Similan & Surin Islands
In 1998 the Similan Island National Park was extended further north to include the secluded island of Ko Tachai making it a total of 11 islands with an area covering about 140 square miles and 14 square miles of landmass.
The islands are commonly recognized as the top diving destination in Thailand. Due to the distance of about 65 km from the idylic coast of Khao Lak the most comfortable way to dive the Similan Island Marine Park is from a Liveaboard
Ko Bangu Island or island number 9, is known for excellent scuba diving at the northwestern tip. Huge submerged boulders form a bizarre underwater landscape and the nearby reefs are blessed with nutritious currents making it ideal to observe Mantas and Hawksbill Sea Turtles.
The most commonly visited island is Ko Similan or island number 8. Ko Similan Island is the largest island (5 square kilometers) and hosts the famous Donald Duck Bay with its impressive granite boulder formations. The rocks were formed around 65 million years ago from hot magma and polished to their actual shape by the weather and the sea.
It has been discussed if Hin Pusa or Elephant Head Rock should get island status or not. This massive granite boulder formation in the channel between the islands 8 and 7 is the most impressive divesite at the Similan Islans National Park. While aproaching this little island it can look like an Elephant Head sticking its trunk out of the water, from some angles.
Ko Payu or island number 7 is the next in the chain of islands. Koh Payu is a small island with small white sandy beaches in the east and south. The reefs surrounding this island are the most colourful, sporting a lot of soft coral and offers excellent conditions for diving and snorkling.
Ko Hok and Ko Ha meaning island 6 and 5 are only several hundred meters to the south of Ko Payu and a small channel seperates them from Ko Miang. These two smallest islands are only divided from each other by a 10 m small sandy channel. Diving and snorkling here is easy and similar to island 7.
Ko Miang or island 4 is the base of the National Park Office and the Rescue service. Two of the most eyecatching beaches lies here, Princess Bay to the north and Honeymoon Bay to its east. A small path through the island jungle connects the two beaches to each other, tree monitor lizards, flying foxes and endemic nicobar pigeon can be observed while trekking along.
Ko Payan, Ko Payang and Ko Huyong are the last three islands on the main Similan Island Archipelago. All three islands are closed for conservation purposes, only a small camp with a handful of Thai Navy soldiers remain on island 1, Ko Huyong. The biggest beach of the Similan Island Archipelago lies here were Hawksbill Sea Turtles build up their nests carefully monitored by the Navy. The newly hatched turtles are collected and distributed to other areas of Thailand.
15 km to the north of island 9 lies the totally secluded Ko Bon. This gigantic rock with its remarkable hole through the island is unique in the Andaman Sea. Ko Bon got famous because Manta Rays are often sighted here. No other island at the Similan Archipelago has delighted so many divers and snorklers with the presence of Mantas than here.
Last but not least the newest member of the Similan Island National Park, Ko Tachai Island. This remote island lies further north of Ko Bon and close to the Surin Island Marine National Park. This island as well as Ko Huyong is blessed with one of the most virgin beaches of the Archipelago. Turtles are been monitored here as well. One remarkable divesite lies a few hundred meter to the south of the main island, the "South West Plateu". Manta and Whaleshark encounters have been frequent throughout the last years.
Diving the Similan Islands The Similan Island Marine National Park is Thailand's best dive destination, famous for its spectacular divesites. It has typically 2 different kind of underwater landscapes, the East side consists of gently sloping coral reefs with sandy patches and some occasional boulders in between. The west side with its unique boulder scaped divesites and numerous swimthroughs is one of the most wicked underwater landscapes world wide. Fascinating and unique underwater landscapes, clear blue waters and uncountable marine life forms sourround these islets boosting them to an
"must see" (link to hotspots)dive destination around south east asia.
2 larger and 3 smaller islands form the Surin Island marine national park. The Surin Islands are not as interesting to dive as their smaller neighbours further south, but one dive site has claimed international reputation among the dive community, "Richelieu Rock"(link to hot spots). No other divesite in Thailand has had that much Whaleshark sightings while still offering a breathtaking divesite with all what the Andaman Sea can offer in marine life. The sheer density and diversity of soft corals here is second to none.
Last but not least to mention is the "Bong Sung wreck" (link to hot spots), in close proximity to Khao Lak. This tin mining ship rests absolutely isolated on sandy bottom and it is the abolute "cult site" among diveguides and instructors because of its macro life. It is not a rare encounter to see nudibranches, froggies, harlequin pipefishes and many many other weird creatures. Whaleshark spottings are also frequent!
- The most comfortable and best diving is from a liveaboard, best 4 or 5 days and nights.
- Daytrips to Similan Islands the shortest and easiest access is from Khao Lak, Phang Nga Province.
- Dive with Nitrox if you can!
- Avoid Christmas time at all costs, a lot of people and high prices for flights and accomodation.
- The dive season is between October and April.
- You should have done a dive in the last 6 months before you join a trip. The Similan Islands are far out off shore and you should be confident with the equipment and your dive skills as well. If you are not a frequent or experienced diver make your first dives on shallow and easy divesites such as the Boon Sung Wreck of the coast of Khao Lak.
- Because of the Marine Park entry fee (total 600 Thb) per day diving we suggest you to do a liveaboard to save money and to avoid multiple exhausting journeys by speedboat.
- Stay close to Khao Lak to avoid long mini bus transfers to the pier and back if you decide to go for daytrips. (find Hotels/Resorts with short transfer times to the pier)
The Surin Island Marine Park consists of 5 Islands, the two biggest ones, Koh Surin Nua and Ko Surin Tai are separeted by a very shallow channel that is possible to cross during low tide. Ko Surin Tai is inhabited by sea gypsies while Ko Surin Nua hosts the marine park headquarters. Due to its distance to the main holiday destinations on the west coast, Phuket Island and Khao Lak, these islands are less frequented by western tourists than the Similan Islands or Phi Phi Islands. The shallow reefs around the Surin Islands make them a top destination for snorklers. Visibility is sometimes poor and compared to the Similan Islands and the reefs are less colourful and less marine life can be expected while diving. The 2004 Tsunami had a big impact on the marine ecosystem of the islands, destroying many healthy hard coral reefs and whiping out parts of dive sites such as the northern part of Ko Torinla. Despite what many other websites publish this is the truth, recorded by the Asian Diving Vacation team on a dive expedition a year after the Tsunami.
Diving the Surin Islands
The most famous dive site of the Surin Marine Park lies almost half way between the the mainland and the Surin Islands. Richelieu Rock is without a doubt the top divesite in Thailand and still a hot spot for Whalesharks. The Tsunami 2004 had no big impact on this sumerged rock due its distance to the Surin Islands and while not putting much resistance to the monstrous tidal wave.
Dive expeditions to the Surin Islands can be arranged on demand for "contact" the ADV Team for more information.
Tips from local dive guides and instructors:
- Richelieu Rock (Whaleshark Hot Spot) close to Surin Islands
- If you are looking to visit less frequented islands and a more remote location, the Surin Island Marine Park is a better choice than the Similan Islands Marine Park.
- Great for snorklers due its very shallow reefs
- Not so good for experience and spoiled divers
- For more info contact our Team and inquire about your plans to dive the Surin Island Marine park