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Koh Similan Islands Diving Holidays

Similans Travel Information

The stunning Similan Islands with their tropical jungle beauty, white, sandy beaches and turquoise waters are understandably Thailand's most popular dive destination.

Long-tail boat at Donald Duck Bay, Similan Island no. 8 - photo courtesy of Tourist Authority of Thailand

9 granite islands make up the Similan National Marine Park which provides gorgeous coral reefs peppered with rainbow coloured fish as well as deep water boulder formations that attract large pelagic fish such as whale sharks and manta rays. The dive sites here offer something for every level of diver.

The Liveaboard dive excursions to these islands are extremely popular with divers from all over the world, as they provide a good standard of accommodation along with well-organised cruises and highly-trained staff. They are also very affordable!

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How to Get There

The Similan Islands are found in the Andaman Sea about 65 km offshore from Phang Nga province and 100 km from Phuket Island on the Thai-Malay peninsula. If you are embarking on a Liveaboard cruise then you don't need the info in this section as transport to and from your boat will be arranged for you.

To get to the Similans, you can take a boat from Tap Lamu Pier, 60 km north of Phuket airport and 10 km south of Khao Lak.

VIP A/C buses run daily from Bangkok's southern bus terminal direct to Khao Lak and you can then jump in a taxi to take you to Tap Lamu Pier. There are also buses from Bangkok to Phang Nga Town and from there take another bus the remaining 65 kilometres to Tap Lamu junction which is 5 km from the pier. Take a taxi the rest of the way.

From Phuket, you can get a bus from the Phuket Town bus terminal to Khao Lak and get off at the Tap Lamu Pier junction, south of Khao Lak.

The nearest airport to Tap Lamu is Phuket International Airport. There are direct flights to/from Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and Bangkok - Thailand. From the airport take a taxi the approximately 60 km north to Tap Lamu. If you'd like more information on how to get to Phuket, Please read our Phuket travel information section.

There are private tour boats that run daily from Tap Lamu Port to Mu Koh Similan National Park station on island number 4, approximate distance of 70 km. The boats leave at 8:30 am and the journey takes 3½-4 hours. The return boats depart at 13:00 and 15:00 daily. This service is closed during the low season from May to November each year.

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The climate in the Similan Islands is tropical and the temperature is warm all year round. The northeast monsoon from November into April provides clear sunny days with a light breeze and cooler nights. The southwest monsoon prevails from late May until October and this brings showers and winds. The Andaman Sea can sometimes be quite rough during this time with large waves so Similan diving cruises are not offered at this time.

The hottest months are usually April and May when the average temperatures range from 30 to 36°C.

The High Season for tourism in this part of Thailand runs from November to April. Probably the best time to visit the dive sites of the Similan Islands is between February and April as you're assured of great weather and calm seas, plus there'll be a few less tourists! It's also the time of year when you are most likely to have an exciting encounter with reef sharks, whale sharks and manta rays.

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Sightseeing and Things to Do

Hawksbill turtles are common in the Similans - photo coutesy of ScubaZoo

Most people travel to the Similans for the snorkelling or scuba diving. However, there are opportunities to enjoy bird watching and a jungle walk on 2 islands.

Koh Miang, also known as Island No. 4, is the 2nd biggest island after Koh Similan (Island No. 8) and is home to the park headquarters. This island boasts the best wildlife watching opportunities in the Similan National Park. Here you can find 2 beautiful white, sandy beaches on either side of the island connected by a walking trail through the tropical jungle. Inland you may well spot a Nicobar pigeon or a hairy-leg mountain land crab. This crab species is called Pu Kai in Thai, which means 'Chicken Crab' because it makes a noise like a young chick.

Island number 8, the largest island, offers a trek up to a viewpoint providing great views of the island chain, and a walking trail. Here you can also find Donald Duck Bay, so-called as the granite rock formations look similar to the famous cartoon character.

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Dining Out & Nightlife

Koh Miang, Island 4, is the only island that provides overnight accommodation. This comprises 25 air conditioned bungalows which are run by the national park department, and they are very popular during the high season. You can make a reservation up to 60 days in advance with the national park headquarters by calling +66 (0)2 5620760.

There is a small restaurant here serving mainly Thai food but other than that, there are no bars or nightlife on the islands. This is the place to come for peace and quiet and enjoy the nature. For entertainment and shopping, you will find plenty of both back on the mainland.

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Loma day trip catamaran at the Similans, Thailand - photo coutesy of IQ Dive Center

The Similan Islands were declared a national park in 1982. The boundary was then extended in 1998 to include both Koh Tachai and Koh Bon, 2 islands to the north of the Similans group. The Similan National Park covers 140 km², over 10% of which is granite islands. They were formed some 65 million years ago when great swells of hot magma were forced upwards and later shaped by glacial ice and the sea's wave action.

On 26th December 2004, a huge Tsunami that originated off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia swept across the Andaman Sea. The freak wave caused devastation in coastal areas, however most of the coral reefs suffered little or no destruction.

The local marine department, national park and universities were joined by volunteer divers to assess the damage and it was agreed the reefs were left relatively unscathed. The areas that were damaged continue to be monitored to assess their recovery.

If you'd like to read a more detailed report on the tsunami's impact please read this: Environmental Impact Assessment.

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Local Transport

On the Similan Islands, there are plenty of long tail boats available to transport you between the islands. You can expect to pay:

  • Island 4 to Island 6 (3 km): US$ 5 per person
  • Island 4 to Island 8 (11.5 km): US$ 6 per person
  • Island 4 to Island 9 (13.5 km): US$ 9 per person
  • Around Island 8 and Island 9: US$ 9 per person

Don't forget that most visitors arrive at the Similans on a liveaboard cruise which includes all transport between the islands.

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If you're interested in experiencing the delightful dive sites of the Similan Islands, then click below to check your options now for:

Book early to ensure your first choice is available and avoid disappointment. Similans diving is popular and the best opportunities attract repeat customers who book well in advance.

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