Why taking a live-aboard dive trip is the best way to experience Phuket’s Similan Islands

Azure waters and incredible submarine rock formations greet you in Similan Islands, commonly rated as one of the top dive sites in the world. The best way to take in the dazzling landscape and dive sites in the Thai territory? Start your journey at the city of Khao Lak, before joining a live-aboard dive trip to Similan Islands, says Samantha Francis



After a two-hour flight followed by a two-hour car ride, I found myself at Khao Lak, Thailand. The quiet coastal town, known as the gateway for live-aboard scuba diving trips to Similan Islands, now bears a serene ambience — a far cry from the devastation of the December 2004 tsunami. I spent my day at the idyllic Nang Thong Beach, where the clear skies mirrored the sea in a picturesque manner.



Workers on Nang Thong Beach taking a well-deserved break as billowing smoke from their machinery vanishes in the horizon. Curious to know what they were doing, I tried to ask but could not surmount the language barrier. My dive guide, who was with us from the start of the trip, guessed that they were building a new pier.



The next day, we left for Similan Islands on the Nemo 2 speedboat shuttle, which would ferry us to the MV Nemo 1 live-aboard vessel, where I would stay for the night, in just 75 minutes. Seated on the speedboat, I took in the sight of the row of colourful cargo boats moored to the pier.



A majestic shoal of barracuda swirling around us on our second dive at the Breakfast Bend dive site. We were also lucky enough to spot some sea turtles and sea stars. Breakfast Bend’s unusual name comes from the gorgeous dawn light which intensifies the colour of the corals. Located on the east side of Koh Bangu, Similan Island number 9, this dive site is suitable for all levels of divers.



The waters were warm enough for me to ditch my wetsuit, but I had to take extra care not to be scratched by corals. Four dives in and we finally spotted a moray eel!



There’s nothing more refreshing after a dive than a cold glass of Thai iced milk tea paired with beef noodles. Sweet and refreshing, the bright orange beverage is made from strong brewed Ceylon tea and, depending on the seller’s recipe, a copious amount of sugar.