ThailandDive the Similan Islands and explore the stunning Thai landscape
With more than 2,500 kilometres of beautiful coastline bordering the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, Thailand offers warm tropical seas, stunning beaches and superb scuba diving with varied dives sites; the biggest draw being the remote Similans Islands.
The Similians lie west of Phuket and are comprised of 9 granite uninhabited islands, which run from North to South, and numerous small rock boulder out-crops. Only reachable by liveaboard, these islands offer an array of diving, with sloping coral reefs and huge underwater boulders, to caves and passages. There are over 500 species of hard and soft corals to be found here and prolific marine life, with larger pelagic encounters including whale sharks, leopard sharks, guitar rays and manta rays.
The Similans Islands are a National Park and open from November to April, with best chances of mantas and whale sharks from February onwards. Liveaboards leave from Phuket or Khao Lak and are typically 4-6 day tours, visiting both the Similans and Surin Islands that include Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.
How to get there
Phuket is easily reached with one stop from the UK and takes around 12 hours. The most straightforward routing tends to be via Bangkok, Dubai or Abu Dhabi with just short transits in each.
Stay a bit longer
There is plenty to do in this part of the world. If you would like to explore Thailand then there are the popular beach destinations of Khao Lak (2 hour drive from Phuket), Krabi (2 hours 30 mins drive from Phuket) and Koh Samui (1 hour flight from Phuket). There is also the hustle and bustle of Bangkok to consider, or the remote and incredible Elephant Hills luxury tented camp.
Cambodia borders the south-eastern side of Thailand and is very easily reached by a short domestic flight from either Phuket or Bangkok. With a flight time of less than an hour, Cambodia makes for a fantastic extension to any Thailand trip and we would highly recommend a 3nt stay in Siem Reap in order to experience the wonders of the Angkor Wat National Park.
We can offer a huge range of tour itineraries to suit all tastes and requirements and all can be customized accordingly. Further down this page is a sample itinerary for a 3nt stay which will give you two full days exploring the temples of Angkor.
With such good flight accessibility from Thailand, practically any destination within Asia could be considered. Whatever you may fancy adding on to your Thailand trip we will be happy to guide you and to assist with your travel needs.
Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camps
Elephant Hills is set in the lush rainforest of Khao Sok National Park and is Thailand’s first luxury tented camp which allows you to trek through the jungle, swim in the lakes and rivers of the National Park and enjoy an unforgettable elephant experience where you meet, feed and even bathe these gentle giants.
Elephant Hills offers two to four day tours exploring the fascinating rainforest in Khao Sok National Park and offering the opportunity to interact with Asia’s largest land animal. The elephants welfare is the top priority for Elephant Hills and as well as their own elephants, they are also dedicated to the conservation of the rest of Thailand’s endangered Asian elephant population.
Find out more on our Elephant Hills page.
Cambodia borders the south-eastern side of Thailand and is very easily reached by a short domestic flight from either Phuket or Bangkok. With a flight time of less than an hour, Cambodia makes for a fantastic extension to any Thailand trip and we would highly recommend a 3nt stay in Siem Reap in order to experience the wonders of the Angkor Park temples.
We can offer a huge range of tour itineraries to suit all tastes and requirements and all can be customized accordingly. Below is a sample itinerary for a 3nt stay which will give you two full days exploring the temples of Angkor.
3 days / 2nts Angkor Wat National Park
DAY 1 Arrival into Siem Reap
Pick up at the airport for transfer to your hotel (transfer time approx. 15 minutes). Lunch at leisure.
Afternoon suggestion: Visit the Angkor National Museum – great overview before exploring the temples. (Note: admission at own cost). 4pm – pick up 3-day Angkor Park Pass.
Optional: Sunset at Angkor
Overnight in Siem Reap at Tara Angkor
DAY 2 Angkor Wat – Angkor Thom
If you really want to see Angkor Wat at sunrise, you should leave the hotel around one hour prior to sunrise, approximately 4:45 am. (Note: hotels can often arrange take-away breakfast boxes for you to eat in your vehicle, otherwise the Angkor Cafe, opposite Angkor Wat opens at 6am). Whether or not you choose to begin your day at Angkor Wat, you must either leave the temple or your hotel early enough to arrive at Bayon temple around 7:25 as the temple opens at 7:30am and there will be few other visitors at this time. Immediately head to the upper platform to enjoy the face towers before the crowds arrive. After exploring the upper terrace, you can then go around and do the gallery murals on the lower platform.
