divers:16
  • camera_stationCamera station:Yes
  • internetInternet:No
  • min_logged_divesMin logged dives:No minimum
  • nitroxNitrox:No
  • airconAircon:free

Our Overall Review

4.1

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Many people were happy with the ambiance on board the liveaboard as the other divers made it fun and enjoyable.
  • check-mark
    Some people stated that the crew was interactive and they stayed an amazing amount of time ensuring that everything was 100% correct for the passengers.
  • check-mark
    Divers commended the extensive briefings that covered safety concerns and the boats dive schedule was run efficiently.
  • check-mark
    The food was delicious and resembled some of the best restaurants in the world.
  • check-mark
    Many people said they were presented with warm towels after each dive along with a delicious spread of snacks.

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSome people said that the Wi-Fi did not work properly even when they were on shore.
  • check-markA couple of people noted that the liveaboard needed some repairs.
  • check-markSome divers said the equipment needed replacement as it was kind of oldish.

Your Guide to Liveaboard Diving in the Similans

Day trips are great, especially if you’re short on time. But with dive sites scattered across such a vast area in the Similans, the only way to truly experience the beauty and wonder of this region is on a liveaboard.

About the Similan Islands

The Similan Islands is a Thai archipelago located 40 miles (65 km) off the Phang Nga province of Southern Thailand and 60 miles northwest of Phuket. The area was established as a protected marine park in 1982 and covers an area of over 32,000 acres.

Similan is derived from the Yawi (a Malay language of Southern Thailand) word for nine, representing the nine islands that make up the archipelago. In 1998, the national park was extended to include two additional islands: Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, both of which are visited by the majority of Similan liveaboards. Although each island has a name, each is also designated a number for easier identification.

As a protected area, very few people actually live on the Similans. In fact, the only permanent inhabitants are the park rangers situated on the two main islands of Koh Miang and Koh Similan (islands number four and eight).

Over the years, as the Similans became increasingly popular with tourists, the national park became one of the most overcrowded in the whole of Thailand. Island 11, Koh Tachai, was so badly affected that it has been completely closed to tourists since 2016. In 2018, as part of a plan to slow environmental destruction from over-tourism, the Thai government introduced a daily cap of 3,325 visitors allowed into the park and no one is allowed to stay on any of the islands overnight.

These small granite islands are covered in thick tropical jungle and edged with pristine white sand beaches. One of their most striking features are the huge boulders and rocks scattered around the southern and western shores of many of the islands. Over millions of years, the wind and waves have sculpted these huge rock formations into dramatic shapes to create a stunning topography.

And the topography is not just restricted to the surface. Below the water, these boulders continue to spread down to the depths, becoming home to a diverse abundance of sea life and creating an adventure playground for divers with crevices, caves, canyons, and passageways.

Getting to the Similans

The only access to the Similan Islands is by boat via mainland Thailand, namely Phuket and Khao Lak. Luckily, Bangkok is the travel hub of Asia for many of the world’s airlines. Once in the country, the easiest way to get to Phuket is a 1 hour 25 minute flight with one of the national carriers, such as Thai Smile, Nok Air, or Thai AirAsia. Khao Lak is around a three hour drive from either Phuket or Krabi airport.

Always check current visa regulations before traveling to Thailand. Some nationalities don’t require one at all, whereas others need to apply for a tourist visa prior to arrival. And, with travel regulations changing all the time in this era of Covid-19, check with your airline for current guidelines. Although visitors were required to quarantine after arriving, The Tourism Authority of Thailand has announced that vaccinated foreign visitors will be welcome in Phuket from July 1, 2021 without the need to quarantine. Hopefully, other destinations in the country will follow.

Life on Land

With the Similan Islands being closed to overnight visitors, many divers choose to stay on mainland Thailand for a few days before and after their liveaboard. Many safaris depart from either Phuket or Khao Lak, both of which offer a variety of hotels, guest houses, and hostels to suit all budgets.

 

Life Underwater

The Similan Islands are often rated among the top 10 dive destinations in the world for a good reason. No other region in Thailand — or possibly even the whole of Asia — offers such biodiversity and abundance of marine wildlife.

The warm waters and clarity of the Andaman Sea is ideal for coral growth, and more than 500 species of hard and soft coral have been identified in the region. Table and staghorn corals form a carpet on steep slopes while bright, colorful soft corals and huge gorgonian fans cover the massive underwater granite boulders.

These well-established reefs are a magnet for creatures, large and small, and pulsate with life. The Similans bring together most of the marine species found in other parts of Southeast Asia. From hawksbill and leatherback turtles, mantas, groupers, and reef sharks to guitarfish, morays, frogfish, and ghost pipefish, there’s something amazing to be found around every corner and in every nook and cranny.

Underwater photographers will find the Similans difficult to beat for the sheer number and variety of species. Whether you’re looking to snap big creatures passing by or small critters among the corals, you will not be disappointed.

Reef Dives for Days

Each of the Similan Islands are similar, with the diving on the eastern side being very different from elsewhere around the island. On the eastern edges, divers can expect weaker currents, excellent visibility, and healthy reefs. The diving is gentle and easy-going, allowing you to go at a leisurely pace and relax while taking in the sights.

Off the western edge and the northern and southern points, the currents get stronger, drawing in the larger pelagics. Deeper waters are home to steep drop-offs, gorges, tunnels, arches, and swim throughs created by massive sunken boulders. And interspersed throughout the dive sites and among the rocks are a cacophony of colorful soft corals and huge sea fans.

OW or AOW?

Many operators welcome snorkelers and non-divers on board and don’t specify a minimum level to join their safaris. However, to really get the most out of a Similan liveaboard and have the confidence to deal with the region’s strong currents, it’s advisable for divers to be at least Advanced Open Water.

