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SIMILAN ISLANDS

The Similan Islands in Thailand consist of a group of tropical islands with dazzling white beaches and lush dense jungle. The islands are surrounded by a warm crystal clear sea with beautiful corals and colorful fish. The Similan Islands are, together with Koh Tao, one of the best diving and snorkeling destinations in Thailand!

Similan Islands, dense green jungle and boat in crystal clear water

Where are the Similan Islands?

The Similan Islands are located in southwest Thailand, about 60 km from the mainland of Khao Lak in the province of Phang Nga. If you are in Khao Lak you should not skip these islands. But also from Phuket or Ao Nang you can go to the Similan Islands with one of the many travel agencies.

11 tropical islands

Originally the Similan Islands consisted of 9 islands. The name Similan comes from Malaysian, which means 9. In 2014 the islands Koh Bon and Koh Tachai were added to the Mu Ko Similan National Park. So now the Similan Islands consist of eleven islands but the name has remained the same. To keep it all a bit clear the islands have been given a number in addition to names.

Similan eilanden from south to north:

Koh Huyong (nr 1)
Koh Payang (nr 2)
Koh Payan (nr 3)
Koh Miang (nr 4)
Koh Ha (nr 5)
Koh Payu (nr 6)
Koh Hin Pousar (nr 7)
Koh Similan (nr 8)
Koh Bangu (nr 9)
Koh Bon (nr 10)
Koh Tachai (nr 11)

The three southernmost islands of Koh Hyong, Koh Payang and Koh Payan (numbers 1 to 3) belong to the Similan Turtle Reservation Center and may not be visited. The turtles lay their eggs here in the sand. All islands are uninhabited, only the park rangers stay here all year round.

Turtles, Nemo and sharks!

The water around the Similan Islands is very suitable for snorkeling and diving. Underwater visibility is regularly 30 meters!

Some islands are above water no more than rocks without a beach but have great snorkeling and diving spots.

Around the Similan Islands beautiful and special fish are seen. Some islands seem to have their own “specialty”. Here a certain type of fish is seen more often than on the other islands.

Fish that you can encounter in the Similan Islands are clownfish (Nemo’s) , moonfish, moray eels, seahorses, squids, turtles, all kinds of rays, reef sharks, barracudas, whale sharks, manta rays and many other species of colorful tropical fish.

How to get to the Similan Islands?

The boats to the Similan Islands leave from Taplamu Pier in Khao Lak. The trip to the islands takes about one and a half to two hours by speedboat. You can only visit the Similan Islands by joining a tour. The easiest and cheapest way is to sleep in Khao Lak and make a day tour from there. Khao Lak is not far from the Taplamu Pier. If you sleep in Phuket, Ao Nang, Railay or Krabi Town you can visit the Similan Islands with a tour as well.

Good to know is that the speedboat can bounce quite a bit on the waves. At the 7-Eleven they sell pills against seasickness, you won’t be the first to use them!

Speedboat at the pier before leaving for Mu Ko Similan National Park

Snorkeling at the Similan Islands

You can easily book a snorkel tour to the Similan Islands by walking into any travel agency in Phuket, Khao Lak or Ao Nang.

You can visit the islands with a day trip or a multi-day diving or snorkeling trip where you sleep on the boat. Staying on the boat makes you one of the lucky ones to see the Similan Islands at its purest. In high season it can be very busy on the Similan Islands, when the day trippers are gone the peace and quiet returns.

Similan snorkel tour from Khao Lak

The tours that are offered often don’t differ much from each other as you usually visit the same islands and snorkel spots. You leave around 9 o’clock from the pier in Khao Lak and the speedboat takes about an hour and a half to get to the first island Koh Miang (no.4). There you go snorkeling and have a lunch buffet around noon. After lunch you go to the islands Koh Payu (no. 7) and / or Koh Bangu (no. 9), this depends on the tide. You have about 45 minutes per snorkel spot. Usually a visit to the most famous island, Koh Similan (no. 8) is planned at last.

Around 15:00 you will leave with the speedboat back to the pier, where you will arrive around 16:30. Then a (mini) bus will bring you back to your accommodation.

