Diving in Similan Islands (Mu Koh Similan National Park)

Similan Islands are one of the most popular diving locations in Thailand. Divers from around the world come to Thailand to book a liveaboard or day trip to Similan Islands. The liveaboard trips are usually four days long with three dives a day. Day trips are organised with a speedboat and usually, you would need to pay extra if you would like to go diving as well. Altogether there are 19 different dive sites on Similan Islands which are suitable for divers of all levels.

Getting to Similan Islands

Similan Islands are located 120 kilometres to the north-west of Phuket and 50 kilometres west of Khao Lak.  The closest airport to Koh Similan is the Phuket International Airport and there are various buses and transfers available at the airport that will take you to Khao Lak.

Similan Islands

Private Transfer

If you don’t want to go on a speedboat or book a liveaboard you can come to Khao Lak and then get a boat from Taplamu pier. During the high and mid seasons (October to May) boats to Koh Similan depart daily. Khao in mind that Similan Islands are closed during the rainy season and there is no on island accommodation available June to September.

You can reach Taplamu pier by either bus or minibus. Most companies offer a minibus transfer and they usually call it a direct transfer. Which, unfortunately, it is not. Almost every bus that goes from Phuket to Bangkok and the other way around will pass Khao Lak. Those destinations include the busses to Bangkok, Surat Thani, Ranong, Chumphon, Takuapa. It will take you 12 to 16 hours from Bangkok to Khao Lak and 3 1/2 hours from Phuket.

Liveaboard trips to Koh Similan

The best options for those who are planning to dive on the islands would be to book a liveaboard trip. Liveaboard boat tours depart literally from every popular destination in Thailand be it close by Phuket or far away Koh Lanta, as long as the place is located in Andaman Sea.

Day trips to Similan Islands

Day trips to Koh Similan are only available from certain destinations in Thailand. Namely from Phuket, Takuapa, Krabi and Koh Lanta. The trip will usually start very early in the morning and include a speedboat transfer. The trips will usually include snorkelling and lunch, however, you would need to pay extra for any diving equipment. The return journey Phuket to Koh Similan takes about 5 hours, thus you must prepare for a long day at the sea.

Similan Islands Land Scape

Accommodation close to Simial Islands

On island accommodation is only available through the Mu Koh Similan National Park, hence obtaining a booking might be tricky. You can try calling the national park directly to enquire about the available dates: 
(+66) 25 62 0760.

Nine islands of Koh Similan

Similan translates from Malaysian as “nine” as Malay thought that there are nine islands forming the archipelago. However, there are actually eleven islands altogether forming the archipelago, namely:

  1. Ko Huyong (Ko Hu Yong)
  2. Ko Payang (Ko Pa Yang)
  3. Ko Payan (Ko Pa Yan)
  4. Ko Miang (Ko Maeng)
  5. Ko Ha
  6. Ko Payu (Ko Pa Yu)
  7. Ko Hin Pousar
  8. Ko Similan
  9. Ko Ba-ngu (Ko Bayu)
  10. Ko Bon (Ko Talu)
  11. Ko Tachai

Similan Islands Coral Reef

Similan is fortunate to have one of the Thailands most preserved and most beautiful coral reef. The reef attracts rainbow-colored tropical fish of different kinds. Meanwhile, massive cliff formations and underwater granite boulders provide a perfect habitat for the larger pelagic fish species. The great two of the sea are often seen on Simial Islands those two are giant manta rays and whale shark.

Similan Islands Coral Reef

Most coral reefs on Similan Islands are classified as medium and deep-water coral reefs. Medium water coral reefs usually grow eight to fifteen meters beneath the surface, while deep-water coral reefs can grow down to thirty meters. The coral that grows in Similan Islands is mostly formed of staghorn, sheet, knobbly finger, lobed, star and bottlebrush corals. Please don’t pick any of the corals no matter if it’s alive or dead, as both materials are crucial to sustaining the ecosystem of the island.

Similan Islands Coral

Please don’t pick any of the corals no matter if it’s alive or dead, as both materials are crucial to sustaining the ecosystem of the island. The water on Similan Islands is crystal clear, and it provides superb visibility for both deep and shallow dives.

The Simila Islands are very well known for several marine “partnerships”. For example shrimp-goby partnership, where goby fish share their homes with snapping shrimp. The goby helps the shrimp to look out for danger, while the shrimp cleans the house. Speaking of cleaners, don’t be surprised when one of the many cleaner wrasses tries to clean your ears.

