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Dive Review of Wicked Diving in
Thailand/ Similan & Surin Islands

Wicked Diving: "Not luxurious, but good value and well run", Dec, 2017,

by Hugh E Aaron, FL, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 15 Helpful votes). Report 10099 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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

Accommodations 2 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 3 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments We dove with Wicked Diving on the Mariner for six days in early December 2017. This was a last minute booking for us. We had been planning to spend two weeks in Bali. However, three days before our planned departure, the volcano in Bali erupted, closing the airport. We had to scramble. The best last minute option we could find was Wickedís six day liveaboard. We left Palm Beach early on a Wednesday morning and flew directly to Phuket via New York, Frankfort and Singapore. We landed in Phuket on Friday morning. By Friday evening we were on the dive boat heading across the Andaman Sea even though the last time we has seen a bed was Wednesday morning. We would not ever plan anything quite so tight but we had a dive trip planned and we were going diving no matter what the volcano gods had to say about it.

The booking process was a bit of a hassle. Wicked claims that they take credit cards online, however, despite many attempts, their system was never able to process my credit card for the deposit. They eventually gave up and I promised to show up at their shop with my credit card in hand, ready to make full payment. When I arrived at the shop, I was informed that the shop no longer takes credit cards. It seems like the guy who handled my booking might have mentioned that. That left me figuring out how to get 64,000 baht (about $2,000 USD) out of ATM machines. I eventually managed to withdraw enough money using a combination of different ATM machines and different US bank accounts. I prepare for those sorts of contingencies by have multiple ATM cards and different banks and providing all them with a foreign travel notification. However, if someone was not prepared that would have been stressful. On the other hand, we spent some additional time in Thailand after the Wicked trip and I learned that by and large it is a cash economy. Wicked should probably advise their customers to be prepared to make cash payment upon arrival.

Wicked has a good reputation and we understand why. The staff is friendly and competent. And the dive operation is very focused on safety, perhaps even obsessive about it. That said, it is a budget operation. Our total cost, including park fees, for a 6 days live aboard trip was less than $1,000/person. We are both closing in on 60 and would have been happier paying more for a few more creature comforts.

The boat has a boat crew of 6 people, all local Thai people some of whom live on the boat full-time. It is, in essence, their home. The captainís wife is the head cook. The boat crew could not be any nicer or any more competent. The captainís superior boat handling skills helped contribute to the overall sense that it was a very safe operation. My only regret is that the boat crew did not speak much english and I only learned a few Thai words so we really did not get to know the crew. But we all managed to communicate enough to get by.

The dive crew, also 6 people, was separate from the boat crew. With one exception, they were not local people, mostly transplanted Europeans. The drive crew was mostly 20-twenty somethings who had come to Thailand for divemaster training and were sticking around for at least a few months afterwards. While well trained and professional, their lack of experience sometimes contributed to the rigidity of the operation. They were taught to do things a certain way and thatís the way the did it, no ifs, ands, or buts. Each dive crew has one experienced leader. For our first three days, the leader was a young (late 20s, early 30s) American. He obviously had a lot of experience and really knew what he was doing. In the event of a serious problem in the water, he is a guy Iíd like by my side. Thatís said, he was perhaps the most rigid member of the entire crew. At one point I got schooled on the correct way to dry my dust cap. another time, I got an unwanted lesson on which arm goes into my BC first. He was probably correct on both counts, but I was on vacation and did not want lessons on things I had been doing before he was born.

The dive crew leader for the second half of the trip was a completely different type of person. He was a former English bobbie in his 50s who had dropped out the real world and moved to Thailand. He was both extremely competent and a lot of fun. No lecturer on irrelevant minutiae from him.

Our boat had the full complement of guests - about 18 people. The dive area was tight to say the least. The dive and boat crew worked hard to manage the dive operation as best they could, but this is cattle boat diving plain and simple. Gearing up and getting in and out of the water was an unpleasant experience because people were bumping into each other the entire time.

Most days we did 4 dives including a before breakfast dive and a twilight or night dive. We did fewer dives on the first and last days and on the day we returned to the mainland mid-week. The first dive each day was always deep (around 80 feet) regardless of the whether the conditions were better deep or shallow. We probably missed some nice shallow water diving. However, the dive guides had previously been told what profiles to dive and, by golly, thatís what they did regardless of the dive site or conditions. That was disappointing to us. And, of course, we had no option to stay shallow while the guide took the others down into the abyss. It was made very clear that we did what the guide said, when they said it, the way they said it, or we could sit out the dives.

This was our first trip to Southeast Asia and we were delighted to see many things that donít exist on our side of the planet. We had read that the Similans and Surins had experienced some recent bleaching events. We saw evidence of those events, especially in the shallows but overall the reefs were reasonably healthly. The Similans and Surins are protected marine parks. The marine life, especially the fish life, was prolific. Huge numbers of fish and a lot of diversity.

