Snorkeling with a manta

Oktavia snorkeling liveaboard photos

Manta rays, whale sharks and turtles

UPDATE 2021 – Oktavia is no longer operating

Here are a few cool photos taken by snorkelers on Oktavia at the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock. These were taken last season.

The 2015-16 was a really great season for big fish sightings, like manta rays and whale sharks. But we also saw a lot more reef sharks and the numbers of small reef fish was amazing.

Snorkeling with a manta

Snorkeling with a whale shark

Snorkeling with kids

Snorkeling with a turtle

Which snorkeling liveaboard?

There are just a few liveaboards in Thailand suitable for snorkelers.

Reggae Queen is a dedicated snorkeling liveaboard (no divers allowed).

Oktavia is a mixed snorkeling and diving liveaboard in the middle budget category.

Why book a snorkeling liveaboard?

The photos above were all taken on Oktavia. Snorkelers on Reggae Queen also get to see all the big stuff. Plus the best reefs at the Surin Islands, dolphins swimming alongside the boat, Moken sea nomads, deserted beaches and so on.

You will not see manta rays on a snorkeling day trip. You will not see whale sharks on a snorkeling day trip, unless you are very lucky. You can see a baby reef shark or turtle but to see the best marine life, and to get away from the crowds, the only way to go is by liveaboard. That way you are on the reefs before the day trippers arrive. That way you will go to the open water (big fish) sites where the day trippers don’t go. That way you are on the beaches after the day trippers have left.

The state of Thailand’s marine life

We’ve been diving and snorkeling in Thailand for 16 years. In that time we’ve noticed that some years are better than others for marine life sightings. The reasons why are hard to pinpoint. A few seasons ago we hardly saw any whale sharks and we thought they’d all been fished out. Turns out that they were still around, but because the waters were a bit warmer that year they just stayed a bit deeper. Last year despite all the dire talk of global meltdown we saw mantas and / or whale sharks on most trips.

Last year the Thai government cracked down on the huge Thai fishing fleet which, as well as trawling with illegal nets, was using unregistered slave labour to man the boats. The EU threatened to ban imports of Thai seafood into Europe. This forced the Thai authorities to start cleaning up the industry. That has resulted in thousands of fishing boats staying ashore. This may have helped fish stocks to thrive, it certainly seems that way if you go snorkeling at the Surin Islands.

This year the Thai authorities are trying to combat coral damage by closing islands. Warm seas caused by the most recent el nino have stressed corals. Too many tourists swimming at some islands has stressed corals further, resulting in the coral bleaching. So far national park authorities have closed Mosquito island in Hat Nopparatara national park and Tachai island, part of Mu Koh Similan national park. This should be good news for Thailand’s coral reefs.