One of the world’s most famous dive sites is truly quite spectacular.

Made up of a group of nine islands, it offers some of the best known dive sites anywhere. Although there has been recent criticism due to overcrowding and a decline in the variety of fish to be found, it is still remarkably beautiful. Fortunately, the authorities have taken firm steps to preserve and restore this natural wonder, especially in protecting the magical coral beds that flourish.

The tour company collects each minibus of patrons individually or in pre-booked groups at different locations on the way.

Arriving at the pier point, I was seriously impressed by the standard of organization and efficiency. Tour guides quickly separated everybody into waiting areas, checked off names and bookings and gave everybody different coloured wrist ‘strings’ for ID.

Refreshments were offered at the staging points whilst we waited for final passenger check-in.

Then back to the Tour-guides. Constant head counts and into the big speed boats. Briefing time: about 90 minutes and then the series of stops and activities. Really impressive tour-guides, constant water with soft-drinks and fruit later.

The Skipper and boat-crew were a real tribute: professional all the way and especially on safety. Life-jackets, proper deck packing, waste bin and boarding and disembarking with strong, sure hands to support all the way.

Foreign tour groups had their own guides for translation and briefing.

We first stopped for a snorkeling exercise, 45 minutes in lovely clear water, wonderful corals and still plentiful fish. Next was 15 minutes to Similan itself. Magnificent ancient trees under ample foliage gave a natural setting with gnarled old-woods providing furnishing and cool surrounding.

Also available with both bungalows, rooms and camping, several eating areas and all modern plumbing! A magical setting, really great for a few days outing. Plenty time for frolic and more snorkeling and here allowed on the beaches.

Another stop at the next beach with a most magnificent View Point rock-site. Lat chance, shorter snorkeling stop and then set for the mainland. A full day of perfect beauty, big, big boulder formations and a variety of different shapes and sites

Back to the pier and everything was in readiness! The tour-guides checked off their lists and showed us to the busses, lined up in a row and numbered. Again the officers checked lists and pointed out the right bus and driver.

Back to Phuket. A most memorable trip! Excellent driving, too.A special thanks to Medsye Tour Co., Part for a professional and well organized tour. Highly recommended.

Some Observations

Eco-awareness. – Special emphasis was made of the fact ”do not touch anything!” Especially the coral. Even the beaches were out of bounds at the snorkeling areas. Only the ‘clear’ beaches were open for meals and accommodation.

Don’t leave anything behind, but your footprints”.

Do not bring any bottles to the islands.

To rehabilitate any coral damage, the National Park is open only 6 months a year.

Islands 1, 2 and 3 are closed for public due to turtle hatching protection program and reef conservation efforts. Island number 3 belongs to HM the Thai Princess. Fishing is banned in Similan and Surin National Park, however fishing boats are constantly seen in and around the Park. When diving, one can often find nets stuck to reefs and illegal fishing traps. Park rangers are posted on several islands but seem to be little interested in anything beyond collecting the national park fees, which have to be paid in cash. Consequently corruption is rife. Mid November 2007 the Rangers increased the Surin national park fee to 600bt per person from 400bt with no prior announcement and posted a patrol boat at Richelieu Rock to collect the fees.

This season many illegal fishing traps have been found outside the most common dive sites, suggesting the fishermen are betting on divers not venturing off the known dive sites. They have contained among others Giant Trevallies, Batfish, Barracudas, Golden Pilot Jacks, Giant Triggerfish etc.

Public awareness of this increasing problem will be the only way to change the situation so if you visit Similan and Surin National Parks and witness illegal fishing, please report your sightings. Public pressure and fear of lost revenue will eventually force the authorities to lean on the Rangers to actually do what they are supposed to do – protect the most beautiful and famous island group and dive sites in Thailand

Diving – The Similan national park is famous for its dive sites. It has typically two different kinds of diving. The East side diving consists of gently sloping coral reefs with sandy patches and the occasional boulder in between. The west side is known for its huge underwater granite boulders with numerous swimthroughs. Maybe the most famous east side dive site is East of Eden, off Island number 7. Elephant head rock is arguably the most famous West side dive site with a maze of swimthroughs and the reputation for spin-cycle like currents running in every direction.

Other popular dive sites include North Point, Deep Six, Boulder City and the awesome pinnacles off Koh Bon and Koh Tachai.

The most important of all dive sites in the Similans, which is actually part of Surin National Park, is Richelieu Rock, famous for its incomparable variety and abundance of marine life. Whale shark sightings are not uncommon here.

How to Get There – Access to the Similan Islands is easiest from Khao Lak, Phang Nga province. The mainland office is in Thap Lamu. Boats depart daily from November-May. The trip takes three hours each way on slow boats or 70 minutes via speedboat.

During the months November-May also live-aboard boats head to the Similan Islands. These dive boats depart and return from Khao Lak, Ko Lanta, Phuket and Ranong and stay for several days at the Similan National Marine Park.

Your best bet is to book the whole package with a reputable tour company, eg, as previously mentioned the Medsye Tour Co., Ltd.,Part.