|It was a rough speedboat trip out to the Similans, an hour and a half of big seas and torrential rain. When we arrived at the islands and started to transfer boats, I found that I was the only one being transferred to Boat 3 (3 and 4 live permanently at the islands). When I got onto boat 3 though I found that it was nearly full which came as a bit of a shock, I was expecting peaceful diving and there I was with over 30 other divers. It was a very nice boat though with a TV lounge 2 sundecks, coffee, tea, soft drinks and snacks available free all day and I even ended up with my own AC cabin. After my own personal briefing with the Tour Leader the diving begun.
I won't bore the non-divers and get the divers jealous with full descriptions of all the dives, just a brief summary. I did my first 2 dives either side of lunch, the dives were nice but not earth shattering. After the second dive the people leaving that day were transferred back and the good surprise was that there were only 7 divers and 2 crew left. This made the next dive a much more pleasant experience except for the muppet of an American buddy I was given. For the night dive there was just me and one of the instuctors, a non-muppet American and nice guy. We didn't see much other than an enormous hermit crab but it was very peaceful and relaxing.
During the evening I was chatting with John, the Tour Leader who has to be the most qualified diving instructor I've met, a Tri-mix course director, apparently there is only 1 level higher, Tri-mix Instructor Trainer. He was able to answer a lot of the questions I've thought about from the Tsunami as he was one of the few people actually on a dive when it hit! I had a look at his dive profile and he was dragged down to over 70m twice with a maximum of 76 metres, they ended up spat out in a whirlpool half a mile from the boat! The reef they were on no longer exists but the only injury was one person getting DCS.
Our first dive the next morning was great, the muppets were put into a separate group of 3 and the "senior team" went off to find Leopard sharks. And find them we did, down near the bottom of the pinnacle; we had a close encounter with one swimming past and then at 40m on the bottom there were 3 sleeping. I spent most of the dive pushing the edge of no decompression time but we had a long surface interval afterwards. The highlight of the next dives was my first manta ray, I knew they were big but didn't realise just how big until one "flew" over the top of me doing a very good impression of a stealth bomber. With my three dives that day being to 40, 32 and 26 metres I managed to accrue 27 hours no-fly time so it was a good job that I'd booked onto the late night flight the next day.
Overall I wouldn't rate the Similans as highly as Sipadan but they are definitely up there with the best sites.
I had half a roll of film left in my camera so I took it with me on the last dive to use up, if anything good turns up on it I'll upload some pictures later. As the quality has been so bad so far I gave the camera away at the end of the trip. The speed boat back to the mainland was an uneventful, fast and smooth trip on a flat sea.