This small, flat, lush and green group of islands to the south of Thailand near Phuket is home to one of the world’s top ten best diving areas, according to the National Geographic Society. The Similan Islands consist of ten islands numbered 1 to 10 (“Similan” is derived from a Malay word for “nine” but another island was later added to the group) and are situated to the south of Thailand, approximately 100km northwest of Phuket.
The dives to the west of the island are considered more challenging, with gorges reaching depths of over 40 metres, underwater boulders, swim-throughs and tidal currents. Those to the east are easier, with gently sloping hard and soft coral reefs where you will often see turtles in the shallows and enjoy a wonderful 20 -30 metres of visibility. There is an abundance of marine life to see here, and it’s not uncommon to see mantas, guitar rays, napoleon wrasse and whale and leopard sharks, not to mention the vast array of beautiful and varied smaller species living in this paradise.
Various trips are available here and not just for divers. The nearest mainland point is Thap Lamu Pier from where you can take a speed-boat that whisks you to one of the larger cruise boats serving the islands. There are also other extended cruises available, like one- to four-day cruises from Phuket. A 90-minute bus transfer takes you to the Thap Lamu Pier for shorter crossings.
Bear in mind that certain areas of the marine park may be temporarily closed as a result of the 2004 tsunami, although in general, it had little overall effect on the area.