The Similan islands are among the 10 most fascinating dive destinations in the world. Characterized by fantastical granite boulders & slabs, both above and below their crystal waters – this region is famous for its visibility, diversity and underwater topography.
The Similans offer a wide range of dive sites, complexity, and conditions – keeping it exciting for divers with varying levels of experience. From deep canyons and swim-throughs to white sandy slopes. Strong currents that trigger feeding frenzies and underwater action – to calm dives among the 13 underwater sculptures that were submerged as a Tsunami memorial.
This island group is known for its expansive coral gardens, an abundance of marine life, large schools of fish and frequent sightings of sea turtles, giant manta rays, whale sharks, harlequin shrimp, pipefish and seahorses.
Mergui Archipelago – Burma Banks
Over the last ten years of diving in the Mergui, we have rarely spotted one other dive boat on our route. This region is, without a doubt, one of the least explored and home to some of the most exquisite diving in the world.
The Mergui Archipelago, in southern Myanmar, is a cluster of over 800 rugged, green, mysterious islands -The diversity of flora and fauna, the ethnobotany and then the most dramatic underwater dive sites imaginable. ‘Black Rock’ in the north is a manta-ray cleaning station and an exciting place to encounter unexpected pelagic species. ‘Three Islets’ in the sheltered region has an exciting swim through – a submarine cave that traverses the island from east to west. And this is just the beginning! – Pinnacles, canyons, drop-offs, shelves, sandbanks – the enormous variation in substrate and bathymetry makes each dive a new discovery.
Some of the most interesting marine life we have been spotting around this region include grey reef sharks, ribbon eels, frogfish, mobula rays, manta rays, slipper lobsters, ghost pipefish and a large number of nurse sharks.
The only people who live in the area are the Moken, fishing, and free-diving sea gypsies.
The Mergui has been closed to tourists for a number of years and only opened officially in 1997, with continued restrictions and strict regulations.
The Burma banks, in contrast, are three adjacent underwater plateaus, emerging from the deep waters that separate Burma and India. Their vast expanse makes every dive unique.
In the South Andaman sea between Thailand’s Phang Nga and the Malaysian Island of Langkawi are several scattered oceanic islands. This region offers a similar topography and water temperature as the famous Similans and exciting opportunities for sailing-diving adventures.
Some of the better-known islands in this cluster include; Phi-Phi, Koh Lanta, Koh Ha, Koh Rok and Koh Lipe. The dive sites and diversity is what makes the journey special – the twin pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang – Bida Nok and Bida Nai. Swim through and large underwater archways. And then the ship-wrecks off Koh Racha and the King-cruiser.
This region provides a perfect mix of both calcite and granite landscapes thus expanding the faunal diversity as well as the topography and seascapes.
Phang Nga Bay
The Phang Nga Bay is Thailand’s geological wonder. A visually and ecologically dramatic landscape that provides a window into the natural-history that has created a staggering landscape of towering limestone karsts that emerge from turquoise waters. This was once part of an extensive coral reef that stretched across South East Asia.
The 42 islands scattered through this shallow bay are incredibly picturesque and ideal for snorkeling, diving & kayaking. The beautiful cross-section from reefs to mangroves, limestone caves and rainforests are famous for a wide range of wildlife even beyond the marine realm! The oriental hornbill, Malaysian Plover, white-headed gibbon, water monitors are a few highlights among the very long list of native fauna.
Out in the western Andaman Sea, nestled in the Bay of Bengal is a remote archipelago that defines India’s eastern frontier. This submarine mountain chain connects Burma to Sumatra and its peaks emerge as what we call The Andaman Islands. Known for its endemic wildlife, indigenous tribes, and dense rainforests – it is also among Cousteau’s most exciting dive explorations. Diving from shore in this region limits one’s experience to 2 islands around the capital of Port Blair. These vast waters, however, require live-aboard access, enabling exploration of the eastern volcanoes – Barren Island and Narcondam, the famous Invisible-banks and a voyage that can traverse the southern islands in the Duncan Passage.
Diving in this archipelago is a voyage for explorers! The diversity of flora and fauna, the topography, stunning visibility, the sheer isolation and the unique ecological status of the region make it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The union territory of the Andaman and Nicobar islands is highly regulated and restricted by the Government of India. These sailings require extensive preparation, permits, and planning.