About Mu Ko Similan
Established as a national park in 1982, Similan Islands are an archipelago of 11 islands in Phang Nga Province 70km off the coast at Andaman Sea, covering an area of 70sqkm. With a rich marine life consisting of magical hard/soft coral reefs, crystal clear waters and white beaches it is concidered to be one of the best diving sites in the world.
While "mu ko" means "group of islands" in Thai, "Similan" is a Yawi (a Malayan dialect) word, means nine. The park had originally nine islands numbered 1 to 9. Although each island has a name they can be referred with numbers. The park expanded to include two more remote islands back in 1998. The islands are (1) Ko Huyong, (2) Ko Payang, (3) Ko Payan, (4) Ko Miang, (5) Ko Ha, (6) Ko Hok, (7) Ko Hin Pousar, (8) Ko Similan, (9) Ko Bangu, Ko Tachai and Ko Bon.
There seems to be a big confusion on various web sites about name and location of islands 6, 7 and Elephant Head Rock. Even the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) seems to have it wrong. The confusion is due to change of laws in the past to define islands in Thailand. Elephant Head Rock is no longer concidered as an island. Names and numbers we have listed above as well as as the locations we have marked on the map are the correct ones.
Possibly caused by global warming, 90% of the coral life in Surin and Similan islands died out followed by temperature changes back in 1998 and 2010. The 2010 event called Reverse Indian Ocean Dipole caused a natural "coral bleaching" killed almost most of the marine life. The coral reefs are slowly recovering but it may take decades for full recovery. Both national parks also surrefered from 2004 Tsunami.
Apart from the rich coral life, the islands are also home to number of bird species. Nicobar Pigeons are very common and will be seen everywhere. Bird species like white-bellied sea eagle, Asian koel, black kite are seen regularly. See checklist of bird species on our wildlife section for Similan Islands.
The park headquarters is based on Ko Miang (#4). There are some bungalows and tents available for rent from HQ only, but since the accommodation options are limited and hard to obtain, the visitors are advised to stay in Khao Lok on mainland and do daytrips. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses nearby the pier to choose from. There are restaurants on Ko Miang and Ko Similan only, meals are a bit more expensive as the ingredients are brought in from the mainland for tourism only.
The ideal time to visit Similans is December to April when it is the dryer season with clear waters making it best time for scuba diving and snorkelling. The national park is open from 16th October until 15th May (Confirmed with park officials September 2016).
The entrance fee to the park is 500 THB for foreigners (children 300 THB) and 100 THB for local tourists (children 50 THB). Boat trips to the islands can be arranged at any hotel or agency at the mainland, no advance bookings needed as the earliest boats leave the pier at Khao Lok around 8:30am. Tickets can also be arranged prior to departures.
As of June 2018, it is not possible with overnight stay at Similan Islands. It is not possible to book bungalows or stay at the camping sites.
Attractions of Mu Ko Similan
Approximately 60km north from Phuket and 74 km from Phuket International Airport, Khao Lak is a series of villages along the mainland coastline. The area is not part of the national park but is a popular departure point for liveaboard and other boat services. Since the overnight options on Similan Islands are limited and hard to obtain, most visitors stays in resorts in this area and do daytrips to the islands.
The Khao Lak Pier is the nearest pier the boats operates to the islands from. The pier is 65 km from the main islands, 55 km from Ko Bon and 72km from Ko Tachai. Most resorts does help to arrange boat trips, there are also some agencies in the main villages.
Mu Ko Similan National Park Office where the accommodation bookings can be arranged from is also located in this area near the pier.
Island #1, the most southern island with a water depth of 10-15 meters around. It has the longest white beach in the national park which is also a nesting place for sea turtles. Apart from swimming, it is ideal for scuba diving.
Ideal for both snorkeling and scuba diving. The coral life here is very rich, max depth 39m with 20-40m visibility and low/medium current. This site was closed due to coral bleaching events back in 2010.
Island #2, with rocky hills and rock formations around the island. Ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving.
Island #3, with rocky hills and rock formations around the island. Ideal for scuba diving.
Located at the southest cost of Ko Payan, the reef consists of mainly submerged massive granite boulders covered by gorgonian seafans and various hard corals, ideal to spot passing sharks and large rays. The avarage depth is 18m, max depth is 40m with low current and clear visibility of 10-30m.
