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Dive Review of The Junk in
Thailand/Similan Islands

The Junk, May, 2012,

by Elizabeth Crapo, ID, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 9 reports). Report 6636.

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

Weather sunny, windy, rainy, cloudy Seas 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
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 3 stars Tropical Fish 3 stars
Small Critters 3 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics N/A

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 3 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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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