The Similan Islands are clear blue diamonds in the Andaman Sea, located 100 km from Phuket island… You don’t even need to be a good photographer to get some striking photos. Ideally, you should go for a two days trip to make the best of it… it’s far and can be tiring to reach by speedboat, plus you’ll have the best beach almost for yourself in the morning. Better pick one of these tours that will take you around for some snorkeling, then drop you on the main island where restaurant and accommodation are available. I wouldn’t go for the cheapest unless you are on strict budget, you don’t want to travel like a sardine in a can. Of course, if you are a diver, you’ll have dozens of dive centers offering this destination as a day trip from Khaolak or even from Phuket as a live-aboard cruise.
The Similans consist of nine islands, but you will have time to visit two or three only. The first one is very well known for it landmark: some giant boulders piled on a hill overlooking a beautiful white beach. You’ll arrive in the morning and will have just a bit of time to explore, maybe an hour… Climbing the boulders isn’t too hard since steps and ladders were added. This will give you a nice bird view of the bay. Seeing the shadow of the boats floating above white sand will give you an idea of how clear water can be. Anyway there is not much more to see than the rock and the beach.
You probably will get a second stop near another island where you can try some great snorkeling. Water is warm and clear… like flying above amazing coral formations and thousand of colorful fishes… if you start feeding them bread, you’ll be surrounded by a frantic cloud in a minute. If you want to have a good laugh feed them bananas, they love it. It is very common to see sea turtles swimming around the boat, I suppose they know how to get themselves a free lunch.
Last stop is island #4 where you can choose to spend the night in a tent or in an air con bungalow… I don’t know about you, but I picked the bungalow with no hesitation, it’s not that expensive. Nothing really fancy, but you get your own (cold) shower and bathroom, a balcony with possibly a sea view, and the luxury of cool air at the hottest time of the year, March to April. I just can’t imagine what kind of sauna a tent would be. Please note that you have to book in advance for both tents and bungalows, it would be unwise not to. Last time I went there it was 570 baht for a tent and 2,000 for a bungalow, plus tax of course.
A thatched roof restaurant serves basic lunch and dinner, water and soft drinks. Not sure if beer is still on sale since they were talking about banning alcohol in all national parks. So at this date, I don’t even know if you’ll be allowed to bring your own.
This last island has two beaches connected by a path through a light forest. The beach in front of the restaurant is large and incredibly white, well shaded for a nice rest, and water here too is clear and painfully blue. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen. Water is very warm and fishes once again are everywhere. The other beach is more rocky but since you have plenty of time it’s fun to explore, go to every corner of the island.
One of the Similan Island’s highlight of hour stay was a giant whatever snake, maybe 3 meter long, having a nap at the bottom of the stairs leading to the bungalows… Looked like a python. So we had the choice between sleeping on the beach or practicing our best high jump. We chose the jump, but then I couldn’t resist to go back and get some close up photo. The lady at the restaurant told us it was very unusual… well considering the size of the tiny island I wonder how unusual.
The Similan islands are usually from November 1st to May 15th. Time varies each year so always check before planning a day out there.
Having a waterproof camera such as the compact Olympus is worth it… Turtles are not shy and you will effortlessly get a nice shot. It might not be a bad idea to buy on of those waterproof floating bags, they are cheap.
There is a National park fee to pay, but it will be included in the speedboat fare. To book a tent or a bungalow, contact the National Parks at (+66) 25 62 0760 is the easiest way. You can contact your travel agent and get a pick up at your hotel or drive to Takua Pa and get a boat from there which is obviously cheaper.