Along the way to Bayon, you will pass through the South Gate of Angkor Thom where you can appreciate the impressive stone gate carved with elephants and capped by four giant faces of the Buddha. On each side of the entrance path, crossing the moat around the city, a row of 54 gods and demons stands holding a sacred naga snake of Hindu lore. (Tip: If you leave a bit earlier for your 7:30am arrival at Bayon, not only will you have a bit more time to appreciate the South Gate (10 min stop), you may also make a quick stop at Baksei Chamkrong and the neighboring Prasat Bei. These temples predate all those around them and their style and decoration are notable, as is the absence of other visitors – a rarity at Angkor nowadays.)
After exploring Bayon, continue onto Baphuon, Phimeanakas, Preah Palilay, The Leper Terrace and Elephant Terrace within Angkor Thom (Tip: best in that order: all explored on foot).
Return to the town for lunch and freshen up at your hotel.
Head back to Angkor Wat in the afternoon, leaving your hotel around 2:30pm and exploring the temple until they herd visitors out around 5:30pm. Stop by the Ta Reach Vishnu on your way out: it’s spectacular in the setting sunlight.
Return to town for dinner at your leisure. Overnight in Siem Reap at Tara Angkor.
Day 3: Ta Prohm / more sightseeing
After enjoying breakfast at your hotel, head back into the Angkor Archaeological Park to visit Ta Phrom, aka ‘the Tomb Raider temple’. Make sure to leave your hotel early enough to arrive at the EAST entrance of Ta Prohm around 7:15 as the temple opens around 7:20-7:30am and there will be few other visitors at this time. (Note: if you leave a bit early, you may stop at the nearby Srah Srang baray to enjoy the morning sunlight reflecting off the waters of this Angkor-era artificial reservoir). Ta Prohm is otherwise best known for the trees and vines growing atop the temple walls. The temple is a perfect example of how nature has crept in and reclaimed its land after the fall of the Angkorian empire.
Next, drive through the East Gate of Angkor Thom, passing through the ancient city and exiting out the North Gate. Continue to the EAST entrance of Preah Khan temple. Preah Khan was originally known as “the city of victorious royal fortune,” and is now named after The Sacred Sword that some believe may have once been housed here. Built in the late-12th century in honor of the great King Jayavarman VII’s father, this massive temple complex originally had a population of 97,840 in its service. Less frequently visited than its counterpart Ta Prohm (which was built for the king’s mother), Preah Khan is similar in design but is larger and more complex, and features numerous unique structures and carvings. Enter from the east with the early morning light to your back and enjoy the sounds of exotic wildlife that now make the forested compound their home. Venture into the crumbling corridors of the labyrinthian complex in search of hidden features: while Ta Prohm was once the setting of the Angelina Jolie film, Preah Khan offers more of a “Tomb Raider” experience for those willing to explore. Meet your tuk tuk driver back on the west side of the temple.
Suggestion: Lunch at Sala Russey or back in town at your leisure. Afternoon and evening free at leisure.
Overnight in Siem Reap at Tara Angkor.
Day 4: 11 – Jun – 2019: Siem Reap – Departure
Suggestion: Since you have a 3-day park pass… maybe sunrise today if you didn’t do it the other day. Even if you did, can do sunrise at Bakheng (Tip: depart hotel one hour prior to sunrise). Or just relax at the hotel. People don’t do that often enough on holiday.
Guide cost from around £320 per person
Price based on two people sharing accommodation and includes transfers, English speaking guide and tours as described in itinerary, entrance fees for mentioned visits, daily drinking water and 3 day Angkor Park pass and 3nts accommodation at Hotel Tara Angkor in a twin/double Superior Room with breakfast.
Excluded: Visa for Cambodia (USD $30pp), return domestic flights from Thailand (from around £130pp).
Ready for your next adventure?
Great Escapes Diving Holidays Ltd
Office hours: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10.00am - 12.00pm
Tel: 01473 921888