Jamie's Phuket Blog

The Similan Islands

In 1999, I came to Thailand as a PADI Dive Instructor looking for work and thinking of spending a year here, maybe 2 if the diving was good. Certainly no thoughts of staying for ever or getting married or raising a family. No, first and foremost, I wanted to dive the Similan Islands. I'd already been teaching scuba diving for a year and had this romantic notion of working on a liveaboard dive boat, cruising the islands, diving every day and getting paid for it too!

It took a couple of months before I got to the Similans, first doing some local diving and teaching courses and even joining a dive boat in Burma for a couple of weeks. There was not that much freelance work and I did think of leaving for greener pastures when finally that first Similan trip was offered. 4 days on a liveaboard, 14 dives. Yes! Now, the local dive sites around Phuket and Phi Phi are good, there's lots of variety, masses of marine life, but... these sites do lack crystal clear waters. I had come from the Caribbean, where 40 meter visibility was normal. I still recall that first moment of the first dive in the amazing Similan Islands - clear water, a frenzy of fishlife, white sand... I say again YES!

Similan Island reef Turtle at the Similans

From that very first dive I knew this was the place to be - the Similan Islands, Thailand and Phuket. The variety of dive sites is amazing - there are beautiful reefs, pinnacles and many sites which feature huge granite boulders with swimthroughs and soft coral gardens. Most liveaboard dive trips also head further north to Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, which is surely my favourite dive site. After about 1000 dives in the area, I've seen everything from tiny ghost pipefish, frogfish and the rare seamoth up to manta rays and a few whalesharks too.

Frogfish

Similian Islands Beach

The Similan Island chain is about 40 miles west of Khao Lak, or 60 miles NW of Phuket (depending where you measure from, as the islands stretch 14 miles north to south). There are are 9 islands, which do have real names such as Koh Miang, Koh Similan, but they are normally referred to by number. Islands 5 and 6 are little more than piles of rocks. Island 4 is the national park HQ and has 2 beaches at Princess Bay and Honeymoon Bay. You can walk between the two in less than 10 minutes. On Island 4 you can stay in tents or some basic bungalows, some of which have aircon. There's also a small restaurant, but no dive operation. All diving ops are based at Khao Lak or Phuket.

Granite Boulders, Similan Islands

The Similans are uninhabited except for the national park facilities. No hotels, no bars, no noise... but in high season one helluva lot of divers and day trippers. There is talk of limiting numbers, but I don't reckon it will happen. Maybe 10 years ago it was pretty much only liveaboards heading there, but these days there are lots of speedboats heading out from Khao Lak on day trips for snorkeling and that "remote island paradise" experience. I must say, aside from the beach at Island 8 in what is called Donald Duck Bay (where you can climb up the rocks for a great view), I have never had a problem with crowds. The day trippers generally all go to the same places for snorkeling, which does not affect the dive boats. You do sometimes get a few dive boats on the same spot (or more than a few at Koh Bon or Richelieu Rock), but I've never found this to be a worry.

Sunset at the Similan islands

For me, the Similan Islands are a special place. My reason for staying here - at least initially - was the diving. After my first season diving the Similans, I was back in Phuket. I met a girl who was working in the office for the same dive company. The rest is history.

Similan Links... You can book diving with Sunrise Divers.

Similan Islands Information, Photos, Dive Site Guide
Similan Islands Liveaboards
More about Liveaboards on this blog


 The Similan Islands  |  Jamie's Phuket Blog


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  Comments

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Anonymous Jenny :

Did you actually take those underwater pics? Cool...

September 19, 2008  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hiya,

The topside photos are mine. The turtle and frogfish were taken by Wayne Bell who has been a divemaster round here for some years and was my DM student in about 2002 I think. The fishy photo was taken by a customer of Sunrise Divers.

The underwater world of the Similans is certainly cool!

September 19, 2008  

Blogger Nomadic Matt :

I hear the similians are amazing and still one of the few places in thailand that are not touristy. Is that true?

September 19, 2008  

Anonymous Jamie's Phuket :

Well Matt, there are many places in Thailand that are not touristy - the Similan Islands gets hundreds of visitors per day during high season, though not many can stay on the islands as there is only national park accommodation. If by not touristy you mean no hotels, bars, tailors, or Starbucks - then yes, indeed the Similans are not touristy!

September 19, 2008  

Blogger Matt Flanzer :

Coming to Phuket in two weeks and hope to do some diving. What's the weather been like? Is a day trip out to the Similan's possible then?

September 19, 2008  

Blogger iVegasFamily :

Looks amazing. I shall add the islands to my "places to visit before I die" list.

September 20, 2008  

Blogger Globe Maps :

Hi there I'm going to Thailand for 5 weeks next December. I would like to go to Similan Islands I checked some excursion, I find two kinds, one day and two days with onw night. What do you advice me to do?I've time to stay one night in Similan. Thanks in advance.
Cheers from Portugal.

September 20, 2008  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Similan Islands are open (officially) from November 1st, but there are some liveaboard dive trips starting as early as October 14th.

If you have time, an overnight trip is much much better than a day trip, a far more rewarding experience, a lot more dives, not so much rush.

