These nine islands, situated 65 kilometres off the coast and north of Phuket, are currently Thailand’s premier scuba destination and are rated one of the top ten dive destinations in the world, primarily due to the frequency of whale shark sightings there. Only one of them, Koh Miang, offers accommodation, which is somewhat spartan, so almost all divers visiting the islands arrive by liveaboard boat from Phuket or Khao Lak.
The Similans offer two distinct types of diving. East side diving consists of brilliantly-hued and gently-sloping coral reefs, whilst west side diving is known for its huge underwater granite boulders and the numerous swimthroughs they provide. Maybe the most famous east side dive site is East of Eden, known for its brilliantly-hued coral formations. Elephant Head Rock is arguably the most famous west side dive site with a maze of swimthroughs and potentially hazardous currents running in unpredictable and rapidly changing directions.
The largest of the nine islands is island number 8, where you will also find the often-photographed signature landmark of the Similan Islands: an easy-to-climb pile of huge granite boulders which offer an excellent panoramic view of the picturesque bays of islands 8 and 9. The impressive boulder formations also continue below the water line, resembling in places the underwater architecture of a sunken city.
Fishing is banned in the Similan and Surin National Parks, but fishing boats can constantly be seen in them during the low season, despite the presence of park rangers, who seem to be little interested in anything beyond collecting the national park fees, which have to be paid in cash.
www.liveaboardthailand.com has all the information you need on all 45 of the liveaboard boats operating to the Similan Islands.
Click here for a feature article on a Similan Islands diving trip.
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