The Similan Islands are a group of nine islands about 100kms northwest of Phuket. The area has been designated the Similan Marine National Park. The Similans are famed for their spectacular underwater scenery and marine life, and is regarded as one of the top ten dive spots in the world. The islands are completely undeveloped, except for Koh Miang, where the park headquarters, a visitors centre and some accommodation are located. There is also a royal residence on Koh Miang.
The name “Similan” is derived from the Malay sembilan meaning “nine”. Each of the Similan Islands has a number as well as a name. Thais often refer to the islands just by their number, so Koh Miang is Koh Si, meaning “island number four”. From north to south these are as follows:
- 9. Koh Ba-Ngu
- 8. Koh Similan
- 7. Koh Payu
- 4., 5. & 6. Koh Miang (actually two islands, with Hin Pousar often designated as no.6)
- 3. Koh Payan
- 2. Koh Payang
- 1. Koh Hu Yong
The beaches are pristine and although the scenery above water is not as dramatic as the limestone islands in Phang Nga Bay, the smooth granitic rock formations and scattered boulders, together with the crystal clear sea, make up for it.
You can visit the Similans from November to April. The weather is at its best and the water visibility is clearest. Plenty of dive-boats visit the island on day-trips and liveaboards from Phuket and Thap Lamu (near Khao Lak) during this time. June marks the start of the rainy season when the national park closes.
Koh Similan and Koh Miang are both excellent for hiking. The Similan islands are very rich in flora and fauna for such a small and remote area. The islands are a combination of several forest types, and the convergence of evergreen forest and coral reef. The bio diversity ranges from whale sharks to rare birds such as the Nicobar Pigeon, as well as 27 species of mammals, 22 species of reptiles, and at least 4 species of amphibians.
Book a Similan Islands Tour
The Park authorities maintain a few bungalows, campsites and a restaurant for visitors when the park is officially open from November to May. There are no hotels or resorts in the national park. The nearest places to stay on the mainland are in Khao Lak, about 50kms away.
The main activity here is scuba diving and snorkelling, although fishing trips and sailing vessels also stop here regularly.
As it takes about 3.5 hours to get to the Similans, most dive trips are by liveaboard. Because there are so many dive sites offering so much variety, you should consider a trip of at least four days to fully explore these islands. However, if you are pressed for time there is a hydrofoil from Phuket, which makes the trip in under 2 hours, allowing you to make two dives before returning.
The Similans offer an incredibly varied underwater landscape. Sloping hard coral reefs and shallow coral gardens on the east side of the islands, which are protected from the strong currents. On the west side is totally different scenery. Huge granite boulders, caverns and swim-throughs make for a faster paced and more challenging experience.
See more information on Phuket scuba diving
Getting to the Similan Islands
From Phang Nga:
Most boats to the Similans leave from Thap Lamu pier, which is in Thai Muang district between Phuket and Khao Lak, where the National Park’s office is located. Journey time by speed boat is approximately 90 minutes.
There are speedboats to the Similans from the Boat Lagoon, just north of Phuket Town, taking around 2.5 hours.
These can be overnight trips or longer. Food and accommodation is provided on these dive boats. Most dive centres in Phuket and Khao Lak can arrange regular liveaboards to the Similans during the dry season.
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