The Similan Islands are a group of 11 islands located in the Andaman Sea, approximately 70 km off the coast of Phang Nga Province, Thailand. Established as a national park in 1982, the islands cover an area of 140 km², of which 26 km² is land. They are known for their rich marine life, including hard and soft coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and white sandy beaches, making them a popular destination for diving and snorkeling. The islands are also characterized by their rock formations, consisting of huge boulders, shallow waters, and dense tropical forests.
Unfortunately, the Similan Islands have suffered from overcrowding due to the high number of tourists visiting the islands. In response, park authorities have limited the number of tourists to the islands to 3,850 people per day, later reduced to 3,325 people per day. Before these limitations were put in place, the islands were receiving up to 7,000 visitors per day. Ko Tachai, one of the worst-affected islands, has been closed to tourists since 2016.
The nearest towns on the mainland to the Similan Islands are Khao Lak and Phuket, and the nearest pier is Thap Lamu Pier, located south of Khao Lak. The rainy season in the Similan Islands runs from May to October, with the most rainfall occurring from June to September. The rest of the year is generally dry, with very little rain from December to March.
What to do in Similan Islands ?
The Similan Islands are located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand and offer a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Diving and snorkelling are popular activities in the Similan Islands, with the best time for diving being from December to April when the wind is minimal and the water temperature is around 29°C. During this time, visitors may also have the opportunity to spot larger marine species such as manta rays and whale sharks, although sightings are rare.
In addition to diving and snorkelling, visitors can relax and swim on the islands’ beautiful beaches, go hiking through the dense tropical forests, island-hop to explore multiple islands, camp on the islands, kayak in the crystal clear waters, take photographs of the stunning landscapes and marine life, and relax on the beach. Although the Similan Islands are not a popular birding destination, there are a few migratory birds that visit the islands, and there are limited opportunities for wildlife watching.
Highlights of Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are a group of islands located in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Thailand and are known for their beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, and rich marine life. Some highlights of the Similan Islands include:
- Diving and snorkelling: The Similan Islands are a popular destination for diving and snorkelling, with a wide variety of marine life, including coral reefs, fish, dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays.
- Beaches: The Similan Islands have several beautiful beaches, including Powdery Beach and Honeymoon Bay, that are perfect for swimming and sunbathing.
- Rock formations: The Similan Islands are characterized by their rock formations, which consist of huge boulders, shallow waters, and dense tropical forests. These features provide a unique and beautiful landscape for visitors to explore.
- Tropical forests: The Similan Islands are home to dense tropical forests that provide a habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna. These forests can be explored on foot via a number of trails that wind through the islands.
- Camping: The Similan Islands offer the opportunity to camp on some of the islands, allowing visitors to spend the night and experience the beauty of the islands after the day-trippers have left.
- Island-hopping: The Similan Islands are part of a larger archipelago, and there are several boat tours available that allow visitors to explore multiple islands in a single day.
- Kayaking: The crystal clear waters around the Similan Islands are perfect for kayaking, and there are several rental companies on the islands that offer kayaks for rent.
- Photography: The Similan Islands are a photographer’s paradise, with stunning landscapes and a wide range of marine and terrestrial life to capture on camera.
- Relaxing: With beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, the Similan Islands are a great place to relax and unwind. Visitors can enjoy a massage on the beach or simply relax and soak up the sun.
The Similan Islands’ topographical highlights
The Similan Islands have a rich history and have undergone many changes over time. At various points in the past, the Similan Islands have been underwater, battered by storms, covered in marine growth, and visited by extinct creatures.
These changes have been caused by fluctuations in sea levels and powerful movements in the Earth’s crust. When visiting the islands and hiking the trails, it is interesting to imagine what the islands may have looked like in the past, covered in coral, algae, and schools of colorful fish, rather than the forests and beaches that exist today.
The rock formations on the islands were created by the intrusion of hot magma and the cracking and sculpting of the granite substratum by wind and wave. As you explore the islands, take a moment to consider the history and the various forces that have shaped the landscapes you see today.
The Similan Islands’ coral environment
The Similan Islands are a group of nine islands located in the Andaman Sea off the west coast of Thailand. The islands are known for their beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, which are home to a rich and diverse coral reef ecosystem. The coral reefs in the Similan Islands are some of the most pristine and well-preserved in the world, with over 200 species of hard coral and more than 250 species of fish identified in the area. The Similan Islands also have the greatest variety of reef fish in Thai waters.
The coral reefs in the Similan Islands are a vital part of the local ecosystem, providing habitat and shelter for numerous species of fish, invertebrates, and other marine life. They also help to protect the islands from storms and erosion, and provide a source of food and livelihood for local communities.
The conditions for coral growth in the Similan Islands are ideal, with a minimum sea temperature of around 28°C and exceptionally clear waters. The fringing waters around the islands have an average depth of 30-45 meters, with coral gardens found as shallow as 6-7 meters. Between the islands, the waters drop down to a depth of 70-80 meters. The coral reefs in the Similan Islands feature a variety of topography, including coral walls, big rocks, sea fans, barrel sponges, caves, and swim-throughs, as well as shallow areas suitable for snorkeling.
The Similan Islands are a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, and the coral reefs are a major attraction for visitors. However, like many coral reefs around the world, the reefs in the Similan Islands face challenges such as climate change, pollution, and overfishing. It is important to protect and conserve these reefs in order to preserve this important and fragile ecosystem.
How to get to Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are a group of nine islands located off the west coast of Thailand in the Andaman Sea. There are several ways to get to the islands, including by boat from the town of Thap Lamu, by flying to the town of Krabi and taking a boat from there, or by taking a boat from the island of Koh Phi Phi. The journey from Thap Lamu takes around 2 hours by speedboat and around 4-5 hours by liveaboard boat, while the journey from Krabi takes around 3-4 hours by boat. The journey from Koh Phi Phi takes around 4-5 hours by boat.
During the low season, which runs from May to October, boat services to the Similan Islands may be limited or suspended due to unfavourable weather conditions. Day trips from Phuket and Khao Lak are also possible, with travel times of 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on the boat used. Liveaboard boat trips from Phuket, which usually run for 4 days, are a popular option for divers and game fishers.
It is important to note that the Similan Islands are a protected national park, and access to the islands is restricted from May to October each year. During this time, the islands are closed to visitors in order to allow the marine life and ecosystems to recover from the busy tourist season. A park entry fee of around 500 baht is charged for foreign visitors.