Tours from Khao Lak cost about 1,800 / 2,000 baht per person.

Busy with boats and people at the Similan Islands

Similan Snorkel tour from Phuket

For a tour to the Similan Islands from Phuket you have to get up very early! You will be picked up between 06.00 and 06.30 at your accommodation in Phuket or a central meeting point. Once everyone has been picked up, you head towards the Taplamu Pier in Khao Lak, the bus ride takes about an hour and a half. Before you get on the speedboat you will get a simple breakfast buffet and be told which islands you are going to visit. Afterwards you will visit the same islands as tours from Khao Lak. You will arrive back in Phuket between 18:00 and 19:00. You can book a tour at any travel agency in Phuket.

Similan snorkel tour from Ao Nang

Not many people choose to travel from Ao Nang to the Similan Islands. The islands in the vicinity of Ao Nang are also very beautiful and the drive to the Similan Islands is long. You leave around 06:00 in the morning and the bus trip takes more than two hours. (Who knows, you can get some sleep in the bus). At the pier you get a simple breakfast buffet. You visit the same islands as the tours from Khao Lak.

Tours from Ao Nang cost about 3,200 baht per person.

Snorkeling at Miang Beach, Similan Islands

These islands you will visit during the snorkel tour! 

During your snorkel tour to the Similan Islands you will visit some beautiful islands and snorkel spots. Usually you will visit at least the four islands below during your day trip, you will see this:

Koh Miang (island nr. 4)

Koh Miang is a beautiful green and lush island with two white sandy beaches. One beach is located on the north side and the other beach on the south side of Koh Miang. You can reach these two beaches by a short walk across the island.

You can swim and laze on both beaches. There is a visitor center with information and there are showers and toilets on the island.

Lunch is often served on this island. Because all other tours come ashore for lunch it can be quite busy here.

Map with route to beaches Koh Miang at the Similan Islands I
Similan Islands, Koh Liam Beach

Koh Similan (island nr. 8)

Koh Similan is the largest island in the Similan National Park and is breathtakingly beautiful! The beautiful beach, the green hilly interior and the clear sea make this island a paradise on earth. On the island is a viewpoint from where you have a great view over the beach Ao Kuerk Bay. Ao Kuerk Bay is also called Donald Duck Bay because there is a rock that looks like the head and beak of Donald Duck.

The snorkeling conditions around the island are good but don’t stay too close to the beach, there is almost no fish or coral to be seen. On the south side near the rocks further out to sea is much more to see! Often you make a stop by boat a bit further from the island, so you can snorkel there as well.

Similan Islands Donald Duck Bay on Koh Similan

Do you see Donald Duck?Image: Roman Markov (Flickr)

Sail Rock Viewpoint on Koh Similan

The Sail Rock Viewpoint on Koh Similan offers phenomenal views over the clear blue sea and Donald Duck Bay. You reach the viewpoint by a well signposted route that takes about 15 minutes. It’s a little climb but the reward is worth it!

TIP!
You are not allowed to bring shoes / flip-flops on the boat. Therefore it can be smart to put on water shoes if you want to climb the viewpoint. Besides sharp stones, the rocks can also be hot because of the sun!

Koh Similan, viewpoint (Sailing Rock) with rock

Image: Maxim Tupikov

Koh Similan National Park drone foto

Koh Bangu (island nr. 9)

Koh Bangu or Koh Ba Ngu consists mainly of rocks. You are not allowed on the island itself but it is one of the most beautiful diving and snorkeling spots of the Similan Islands. Around the island are the snorkel and dive sites Turtle Rock / Black Rock and Christmas Point. The nickname of Koh Bangu is Turtle Island, because the group of rocks in the sea (with a little imagination) looks like a turtle. But… real turtles are also seen regularly! The visibility at Koh Bangu is usually very good underwater.

Once in a while during a visit to the Similan Islands a dream of many diving and snorkeling enthusiasts comes true. The manta ray or whale shark is then spotted. Who knows, maybe it will also be your lucky day when you visit these islands!

At Koh Bangu sharks and blue spotted stingrays are regularly seen on the sandy bottom. Also garden eels, a kind of thin eel, live here in narrow hollows in the sandy bottom. When they see you they quickly hide in the ground and only come out again when they think it is safe.

