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Dive Review of The Junk in
Thailand/Similan Islands

May, 2012, an Instant Reader Report by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US
Sr. Reviewer   (9 reports)
Report Number 6636
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
Guam, Palau, Yap, Chuuk, French Polynesia, Fiji, Hawaii, Sipadan, Manado,
Bali, Dominica, Bay Islands, South Carolina, San Diego
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy  
calm, choppy, surge, currents  
Water Temp
  to    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
  to    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
60 minute bottom time  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  3 stars
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
5 stars
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
3 stars    
3 stars   
3 stars    
I tried to book this trip through Dive Adventures Asia. After the first
exchange of e-mails with the owner, I was unfortunately not able to get
back to him for a week, and that time I got an out-of-office response
saying he was out doing boat inspections and would respond to e-mail upon
his return on March 28.  When I contacted him again on March 29, I got
another out-of-office reply saying the office would be closed from March
28-May 1 for Songkran (a Thai holiday). Of course, I could contact the
office by making an expensive international phone call, but I decided it
was time to just take my business eleswhere. I ended up contacting The Junk
directly via their website. Although I had just missed the deadline for an
early-bird discount, Frank, the boat's owner, generously allowed me to have
the discount anyway after I explained the problems I'd been having with
Dive Adventures Asia. The Junk, true to its name, is a beautifully restored
fishing junk converted into a live aboard dive boat.  It's based out of a
marina on the south side of Phuket, which is unfortunate as it's a long
trip to the dive sites, which are in the Similan Islands. They will pick
you up if you are staying in the Patong-Karon-Kata area, and take you to
their office in Kata before transporting guests by minivan to the boat. You
have dinner onboard, and then travel to the Similans during the night.
Unfortunately the boat broke down on the way so we ended up hanging out off
of Kata waiting for a part to arrive by dinghy. We modified the dive plan
to do a couple of dives there, but conditions were rough, viz was poor and
we didn't see much, so we scratched the idea of more dives here and just
waited for the part. The diving in the Similans was better, but still not
spectacular. There were lots of fish and interesting small critters, but
the reef was quite gray.  The major exception was Richelieu Rock, which had
lots of fish and beautiful purple and yellow soft corals. This trip was at
the end of the dive season - the Southwest Monsoon starts up over the
Indian Ocean in mid-May - but we already seemed to be seeing some of the
effects. DMs were good about grouping divers according to ability and air
consumption. Dives were done by dinghy, with 5-6 divers per boatload. The
crew sets up your gear and helps you in and out of everything. The boat has
a no-gloves policy, which I was happy to abide by most of the time, except
for the dive when we were told to descend on an anchor buoy line.  I
informed the DM that if they were requiring me to touch something
underwater, then I would indeed be wearing my gloves.  He didn't have a
good response to that, but he didn't try to stop me, either.  I figured I'd
put them away once I was off the line, but I ended up leaving them on
because there were so many tiny stinging jellyfish at this site that they
turned the water green.  My face and neck itched like mad for the next
three days.  I made sure to keep my gloves in my pocket for the rest of the
trip, but I fortunately didn't need them. 
Phuket is a mixed bag, too.  The strip of beach towns is like a skanky
version of Waikiki, especially Patong.  I stayed at a place called the
Sugar Palm Resort in Kata (much quieter), before boarding the boat, and it
was nice. It has a black-bottom pool with palm trees, and it's right across
the street from the beach and the bus stop for the bus from Phuket Town (a
not-so-touristy town with colonial architecture and a good weekend night
market). For about $50 a night, it was definitely a bargain.  The beach was
OK -and crowded- but nothing special, although some of the local beach boys
set up a beer and barbecue operation after dark, with reggae music and
tables on the sand, which was fun. I booked topside tours to "James
Bond Island" and Phi Phi Island through Miss We, who runs Exquisite
Tours.  She will meet you at your hotel and talk to you about what sort of
activities you're interested in to help steer you toward an outing you'll
like.  You can contact her on Facebook through Exquisite Tours. The James
Bond tour was great, the Phi Phi day tour is good if you don't have time
for an overnight (highly recommended) visit there. (I stayed overnight and
did a dive, which I'll review separately.)
So, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this trip.  The Junk is a great
operation with with a great crew, but the diving, with the definite
exception of Richelieu Rock, was not, in my opinion, live-aboard caliber.
If they did shorter/cheaper trips with more time at Richelieu Rock I would
probably have been a lot happier with it. It was really cool to sail on a
restored junk, but the diving, except as noted above, was disappointing.
Divers with limited experience in tropical waters will probably like it
just fine, although I'd recommend going earlier in the season to avoid the
SW monsoon. Experienced tropical divers who want to see nice coral will
probably find better diving for the money and the travel time in places
like Indonesia.
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Subscriber's Comments

By Gianni Zanini in MD, US at Dec 09, 2012 12:57 EST  
Thanks for the very informative review that will help me plan my trip to
the area this January!  Gianni
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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