Similan Islands Marine National Park
Similan Islands Marine National Park information
Known to divers the world over, the beautiful 70-sq-km Similan Islands Marine National Park lies 70km offshore from Phang-Nga province. Its smooth granite islands are as impressive above the bright-aqua water as below, topped with rainforest, edged with blindingly white beaches and fringed by coral reefs. Unfortunately, recent coral bleaching has killed off many of the hard corals, but soft corals are still intact, the fauna is there and it remains a lovely (and very popular) place to dive.
In 1998, the park was expanded from its original nine islands to include Ko Bon and Ko Tachai ; both have remained unscathed by coral bleaching making them some of the better diving and snorkelling areas. Two of the 11 islands, Ko Miang and Ko Similan have ranger stations and limited accommodation; the park visitors centre and most activity centres are on Ko Miang. ‘Similan’ comes from the Malay word sembilan, meaning ‘nine’, and, while each island is named, they’re more commonly known by their numbers.
Hat Khao Lak, where most dive schools are based, is the park's jumping-off point. The pier and the mainland national park headquarters are at Thap Lamu, 12km south. There's a visitors centre on Ko Miang.
Sadly, the onslaught of mass tourism means that many Similan beaches and dive/snorkel sites get completely packed with day trippers. It's very clear that nobody is monitoring these numbers, to the park's detriment. There can be huge queues to climb up viewpoints and some snorkelling outfits go so far as to feed the fish, which is a big ecological no-no. That would never happen if this were a national park! Oh, wait...