Table of Content
Similan and beyond
Similan Islands, located 100 km north-west of Phuket consist of a string of nine granite islands with numerous outcrops and rocks, running in a south to north direction. Apart from bearing Thai names, they are also named by numbers for easy recognition, with the most southerly island named Island No 1 and the most northerly one, Island No. 9. Some of the islands are covered with lush tropical rainforest and have beautiful white sandy beaches. In 1982 the islands were declared a Marine National Park, and all fishing in the area was banned.
Today the Similans are known worldwide for spectacular diving and for the diversity of marine life.
On the sheltered east coast of the islands fringing coral gardens with sandy patches dominate. Moray eels, nudibranchs, octopus, turtles and a variety of smaller reef fish are commonly seen, a Shangri-La for the macro photographer.
On the exposed west side of the islands, huge granite boulders covered with hard and soft coral predominate, offering exciting swim-throughs, gullies and canyons. Reef sharks and leopard sharks can be found resting on the sandy bottom. Bigger pelagic fishes are common, schools of barracuda, tuna and trevallies hover close to the reef and if you are lucky, you may even have an encounter with a manta ray.
Koh Bon, located 20 km north of the Similans is part of the Similan Marine National Park and most famous for the good possibility to see manta rays, and sometimes even whale sharks.
Koh Tachai, is located a further 25 km north of Koh Bon and also forms part of the Similan Marine National Park. This is truly great dive site with granite boulders and hovering schools of pelagic species. Leopard sharks are common and with some luck you may see mantas and whale sharks.
Richelieu Rock. Another 45 km north of Koh Tachai and you reach this submerged pinnacle, only visible at low tide. This dive site, big as a football field, offers more diversity then any other place in Thailand. Here you find the whole spectrum of marine life from macro like nudibranches and ghost pipefish up to giants like mantas and whale sharks.
SSI Scuba Diving Courses
To learn to dive is easy and fun. Phuket is a great place to do this. We offer diving courses from try dives and beginner programs right up to SSI Dive Control Specialist (DiveCon) level. We teach in small groups to make our courses more personal, fun and friendly.
If you already are a certified diver, but want to improve your diving knowledge and skills, or get a more advanced scuba diving card for dive insurance and liability purposes, the SSI Continuing Education system, with provides a fast, efficient and enjoyable way to achieve your goals.
If your goal is to become a dive professional, the SSI Dive Control Specialist program is a rigorous and cost-effective way to gain what effectively amounts to Assistant Instructor status in most other organizations. As SSI (Scuba Schools International) is the fastest growing diver training organization in Thailand and already the largest diver training organization in Australia, as well as growing rapidly elsewhere too, the demand for SSI Dive Leaders such as SSI DiveCons is growing faster than supply.
WHO ARE SSI?
Scuba Schools International (SSI) were founded in 1970, four years after PADI, by diver training legend Bob Clark. Among Bob’s many, many accomplishments was that he as a first in the industry introduced training in Open Water as a requirement for diver certification and he also introduced the first integrated multimedia approach to diver training in 1974. In 2008, scuba diving industry legends Robert Stoss (formerly of Scubapro and Seemann Sub) and Doug McNeese took over Scuba Schools International, and since then a period of rapid growth and exciting change has gripped the organization.
SSI forms part of the World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) together with SDI, PADI and a few other select organizations. SSI also forms part of RSTC Europe together with the above and e.g. DAN (Divers Alert Network) Europe. In the latter organization, minimum safety standards have been agreed. SSI Europe are also a founding member of the European Underwater Federation (EUF), where other members include among others NAUI Europe, BSAC (the British Sub Aqua Club), PADI International, PADI Europe, PADI Nordic, Sukeltajaliitto, SSDF (Svenska Sportdykarförbundet), NOB (Nederlandse Onderwatersport Bond), VDST (Verband Deutscher Sporttaucher E.V.), DAN and many other fine organizations. The European Underwater Federation assesses diver training based on the new European Standards (CEN) for diving. These standards have been further refined to ISO standards.
PADI Scuba Diving Courses
To learn to dive is easy and fun and where could be a better place to start you diving career than in the warm, clear tropical waters of Phuket?. We offer diving courses from beginner right up to Divemaster level and teach in small groups to make our courses more personal, fun and friendly.
If you already are a certified diver and want to become more comfortable in the water, improve your scuba diving knowledge and skills, learn about scuba diving skills specific to your interests and last but not least, go scuba diving where only divers with advanced training can go, the PADI continued education program is a great and fast way to achieve your goals.