Similan Islands Dive Sites

Similan Islands have 19 dive sites in total, all of them are located between different islands and have their own ecosystem. Sometimes you will hear that there is one more dive site in Similan and it is true. However, this dive sites is closed to the public since the tsunami of 2004. This dive site is Fantasy Reef.

1. Anita’s Reef

Located on the Island number 5 (Ko Ha) Anita’s Reef is considered to be one of the most beautiful dive sites on Similan Islands. Featuring both sandbed and table and staghorn corals, you should expect to encounter many tropical fish at Anita’s Reef. Lionfish, Oriental Sweetlips, Longnose Hawkfish, Glassfish and many other species are often seen here. If you are lucky, you may even notice a less commonly seen Clown Triggerfish, as well as Whitepatch Razorfish.

On the sandy side of the site, you will be able to see many Spotted Garden Eels and Kuhl’s Stingrays buried in the sand. The bottom is usually covered with Sea Cucumbers of different size and colour. From the bigger species, you should expect to see Roundhead Parrotfish and Titan Triggerfish often feeding on the hard coral close by. Lastly, as with most Similan Islands dive sites, you have a good chance of seeing a majestic 2-meter long Fantail Stingray “flying” past.

Parrot Fish

  • Maximum depth: 24 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 5 Ko Ha
  • Formations: Sand and boulder with coral
  • Current: None to light
  • Level: Open Water Diver and higher

2. Beacon Point

An amazing dive site if you wish to see some of the big bony fish. The dive site features a massive boulder formation covered in hard coral and Gorgonian Seafans. You should expect to see plenty of Manta and Eagle rays, as well as some Leopard and Reef sharks. At the deepest level of the dive site, you will see plenty of Blue Spotted Stingrays. Other species at this dive site include Fire Goby, Scorpionfish, Triggerfish, Bigeye Fish and many types of Nudibranchs.

beacon point seafans

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 8
  • Formations: Boulder with hard coral
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water

3. Beacon Reef (Atlantis Wreck)

Is the longest and also one of the most famous reefs and dive sites on Similan Islands. This dive spot is suitable for everyone, and there is a bit of everything here. Unlike, many other dive sites on the island here you can find plenty of coral and very little boulders.

Additionally, at about 16 meters you will see a liveaboard boat that sank in 2002. The wreck is intact and it extends from 16 to 30 meters. In regards to marine life, the dive site has a lot to offer. Both green and hawksbill turtles often feast on the Beacon reef corals. If you are lucky you may occasionally encounter some reptiles like banded Sea Kraits.

Banded Sea Kraits.

The fish variety on the Beacon Reef is endless as it’s the largest reef of Similan Islands. Lastly, as the southern side of the Beacon Reef, you can find the Simians’ largest Seafan, which measures more than two meters wide.

Beacon Reef sea fan

  • Maximum depth: 30 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 8
  • Formations: Boulders
  • Current: Medium to Strong
  • Level: Open Water

4. Boulder City

This is the most advanced Similan Islands dive site. It consists out of a chain of submerged boulder formations. If you are joining on a Phuket diving trip, this will be the last dive site you will visit, due to its southern location. This dive site offers a breathtaking underwater landscape like nowhere else. Boulder City attracts some of the biggest tropical fish including Whale Sharks, Giant Manta Rays, Napoleons, Barracudas and Tuna. You will also be able to see several turtles hunting for glassfish. Smaller fish include purple and red fire gobies and slender unicornfish. The boulders have little to no coral. Regardless of coral you will be able to see urchins, lionfish, scorpionfish and large moray eels resting in the cracks. At the bottom of the dive site, you will be able to sometimes see Whitetip Reef Sharks, Leopard Sharks and Kuhl’s Stingrays.

Boulder City

  • Maximum depth: 35 meters.
  • Location: Island nr. 3
  • Formations: Chain of submerged boulders.
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water

5. Breakfast Bend

If you like morning dives then this dive site is for you. The dive site takes its name after a spectacular dawn light often seen here early in the morning. Some of the shallower parts of the dive site suffered from the 2004 tsunami, hence only the coral located deeper is in good condition. The reef is predominantly formed of hard coral: staghorn coral, cabbage coral and table coral.

