Travel Advice and FAQ: MV Philkade
The questions below relate specifically to taking a liveaboard cruise aboard MV Philkade, if you want technical information on the boat itself or cabin and boat layout information see MV Philkade Layout and Description.
If you are interested in taking a liveaboard cruise aboard MV Philkade click on the relevant Tourist Information Page:
- Burma Tourist Information and FAQ
- Thailand Tourist Information and FAQ
- Andaman Islands Tourist Information and FAQ
- Indonesia Tourist Information and FAQ
All your questions about MV Philkade have been answered satisfactorily and want to plan a trip? See our schedules at MV Schedules and Prices for 2008 and 2009
To make a booking or to ask further questions contact MV Philkade at Aquamarine Divers.
Transport from Airport or Hotel to MV Philkade
We provide free transfer from/to MV Philkade on departure and arrival days within the Phuket area. All requests for pick up (i.e. where and when) must be made not later than 48 hours prior to embarkation. The drop off request must be made prior to boat departure. For any requests or any changes made after these timeframes, guests may be liable for the transfer cost.
Trip Departure Time
We aim to board MV Philkade by around 6pm on the day of departure. If we are picking you up at a hotel then this is usually no problem, though in order to help with this we need you to be as prepared as possible at the time our mini-bus is scheduled to arrive. If you are making your own way to our office, please try to be there for 5pm to allow for any problems and formalities. Once guests arrive at the office we can then complete, prepare, and check all paperwork and pay relevant park fees and immigration costs.
Documents to bring along
All divers must bring their certification card (remember your Nitrox card if you wish to dive Nitrox), logbook, and dive insurance card/certificate before being allowed to dive.
Note for Burma and Andaman Cruises: All Burma and Andaman Island trips require that ALL GUESTS bring their passports aboard MV Philkade, and Burma guests must also bring 4 passport sized photographs and 3 photocopies of the ID page of your passport aboard.
Please note that personal dive insurance is compulsory on board MV Philkade. Our dive center staff can assist you with temporary diving and travel insurance through our agents at INDEPTHS insurance, otherwise we recommend Divers Alert Network (DAN). Whoever you choose for insurance please be sure it includes air evacuation cover. It is also strongly advised that you obtain cancellation insurance in case your trip is cancelled by either party for any unseen reason. On boarding MV Philkade you are also required to sign a liability waiver stating that you are on board at your own risk.
Thailand and Burma
The Thai Forestry Commission charges all visitors to Marine Parks a fee to both enter and dive within their parks. For all non-Thai nationals this breaks down as 400.-THB for entry and 200.-THB for each day a diver dives in each park. Non-divers are only liable for the entry fee. Fees are payable in Thai Baht to Aquamarine Divers staff at the beginning of the trip, before departure, so please be sure that you bring the required amount when you arrive at our office. The fee must be paid to us in Thai Baht as we pass it directly to the Marine Park Rangers who only accept Thai Baht. Fees vary by trip so check the table below for details:
|Itinerary||Diver (THB)||Non diver (THB)|
|A: Similan-Richelieu 5D / 6N
B: Similan-Surin 6D / 7N
C: Similan-Richelieu-Burma 9D / 10N (C1+C2)
C1: Similan-Richelieu 4D / 4N
C2: Burma 5D / 6N
D: Similan-Hin Deang 6D / 7N
F: Similan-Richelieu 4D / 5N
I: Andaman Islands 8D / 9N
Please note that the Thai Forestry Commission set park fees and they are liable to change without notice.
At the time of writing, the Andaman Itinerary for MV Philkade takes in only one days diving that incurs a Park Fee, and this will be 1000 Indian Rupees (payable upon departure from Port Blair). Obviously this could change if the Park Boundaries and/or rules are changed. This fee is payable before trip departure.
Immigration and Customs Clearance Fees
There is a 4000 Indian Rupees charge per guest for immigration and customs clearence that covers embarkation and disembarkation from MV Philkade. As with the park fee, this is payable before departure so please be sure that you have the required fees on arrival at MV Philkade.
Note that both park fees and clearence fees are liable to change by the Indian government and though we will endeavour to inform you of this before the cruise date it may not always be possible. All changes are out of the hands of MV Philkade and Aquamarine Divers.