If your goal is to become a dive professional and live the dream, the PADI Divemaster program is still the most widely spread and accepted introductory professional level in the industry. In this program you work closely with an experienced PADI Instructor to expand your diving knowledge and improve your skills to the pro level.
Daily Dive Sites
Phuket’s local dive sites offer diving for all experience levels, from gentle slopes with calm conditions for the beginner to wrecks and deep dives for the more adventurous diver. NEW for this season, we offer the superb and more distant sites of Phi Phi, Raya Noi, Koh Ha, Hin Muang and Hin Daeng by comfortable speed catamaran, as well as a fast dive trip to Phi Phi with a luxurious lunch, five times a week by speedboat.
Racha Yai, located 14 nautical miles south of Phuket, is reached in 1½ hours by daily boat. Perfect for all levels of diver training or just for easy, relaxed diving with its shallow bays, gentle slopes and calm conditions. Visibility is among the best in the whole Phuket area. On the east side stag horn coral is predominate, while rocks and boulders are more common on the west side.
An additional 8 nautical miles further south, you reach Racha Noi. These islands (there are technically two of them) offer similar diving to Racha Yai, but the tips situated north and south of the island group exhibit surrounding deep water and sometimes extremely strong currents. These invite bigger pelagic marine life such as eagle rays, barracudas and big groupers. These are also the only areas very close to Phuket where Manta Rays are a possibility. Racha Noi is done by daily boat and, NEW for this season, also by fast and comfortable speed catamaran. With the latter, the time to the dive sites is a mere 50 minutes!
Shark Point, located 16 nautical miles east of Phuket, consists of three submerged reefs within swimming distance. This very popular dive site offers a variety of marine life. The name comes from the gentle, bottom dwelling leopard sharks which are common in the area. Other marine life often seen are moray eels, octopus, schools of sweet lips and trevallies.
A beautiful dive site, located only a short distance north of Shark Point. As the name indicates, the reef is covered with sea anemones and colorful soft corals. Schools of snapper, barracudas and fusiliers hover over the reef and leopard sharks are often found resting on the sandy bottom.
On May 4th, 1997 the 85-meter-long passenger ferry ”King Cruiser”, heading for the Phi Phi Islands, hit Anemone Reef. She sank less than an hour later just a short distance away. Fortunately it was a perfect day with a flat sea and all 600 passengers were rescued by nearby boats. Sitting upright on the seabed at a maximum depth of 32 meters and with her bridge at 14 meters, she offers a nice wreck dive.
Phi Phi Islands
The Phi Phi Islands are world famous for their stunning limestone cliffs rising up to two hundred meters straight out of the sea. Located 27 nautical miles east of Phuket, we offer these splendid dive sites NEW for this season by speedboat five times a week, and also by speed catamaran twice a week. Journey times are a mere 60 to 75 minutes each way. No more long hours on a dive boat with late-night returns to Phuket in the dark. Instead you’ll be back in Chalong in the afternoon. The variety of dives sites include wall dives, coral gardens and rugged rock formations with caves, swim-throughs and overhangs. Leopard sharks, turtles and sea snakes are frequently seen. There are also sightings of whale sharks every season …
Koh Ha means “five islands” in Thai, but actually there are six beautiful islands in this little archipelago. Famous for its regular great visibility and beautiful scenery both above and below water, we choose the best dive sites therein for the day, far from the crowds. This favourite dive area boasts wonderful swim-throughs, turtles and the occasional whale shark and big ray. Located 38 nautical miles southeast of Phuket, these dive sites are NEW for the season and reached by speed catamaran in only 1 hour 30 minutes.
Hin Muang and Hin Daeng
These are the best dive sites in Thailand outside of the Similan and Surin National Park area (which you should dive from our liveaboard). Hin Muang and Hin Daeng offer the deepest wall diving in all of Thailand. Hin Muang is a submerged ridge starting about 8 meters under the surface and dropping off to 70 meters. The fish life is amazing due to the currents which are often present. Hin Daeng is situated only a few hundred meters away and rises a few metres above the surface and drops to more than 50 meters. It has beautiful soft corals. These sites are the furthest away on the daily diving schedule and completely NEW for this season. They offer the best chance in the whole Andaman Sea outside of the Similans to see whale sharks and Manta Rays. We do them weekly by fast and rugged speed catamaran if weather conditions permit. They are definitely worth the ride time of merely 2 hours 15 minutes.
