M/V OKTAVIA cruises the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock in the Andaman Sea, off the westcoast of Southern Thailand. This is one of the most beautiful and exciting marine areas in the world.
THE SIMILAN ISLANDS
The Similan Islands is a group of nine unhabited paradise-like islands, almost perfectly placed on a straight line stretching approximately 25km from south to north. Designated a marine national park in 1982, the islands are located in the Andaman Sea, approximately 65km off the west coast of the Phang-Nga province, or about 90km north west of Phuket Island. The word “Similan” stems from the Malay word “sembilan” which actually means – you guessed it – “nine”.
Often ranked among the top 10 scuba diving and snorkeling sites in the world, the Similan Islands offer everyone – from beginner to expert – a chance to experience the fascinating marine life and underwater world. Here you will find beautiful coral reefs submerged in a Bombay-Gin ocean, all kinds of tropical fish in every possible and impossible color shades and combinations, massive and majestic granite rock formations, and inviting crevices and underwater tunnels. Dfferent types of rays, sharks and turtles are commonplace. The underwater visibility is normally around 30m; the water around a pleasant 28-29 degrees Centigrade (82-84 Fahrenheit). Examples of famous and often-visited dive and snorkel sites are East of Eden, Deep Six, Elephant Head Rock, Breakfast Bend, and North Point.
The Similan Islands offer not only world class diving and snorkeling; excursions to the islands themselves are a must. Clad in lush green rainforests and granite boulder formations and lined with white sandy beaches, the islands offer plenty: jungle treks, bird watching, viewpoints, or an opportunity to relax on the beach below a palmtree while reading a book or sipping an ice-cold Singha beer. When too warm, jump in the crystal clear water for a swim or some snorkeling.
KOH BON ISLAND
Steaming an hour and a half north and you get to Koh Bon Island, a fascinating rock island with a scenic ridge stretching from the middle of the island down into the ocean. Koh Bon has no beaches or places to go ashore. Compared to the Similan Islands, Koh Bon offers slightly more “exotic” and “wild” diving and snorkeling. This is also one of the best places to see the huge, placid, and plankton eating Manta Rays – beauitful and curious creatures that often stay around for a long time. They often come close to the surface, giving also snorkelers an experience of a lifetime.
KOH TACHAI ISLAND
Travel another two hours north and you get to Koh Tachai – a desolate island with perhaps the most stunningly beautiful beach in the Andaman Sea. Just off the island, to the southeast, there are a couple of submerged plateaus with extremely colorful and exciting reefs, often visited by larger marine creatures and big swirling schools of Barracudas. Closer to the island, just off the beach, snorkelers will find nice sloping reefs.
SURIN ISLANDS AND RICHELIEU ROCK
A two and a half hour cruise north and you get to world famous Richelieu Rock, about 18km east of the Surin Islands. “The Rock” consists of one main, horse shoe shaped splintered rock pinnacle, with several other smaller rocks around its edges. The site is totally submerged, except at low tide when the tip breaks the surface. As the entire surrounding area is just sandy bottom most of the marine life congrates at Richelieu Rock. The variety and number of marine life creatures is mindblowing. Richelieu Rock also rates as one of the best places in the world for swimming with the gentle and giant Whale Shark. Encounters with these fish, the largest of all fish, are rare. But for some reason, Richelieu Rock attracts more than its fair share. Swimming with such a large animal, known to grow to lengths of up to 20m is the high point for any diver and snorkeler. Manta Rays also often frequent this site.