Similan Islands Diving

manta ray whale shark nudibranch tropical sunset turtle

Similan Islands Diving & Snorkeling

Similan Islands diving is one of the highlights of Southern Thailand. The Similan Islands are a chain of 8 islands lying 50km due west of Khao Lak, 100km south of the Surin Islands and around 75 km north of Phuket. The islands offer picture postcard beaches and stunning underwater scenery, they've long been popular with divers due to their amazing variety of marine life.

Similan Islands Daytrips

banded seasnake

The Similans are easy to get to with snorkeling daytrips, typically a minibus picks you up from your hotel to take you to Thap Lamu pier. Here you pickup either a speedboat or a larger ferry type boat, speedboats are of course quicker taking 60-80 minutes compared with 3 hours for larger vessels however speedboats can offer an uncomfortable ride.

Once you get to the Similan Islands there's usually a snorkelling stop before heading to island no. 4 for lunch (the islands are numbered 1 to 8). Following lunch and some relaxation time on one of the most beautiful beaches you're ever likely to experience you board you boat for further exploration and more snorkelling stops before heading back to Thep Lamu.

Where to book: you can hardly walk 20m along a road in Phuket or Khao Lak without passing a tour shop, alternatively most hotels also sell Similan daytrips. It's best to book with reputable companies rather than trying to save a little money.

Similan Islands Accommodation

Daytrips can be somewhat rushed, it's not often you get the opportunity to visit somewhere as beautiful as the Similan Islands so you might as well make the most of it. Island no. 4 has a few bungalows and camping is also offered on islands 4 and 8, the tents are permanent with sunbed type beds and the shower/toilet blocks are more than adequate, there are also restaurants on both islands. Stay one or two nights to get the most out of your trip. During the day you can join the boats for snorkelling or you can choose to spend the day on the beach where you can also snorkel. Island 8 has a path across to another beach where you might see reef sharks if you're lucky (they're harmless, at least to humans).

Where to book: tour shops and hotels (see above)

Similan Islands Diving Daytrips

leopard shark

Diving daytrips in the Similans usually encompass 3 dives, the sites are usually quite shallow (up to 20m) so dives are reasonably long. Lunch is on the boat. Expect to see hard and soft coral gardens, overhangs and swimthroughs, excellent visibility is accompanied by a colourful array of reef fish as well as giant moray eels, reef sharks, leopard sharks and turtles. Dive sites are numerous so although diving daytrips are popular, sites shouldn't be too crowded.

Where to book: Dive shops are almost as numerous as tour shops in parts of Phuket and Khao Lak. Visit internet forums to read other's experiences to ensure you book with a reputable operator.

Similan Islands Liveaboards

A liveaboard cruise in the Similans is the ultimate way to experience all the Similans have to offer, you get to visit the more out of the way sites and also dive when the daytrippers aren't around. Liveaboard cruises aren't only for experienced divers, many boats offer PADI training so you can leave the boat as a qualified diver. Similan liveaboard dive cruises usually include a trip to Richelieu Rock, a world famous site where you're virtually guaranteed to see whale sharks and manta rays. Trips usually run for 4-6 days but you can join some liveaboards for just one night.

Where to book: it's best to book liveaboards in advance so you can match the sites you want to visit with a specific boat's itinerary, you can also research the facilities available on board. Many of the ads on this page offer liveaboard cruises. Try to research the boats you shortlist in internet forums to ensure you choose a reputable operator.

When to Visit the Similans

Note that the islands are only open to visitors from November 16th to May 15th each year and some islands and dive sites are off limits due to conservation efforts. The southwest monsoon make the Similans an unappealing prospect during the period they're closed so don't think you're missing out.