Stringrays, humphead wrasse, clown triggerfish, schools of bait fish, halfmoon triggerfish, pallette surgeonfish, blueface angelfish, bannerfish are some of species found in the reef. Some of shark speciees seen are whitetip shark, blacktip shark and leopard shark.
The reef has also a large swim-through worth exploring.
Located 400m further southeast from Sharkfin Reef, concists of three submerged granite pinnacles surrounded by smaller boulders. The sea surface is flat and sandy with scattered boulders covered with coral in few places, algae growth is common. Depth is 12-30m with exceptional visibility, current can be moderate or strong which makes diving more suitable for experienced divers.
Dogtooth tuna, great barracuda, Indian mackerel, lionfish, scorpionfish and moray eels are common in the reef. Leopard sharks and whitetip reef sharks are seen in deeper areas, bigger species like larger rays and whale sharks may be seen passing by.
Ko Miang, HQ
Island #4, the second largest island in the national park where the headquarters is located. It is home to two beautiful white beaches in 20 mins walking distance from each other.
The island offers many activities like scuba diving, snorkelling, swimming, trekking and wildlife study.
Bird Rock (Chinese Wall)
Located on the south edge of Ko Miang, it concists of large granite boulder formations creating a wall streching south and a bay on east side. The formations has many canyons, swim throughs, tunnels and caves under the water. This site has some soft and hard corals on the west side.
Depth is 5-30m with 15-40m visibility, current is often mild but may occasionally be strong, suitable for experiences divers. The coral gardens on west side has the depth of 10-15m with around 20m visibility. The site is good for snorkelling as well but snorkellers are advised to stay in the bay close to the island due to risk for strong current.
Moray eel, parrotfish, trevally, sweetlip, fusilier, humpnose unicorn, clown triggerfish are some species seen in this site. While whitetip reef shark juveniles are quite common, leopard shark may occasionally be seen.
Bird Rock is one of less visited sites in Similan Islands, it is a good location for divers who want to enjoy diving in peace.
Ko Ha & Ko Hok
Smaller island #5 and #6 on the east side of Ko Miang, possibly the best snorkeling and diving location in the park. It consists of hard and soft coral with a very rich sea life.
Also known as Barracuda's Point or Hin Muan, the reef is situated on the east side of Ko Ha and Ko Hok. The reef consists of a mixture of scattered boulders, large sandy seabeds and staghorn corals. It is one of most popular dive sites for both beginners and experienced, suitable for night dive as well. The avarage depth of the site is 12-40m with 10-30m visibility, currents are very mild and doesn't happen often.
Island #7, a mid size island located on north of Ko Miang.
East of Eden
Home to the biggest coral head called "The Orchid Garden" and no doubt one of best diving sites in Thailand. It was closed due to significant damage it took by coral bleaching caused by 2010 Reverse Indian Ocean Dipole but re-opened after some recovery back in 2013 diving season.
Starting at shallows of 6m, the reefs steply reaches the depths of 35 with an avarage depth of 20, visibility of 10-30m and medicum current. The site is ideal for snorkellers and all level of scuba divers, for night diving too. The Orchid Garden starts at 25m and rises to 12m, covered with soft corals like staghorn, table, pore corals, orange/red gogonian sea fans, anemones and colourfull feather star worms.
Hawksbill/green sea turtles, ribbon eel, blue ring angelfish, blueface angelfish, half-moon triggerfish, clown triggerfish, false pipefish, giant moray, yellow longnose butterflyfish, royal angelfish, potato cod, ornate ghost pipefish are few of many species found in the reef. The deeper end of the reef is sandy sea bed, home to bluespotted stingray, garden eels, blacktip and leopard sharks. Larger sharks may be seen passing by.
West of Eden
Located on the west side of Ko Bayu, it consists of large boulders covered with gorgonian sea fans, anemones, feather stars and hard/soft corals, some canyons and sandy seabed. Shallow waters are ideal for less experienced divers.
The depth is 12-35m+ with 20-25m visibility and medium current.
Green/hawksbill sea turtles, red tooth triggerfish, red fire gobies and black and white-tip reef sharks at lower depths are common.
A V-shaped ridge that starts 5m below sea surface as extension of the island, located at the north tip of Ko Bayu. As the name suggest it is a deeper site, suitable both for intermediate and experienced divers.
