The Similan Islands
The Similans are a string of islands approximately 100km northwest of Phuket. They are low lying, forested, granite islands. They are perhaps not as spectacular as the limestone scenery of Phang Nga Bay but still an impressive sight. The islands are strewn with great granite boulders and there are some glorious white sand beaches.
However, the appeal of the Similans is not really the beaches and scenery. The real appeal of the Similans is what lies beneath the water. They are generally accepted as being one of the world's top ten diving sites.
The Similan Islands have been a national park since 1982 and are only officially open from November to April. This is the dry season when the sea is generally calm and visibility is at its best. There are a few dive boat operators who continue to visit in October and May but there is always the possibility of bad weather at this time of year. The islands are uninhabited during the rainy season.
There are 9 islands and numerous rock outcrops. The islands run north over
a distance of approx 20km. The islands all have names but divers more often
refer to them by number. The national park HQ is on Miang Island (island no. 4). There are two
nice beaches on this island and you can walk across. There is also accommodation
on this island with park bungalows and a campsite..
The islands are part of Phang Nga province. The holiday resort town Khao Lak is the closest mainland at approx 60km. It is possible to do a day trip on a speedboat but really, this is too much of a rush to fully appreciate these islands. A much better option is to stayover or do a liveaboard - a boat where you can sleep and spend a few nights there.
There are no bars or hotels. There are just a couple of small restaurants and shops on island 4 and a campsite on island 8. People do not visit the Similans for nightlife; they come to dive and snorkel.
The Similans are an underwater wonderland. There are incredible seascapes with rock boulders, narrow passageways and underwater caves. Hundreds of species of soft and hard corals form a multi-coloured backdrop for the huge variety of marine fauna. A myriad of brightly coloured reef fish dart in and out of the corals while other fish shoal together in great swirling schools.
Turtles and manta rays glide serenely through the water and leopard sharks patrol the bottom. If you are very lucky, you may even experience the breath taking sight of a giant whale shark.
The east coasts of the islands have sloping coral gardens inhabited by a mass of sea fauna. There are fantastic snorkeling locations providing an experience you will never forget. There are also lots of relaxing scuba diving sites with gentle currents and wonderful scenery.
The west coasts of the islands are a little more rugged as this is the side that faces the monsoon waves through the rainy season. This side is more suited to advanced scuba divers. There are underwater passageways, caves and caverns. There are also stronger currents on this side of the islands.
Hundreds upon hundreds of people visit the Similan Islands every day through the dry season. Speedboats rush day-trippers out from Khao Lak and Phuket to do some snorkeling while the liveaboard boats bring scuba divers who will stay for several days to explore as many dive sites as possible.
Despite the number of visitors, the islands do not really feel overcrowded. The islands are spread out over a length of 20km and there are so many dive sites and snorkeling locations that there is plenty of room for everyone. The day-trippers head to the beaches and snorkel sites. The scuba divers go to the dive sites and the more advanced divers head to the west side of the islands.
Many of the dive boats will also push on to Richelieu Rock, which is also a stunning scuba location and one of the best places in the world for spotting whale sharks. There do always tend to be quite a few boats gathered here.
Perhaps the beach at Donald Duck Bay on island 8 can also get a little crowded. There is a small restaurant and a park ranger base here. Islands 4 and 8 also have small mobile phone antennas so you can get a phone signal if you are close to these islands.
You can book day-trip speedboat tours to the Similans with our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand. These will include snorkeling, beaches and food. They can arrange a day trip or even better, stay overnight and have more time to fully appreciate these fabulous islands.
Book your Similan snorkeling tour with our tour partners at Easy Day Thailand for the best price.Similan Snorkeling Tours
Fully Insured - Tourism Authority of Thailand Licence 31/00838
You can book liveaboard trips at just about any dive shop. These are trips on boats that have sleeping cabins. A liveaboard trip will typically stay at the islands for anything from 2-days to a week. They will include 3 or 4 dives a day and maybe also snorkeling and trips to the beaches. If you are not a scuba diver then most boats offer discount to customers who only want to snorkel.
You can make your own way to the islands. You can get a boat from the pier at Thap Lamu, just south of Khao Lak on the Thai mainland. The boat will take you to island 4, where you have a good chance of getting accommodation from the national park, even if it is just a tent. There is now one dive shop on the island so you can arrange a few dives if you go that way.
The only accommodation available at the Similans is that provided by the national park. There are some basic bungalows and camping on island 4 and a small camp site at island 8.
Alternatively, stay on a liveaboard boat.