Happy Diving!

September 20, 2008  

Anonymous Jaimie :

Hi Jamie! Chanced upon your blog while searching for infos on phuket. My name's also Jaimie but with an "i". Me and my husband are planning on going to Phuket sometime mid-Nov. I am very interested in getting the PADI certification for diving. I see that you offer courses on diving over at Karon beach and we certainly would like to register ourselves for it. However, we are beach types and going thru your site, Cape Panwa hotel seems to fit our requirements. Quiet, private, clean and swimable beach. Since you are located in Karon, is it far from The Cape Panwa? Or do you have any alternative recommendations? Thanks and Cheers

October 15, 2008  

Anonymous Jamie's Phuket :

Hi Jaimie,

Quite a ways from Panwa to Karon, would need to pay more for transfers on all days - but lovely area - if you have a diving question - please email info@sunrise-divers.com !

Thank you!
Jamie

October 15, 2008  

Blogger Nuno :

Hi there, i am planning to stay 1 night in the similans National park on 12 December, but i arrive Phuket from phi phi the same day around 10:30 is it easy to get transport? we are a couple, i can´t find anything online, help needed.
Thanks
Nuno
Portugal

November 14, 2008  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

I don't think you'll be able to make it to the Similans if coming from Phi Phi. No transport from Phuket, you will need to get a bus to Thap Lamu (just south of Khao Lak), so I guess you might get there by 1 or 2pm. Then you will have to ask around and see if anyone is willing to go. Probably you would have to charter a speedboat which would cost an arm and a leg.

November 14, 2008  

Blogger junyDada :

they are offering a nice package from phuket to similan return one night stay, so that's why i was asking. 5400 thb per person, inclusing 3 meals and transport from phuket and national park tickets.

December 08, 2008  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

I have not seen that website before. You might want to book something when you are here, better.

December 08, 2008  

Anonymous Marika :

Hey Jamie !

Looks like you know the Similans pretty well !
I'm working in Lao PDR and I may go there from May 9th to May 12th or 17th. Is one week ther too long ? (I want to dive only one day)
What is the cheappest way to go there (from BKK) ? Is there a bus or a train ?
Any good place to stay there (and max 20$/pers/night) ?
Which other nearby island would you recommend (and for what kind of activity) ?
Hope you can help me...
Nice blog by the way !
Cheers

April 29, 2009  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Jamie,

I 'll go to Thailand and July, and I really want to get Similan, but i heard that no public boat to take me to Similan in July, so is there any way to get Similan? Pls advice, many thanks, and how about accommodation? i intend to spend 4 days in Similan, Thanks in advance

October 25, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

The Similan Islands National Park is officially closed from May - October, there are no facilities there in the low season and no transfers available. Sorry!

October 25, 2010  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hello, how is the weather in Similans now? As there are flooding and Tsunami incidents lately everywhere. Isit safe to go diving there?

November 04, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Yes, 100% safe. What is a "tsunami incident"? There was a tsunami on December 26th 2004. No others, ever, in recorded history. Phuket has had no flooding - check my Phuket Weather Blog for weather info. We have customers out at the Similan islands now, and had lots last week - season just getting started now. If you want to dive, contact me at Sunrise Divers

:)

Jamie

November 04, 2010  

Anonymous Anonymous :

Hi Jamie

Will need your help and advice.

My family and I will be staying at Mai Khao in Dec and I am wondering if the Similan Islands are the closet islands to visit.

We actually form quite a big group, 14 adults and 6 young children (3.5 years old) and we intend to charter a speedboat out to one of the islands.

1. Which island would you recommend?

Looking at one that is good for snorkelling and have many fishes so that the children can have the fishes swimming with them on the beach.

2. Also, are there any speedboat rental companies departing near Mai Khao?

Hopefully, we can save some time and transport costs without having to go elsewhere to take the boat.

November 26, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Hi there,

Similan Islands certainly the nicest place to go for a day of snorkeling and lovely beaches.
Most speedboats depart from Thap Lamu pier near Khao Lak, around 40km north of Mai Khao, but of course pick up in a minibus can be arranged. I suggest you contact my friends at Easy Day Thailand for a speedboat charter and any other trips you might want to do while you're here (like Phang Nga Bay or Phi Phi Islands). Have a great trip!

Jamie

November 26, 2010  

Anonymous Ry :

Hi Jamie,

Have you been to the National Park's seaview bungalows on Koh Miang? Could I find out how they are like and whether it's clean/safe? I'm going with a friend who's kind of a clean freak and all that..

And would you happen to know which room may have a good view of sunset?

December 03, 2010  

Blogger Jamie Monk in Phuket :

Never stayed in a bungalow.. planning a family trip next year in April. This is NOT a hotel, its a simple bungalow run by the national park, but I reckon they are clean enough... worth 2000 Baht per night - not sure!

December 03, 2010  

Anonymous Mr. Similan :

We went to similan island a few month. It was the best Beach we ever saw.
unfortunately we got no good underwater cam like yours.
Which one did you used for that ?

We uploaded our trip images from the similan island on Similan Blog.

It´s a privat blog like yours, without any adds or commercial thinking :)

August 12, 2012