This page has 3 daytrips so far. all taken in November 2014 - the first to THE SIMILAN ISLANDS out of Phuket, second - THE 4 ISLANDS (TRANG ISLANDS) out of Ko Lanta and third - KO ROK out of Ko Lanta.
Beachblogger's Similan Islands daytrip out of Phuket - November 2014
Above is tea/coffee toast and bickies after registration and distribution of snorkeling gear. Gear tends to be in pretty good condition these days - it was on all snorkeling trips I've taken in recent year. I take my own face mast for ease of adjustment, don't worry abt snorkel or fins.
Water clarity this far off the coast is pretty good, but not as outstanding as at Ko Rok way west of the Trang islands further south proved a few weeks later.
btw that bigger boat in pic is a dive boat - the Similans are real popular with dive liveaboards out of Phuket and Thap Lamu.
The boat guys said it was ok to swim into the distant beach but I found the water got way too shallow and the coral bottom made wading the last section impractical.
**more time would have been available at all locations if not for the tardiness of those self indulgent inconsiderates who cause out late start.
Once at the pier we retraced our steps. Terrible late afternoon traffic on Phuket island saw us take longer for the return drive - I didn't arrive back at my Karon accommodation until 1945. And I was first off the van - I'm suggesting if we had passengers from Nai Harn in the island's far south they would have taken at least another 30 minutes, maybe more. btw people heading for the airport on the van would be less likely delayed by bad traffic - it is in the north of the island reasonably close to the mainland bridge.
I was underwhelmed.
Maybe the trouble is I've visited the Similans several times before.
One reason I took this trip was to see if the coral/fish had improved since 2012, Answer - NO. Another was to see whether my criticism on the main Similans page that the trip out of Khao Lak (which is only 15 minutes from Thap Lamu) is too time consuming and so the trip out of Phuket would be so much worse was justified - answer YES.
But that's just me - if I was a tourist who had not seen the gorgeous white sand beaches and frenzied fish feeding before or the coral/fish when they were okay I might feel differently.
btw the cost is a bomb - normally 3500baht (2500 kids). This is way too much - because of the tourism slowdown on Phuket (down to 25-30% of normal November levels this 2014) I managed to bargain a 2000b price. I'd say that price would be reasonable value for a Similans virgin.
As a point of interest, all the Similans tour companies offer a 2 day 1 night camping/bungalows package. Cost out of Phuket is 6000b - 3500kids (camping). That's outrageous and if I couldn't negotiate a big discount even at busy times I'd give up coming to Thailand.
Beachblogger's 4 Islands (Trang Islands) Day Trip out of Ko Lanta - November 2014
I've used various Trang island day trip boats to get to/from/around the islands but never done a full day trip. Having a spare day in November 2014, I booked one at my Klong Kong (Lanta) accommodation.
Note that Phetpailin operates a bigger slower boat out of Saladan - I'm not sure if it picks up at many beaches on the way down (need longtails to take people out to it) or if they have a van shuttle from accommodation to Saladan. I've used it to hitch a lift from Ko Muk back to Lanta and to move across to Muk from Ko Ngai - its size means it is way more comfortable, although of course it takes more time to reach sites.
Snorkeling here is pretty ordinary - water deep, not so clear, not too much coral or good fish. Best deal is close in to the island. At least there wasn't the tidal current creating a side-drag I've experience in the past - easily overcome by ordinary swimmers with fins or stronger swimmers without. btw snorkeling equipment was pretty good unlike the bad old days although as usual I used my own face-mask, no snorkel or fins. It's so much easier to get into and out of the water without them.
I have always found this place pretty good and it still was - the best stuff I'd seen in Thailand this past 2 years until I visited the same area's (but much further out to sea) Ko Rok a week later. There was a good variety of coral, some with colour and no lack of fish. I followed a very colourful squid some distance. A good value place.
We next motored the short distance around the south-east corner of Kradan to the nice beach section between the National Park area and the Anantara Beach Club where the boat guys quickly set up lunch. This was the usual mild chicken curry, rice, chicken pieces, fruit in seemingly unlimited amounts plus water/juice/Coke. I find these lunches very tasty.
btw - some day trip operators lunch on a very similar stretch of beach on Ko Ngai a few km north. Just as well - there are lots of boats doing trips out of Trang mainland piers and the various Trang islands as well as from Ko Lanta.
We were given another hour+ to relax, swim, snorkel etc in the above area. I didn't bother.....
You can see an island left-background in the shot of Wally. That is Ko Muk/Mook the site of our next and best stop....
We left the cave around 1500 and I was back on Klong Kong 50 minutes later.
VALUE - I think this is a really good day trip. Despite having visited all locations several times, I enjoyed checking them out again. People who were new to them would get an extra charge. The Emerald Cave is tops, the snorkeling at south Kradan is second in the Andaman only to Ko Rok and the beach area we put into is almost as nice as Rok and not all that far behind even better Donald Duck Bay on the Similans day trip.
I personally got more value out of the Ko Rok day trip (see down page) but I think most newcomers may find the 4 Islands trip superior.
My plan was to stay a couple of nights in the National Park camping area. But I'd heard that all the national park tents were taken by reconstruction workers refurbishing the bungalows and amenities blocks. So I made some enquiries. Opal Travel, one of the speedboat day-trip outfits who will also transfer people intending to stay overnight for a price greater than a day-trip (their argument is you take up a seat ON 2 DAYS and aldo do the snorkeling/meals the day-trippers do so you should pay more) assured me camping was possible. In typical Thai style they didn't go far enough - all the NP tents WERE taken by construction workers but if I had my OWN tent I could have stayed. So my 2 night visit turned into a day-trip. Still good value but not quite the same.
One problem - I had nowhere to stay after returning to Lanta. No worries - efficient Apple at Apple Travel (inland side of the main road abt half way along the Klong Dao strip) refunded the difference between the day trip and what I'd paid, went next door to Sweet Mansion and got me a quiet (up the back away from the road) aircon big modern room for 600, considerably less than a similar (except FAN) noisy room at my previous beachside joint Ocean View (my room there was in a similar small hotel-like block 200m from the beach, adjacent the main road). Once unpacked, I walked across the road and 300m down a lane to the beach, where I watched the sunset in company with an elcheapo bottle of Thai Rum I'd bought from a 7/11 for the island stay. Sweet - but I'd prefer to be doing the same out on Ko Rok.
SUM UP - some of you are thinking I was conned: the speedboat company just wanted my bum on the seat. Possibly.
A remaining problem is I had another day to burn in the Lanta area. I was over Lanta after an 11 night multi-location visit (plus I have done Lanta 4 times in previous years) so next morning I went and jumped onto the ferry for nearby Ko Jum.