Photo: There are possibly worse places to be stranded.

Introduction

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Found 70 km off the coast of Phang Nga province, the Similan islands are one of Thailand’s most spectacular destinations, with rich marine life and colourful seascapes ideal for diving and snorkelling. With Malay roots, the word “similan” means “nine” in local Moken (sea gypsy) language after the nine tiny islands of the Similan archipelago. Along with magnificent underwater sights, the Similans boast some of the finest white sand, turquoise water beaches in Thailand, and even a few hiking trails and viewpoints.



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Officially protected as part of Mu Koh Similan National Park, an area of 140 square kilometres that also includes Ko Bon and Ko Tachai, the Similans have remained free of private development. In the air, rare birds such as sea eagles, kingfisher, and the endangered nicobar pigeon may be spotted. In the water, sea turtles, rays, moray eels and whale sharks are commonly seen along with a vibrant community of tropical fish.

Can get busy. Photo taken in or around Similan Islands, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Can get busy. Photo: Lana Willocks

Though the Similans have avoided the fate of other islands in the Andaman like Ko Phi Phi and Ko Lipe, their natural beauty being buried under extensive hotel development, certainly the pressures of mass tourism are starting to be felt here. The Similans have become extremely popular and both the waters and beaches can at times feel like something of a theme park.

Though tour operators are subject to licensing and controls, alarms have been raised that the number of visitors arriving daily to the islands far exceed their capacity. In early 2015, park officials were quoted as saying they would limit visitor numbers to 200 a day on Tachai and 250 a day on Similan (# 8) island, but it’s estimated that some 1,000 people arrive to each daily. Inevitably, coral degradation and beach trash are starting to appear.

Just awful. Photo taken in or around Similan Islands, Thailand by Lana Willocks.

Just awful. Photo: Lana Willocks

With that said, the beauty of this place should be enough to put up with a few crowds, and although it’s an expensive trip, we think these nine Andaman islands are still well worth it. If you cherish serene solitude, consider sticking around for a night or two as the scene quiets down after the day trip speedboat tours head back to the mainland in the ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,000 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Similan Islands.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Similan Islands.
 Read up on how to get to Similan Islands, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Similan Islands? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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