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With about 1,000 logged dives in Thai waters, I feel reasonably qualified to
respond to what Monk wrote:
 
> I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I really don't think the Similans
> is worth the time, money and effort.  I know that you probably
> have heard a
> lot about the place like me, but it is just talk.  Just a way of raising
> money, and protecting the environment.
 
Whether something is worth the time, money and effort is pretty subjective.
I don't know (obviously) what you heard about the Similans that caused you
to say that "it is all talk". On the face of it, the statement implies that
NOTHING you heard about the place turned out to be true, a pretty
unbelievable scenario.
 
I also don't see anything negative in protecting the environment.
 
> I mean the water was warm, and there was good viz (20-30
> meters), but
> whether you went during the day, or night, one location or another,
> everything was the same.  There was no variety.
 
Patently untrue. On my bookshelf, I have 4 different books about Diving in
Thailand, and miraculously, all 4 authors agree with my own observations,
which is that there is a huge difference between the east and the west side
of the islands, and that the different dive sites offer vastly different
experiences. To wit, from my own memory, the sandy slopes of Morning Edge,
with their bommies and staghorn, differ radically from the granite
swimthroughs of Elephant Head. The drift dives at Snapper Alley take you
over large granite structures to East of Eden on the east side, where the
topography changes radically, to mostly hard coral and sloping drops into
the darkness.
 
The east side and the west side are completely different, and the marine
life differs, too. Large pelagics are rarely seen south of Island # 8, and
turtles rarely on the west side.
 
If your complaint is that the reef-fish life is generally the same at all
sites, I can follow you a stretch of the way, but tell me where that is not
the case.
 
Pehaps a list of the sites you dived would shed some light on your negative
experience.
 
> Perhaps I am spoiled.
 
I don't think there is any "perhaps" about it :-)
 
> I also went to Koh Toa, which has the reputation of  having the
> best diving
> in the  gulf of Thailand.  that may be so, but it isn't good their either.
> The coral looked dead to me.  Maybe it was just a differnt type, I don't
> know.  I don't know much about fish or coral, but I do know what I like.
 
I believe you are talking about Koh Tao, and I agree that compared with the
Andaman Sea, Koh Tao itself does not offer great diving. Like the Sipadan
you like, it is starting to suffer from overloading of divers on an island
with practically no tourism infrastructure. The Gulf of Thailand offers
little in the way of visibility and large pelagic animals. The underwater
topography of the Gulf impedes complete tidal water exchange, and so the
visibility here rarely exceeds 15 meters. The large animals have mostly been
fished out. Having said that, it IS possible to have some quite unique
experiences in Koh Tao and the immediately surrounding areas. I know quite a
lot of people who have dived with whale sharks in Koh Tao, bull sharks on
Sail Rock, and indeed whales and dolphins, too.
 
> This post sounds terribly negative, and I hate it to sound so, but I just
> wanted to bring the point across, that the diving in Thailand isn't very
> good.
 
And you were right, from your own perspective. As a blanket statement (which
is pretty much what you issued), you were as wrong as one can possibly be
:-)
 
> Also, I wasn't alone on that point either.  Many other people also
> made the some point, that things looked the same.
 
Apart from the fact that this is simply not so, you appear to be saying that
a lot of good diving makes for bad diving...? ;-)
 
"Good diving" is so subjective. For a visibility-starved British diver, used
to 30 centimeter viz in 5 degreee C water, the Similans is pretty awesome,
and pretty cheap.
 
I'll finish by conceding that there are a lot of places in Asia Pacific
where the diving is better than in Thailand. Palau, PNG, some places in
Indonesia, Burma (which must be accessed with Thai live-aboards), all spring
to mind. But it really depends on what you are expecting, and what you are
willing to pay. A lot of people don't have the money (or aren't willing to
part with it) for trips to Palau and PNG. Going to Thailand gives them
pretty damned good diving for much, much less.
 
And I haven't even mentioned Koh Bon, Koh Tachai or Richelieu Rock,
frequently included in Similan trips. It is a rare dive on these 3 that
doesn't feature mantas, octopi, large schools of barracuda, turtles and
leopard sharks, alone or in combination.
 
Bjorn
http://www.bjornjensen.com