One of the best diving experiences I’ve had was in the famed Similan Islands off of Thailand’s coast.
I arrived in Koa Lak after a 16 hour bus ride that was supposed to only last 11. As you can imagine, I stumbled off the bus exhausted. My first order of business was to zig-zag across the street and plop my weary body down in the first coffee shop I saw.
I chugged down an espresso, and gave the barista a Wild West style nod that said I don’t want to see the bottom of this glass.
She smiled and nodded her head in a way that told me she had seen this look before and understood it completely. Thus, I began a refueling rampage that would get me through the rest of the day.
A few espressos later, I was greeted by Chris from Backpacker Banter, fellow blogger and founder of Epic Gap Year (Shameless Plug), who had come to collect me. While all I really wanted was more coffee, Chris thought that a celebratory pint was in order. I couldn’t argue with such logic.
After our cheeky morning pint, we went to the dive office to get everything sorted for my first “live abroad“. I fidgeted around partly resulting from the caffeine racing through my veins and partly due to sheer excitement as I learned that over the next few days I would experience a total of 14 dives, as well as, earn my advance diving license.
Yeeessss! Life is good!
So What is a Live Abroad?
For those of you wonderful readers that are unfamiliar with the diving world, a live aboard is where you head out on a ship for several days at a time, doing multiple dives each day.
I did my first live abroad with Koh Lak Adventures and I couldn’t have been happier. The experience was wonderful.
I was welcomed by an amazing staff, given a fantastic room (much better than many hostels/hotels I have stayed in), and served three square delicious meals a day. Between dives, the divers enjoy the sun and sea, eat snacks, watch movies, get entertained by the crew, and socialize with other dive members.
Diving in the Similans
While life on top of the boat was fun, nothing compares to the life underneath it. It is easy to see why diving in the Similans is famous. One of our first dives was a wreak dive about 20 meters below. Even though, it had been a couple months since my last dive, sinking straight down into the deep blue made me feel right at home.
Within a few minutes, we were looking at the wreak of an old vessel. Around the outside of the wreak swam pipe and trigger fish, while the infamous Moray eels cunningly bobbed their heads out from the inside.
Another great dive involved my first swim through. I’m not going to lie; I was a little nervous. Conquering my fear of water didn’t mean I was ready to swim through underwater tunnels. Swimming up to the first stone tunnel, I couldn’t help but think it almost looked like an enclosed prison.
I took a deep breath and I calmed myself, or tried to calm myself. One of the things you learn when traveling is not to sweat the small stuff! I am sure, that to everyone else, I looked like a kid getting ready to have his lunch money stolen.
As I ventured in, I tried to get my buoyance right but hit the walls several times.
Each time, nerves shot through my body. “Certainly, it would have to get better”, I told myself while not completely believing it.
A few more tunnels came and went and each swim through got a little easier. In fact, by the end, I was actually looking forward to them.
Later during that dive, a rambunctious octopus floated around us for several minutes in a spectacular array of changing colors. Unaware of us, it reminded me of a child who covers his eyes and thinks no one can see him.
The rest of my live aboard involved more swim through wreak dives, some deep sea dives, and underwater tower dives known as pinnacles! This is what makes the Similans so great! You get to experience so many types of dives in a short amount of time with such a wide diversity of wildlife.
Whether you are an experienced diver or just thinking about trying out scuba diving for the first time, you should pump the Similans to the top of your list and experience diving at its finest. The Similans have been the highlight of my diving career and I can’t recommend it enough. Little did I know we had to batten down the hatches for a tropical storm was coming!
Photos by Chris Stevens