The Similan Islands are located in the Andaman Sea on the West Coast of Southern Thailand. The Similan archipelago of eleven islands resides within the 140 square metre Mu Koh Similan National Park. The region has been ranked as one of the top diving destinations in the world. Its crystal clear water is a window to the rich marine life filled with whale sharks, manta rays, barracudas, triggerfish, various clownfish and colourful coral reefs that can be seen in the area. The Similans are a protected region and only open from mid-October through to mid-May with just three of the islands having means of basic accommodation. The archipelago makes a magnificent day tour from Phuket or Khao Lak.
Koh Similan is the largest island within the archipelago with a circumference of about 5 square kilometres. It is famous for its iconic huge boulders and powder white sand. These rock formations strangely resemble Donald Duck that overlooks the famous Donald Duck bay that you will often see in Similan photos. Hoards of tourists flock to Koh Similan to trek up the highest mountain of the Mo Ku National Park and to enjoy the spectacular diving and snorkelling around the island.
The gentle sea currents and average water depths of around 25 metres make it the perfect diving spot and explore the rich marine life. Spiky lobsters, varieties of sharks, sea turtles and several types of colourful fish swimming amongst sea fans and soft corals and huge boulders can all be found in these Andaman waters.
Although Koh Bon is one of the smaller islands of the Similans archipelago, it delivers big on its beauty with stunning strips of white sandy beaches and some of the better diving spots. Unfortunately, you can’t stay on Koh Bon and is therefore only accessible for a day trip via the other Similan islands. These waters are a magnet for more advanced divers who enjoy diving around the sea ridge that sharply drops to 40-45 metres. The wall is home to multicoloured soft corals and attracts Leopard sharks and Whitetip sharks along with Titan Triggerfish, Damselfish and Moray Eels hiding in the wall itself. Giant barracuda, jackfish, batfish, snapper, fusiliers along with scorpionfish, stonefish and octopus can all be found.
Located between the Surin Islands and the main Similan Archipelago, Koh Ta Chai is best known for its impeccable diving conditions and peaceful remoteness. The island offers a freshwater source that contributes to the island and basic accommodation in a campsite, which features a small restaurant. The main activities on and around the island are scuba diving, snorkelling, hiking multiple nature trails and relaxing on the beach.
If you don’t want to stay overnight, you can take a guided Similan islands day trip from Phuket or Khao Lak. Organized Similan islands tours are arranged from pick up to drop off. Transport to the islands is by speed boat with snorkelling stops, endless photo opportunities, travel to generally three islands and is a full action-packed day. Diving companies offer liveaboards, overnight and day trips.
The Similan Islands are called the true gem of the south of Thailand, found in the Andaman Sea, so the water is clear of any pollution. There are fewer travellers to the Similan islands than to other island destinations of Thailand.
However, the Similan Islands quickly became known to be among the popular island groups in the Andaman. It’s generally for the wonders of its diving areas sea life that awaits and welcomes scuba divers, swim-throughs, snorkelling enthusiasts for memorable diving adventures. At the same time, the overall features of all the Similan Islands make the group a favourite dive destination and boat tours and day trips.
The Similan Islands don’t have the majestic limestone cliff islands of Krabi and Phang Nga Bay, the common image of the Andaman Sea islands in a travel guide. In the Similan Islands, you can find dense growths of large ironwood and gum trees, along with jackfruit, bamboo and rattan, giving home or shelter to several wildlife species of crab-eating monkeys, langurs, squirrels, bats, lizards and birds.
In contrast to the limestone cliffs towering over the white sand beaches greeting travellers to Krabi, Similan Islands visitors are greeted by huge boulders scattered on the western and southern shores of many of the islands, picturesque shores of white sand beaches, bereft of sun-worshippers. The best of the Similan Islands lie beneath the waters of the Andaman Sea, however. A wondrous spectacle of a sea world – amazing coral formations, giving unparalleled experiences to scuba divers and snorkelling enthusiasts as they float and swim around the coral reef after coral reef.
The Similan Islands get the tag as the playground for diving adventures!
But, there’s still more — the islands have become a favourite among the sailing community because of the impressive anchorages, making the islands cruised by yachts in the months from November to May. During peak months of the tourist season, boats taking sightseers, snorkelers on day trips from Phuket and Phang Nga.
There is the Koh Similan National Park (which the Similan Islands are a part of) covering 140 square kilometres established in 1982 and now scheduled to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The government of Thailand protects the fragility of the islands’ attractions, the 5,000-year-old coral reefs (the oldest coral reefs in Thailand) so during the monsoon season, the islands are closed for the public – all tourists and other visitors. Unfortunately, some local fishers do illegal fishing which puts the coral reefs at risk. Aside from the coral formations, the park also works to protect a unique species of sea turtles that do their nesting on the beach.
Nearby is the Ban Nam Khem Tsunami Memorial Museum in Khao Lak, a 4-zone museum dedicated to the memory of the more than 5,000 victims of the tsunami that hit southern Thailand on December 26, 2004, information about the tsunami, survivor stories and memorabilia.