There are currently 3 aspects to park fees in the Komodo National Park. There is the park entry fee, the West Manggarai Compensation Fee, and the Contribution to Conservation Fund. Together, these total around $30 US. This will be paid during the trip, but will be collected at the start of the trip in Lombok to ensure that there are no shortfalls, so please be sure that you bring this money with you.
As with the Thai National Parks, please be aware that these prices are liable to change without notice and are out of the hands of Aquamarine Divers.
Aboard MV Philkade 220Volt/50Hz is standard with sockets mixed between 2 and/or 3 pin flat and/or round pins as in the whole of Thailand. We can also provide 110V transformers, although to avoid disappointment we advise you let us know in advance on this issue. To avoid confusion or disappointment we suggest guests bring at least one travel adapter. You can check the socket system visually at this World Wide Electricity Guide and selecting Thailand.
Air tanks (12 and 15 litre aluminium), weights (2lb, 0.9kg), and weight belts are provided on board. Obviously you can bring your own diving equipment but if you prefer to travel light all equipment is available for rent, including wet suits (3mm shorty's only). Please indicate what diving equipment you intend to rent and your sizes when making your reservation. The water temperature varies depending on the area in which you will be diving so see the relevant area Travel Advice for suggested wetsuits.
Please note that any failure or loss of personal dive equipment will require that you rent equipment on board MV Philkade at the published rates. If Aquamarine Divers equipment is lost or damaged full replacement cost will be charged at the discretion of the tour leader. Equipment prices are available on board.
It is strongly recommended that you use a dive computer. Although computers are available for rent, we recommend that you bring a computer with which you are already familiar.
Clothes and Accessories:
With a minimum air temperature of around 23°C (73°F) you will need mainly light clothes, though a sweater or cardigan may be advisable for evenings, especially after night dives. Shampoo and shower gel as well as bath and pool towels are provided in your cabin though you will need to bring your own personal products (toothpaste, shaving foam, etc...). Don't forget your sunscreen and sunglasses as the sun is very strong in this region!!! Female customers, please be advised that you will need to bring your own sanitary products as these are not available on the boat.
Though Philkade is a large and spacious boat, storage space on board is limited. We advise that you carry soft sided luggage if possible, and that any baggage not required on the trip be stored at our office. Please make sure that all luggage is clearly labelled. Since liveaboard diving is casual, only a few T-shirts, shorts, swim suits and possibly that sweatshirt for the evening are necessary. Generally, the less you bring the more comfortable you will be.
After boarding MV Philkade the dive team will present the crew and all facilities. This will include the boat layout, cabins, general procedures, and the 'do's and don'ts' for your duration aboard.
Before each dive the dive crew will give a detailed dive briefing. They will present the dive site (including maps) and diving conditions, as well as information on the aquatic life that can be encountered on each dive site. There will also be a procedures and safety briefing before the first dive. Divers must attend the safety briefing and all dive briefings where they intend to dive.
Diving and Dinghies
Although some of our diving is directly from MV Philkade, much of the diving will be from our 2 dinghies. Prevailing conditions, dive site layout, and availability of moorings will all have a bearing on which boat we use. From almost all dives, the dinghies will be used for pick ups.
Please note that all guests are required to dive at least with a dive buddy and preferably with a dive guide. Groups are arranged dependant upon diving history and general make up of the guests. These are not fixed and obviously are liable to change at any point during the trip.
All schedules and itineraries shown on the website and info packs are examples and are liable to change at the captain/cruise director's discretion. Dive sites may change dependant upon conditions and diver ability.
Enriched Air (Nitrox)
Nitrox is available on board for all EANx certified divers on production of a valid certification. Our dive staff can also teach the PADI Enriched Air Nitrox course on board for those who wish to gain the certification. Our Nitrox on board is prepared using a membrane system which means that we are not limited on the amount we can produce through a trip, and also we do not need to carry large amounts of oxygen on the boat. Another advantage is that you can decide to start diving Nitrox at any point in the trip without pre-booking.
Whale Sharks and Manta Rays
Many agents and operators will tell you that if you go to Richelieu Rock then you have a great chance of seeing Whale Sharks and that you will be beating the Manta Rays off with a stick at Ko Bon. Much of this is marketing speak, and we at Aquamarine Divers prefer to be honest with our approach. Sightings are dependant upon the itinerary you have chosen, as well as the time of year, prevailing conditions on the day, and countless other factors. Yes, Richelieu Rock (on all our Similan Itineraries) is considered a hot spot for Whale Sharks, but you would still be considered quite lucky to see one there. Manta Rays do congregate on Ko Bon but, for instance, numbers were low in 2007-08 with plenty of sightings but certainly no guarantees whereas the 2006-07 season was a manta festival. The reverse was true of Hin Daeng, some 100+ miles to the south. This can be similar in the southern section of the Komodo trip.
