The Similan Islands - one of the most interesting diving areas in the world

The Similan Islands is one of the best-known island groups in the Andaman Sea. They're around 84 km northwest of Phuket. This little archipelago is one of the most interesting diving areas in the world, as well as a favourite destination for yachties and boat tours. 

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The islands are home to crab-eating monkeys, dusky langurs, squirrels, bats, lizards and a good variety of birds (though the monkeys are shy and rarely seen by the casual observer).

The most striking feature of these islands, at first glance, are the huge boulders that litter the western and southern shores on several of the islands. Another highlight is the white coral-sand beaches, splendidly picturesque and often deserted.

Think of that when you scale the trail to Sailing Boat Rock, on Island No. 8. As you squeeze through the crevices and archways, imagine them covered with colourful corals, sponges and algae. Where today you find birds and butterflies and squirrels, at one time there were dense schools, bright streams of fish instead that commuted this way and that, with large fish and marine dinosaurs cruising through on the hunt.

Piles of curious stones, some of them as big as houses, lie as though collected and later abandoned in careless heaps by some ancient race of beachcombing giants. Even Sailing Boat Rock, the distinctive formation teetering high above the cove on Koh Similan (Island No.8), has been shaped in this way.

Beneath the waves, all sorts of marine creatures have helped establish the reefs and sandy beaches. When you climb up to Sailing Boat Rock, consider the brilliant white sand below.

The fringing waters around the islands average from between 30–45 metres, dropping down to 70–80 metres between islands, and you'll find coral gardens in as little as 6 to 7 metres down.

It's best known as a diving and snorkelling destination, but the Similans' scenic moorings have also become popular with the sailing fraternity. Every year, many yachts come to cruise the Similans during the northeast monsoon (November–May, with December–February being the peak of the high season). Many are drawn by the lovely anchorages, the beaches and forests, the clear waters, and teeming marine life.

Koh Similan National Park often acts as a stopover on the way to more distant undersea frontiers and sailing destinations – areas such as the Andaman Islands, the Invisible Bank, and the Burma Banks.

There is no regular boat service for visitors to the island. During the low season (May–October), boats may stop running altogether due to unfavourable weather conditions. Thap Lamu Pier, in the Thai Muang district of Phang Nga province, is the nearest launching point to the Similans, with boat trips taking about 3 hours.

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