The main attraction of the Similan Islands are its picture postcard looks, white powder beaches and plentiful marine life. With over 20 dive sites in the area, the Similan Islands are a playground for scuba divers, dive sites feature huge granite boulders, colourful coral reefs, and diverse marine life. The Similan Islands are the best place in Thailand for scuba diving and considered to be one of the top locations in the world, the best way to enjoy diving is by multiple-day liveaboard diving safaris.
The Islands are located in the Andaman Sea, around 70km off the coast of Phang Nga Province in Southern Thailand. There are a total of 9 islands, all have local names such as Koh Huyong, Koh Payang, and Koh Miang, but for simplicity the islands are numbered 1 – 9 from south to north. Recently, the park has been extended to include a further 2 islands to the north called Ko Bon and Ko Tachai. A further 3 hour cruise will bring you to Richelieu Rock which is Thailand’s best dive site and among the top 10 sites in the world.
Whether you are an experienced diver or wishing to learn scuba diving, the Similan Islands are a great place for an underwater adventure. The abundance of great dive sites, diverse marine life, and great diving conditions make the Similan Islands the best place in Thailand for diving.
Scuba diving at Richelieu Rock
Diving takes place at islands 4-9 as islands 1-3 are closed due to a long running conservation project. Slightly further to the north there are another 2 islands called Koh Bon, Koh Tachai where the diving gets even better. Further north again in Surin National Park is a pinnacle called Richelieu Rock, this is the best dive site in Thailand.
The best way for divers to enjoy the Similan islands is by diving liveaboards. A vast selection of liveaboards can be booked online before travelling. Booking online in advance is recommended as the best liveaboards sell out fast. Most Similan islands liveaboards run for 4-5 days and include dives at the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, and Richelieu Rock.
Scuba diving day trips are also available to pre-book online. Day trips are either made by slow boats or speedboats, there are also a few flexible liveaboards which stay at the islands all season using speedboats to transfer divers there and back to the mainland to liveaboards. Day trips include 2 dives, rental dive equipment, food, drinks, and dive guides.
Over the last 10 years snorkelling day trips have become very popular at the Similan islands, especially with Chinese tour groups. Groups are packed into speedboats departing from Phuket and Khao Lak arriving at the Similan Islands at around 10am and departing again at 3pm. Snorkelling takes place all around the islands in shallow bays, at lunch time guests have the chance to step foot on either island no 4 or 8 for a quick bite to eat and some sightseeing.
Snorkelling isn’t great at the Similan Islands, during the high season there are way too many speedboats which has had an impact on the shallow reefs. Snorkelling is much better at the nearby Surin Islands and at Phi Phi islands national park near to Phuket.
There are no resorts or hotels at the Similan Islands. On Koh Miang (island no.4) there are simple national park huts and tents where visitors can spend the night. Accommodation and tents need to be pre-booked, they are often included in overnight packages offered by tour operators in Khao Lak and Phuket. An overnight stay will give you more than enough time as the area open to the public is not that big. Activities for people staying on the island include walking up to viewpoints and relaxing on the beach. There is a simple restaurant and shop but you should bring a few supplies with you.
Tents for hire on Koh Miang, Similan Island No.4
When to go to the Similan Islands
The Similan islands are open to the public from the 16th October to the 16th May every year. The busiest times are December and January. Weather conditions are usually fairly stable but can be unpredictable in October and May. Storms do pass through occasionally but are usually short and sharp.
Diving conditions are great throughout the season with 20 plus metres visibility and water temperatures averaging 29 degrees centigrade. Larger marine life such as Manta Rays and Whalesharks can be spotted at any time but most sightings occur from late January to April.
How to get to the Similan Islands
The Similan Islands can be accessed from Phuket or Khao Lak. Speedboat transfers take around 1 hour and 30 minutes each way. For day trip visitors, packages can be brought which include hotel pick-up, speedboat transfers, snorkelling equipment, food and drinks.
Photo Guide – Similan Islands
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