Visibility and currents were highly variable. We never really saw great visibility, but most dives it was ok. On at least two dives the current made the dives very uncomfortable. One of those dives was on Richelieu Rock, which has a reputation as being the best dive site in Thailand and one of the top sites in the world. We understand why the site is so well regarded. It is a subsea mount that is basically exposed to the open ocean between the Surins and the mainland. The boat is basically mooring in the middle of the ocean. The site was absolutely gorgeous with tremendous marine life diversity, and a screaming current. Our guide got blown off the reef on our second dive and required everyone to abort. I was disappoint and felt she should have given it another try. But my wife felt that it was the right call. I would love to try it again sometime. Iíve been diving for over 35 years and Iím not sure Iíve ever seen a more spectacular dive site, even in the good old days before we humans ramped up destruction of the planet.

Life on Wickedís Mariner is on the water camping ó no two ways about it. We were told the boat was only about 20 years old. That is probably correct, but she has seen a lot of use. On the positive side, everything worked, including the gensets, the cabin air conditioners and, most importantly, the dive compressors.

The cabins are small and show a lot of wear and tear. Most, including ours, have two bunks. Each bunk has a thin foam mattress, one sheet and one pillow, all well ďbroken in.Ē There are two small shelves for toiletries and other small items and two towel hooks. Thatís it. We pretty much lived out of our bags which we transferred between the bunks and the floor each morning and evening. The air conditioning is controlled by opening or closing a small sliding door in front of the single vent. About as low tech as it gets, but it worked just fine. I found the the bunks uncomfortably hard, but my wife thought they were ok. I didnít get much sleep all week, but some of that was due to jet lag.

There are no heads or sinks in the cabins. Rather, all of the guests share three wet heads (i.e., showers that spray down everything including the sink and toilet whenever someone showers). There was plenty of on-demand hot water. Surprisingly, the heads stayed relatively clean. Most of the time, one could find an empty head when nature called. The exception was night dives when a post-dive line would form. Although, the crew managed that pretty well by decreeing that one head was to be used for ďtoilet onlyĒ (i.e., no showers) until the shower rush was over. There were also showers on the back of the dive platform but I found them uncomfortable because it was hard to use them without spraying down the hard working boat crew who were generally wearing their street clothes.

We did all of our relaxing and eating in the on open air lounge on the second floor. It was ok for eating but not very comfortable for relaxing. The seats and benches were spartan and the cushions were worn out. There is also a third floor lounge area that looked more comfortable. Unfortunately, we were unable to use that area as it was the designated smoking lounge and people, including most of the dive masters, smoked non-stop up there.

The food was good, relatively healthy and plentiful. Not surprisingly, most meals were Thai food. There was no seafood. The dive crew explained that Wicked feels that that eating seafood is environmentally irresponsible. A vegetarian option was offered at every meal and several people took advantage of the healthier vegetarian options (between cigarettes).

Wickedís six day trip is really two, three day trips. So, even though we were on a six day trip, mid week the boat returned to Khao Lak. Unless you are the type of person who really needs a civilization fix after three days at sea, the mid-week trip back to the mainland is not a good use of your vacation time. The crossing can be rough ó and you are making it twice in one day! Returning to the mainland mid-trip also means that diving that day gets compressed into a tighter, less convenient schedule. On the plus side, the dive crew and many of the guests changed on our mid-week return to the mainland which allowed us to meet some new people.
The guests were a delightful group. Most were European but there was a family (father and two grown sons) from Israel and one other American, a friendly guy from Texas who loved to dive and didnít care that he was ďcampingĒ on a tired old boat. With the exception of us, the Israeli father and the Texan, the guests were all younger people. Generally they were ďbackpackerĒ types. We enjoyed their company and youthful exuberance.

All told, we did 20 dives over 6 days. The rigid schedule leaves little time for extracurricular activities. There was no option to go ashore in the islands, which we would have enjoyed. They permitted swimming off the boat, however, most of us had plenty of in water time diving. the dive crew presented a couple of educational programs during surface intervals. They were interesting and appreciated by most of the guests.

Overall, we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to dive the Andaman Sea and would highly recommend the Similans and Surins for easy to get to South East Asian diving. We also loved Thailand and the Thai people. If you are a 20 something backpacker type who can sleep on a rock, donít mind being told exactly how to dive, and donít mind sharing bathrooms, go with Wicked. They are serious about diving and dive safety. On the other hand, if your budget allows it, and you like your creature comforts, you might check out some of the other diver operators in the area. We saw several boats that looked more upscale that the Mariner.


Websites Wicked Diving   

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience Over 1000 dives
Where else diving USVI, BVI, California, Hawaii, Cozumel, Caymans, Roatan, Belize, Saba, St, Barths, St Kitts, Nevis, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Bahamas, Bonaire
Closest Airport Phuket Getting There Vero easy compared to most SE Asia destinations. Fly into Phuket and take a taxi (about $35US) to the shop in Khao Lak. Wicked transfers everyone from the shop to the boat at no extra charge. I think they will also provide no charge hotel pickups. The boat is docked a short ride from the shop.

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, rainy, cloudy Seas calm, choppy, surge
Water Temp 83-85°F / 28-29°C Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility 20-70 Ft/ 6-21 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile no
Enforced diving restrictions Way too rigid for my taste. Guide manages process for getting in and out of water. Guide determines profile. Stay with guide at all times.
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 4 stars Tropical Fish 5 stars
Small Critters 5 stars Large Fish 3 stars
Large Pelagics 1 stars

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]
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