Similan, Ba Ngu Island

Diving near the Similan Islands

If you want to go diving at the Similan Islands with a (multi-day) diving trip you better not wait until the last moment to book your tour. Take the time to find a good diving school that meets your needs. Participating in a multi-day tour (live aboard) to the Similan Islands is also possible. If you are a fanatic diver you can easily entertain yourself for a week!  

Unfortunately it is quite expensive but everything else is included and you will see more of the beautiful underwater life and visit some less visited islands than with a one day trip.

Koh Ha island nr 5)

East of Koh Miang lies Koh Ha where you can see a lot of beauty around the small island while snorkeling and diving. There are usually many colorful fish and there are beautiful hard and soft corals to be seen. By the way, ha means five in Thai that’s why this island is number 5.

DID YOU KNOW?
If a Thai finds something funny in for example a chat, then he will type 555 what stands for hahaha! Funny, isn’t?!

Koh Miang, big rock on the white beach

Koh Payu (island nr. 6)

Koh Payu is also called Koh Hok, which means koh six in Thai. Koh Payu is a rocky island with a narrow strip of sand on the east side. Snorkeling around the island is very beautiful. The average depth around the island is 20 meters and the water is crystal clear. In addition to impressive boulders and colorful coral, sea turtles are also seen in the shallow part.

Koh Payu is among divers also known for the nearby Deep Six, this dive site is located north of Koh Payu. At the dive site Deep Six is a steep wall covered with all kinds of hard and soft corals. Barracuda, leopard sharks and reef sharks are also regularly seen here.

Koh Hin Pousar (island nr. 7)

Koh Hin Pousar is also called Elephant Rock because someone once found that a rock resembles the head of an elephant. But not everyone shares that opinion. Koh Hin Pousar is more of a dive site than a snorkel site. Experienced divers can swim under the rocks, through tunnels and see fish that are normally a bit more hidden. You can see lionfish, large spider crabs and leopard sharks.. If you dare!

Rocks in the clear water during sunset

Koh Bon (island nr. 10)

Koh Bon was added as last to the Similan Islands together with Koh Tachai (no. 11). Different species of sharks are seen here such as the beautiful leopard shark. There are also colorful hard and soft corals to be seen.

Koh Tachai (island nr. 11)

Koh Tachai is the northernmost island of the Similan Islands. The island is located between Koh Similan and the Surin Islands. On the island are pearly white beaches and the sea is very clear. Perfect for snorkeling! You have a (small) chance to see whale sharks and manta rays.

You won’t visit Koh Tachai during normal day trips to the Similan Islands, it is too far away for that. You can book a separate tour to Koh Tachai from Khao Lak.

Snorkel boat in clear blue sea

Similan Islands accommodation

Staying overnight on the Similan Islands has been prohibited since 2018 to protect nature. So it is currently no longer possible to sleep in a bungalow or tent as it is on the Surin Islands. The only way to stay overnight at the Similan Islands is by joining a multi-day tour, often called “live aboard”. You do not spend the night on Koh Similan or Koh Miang but on the boat of the tour organizer.

Large rock formations in the blue sea and on the white beach

When are the Similan Islands closed?

Since 1982 the Similan Islands have been declared a national park. The islands are now a protected area and officially part of the Mu Ko Similan National Park. In order to protect nature, the Similan Islands are closed from May 15 to November 15. During this period it isn’t possible to make day trip or multi-day tour to the Similan Islands. If the sea is turbulent or the weather is still very bad it is possible that the boats will wait a bit longer to sail in the months that you can visit these islands.

Best travel time Similan Islands

The Similan Islands are at its most beautiful when the sun shines and the sea is calm. From December to April you have the best chance of dry and sunny days and calm sea. If you want to avoid the hustle and bustle the best travel time is March to April, it is then less crowded than for example the months of December and January. Also if you like to see manta rays and whale sharks March and April are the best months.

The average air temperature is 27 degrees with a few peaks in the hottest months of April and May, it can be a sweaty 36 degrees. The average water temperature feels like a hot bath all year round, around 27 degrees.

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