Again, depending upon your itinerary, you have a very good chance of sharks in general. You can see Leopard Sharks and White Tip Reef Sharks on all routes, Black Tip Reef Sharks around Phi Phi, Grey Reef Sharks and Nurse Sharks in Burma and Indonesia. Blotched Fan Tail Rays and Kuhls Rays can be seen on all routes, as well as Eagle Rays for the lucky ones. None of the above are guaranteed, but we would consider you to be very unlucky to see no sharks or rays at all on your trip. See the dive site descriptions for the country you are interested in for the best time of year to see the big pelagics.
As a final note, luck plays the biggest part in seeing pelagics. The ocean is not a zoo, and we cannot call the big fish onto the dive sites no matter how much we wish we could. This is one of the things that makes seeing them so special. As an example, everyone will tell you February to April for Whale Shark sightings in Thailand, but as this page was being written (in July 2008) there were several sightings (including a group of 4 by the author) of Whale Sharks in the Phuket area. Best advice? Keep your fingers crossed and pray!
There are several 'in water' activities available on all trips. MV Philkade will often spend long periods of time moored in sheltered bays on all trips so a dip in the water (or a brave jump from the fly bridge) is generally possible on most days. There is also some stunning snorkelling on all routes throughout the year, so grab your mask and fins and away you go (remember the sun lotion!!). MV Philkade also carries a two seater kayak so if you are feeling fit then let the crew know and you can paddle away to your hearts content. For all in-water activities just check with the Cruise Director to be sure that the boat will not be moving, we like to know where our guests are at all times!
Most trips will also afford opportunities for island visits, with several activities available. Islands on all itineraries have amazing beaches where you can simply lounge in the sun or shade and paddle in the shallows. The Similan Islands have several official 'jungle walks' that lead to view points that have some spectacular views over the islands. And of course our Komodo trip includes a visit to Komodo Island, where an official guide will endeavour to seek out the world famous Komodo Dragon!
For those requiring more relaxing entertainment an extensive DVD library is available on board, as well as a music system that can be connected to most personal music systems.
Food and Drink
All meals are a mix of Thai and International Cuisine. Should you have any special dietary needs or restrictions, please let us know upon booking and we will be more than happy to accommodate wherever possible. Drinking water, orange juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and electrolyte drinks are all available 24 hours per day and free of charge. Soft drinks and alcohol (beer, wine, gin, and vodka) are available for sale and payable on the boat at the end of the trip. See the relevant section in Schedule and Prices for current costs. You are welcome to bring your own favourite drinks aboard.
Please note that there is no consumption of alcohol between dives. If alcohol is taken between dives then the guest will not be allowed in the water for the rest of the day.
Photo and Video Facilities
More and more we are seeing guests with photo and video equipment aboard MV Philkade. To cater for this we have designated rinse tanks for electrical equipment, camera set up and storage areas, and plenty of recharging areas. We also have a PC workstation on MV Philkade which is dedicated to the viewing of digital photos and video. The computer has most necessary card slots, software programs, and a CD burner for you to back up your treasures. You can also view your video on the TV in the saloon. Most standard cables and card readers are carried by our dive staff though if you are in doubt please bring your own to avoid disappointment.
Commonly available batteries (AAA, AA, C, and D) are also available for sale aboard MV Philkade in order to avoid guests missing out on important 'Kodak Moments'.
Payment for Cruise and Sundries
Cruises and courses can be paid before departure by bank transfer, credit card (Visa or MasterCard in THB only) or by cash (THB, US$, Euro, £ sterling only). Courses, equipment rental, drinks, and other sundries are payable on the boat by either cash or credit card (again, Visa and Mastercard only). Please note that a 3% charge is made for all credit card transactions.
It is traditional on liveaboard boats to tip the crew. They can only accept tips in cash, although any currency is acceptable. Tips are payable on the boat at the end of the cruise and many guests give a gratuity based on 5-10% of the trip price. Please note that tipping is voluntary and the above is a guideline only.