Thailands Smiling Similans
Appreciate the Countrys Remaining Pristine Environment
Off the Andaman coast of South Thailand lies what is often described as one of the worlds 10 loveliest places. The nine Similan
islands form a national marine park open to the public each year from November to May (after the monsoon). We reached this wonderland via a 16-meter converted
fishing boat operated by a local company called Poseiden Bungalows (see below).
Poseidens trips are ecologically soundno anchors, no septic tanks, no garbage tossed overboard, and no noisy generator. We
tied to a mooring buoy 100 meters from Similan 9 and enjoyed our first of many delicious meals served under a large canopy on the upper deck. The translucent
waters around us teemed with rainbow-colored fish. Those not confident enough to swim ashore were ferried by dinghy; others explored the rocky ledges and
dive-throughs. Huge granite formations around the islands are a haven for a variety of sea creatures.
Back on board I asked our guide about tomorrows plan.
Well sleep here tonight and go back to the other side of Similan 9 in the morning. Theres good coral there. Then well
head down to the park headquarters at Similan 4.
Although well maintained, some of Thailands 80 national parks have surrendered to uncontrolled development by the tourism industry.
The Similans new park ranger, who rigidly enforces regulations and restricts access to sensitive areas, was already on the endangered list. In his first
three weeks there were two attempts on his life.
We were denied access to Similan 1, 2, and 3, but I was secretly relieved. Four of the worlds six species of sea turtles are found
there and alllike the park rangerare endangered. At least for now they are in good hands.
The park headquarters at Similan 4 (Ko Miang) shares the western beach with an informative visitor center and accommodations ranging
from tents to bungalows. A 20-minute rainforest trail bisects the island, allowing hikers to explore with minimal impact.
In the seas surrounding Similar 4, 5, and 6 schools of angelfish, parrotfish, and clownfish combined to dazzle us with a kaleidoscope
of colors. The coral gardens at Similarn 4 provide shelter for friendly moray eels; in the deeper waters we saw groupers, rays, reef sharks, and barracuda.
Most of us were here for similar reasonsto experience one of Thailands few remaining pristine environments, careful to leave
as few footprints as possible. But, as each new day brings faster boats and the threat of day-trippers from Phuket, the familiar question remains: for how
For More Info
You can organize your own trips, but youll spend more money, waste time, and be at the mercy of unreliable boat services. Live-aboard
boat trips are the best optioncrews are experienced and knowledgeable and everything is supplied. Start your trip from Khao Lak or the nearby port of
Thap Lamu. Boats also leave from Phuket but must travel almost 30 kilometers further to reach the islands.
If youre a diver, pick the company you feel most comfortable with and that offers the best value for money. Snorkel boats maintain
less rigid schedules and are more flexible about exploring the many land-based attractions of the Similans.
Three-day all-inclusive dive trips start at 12,000 baht. The 3-day all-inclusive snorkel trip with Poseiden Bungalows costs 5,300 baht.
More extensive and exotic excursions are available, sometimes lasting several weeks. Check Poseidens website at www.similantour.nu for current costs.