What to do in the Similans?
The Similan Islands form a fabulous archipelago in the Andaman Sea, just 120 km northwest of Phuket island. These small islands are so stunning; you don’t even need to be an excellent photographer to come back with amazing photos.
Most people go there on a day trip tour, but the best way to enjoy the Similan islands is to stay for two days. It’s a little far from Phuket and can be tiring to get there on a speedboat. This way, you’ll have some fabulous beaches for yourself in the morning and the evening, and having the beaches for yourself is priceless.
How to Get to the Similans?
To get there, you should consider booking a tour that takes you around for some snorkelling first, then drop you on the main island where a restaurant and basic accommodation are available. If you can afford it, try not to book the cheapest speedboat unless you are on a strict budget. You don’t want to travel like a bunch of sardines in a tin can. Of course, if you are a diver, you’ll have dozens of dive centres offering this destination as a day trip from Khaolak or, even better: as a liveaboard cruise.
The Similans are open from October 15 to May 15. Time varies each year so always check before planning a day out there.
Similan comes from a Malay dialect word meaning nine. The park had originally nine islands numbered 1 to 9 but expanded to include two islands located a little further away in 1998: Ko Tachai and Ko Bon. Each island has a name and a number, covering 140 km2.
Island 1: Ko Hu Yong
Island 2: Ko Payang
Island 3: Ko Payan
Island 4: Ko Miang
Island 5: Ko Ha
Island 6: Ko Payu
Island 7: Ko Hin Pousar
Island 8: Ko Similan
Island 9: Ko Bangu
Island 10: Ko Bon, also known as Ko Talu
Island 11: Ko Tachai
(The two main islands are Ko Miang and Ko Similan)
What to Do?
The main part of the archipelago consists of 9 islands, but you will only have time to visit 2 or 3. The first is very well known for its iconic landmark made of giant boulders perched at the top of a hill overlooking the incredibly clear water of the bay below. You’ll arrive in the morning and will have just a bit of time to explore it and even climb on top of it, maybe one hour, but do it if you can; the view up there is worth it!
Climbing to the boulders isn’t too hard since there are steps and ladders to reach the top. Standing on this rock will give you a beautiful bird view of the entire bay. The shadow of the boats floating above white sand will give you an idea of how clear the water is.
Your speedboat will probably make a second stop near another island where you can enjoy some great snorkelling. Water is always warm, and visibility is incredibly clear. It feels like flying above coral formations surrounded by thousands of colourful fishes. It would be best if you also got a chance to see sea turtles swimming around the boat.
3 Facts to remember not to get in trouble
- Do not feed the fish, even if they swarm around you and beg for some.
- Do not pick up any coral or sea life.
- Do not walk on the coral; swim!
Staying over in the Similans
The last stop is ‘Island #4’, where you can spend the night in a small tent or an air-con bungalow. I don’t know about you, but we picked the cottage without hesitation. It’s not that expensive, but it is quite hard to get. Nothing fancy, but you get your own (cold) shower and bathroom, a balcony with a bit of sea view, and the luxury of cold air at the hottest time of the year (That’s March to April.)
You can rent a tent, but it can get quite hot in there. Please note that you have to book in advance for tents and bungalows. It would be unwise not to, but it is not easy to book through their website. The last time we went there, it was 570 baht for a tent and 2,000 for a cottage, plus tax.
A thatched-roof restaurant near the beach serves basic lunch, dinner, water, and soft drinks. That’s the only place to hang out at the end of the day. Not sure if beers are still on sale since they talked about banning alcohol in all national parks. So at this time, I don’t even know if you’ll be allowed to bring your own.
This island has two beaches connected by a narrow path meandering through the woods. The beach in front of the restaurant is large with incredibly white sand, well-shaded for a nice rest. The water is clear and incredibly blue here, so don’t forget your sunglasses and sunscreen. The ocean is warm, and fishes, once again, are everywhere. The beach on the other side of the island is rockier and less attractive, but it’s fun to explore since you have plenty of time. Go to every corner of the island!
One of the highlights of our stay was a nightly encounter with a giant snake, maybe 3 meters long. That monster was having a nap at the bottom of the stairs leading to our bungalow. It looked like a python, but we were not sure. So we had the choice between sleeping on the beach or practising our best high jump. We chose to jump, but then I couldn’t resist going back and getting some close-up photos. The lady working at the restaurant told us the next day that such an encounter was very unusual. Considering how small the island is, I wonder how rare.
How to Book A Room in the Similans
NOTE: Staying overnight is not always possible, it changes each year, and it isn’t easy to get that information.
Similan National Park Accommodation
Phone: (02) 562 0760 (02) 561 0777
When are the Similan Islands open?
The Similan Islands are open from October 15 to May 15. Time varies each year, so always check before planning a day out there.
Having a waterproof camera is worth it. Turtles are not shy, and you will effortlessly get a nice shot. The entire area is full of corals and tropical fish. It might not be bad to buy one of those waterproof floating bags; they are cheap.
On the not-so-fun side:
- Buy some motion sickness pills. Most companies will provide some, but better to be safe than sick, and it’s a long trip, so unless you are a sailor: take it; once you start to feel sick, it is not easy to stop it.
- Don’t sit at the front of the speedboat; it’s fun for 5 minutes while you are still in the calm waters, but it might become a real roller coaster ride, and your spine might never forget it. Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses AND a cap! The rear end of the boat is the most stable place, but you’ll be in the sun for more than two hours! If you like fantastic scenery but are worried about seasickness, consider a cruise to Phang Nga Bay instead.
Good to know about Similan Islands:
There is a National Park fee, but it is usually 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 cheaper.
More Photos of the Similan Islands
Where are the Similan Islands?
If you are on mobile, add the map here: https://goo.gl/maps/13tq3FhkBL6k3EF68.