Scuba Diving in the Similan Islands (Phuket)

Approximately 100 km Northwest of Phuket, Thailand in the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands are regarded as one of the top ten dive sites in the world, due to the diversity, scale, and quality of their reefs and the barren beauty of their boulder formations. Here is a video from 2018 to give you an idea about what you can expect:

Saved for the Thai nation as a marine sanctuary in 1982 the Islands have become the jewel in the crown of the Thai dive industry and are protected as such. This has allowed the ecosystem to flourish under the protection of Park wardens, who guard against the band practice of any type of fishing with net, line or dynamite, (as once was the want of some). These regulations have made their mark and the beauty of the Islands above water and below must be one of the most memorable sights anywhere in the world. Above the water, they boast lush tropical foliage, strange rock formations, and pristine white sandy beaches. Below the blue water, they offer the diver and snorkeller a unique opportunity to see the result of millennial erosion on granite rocks, immense swathes of Coral reef and a diversity of marine life that is second to none.

Andaman long-tailed boats in Phuket

If you have followed my previous blog posts about getting scuba certified and about the essential gear you will need for your first snorkel (snorkel mask, fins, accessories) or dive, then Similan Islands would be a great destination to go. The quickest way (a total of 12-13 hours) to get to Similan is the night bus from Bangkok. Then you will need to rent a boat to get to the islands. The boat ride from Khao Lak will take around 120 minutes give or take. Once you get to Similan, you will be amazed by the nature and the amazing beauty of the reefs – enjoy every second of your travel and do share your experinces with us in the comments box below please!

Underwater Photography Gear – My Choices

I dive a Nikon D300 as my underwater camera which I bought in 2017. Next, to the general rave reviews, the main criteria to buy my first D-SLR camera were the price, DX-format chip, good low light performance, and low noise. As of 2018, I am still very happy with the D300.

Initially, I used the Nikon 105mm lens for macro and the 10.5mm fisheye lens for wide angle. The 105mm has a very narrow-angle of view and is really a super macro lens, which is more difficult to shoot, so I added the Nikon 60mm for general purpose macro, and later the excellent Tokina 35mm macro (which still focuses almost 1cm in front of the lens).

On the wide-angle front, I am very happy with the Nikon 10.5mm fisheye for wrecks or large schools of fish photography. I should subsequently add the Tokina 11-16mm wide-angle which I sold again and replaced with the Nikon 10-24mm wide-angle and the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye (which is wider). My favorite general purpose lenses are now the Nikon 60mm macro and the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye.

Here, all my underwater photography gear is packed in a pelican 1620 case with pick&plug foam. It’s big enough for housing, ports, lenses, and while not really cheap, it is an excellent case to protect against shock and the elements, when traveling. I also added a padded soft esky (cooler bag) to carry the camera around and to protect it against damage on boats, which also doubles up as a rinse tank.

Hope the above configuration also helps you all deciding for your underwater photography gear. Let me know if you need specifics and I will gladly dive into the technical mazes of the D300 to share my experiences in one of the next blog posts.