Luckily, some liveaboards give divers the opportunity to do AOW training as part of the excursion, and the majority offer speciality courses, such as nitrox, deep, and photography. Non-divers can sign up for an Open Water course on a few of the liveaboards. But, who really wants to be worrying about buoyancy and buddy breathing when you’re trying to enjoy some of the best diving in the world?

Water Temperatures

Water temperatures around the Similans remain pretty steady throughout the year, ranging between 79 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit (26 and 29 degrees Celsius).

For hardened divers, the warm waters may allow them to get away with wearing just a rash guard and shorts. However, the majority may find it more comfortable with a 3 mm wetsuit — or even a 5 mm if they feel the cold easily.

Best Time To Go on a Similan Islands Liveaboard

Diving in the Similan Islands is seasonal and practically all liveaboards only operate between mid-October and mid-May. Between May and October, the region is hit with monsoon winds, rain, and surface swell which makes for unpredictable diving conditions.

The end of February brings stronger currents and the larger marine creatures. March and April are possibly your best chance of spotting mantas rays, sharks, and even whale sharks.

6 Must-Dive Sites in the Similans

There are more than 25 dive sites in and around the Similan Islands, and liveaboard guides should ensure you dive the best of the best. Although sites on the western edges of the islands are trickier, each of the dive sites offer something to suit all levels of diver.

From coral-encrusted walls to gently sweeping currents, add these Similan dive sites to your bucket list.

The Best Dive Sites in the World

Elephant Head Rock

Elephant Head Rock is undoubtedly the most popular site in the Similan Islands. Giant boulders covered in a tapestry of soft coral form a labyrinth of tunnels and gorges creating swim throughs where divers can have fun. Nurse sharks and snapper rest below the overhangs while blue-ringed angelfish, cuttlefish, mantis shrimp, and Andaman sweetlips dart among the reef.

Anita’s Reef

Due to its shallowness, Anita’s Reef is great for all levels of diver and is always a favorite with photographers. It’s also considered a competitor for the best dive site in the Similans. Soft tree, table, and staghorn corals blanket stunning bommies and create a hiding place for glassfish, longnose hawkfish and juveniles of all kinds. Look out in the sand for Kuhl’s stingrays and spotted garden eels and, if you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the majestic 6.5 feet (2 m) long fantail stingrays.

Christmas Point

Submerged boulders scattered across a wide area make up Christmas Point and the site sometimes requires more than one dive to truly appreciate all it has to offer. Coral gardens have formed in the crevices and are home to frogfish, ribbon eels, and nudibranchs. While testing out your buoyancy on a number of swim throughs, keep an eye out for napoleon wrasse, barracuda, tuna, and black-tip reef sharks who have taken a liking to Christmas Point.

East of Eden

East of Eden is often described as aquarium diving due to the density of marine life. Once closed to divers due to coral bleaching, the reef is now a beautiful mixture of both soft and hard corals, most notably large clusters of staghorn coral. But the highlight is the large bommie known as Gluay-Mai, The Orchid Garden. Hot pink anemones and purple and blue soft corals cover the body while green sea fans dot the lower portion. If you’re into macro-photography, this is definitely a dive not to miss.

Donald Duck Bay

Fans of night diving should include Donald Duck Bay on their list. It’s a relatively easy dive with a flat sand bottom at around 65 feet (20 m) covered in rocks and boulders. The swim-throughs are especially fun at night and the boulders and the gaps between them are home to a plethora of night-loving sea creatures who choose the hours of darkness to come out and play. Expect to see crustaceans, squid, cuttlefish, moray eels, octopuses, cephalopods, and painted rock lobsters.

Beacon Point

Large patches of hard coral and rock formations dropping down to 130 feet (40 m) make Beacon Point a great dive at all depths. Gorgonian fans, brain coral, and wire coral create a home for nudibranchs and colorful reef fish, including surgeonfish, wrasse, and chromis. The chance of spotting eagle rays, mantas, leopard sharks, and reef sharks is also pretty high at Beacon Point.

Grab Your Fins!

There’s no doubt about it, diving in the Similan Islands is special. And going on a Similan liveaboard is hands-down the best way to experience the region and get in some epic dives. We hope this guide to liveaboard diving in the Similan has whet your appetite for dive adventures and you’re ready to grab your fins and get going.

Have you been diving in the Similans? Which sites did you like best and do you have any tips for divers heading to the archipelago? Drop us a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

And if you still have questions about diving in the Similan Islands, check out the FAQs below:

Related Reviews

FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Similan Liveaboards

How to get to the Similan Islands?

The only access to the Similan Islands is by boat via mainland Thailand, namely Phuket and Khao Lak. Luckily, Bangkok is the travel hub of Asia for many of the world’s airlines. Once in the country, the easiest way to get to Phuket is a 1 hour 25 minute flight with one of the national carriers, such as Thai Smile, Nok Air, or Thai AirAsia. Khao Lak is around a three hour drive from either Phuket or Krabi airport.

What’s the best time to go to the Similan Islands?

Diving in the Similan Islands is seasonal and practically all liveaboards only operate between mid-October and mid-May. Between May and October, the region is hit with monsoon winds, rain, and surface swell which makes for unpredictable diving conditions.

The end of February brings stronger currents and the larger marine creatures. March and April are possibly your best chance of spotting mantas rays, sharks, and even whale sharks.

Is Thailand safe to travel to?

Thailand has had some political turbulence during the last decade, since the beloved King Bunipol died. But it remains a magnet for tourists because Thailand remains safe for travelers. But always check travel advice from your own country’s foreign service. For scuba diving, Thailand has almost boundless beauty and has built up a great industry where thousands go diving every year.

Related Reviews

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments