Last weekend I travelled north to Khao Lak with Fantasia Asia team for a three day-two night stay with a day trip to Koh Similan and Koh Surin islands archipelagos.
The Similan Islands are located in the Andaman Sea on the West Coast of Southern Thailand, in Phang-nga province. The Similan archipelago consists of eleven islands, all located in the Mu Koh Similan National Park, which covers over 140 square kilometres. The Islands are the perfect travel destination for those who like diving and exploring remote and desolated places full of wildlife. The largest island is Koh Similan and is probably the best place to start your adventure. All the Similan Islands are surrounded by crystal clear shallow waters that harbour exciting rock formations and spectacular coral reefs. The marine life around the islands is unmatched in Thailand and in the whole region.
Why would I want to visit Similan islands when I live in beautiful Krabi where islands abound, you may ask. Well, I’m taking advantage of the unusually quiet high season to travel a bit further than usual and to try out excursions that I wouldn’t normally have the time to take. Was also after a change of scenery and some really stunning snorkelling experiences, which is what the Similan are famous about.
Once in Khao Lak, we checked in at conveniently located The Briza Beach Resort. The next morning we woke up relatively early, had a large breakfast at the hotel and drove to the pier, where we had a second breakfast served at the Sea Star dock. We then registered for our tour and were given mask, fins, snorkel, a towel and a practical carrier bag. You are free to bring your own snorkelling equipment and only take what you miss. Sea-sickness pills and relaxing balms are also available free of charge.
My trip to Similan coincided with the Chinese New Year, which has recently been promoted to public holiday in Thailand in order to boost local tourism, hence we were a group of three 4-engine speed-boats traveling together from Khao Lak to the Similan, and each boat carried between 30 and 50 persons. We reached Similan in a 1-hour-and-a-half pleasant trip in very calm waters, and I was immediately surprised and quite pleased to observe that we were the only three boats: none had come from Phuket, or if it had, it had followed a different itinerary that day.
Our first stop was in the turquoise-tinted bay of Koh Miang, also known as Island Number 4, where the boats observed a quick stop to drop off people who weren’t interested in snorkelling. The first time someone visits Koh Miang, he is up for a big surprise: the island is just stunning, a perfect representation of what we visualise when we think of a tropical paradise. Its white sandy beach is wide and its sand soft, it’s fringed by palm trees that face a transparent turquoise-meets-lapis lazuli-meets crystal clear sea. We dropped some passengers in Koh Miang, well aware that we would be back there to enjoy lunch and to get our chance to live the tropical dream on Miang Beach.
The first snorkelling stop – which lasted 45 minutes – was in calm waters on a secluded bay not far from Miang Beach. Visibility was about 15 meters, and the bottom was mostly sandy or covered by the reef. The guides who accompanied us took extremely good care of those who weren’t confident in the water, keeping them close, helping them floating by holding a large piece of styrofoam tablet and dragging them around so that they could sneak-peak at the underwater world. I spent the time snorkelling by myself, trying out my new underwater camera and looking out for turtles, who unfortunately didn’t show up that day.
Back to Koh Miang, we were served a delicious, spicy lunch at the National Park premises. The lunch had been cooked in Khao Lak and carried to Similan by Sea Star, and vegetarian or special meals were available. I had some rice, fried chicken and vegetarian curry, while others had prawns and fish with rice and curry. Soft drinks are included, and plenty. I ate my food real fast and went down to the beach, which is only a few steps away from the restaurant area. Wow! I’ve seen my share of impressive islands in several parts of the world, but the colour of the ocean in Miang Beach that day was one I will not forget.
After a couple of hours in Koh Miang we left to visit another snorkelling site, which was satisfactory and offered flat waters and great visibility. Though diver inside me has been spoilt by many most impressive diving sites before, I managed to have a good time swimming above the reef and checking out fish and corals. Huge parrot and surgeon fish swim around copiously in Similan, alongside several clown fish in their anemones, puffer fish and blue star fish.
It was then time to head to the last stop of the day, Island Number 8, also known as Similan Island. The first glimpse of a white long stretch of sandy beach surrounded by huge and funny-shaped rocks made most of the passengers in our boat cry out in delight. We were approaching Donal Duck Bay, the most famous beach in Similan, so called because of a large rock located on the western part of the bay shaped like the head of Donald Duck. But the most famous landmark of Similan island is Sail Rock, a unique round boulder that balances precariously on top of other rocks and that looks like a sail. From there it’s an easy yet sweaty 10-minute hike up to the viewpoint. From there, stunning photos of the white sandy beach and of the turquoise waters below are guaranteed. So off I went, eager to get that stunning view on camera without the hundreds – maybe thousands – of people that in normal circumstances crowd this island. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed: the panorama was so beautiful I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I ended up losing myself in a daydream about mooring my own sailing boat there for the night, or for a year…
Instead, it was time to go back to Khao Lak where, after another smooth boat trip, we arrived before sunset and were offered a sumptuous dinner at the Sea Star pier: Thai popular dishes like papaya salad, yellow noodles, sticky rice and fried chicken, BBQ chicken skewers and a delicious home-made coconut ice cream everyone had a second serving of. Back to The Briza Beach Resort, I enjoyed a poolside Margarita, watching the sun set over the Similan Islands and the Andaman Sea.
I recommend this trips to all sea-lovers: even if you’re not keen on snorkelling, you will have a good chance to spot some corals and beautiful fishes (and, with a bit of luck, turtles) since most snorkelling areas have shallow waters, giving you plenty of opportunity to be amazed at some of the healthiest and most colourful reefs in Thailand.
Good to know:
- The Similan archipelago consists of eleven islands that make up the Mu Ko Similan National Park, the perfect destination for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, beach lovers and explorers.
- Similan means ‘Nine’ in the Yawi native tongue of the area. In 2014 the National Park came to include two more islands (Koh Bon and Koh Tachai).
- Between the middle of May and the end of October the Similan National Park closes to visitors. Additionally, some islands are closed to tourists all year around to protect the fragile sea turtles who are nesting on some of the beaches. Illegal fishing is still a problem, especially in low season.
- It was possible to camp in Island Number 4 until a few years ago, but it’s not allowed anymore, at least for the time being. Therefore, to visit Similan you now need to take a day tour from Phuket or from Khao Lak, or book a multi-day cruise on a Liveaboard.
– feed the fish, even if they follow you and beg for food
– touch or step on any coral or sea life.
– bring home sand, sea shells or any sea life.
– put tons of sunscreen before snorkelling, it’s toxic for the marine life. Wear a long sleeved t-shirt instead.
In Khao Lak Fantasia Asia and Asian Itinerary stayed at The Briza Beach Resort, one of Fantasia Asia’s partner hotels. The Briza Beach Resort has spacious, bright rooms settled around a large swimming pool, with partial or full sea view depending on the category chosen.
This beach resort has a laid-back atmosphere, and Khao Lak’s many restaurants, shops and bars are only a few minute drive away, as it’s the pier from which most sea-tour companies depart for Similan.
We chose operator Sea Star because it’s one of the most popular boat operators in the area, and one of the few that is still open despite the Covid pandemic that badly hit Thailand’s tourism industry.
WATCH FANTASIA ASIA VIDEO OF THE TRIP HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpmzPq63fy0