Attempting to Recreate Habibi in the Similan Islands

We had experienced some of the best snorkeling in the world in the Whitsundays, on the boat where we all met, Habibi. It was definitely one of the highlights of my time in Australia. So when we read that the Similan Islands “offer[ed] some of the finest diving in Thailand, if not the world” we had to check it out.

Apple, the wonderful woman who ran our hostel Riverside Guesthouse, got us some super secret discount for a day trip (2,000 THB) that included three snorkeling sites and lunch. The whole operation was larger than expected; we arrived to find a hundred other people snacking on muffins and coffee waiting for the boats to launch. We were given our color coded wristbands and told to wait until we were called. As soon as it was our turn we acted like kids and hurried to get on the boat first so we could sit outside up front; the boat was a 4-engine speedboat and the only rule of sitting up front was that you had to hold on at all times. You could tell this boat could really launch over some big waves if it wanted to, although disappointingly it held back on the ride out. We blamed all the tourists for killing the fun.

It was an hour and a half ride out to the first location and just being on the water made me smile. The boat was actually probably the highlight of the day. All the snorkel sights were honestly slightly disappointing. There was a variety of coral but not nearly as colorful as we were hoping and the fish were just ok. The most exciting sightings were a group of squid and one turtle who somehow got stuck in the center of a hovering group of tourists near the boats. At each location multiple boats unloaded dozens upon dozens of tourists into the same patch of water. We tried to swim further into space but nothing was quite as captivating as we had experienced in Australia. Plus there were some evil little jellyfish in the water that kept stinging us.

We stopped at an island for lunch which did have beautiful white sand and turquoise water but was so packed with people it was hard to appreciate it. Our last island stop Chris and I didn’t even bother to go in the water. We wondered if we’d become jaded with this kind of travel, having seen too many nice beaches and snorkeling spots in Australia. I had at least taken a bit of a break in Vietnam and Cambodia; they came from Krabi and Phuket, more of the same. Of course it’s not exactly the same, but at some point a beach is a beach.

As if to shut us up, the weather decided to give us something new: rain. We, along with everyone else, ran back to our boat and hid underneath the covered back section waiting for it to pass. It was a quick downpour that had some lingering drizzle but Pascal and I came prepared with raincoats. What’s a little water? We resumed our positions up front and on the ride back really felt the speed of the four engines. A couple times I flew off my seat into the air, and learned to appreciate the “must hold on” rule. When the rain briefly picked up again it felt like little daggers stabbing me in the face. At least it didn’t last long.

We made it back to shore not regretting going for an instant, it was still a fun day, but perhaps a little less enthusiastic than I though we’d be when we booked the trip.