The site consists of a pinnacle that breaks the surface, stunning cluster of submeged boulders, canyons, tunnels, swim-throughs between large granite boulders that gradually steps down deeper. The ridge was badly damaged by 2004 Tsunami and traces of the damage are still seen. Consequently there is little healthy coral left but it is recovering, the deeper bits are less effected. Giant barrel sponges, big sea fans, feather stars are common, corals include small table, greem tree, wire, wart finger and leather corals.
Depth is 5-40+ m with 20m of avarage depth, 10-30m visibility and moderate/strong current.
Frogfish, streaked spinefoot, lionfish, scorpionfish, blue-spotted stingray, dogtooth tuna, giant trevally, moral eel, lobster, shrimp, hawksbill turtles, nudibranches are some of many exciting species to be found. Occasionally manta rays, white tip reef sharks seen in deeper end at 30+ m.
Island #8, the largest island located north with an average depth of 25m around. It has a small bay on western side. The island is ideal for hiking, scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming. There is also a rock formation with good view over the sea, a smaller viewpoint.
Located a bit offshore on the west coast of Ko Similan, it is concidered to be one of the best diving site of the archipelago. The reef has wonderful underwater granite boulder formations spread over a huge area with a great variaty of marine life.
This reef is currently closed to all liveaboard and diving activities due to a marine regeneration programme.
Elephant Head Rock
Locally known as Hin Pousar, Elephant Head Rock is an unusually shaped rock situated southwest side of Koh Similan ideal for diving only. The dive site is a bit more challenging compared to other sites in the islands due to surge and current that may happen.
The dive site offers swim-throughs, underwater tunnels and hide-outs for fishes. Species found in these waters are bicolour parrotfish, large snappers, lionfish, Olive ridley sea turtle, hawkbill turtle, spider crabs, blue-ringed angelfish, leopard shark and McCosker's flasher.
The southern side of the deep waters consists of submerged pinnacles where reef sharks may be seen.
Named after the beacon at the southernmost of the Similan Island, it is a more challenging dive site. Depth is 10-37m with an avarage depth of 20m, 10-30m visibility and strong current.
The southern most part of the site is normally the starting point which consists of large granite boulder formations covered with hard corals, gorgonian sea funs, sandy seabed and swim-throughs. The dive route continues eastwards and ends at the Beacon Reef. Nearly 2m wide gorgonian seafans seen here are the largest ones in the national park.
The species seen here are similar to ones in Beacon Reef, but Beacon Point gives better opportunities to spot sharks and rays due to depth. Some of sharks seen here are; whitetip reef shark, leopard shark, zebra shark and occasional blacktip reef shark.
Island #9, the most northern of original 9 islands. It is ideal for scuba diving at the northern side with depth of 10-35 meters.
Breakfast Bend is located on the east end of Ko Ba-Ngu which is the northernmost of original nine islands. Being one of best dive sites in the national park, the name refers to early morning diving in beautiful morning sun. Diving is ideal for experienced divers as well as for beginners and snorkellers.
The reef consists of scattered boulders on a sandy seabed and rocky slops with large boulders in deeper points, very rich in coral life. With staghorn corals being the dominant species cabbage corals, brain corals, table corals and plate corals are few of many corals that covers the sea bed. The maximum depth is around 35-40m with an average depth of 18m, 10-30m visibility and low/medium current.
While yellowtail barracudas, ghost pipefishes, spotted garden eels, angelfishes, milkfishes and green/hawksbill turtles are quite common in the reef it is less common with larger pelagic shark and rays. The biggest common species seen in the reef are whitetip reef sharks, leopard shark, zebra shark anb blue-spotted stringrays, these can be seen resting on sandy seabeds.
Situated on the northwest ridge of Ko Ba-Ngu, it is a cluster of submerged boulders and a pinnacles with exciting underwater tunnels formed by large rock formations. It's soft and hard corals combained with rock formations are scenic, considered to be one of the best diving spots in national park. Diving depths range from 10-40 meters with 20-30 meters visibility range, some days even better.
Some exciting species found in these waters are white-tip reef sharks, napoleon wrasse, ribbon eels, trevallies, turtles, great barracudas.
Christmas Point took less damage caused by coral bleaching event back in 2010.
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