In the South-West of Thailand the Similan islands can be found. It is a little archipelago that has become a favourite for yachts and tours leaving from the south of Thailand. National Geographic placed the Similan Islands as “One of the Top Ten Destinations to Visit in the World.”
These gorgeous uninhabited islands are located in the Andaman Sea off the West coast of Thailand. The Similan Islands have something for everyone at every age and ability. Shallow tropical coral reefs, massive coral gardens, soaring pinnacles and of course, a breeding ground for the Hawksbill turtle. You will be amazed by the diversity of the underwater world that the Similans have to offer.
The word “Similan” is derived from the Malaysian word Sembilan, which means “nine”. The archipelago has as you might expect now, 9 islands. You might hear that the Similan islands aren’t as spectacular as the ones found near Krabi or Phang Nga Bay. Some might even say that if you had to pick, you shouldn’t go to the Similan’s.
I am here to tell you that – “Yes, you should go!!”. The island’s shores are filled with gorgeous massive boulders,together with the coral-sand beaches that are often deserted and some of the world’s best underwater areas, a place not to be missed.
1. It is one of the top ten destinations to visit in the world.
I don’t know about you, but this little sentence already did it for me. If you are already in Thailand, and you’re doing all those tours, why not also do one to the prettiest, bluest and most gorgeous archipelago in the world? Oh, but you are not into diving? And you also don’t like snorkeling? WHAT, you don’t even like swimming in open sea? Still not a problem!! The similan island can only be visited by boat, this means that it is possible to stay dry.. You’ll be able to discover these islands by foot, and the water is so clear that you don’t have to go in to explore what is underneath.
2. It is fairly unexplored
If you’re like me, you are not into those really touristy places. I really dislike those masses of tourists trying to take pictures of everything, and then I literally mean EVERYTHING. The Similan’s are not as popular as the islands around Krabi and Phang Nga Bay, this is just for one particular reason. So in most tourists eyes this is just another group of islands – “same same but different” as the Thai would say. However, as explained by #1, these islands are special, and gorgeous and definitely worth a visit, and since you won’t have to share the beach with 4000 other visitors, GO FOR IT. Before you know it others have found out about it, and it is overrun by boats full of Asians (sorry to call you guys out, but in my experience, this ethnic group is the one that comes in boatloads to touristy islands and often ruins the fun for others).
3. For the divers – there are dozens of dive spots
This is said to be the most spectacular dive site of the archipelago. The composition of giant boulders, form a complex maze of channels and swim throughs that reach a depth of 40 meters. From the surface one of the boulders vaguely looks like a elephant head. You’ll need a vivid imagination, but let me know if you found it! LOCATION: south of island 8 (Ko Similan).
This site is home to soft corals, and numerous arches and passages through the boulders that are home to the archipelago. Depth is about 35 meters, it is also one of the only areas where white tip sharks have been spotted. LOCATION: west side of island 9.
East of Eden
This is area has the best reefs and most variety of any site in the Similan Islands. This is a typical east coast site featuring a healthy hard coral reef mixed with soft corals. Turtles are commonly seen on the shallow reef top.
Boulder City and Shark Fin Reef
These two sites are part of a rocky ridge that runs away from Similan island 3. Both are great sites for spotting larger fish such as bumphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasse and leopard sharks. Beautiful fan coral gardens decorate the passages between the enormous granite boulders.
A rock on the surface resembles a face (the Thai name is Na Ling – monkey face) , and if you descend here, you find huge boulders from 20-35m on a white sandy bottom. LOCATION: southern tip of island 8.
Also called Barrucuda point for some reason. This Similan dive site winds around island number 5, which from the surface is not much more than a rockpile, but there is a great reef underwater from 5 to nearly 30 meters and a lot of variety. There is a great big coral bommie on the east side and some big granit boulders right on the south of the island at about 30m depth.
Many people would agree that Fantasea Reef is one of the top sites in the Similan Islands. The variety and abundance of fish life is astounding, and the fish seem very curious. There are also some great rock formations, swimthroughs and soft corals that cover a wide area.
4. Amazing sights
Today, piles of curious stones, some of them as big as houses, lie as though collected and later abandoned in careless heaps by some ancient race of beachcombing giants. Sailing Boat Rock, the distinctive formation teetering high above the cove on Koh Similan (Island 8) has also been shaped in this way.
I’m big on sustainability and trying to save whatever is left to save in the world. Island 1, 2 and 3 are currently closed due to conservational reasons.
On island 1 for example, one of the longest beaches is located. This could be a great location for tourists, however, this place is already home to the endangered green sea turtle. National park rangers ensure that no one tramples the breeding grounds, to make sure the green sea turtle will not go extinct. This island is for this reason, closed for the foreseeable future. The Thai authorities take conservation very seriously and the turtles are still under a massive threat.
The other islands are closed for similar reasons, to make sure the natural environment isn’t damaged any further. They want to give reefs time to regrow and fish to populate in a quiet environment.
The different seasons of Similan
The Similan islands are only open 6 months a year. This is due to the monsoon season between May and October. The national park closes mid-May and opens mid-October, these dates aren’t set in stone. Sometimes the season comes early, and there are years when it starts late.
Between the months of November and February, it is winter in the Similan islands, just like in the rest of Thailand. Temperatures drop to 24 to 28 degrees, it is often more cloudy and you should expect some rain. The summer months are from March to May, temperatures hit highs of 38 and I advise you not to climb up to the viewpoint in the heat of the day. Try to stay in the shade and put enough sunscreen on when you hit the water.
Overall, if you’re there in winter or summer, the place is stunning and definitely a place not to be missed when you’re in Thailand.
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