Imagine bright turquoise seas flanked by endless white sand beaches at the edge of lush, tropical wilderness. These eleven protected and uninhabited islands may be some of Thailand’s best kept secrets.
Home to untouched coral reefs, the national park’s crystal clear waters in the Andaman Sea offer visitors superlative diving and snorkeling possibilities just a few hours off the coast of Phuket.
Ranked by the National Geographic Society as one of the “Top 10 Dive Destinations” to visit in the world, The Similan Islands are home to a spectacular diversity of coral and marine life. The distinctive large boulders that scatter the shores gives the Similans a signature look both above and below the water.
The notorious dive site Elephant Head Rock features imposing granite boulders and exciting swim-throughs, as well as macro delights such as pygmy seahorses, nudibranchs, and sea moths. Heading north, to Koh Bon, one can occasionally catch a glimpse of a whale shark or oceanic mantas passing through. At Koh Tachai, divers can expect encounters with large schools of barracudas framed against walls of sea fans.
As one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, more than 500 types of corals and upwards of 3,000 fish species inhabit the waters surrounding the Similans. Colorful coral gardens rich with marine life are visible in just 5 – 6 meters offering divers as well as snorkelers the chance to admire nature’s bounties at relatively shallow depths.
On shore, The Similans are equally fascinating to those daring enough to venture inland on a challenging trek. The interiors of the islands are home to crab-eating monkeys, dusky langurs, squirrels, bats, lizards, and a variety of exotic birds.
The well-weathered Similan Islands are the result of a turbulent history spent submerged by glacial ice, battered by storms, covered by verdant growth and in a distant past, inhabited by creatures long since extinct.
In 1982, the Thai government decreed the islands and their 5,000 year old reefs to be protected as a National Park and the area is on track to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inland, the thick ironwood and gum tree forests sprawl from sparkly white sand beaches adorned with traces of their past in the form of striking boulders still shaped by the winds and waves.
The Similans are just a half day cruise off the coast of Phuket, ideal for a few day getaway in pristine waters for enjoying idyllic tropical landscapes. Fly in to Phuket International Airport and board in Patong Harbor, just half an hour from the airport.
Liveaboards from the mainland are becoming increasingly popular and during peak season speedboats transporting snorkelers in orange life vests are a daily occurrence until they depart in the early afternoon.
The 140 km2 area covers eleven islands and a number of secluded anchorages ideal for spectacular sunsets and enjoying time away from the crowds.