Of the eleven islands in the Similan Island Archipelago, only three are habitable. Those are Koh Meang, Koh Similan and Koh Tachai, where you can find accommodations for guests. There are no hotels or resorts on these islands. Similan Islands accommodation options are bungalow and campsite. These may not be in the luxury category but these are where guests can have a total experience of a tropical paradise especially at night. Facilities are basic and simple but the rooms are clean.
Koh Meang is the only island with the most types of accommodations for guests. There is an on-site restaurant on Koh Meang and Koh Similan and three different kinds of bungalows, the closest to a resort on the islands. The most expensive ones have AC in comfortable rooms and free wifi. Having an air-conditioned room would make your stay comfortable because some nights on the islands can be hot especially around December to February. There are only 35 of these room-size accommodations, each property can take in only two persons.
The Similan Islands is among Thailand’s top island destinations so it is best advised to book your rooms way ahead of your scheduled visit.
The campsite is the budget version of Similan Islands accommodation on the three habitable islands. There are spacious tents that can fit 2-3 persons in one tent. Staying in the tent will give you more opportunities to witness or experience the wildlife in the unspoiled surroundings of the property early in the morning!
Khao Lak is the nearest island where you can find the best hotels or popular hotels or a resort around Thap Lamu Pier, or Khao Lak centre, being a popular island destination too. These Khao Lak accommodation hotel options offer the best deals and the following hotel features – free private parking, free shuttle buses, offers modern rooms with a flat-screen TV, an outdoor swimming pool, lush tropical gardens evoking a tropical rainforest, a terrace or private balconies overlooking tropical greenery, a pool bar, sea-facing outdoor pool, large swimming pool, air-conditioned rooms featuring private balconies, free wifi access, a tour desk, leisure facilities like a spa, a fitness centre or a fitness room, a shared lounge, and helpful staff. One is the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa, a 5-star Thai style resort with all the above-mentioned features and more!
A spa is a common feature of any hotel in Khao Lak or in the Phang Nga Bay and the Andaman Sea islands, as well as free wi-fi and air conditioning in rooms and other common areas.
The Similans are world-renowned for spectacular diving opportunities. Spots like Elephant Head, East of Eden, Stonehenge, Coral Garden and Christmas Point are some of the most famous within the island groups. Divers can enjoy a diverse underwater landscape of gigantic boulders, caves, narrow passages, 500 species of hard and soft corals, and a huge variety of marine life. For micro diving enthusiasts, there are a lot of photogenic little critters such as nudibranchs, ghost pipefish, sea moths, frogfish, and ribbon eels.
Thai law restricts large constructions on the Similans. That means you can stay on three of the eleven Similan Islands in accommodation options such as a bungalow or campsite. There is no hotel or resort on these three islands. The facilities on Koh Meang, Koh Similan and Koh Tachai are basic but clean. Koh Meang is the only island that offers three different kinds of bungalows and a restaurant. It’s a good idea to book accommodation on Koh Meang in advance since there are only 35 bungalows in total on the island, and due to their popularity they are booked months in advance.
The Similan Islands are about 119 km northwest of Phuket Island, and 50 km west of Khao Lak. The boat trip from Khao Lak to the Similan Islands is about one hour depending on which island you want to visit. Be aware that the islands are only open from 15 October until 15 May each year.
The Similan Islands are located on 570 kilometres south of Bangkok and are accessible by road and boat. Alternatively, you can take a flight to Phuket then a boat from there.
It is approximately 119 kilometres from Phuket to Similan Islands. You will need to take a boat from either Chalong or Patong that will get you there within a few hours depending on which Island you decide to visit.
Three of the eleven Similan islands have accommodation options – Ko Similan, Ko Tachai and Koh Miang. There are campsites and bungalows among your choices to stay in the Similan Islands, with basic amenities but clean. In Ko Similan, there are campsites for travellers who wish to commune with nature to combine with their diving experiences on the islands’ dive sites and sprawling on the sandy beaches later. For more than basic amenities, stay at Ko Miang for a more luxurious stay.
If you go by bus, your trip will take around four hours from Phuket to the Similan Islands. The trip estimation includes transfers.
If you wish to travel by sea, there are boats that leave Phuket in the evening, taking around 7 hours to get to the Similan Islands.
Before the Covid-19 Pandemic, the islands are closed from mid-May to mid-October each year, mandated by Thai law.
The latest update is that Similan Islands National Park was opened back up on October 15, 2020, with a “new normal” policy of social distancing, temperature checks and requiring staff and visitors to wear face masks.
Similan Islands means “Nine Islands” in Yawi, the indigenous language of the area. Similarly, the Malay word for 9 is “Sembilan.” The 11 Similan Islands are designated by numbers as well as names. Local Thais refer to the islands more to the numbers.
Koh Hu Yong
Hin Pousar, or Elephant Head Rock
Koh Ba Ngu
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