The Similan Islands or Mu Koh Similan National Park. The Similan Islands became a national park in 1982. The national park covers an area of 140km². In 1998 two additional islands were added to the national park. Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. This brought the total number of islands up to 11. The Similan Islands are a very popular Thailand destination. The national park receives more visitors compared with other Thai National Parks.
The Similan Islands National Park are famous for:
- Stunning granite boulder scenery
- Dense green tropical forests
- Fringing coral reefs
- The clear warm waters of the Andaman Sea
- An abundance of wildlife, above and below the water
Where are the Similan Islands?
The Similan Islands are in Phang Nga Province south west from Bangkok. Phang Nga Province is the first province north from Phuket Island. The Similan Islands lie roughly 50km off the Andaman Sea coastline. The best starting point for Similan diving safaris is Khao Lak. Khao Lak is a peaceful, seaside town roughly one hour north from Phuket Airport. Because of this, Khao Lak’s size and reputation has grown considerably in recent years. Koh Bon is roughly 20km north east from the Similan Islands. Koh Tachai lies further to the north. Richelieu Rock is due east from the Surin Islands. These are the last islands before crossing the Thai Burmese boarder.
How do I get to the Similan Islands?
Most Similan liveaboards depart from a small fishing town around 10 minutes south from Khao Lak. A handful of Similan liveaboards depart from the southern part of Phuket. As Khao Lak is considered the most convenient starting point it is better to ask: How do I get to Khao Lak? The main route into Khao Lak is on Highway 4. Highway 4 runs south from Bangkok. The highway follows the Andaman coast from Ranong all the way down through Khao Lak to Phang Nga. The highway continues south through Krabi and Trang before ending in Hat Yai. Depending on your preferred mode of transport, these are the easiest ways to Khao Lak
Khao Lak is one hour north from Phuket Airport. To avoid the exorbitant Phuket taxi prices it is advised to pre-arrange a taxi pick-up from the airport. Khao Lak taxis charge roughly 1,500THB
From Bangkok: There are many daily departures from Bangkok that run down Highway 4 to various locations in the south. All pass through Khao Lak From the South: Any bus heading to Ranong from the South will pass through Khao Lak. Otherwise, head to Phuket. Buses depart every hour during the day passing through Khao Lak From the East: There are frequent buses from Surat Thani that pass though Khao Sok National Park and Khao Lak on their way to Phuket.
The other Similan Islands
Koh Bon differs from the Similan Islands. The island is limestone rock. Therefore there is a different look and feel to the island. Koh Bon is one of the best Thailand dive sites. At certain times of the year Giant manta rays can be seen here. There is no way to go ashore at Koh Bon. The white sandy beaches of the Similan Islands are replaced by sedimented limestone. The island is covered with scrub grass and wind swept tress. Koh Bon offers good conditions for scuba diving and snorkeling. Especially after new year when the chances of seeing manta rays increases.
Koh Tachai has a similar look to the Similan Islands. Granite boulders, dense jungle and turquoise blue waters set the scene. Koh Tachai has one of the nicest beaches in Thailand. Due to it’s location much further to the north, Koh Tachai receives less day trips than the busy Similan Islands. Therefore it is a much quieter island to visit. Koh Tachai is a must on a Similan liveaboard trip. The main dive site is off the southern point of the island. Known as Koh Tachai Pinnacle or Koh Tachai Plateau. The dive site is a firm favourite amongst the scuba diving guides working on Similan liveaboards. Shallow fringing coral reefs at Koh Tachai are great for snorkeling. If you get the chance to go ashore, do so at Koh Tachai. Less visitors to the island means there is more chance of spotting nature.
Although in the Surin Islands National Park, no guide to a Similan diving safari would be complete without mentioning Richelieu Rock. Richelieu Rock is the highlight of a Similan liveaboard. Richelieu Rock is roughly one hour east from the Surin Islands. It is a submerged limestone pinnacle. A tiny part of the rock is visible at low tide. The rock is limestone and made up of a series of underwater pinnacles. Richelieu Rock is deeper on the north side. The south side has shallow areas around 18m. There is plenty of macro life on Richelieu Rock. It is a firm favourite with underwater photographers. Seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish and harlequin shrimp are but a few species. The rock itself is covered in an abundance of colourful soft corals. There are schooling fish all around Richelieu Rock. Large schools of snapper and fusiliers. If you like bigger fish there are regular schools of barracuda and trevaly.