Speedboat to the Phi Phi Islands
Phi Phi has some truly superb dive sites. The outlying islets of Koh Bida Nai and Koh Bida Nok are rightly famous for their marine life.
The distance involved has often proved punitive for divers who want to dive these sites from Phuket, which as a place to stay of course offers superior variety, comfort and amenities for the discerning traveler. Diving these sites by dayboat is cheaper than by speedboat but the journey times involved mean that travellers will get up early and come home late.
This season Jonathan Cruiser has teamed up with an experienced niche operator successfully running speedboats to Phi Phi five times a week. After a generally later hotel pick-up than usual, the boat leaves Chalong Pier in Phuket at around 9 am. Fresh baguettes and fruits are offered for breakfast. After the first dive there is time for some sightseeing around the island and a luxurious lunch.
There is time after lunch to see some more sights, including perhaps the cute island monkeys, from the comfort and safety of the speedboat while you digest the food. After all, when one has a fast mode of transportation, there is no need to skimp on the surface interval, now, is there? Why stress? It’s your holiday.
After the second dive we head for home, hopefully with some great memories of Phi Phi both above and below the surface. Checking in at your hotel around 6 pm, you can have a sundowner in the bar pondering the fact that your fellow Phuket divers on slower day boats most likely still are at sea.
The Speed Cat
In our humble opinion, Phuket is by far the best place to base a diving holiday in. Here you will find hotels of all possible categories and comforts, from cheap backpacker hangouts to luxury hotels that truly attract the famous, the glitterati and Royalty from all over the world. The huge and varied restaurant offerings range from simple but clean huts on the street where a lunch costs around US$ 1 to gastronomic palaces which rival their French and Italian brethren in Europe.
Indeed one of them, with a 16/20 rating in the Gault Millau, is considered by some cognoscenti the very best European restaurant in all of the Kingdom. Add the fabulous shopping, which today is probably the best to be found south of Bangkok and north of Hat Yai, and it’s easy to understand why Phuket is the destination of choice also for the keen diver.
A disadvantage has often been that the very best dive sites are situated a fair distance away from Phuket. The Similan Islands and Richeliu Rock are no problem. These should ideally be done by liveaboard anyway, and we provide our very own intimate and cozy liveaboard, the “Jonathan Cruiser”, where we draw on our 15 years’ of experience in diver enjoyment.
The fine dive sites of Racha Noi and Phi Phi require many hours on a traditional dayboat, however, and the fantastic dive sites of Koh Ha, Hin Muang and Hin Daeng have effectively been impossible to reach on regular scheduled daily dive trips from Phuket.
Starting this season, Jonathan Cruiser will cooperate with a specialist operator on these routes. This is exciting, and uncharted waters, but the management of Jonathan Cruiser know the owners and management of the speed catamaran since many years, and believe in the concept.
Indeed, we have personal experience of just how easy and comfortable it has been to run daily trips all the way to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang with this very catamaran, albeit on a smaller scale. Certainly, there are few diving platforms in the world more suited to this task from the point of view of comfort and safety and we speak as experienced instructors and divemasters.
The Speed Cat has been fully refurbished this season and with its two new 300 hp engines she can reach Racha Noi in merely 50 minutes, Koh Ha in just over an hour and a half, and the great pinnacles of Hin Muang and Hin Daeng in just over two and a half hours. This is faster than most daytrip boats from “nearby” Koh Lanta some 30 nautical miles away.
For the first time it is now possible to join us on a liveaboard trip to to the Similans and Richelieu and follow, or precede this with a daily trip to Hin Daeng & Hin Muang or Koh Ha. All the while retaining the same hotel and losing no valuable holiday time travelling on tiring ferries or buses.
It also means that your average Diving Mom or Diving Dad, or indeed both, unwilling or unable to leave their better half and kids ashore for a full liveaboard trip now can slip away for a day or two of world class diving in the southern end of the Andaman Sea. Yet get back home every evening for dinner and cuddlies with the family…
The Speed Cat is roomy, highly seaworthy and comfortable. It has a proper toilet which can be used by grown-ups as opposed to hobbits, full electronics including GPS to aid the experienced skipper, a comfortable sun deck above and plenty of space for diving equipment and tanks on lower deck. Maximum speed is around 40 knots, but we prefer a cruising speed of 28-30 knots. There is plenty of space around the table on lower deck for a nice lunch during the surface interval.
We firmly believe there is no better way to reach Koh Ha, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, weather permitting. Through Jonathan Cruiser we both hope and believe that many more people can experience a wider range of great dive sites from the comforts of Phuket.