Very often this dive site will be the first site on a liveaboard trip as it allows your dive master to easily evaluate your level of experience. You will spend most of the dive at 10 meters. Here you’ll find some of the south-east Asia’s most popular tropical fish: angelfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, parrotfish and big groupers. In the shallower parts, you may encounter Leopard Sharks and Kuhl’s Stingrays. Some of the divers also prefer to explore a nearby rock formation which providers various tunnels and swim-through. The rock often attracts Whitetip Reef Sharks. The area doesn’t have any coral and has a very strong current, but you may be able to encounter large Tune species and Barracudas looking into the blue sea.

shark

  • Maximum depth: 34 meters (18 meters for the coral reef)
  • Location: Island nr. 9
  • Formations: Boulder with hard coral
  • Current: Mostly Light
  • Level: Open Water

6. Chinese Wall (Bird Rock)

The dive spot takes its name after the series of boulders that stretch from the island  and all the way into the sea. The rock formations begin above the water surface and continue all the way down to 30 meters. Those numerous rocks offer an amazing playground for divers with various swim throughs, caves and caverns. There are plenty of different Moray Eels that live in the cracks like Giant, Fimbriated, Yellow-margined and White-eyed Moray Eels. Some of the larger tunnels are home to large Whitetip Reef Sharks, so keep your eyes open when you swim through. Some of the species are 2 meters long. Unfortunately, some liveaboard’s don’t stop here, but try to make sure your trip has this dive site in its itinerary.

Moray Eel

  • Maximum depth: 30 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 4
  • Formations: Series of boulders
  • Current: Moderate to strong
  • Level: Advances Open Water

7. Coral Reef

This is a dive site suitable for all levels with most of the marine life between 8 meters to 15 meters deep. You should expect to see all the usual tropical fish here: Bannerfish, Parrotfish and Big Groupers and Angelfish.

  • Maximum depth: 30
  • Location: Island nr. 5
  • Formations: Rock
  • Current: Light
  • Level: Open Water

8. Deep Six

One of the deepest dive sites you will find in Similan islands, with a massive granite boulder going all the way down to 40 meters. You will most likely start the dive on the northern side where at about 10 meters deep you will find some amazing swim-throughs and tunnels. The rock formation is covered with table, wart finger and leather corals. Some of the most common fish at this dive site are Boxfish, Lyretail Groupers, Butterflyfish, Java Rabbitfish, Bannerfish, Parrotfish, Angelfish, Triggerfish, Powederblue Surgeonfish and numerous types of Moray Eels. If the season is right, you may be lucky to see some of the rare guests: Whale Sharks and Giant Manta Rays. At the deeper areas of the dive sites, you will see plenty of Blue-spotter Stingrays and Reef Sharks.

Deep Six dive site

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 7
  • Formations: Boulder
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water

9. Donald Duck Bay

Is named after a rock that according to some divers resembles a Donald Duck’s head. This rock is the trademark of Similan islands, as well as the most photographed spot. The boulder formations of this dive site offer several swim-throughs and small tunnels. At the deepest part of the site among the rubble, you can find Painted Rock Lobster, Red Octopus, Cuttlefish, Decorator Crab and the amazing huge Bull Crab. Moray eels and various shrimp species are also plentiful on the coral and within the cracks. Another common guests at the dive site are Green Turtles, some locals feed them, but please refrain from feeding wild animals as it may affect their habits and survival mechanisms.

green moray eel

  • Maximum depth: 20
  • Location: Island nr. 8
  • Formations: boulder
  • Current: no current
  • Level: Open Water

10. Elephant Head Rock (Hin Pusa)

The dive site is named after a half submerged rock. The part above the surface resembles a bathing elephant. Similarly, to some other dive sites this spot is very popular due to its swim-throughs, caves and cavers. At the beginning of the dive, you will most likely see Whitetip Reef Sharks and Leopard Sharks resting on the sandy bottom.

At one of the bigger boulder, you will be able to notice a large yellow Seafan. This fan is a home to a family of Spider Carbs. You will spot some Cuttlefish and Mantis Shrimps as you go slightly deeper. Sometimes, the lucky ones can even see endangered Hawksbill Turtles and Olive Ridley’s Turtles. Some of the ledges may hide an odd Nurse Shark, so make sure you examine them closely as you swim past. Regarding the tropical fish, you should expect to see Bicolour Parrotfish, Blue-ringed Angelfish, Andaman sweetlips, Snappers, Yellow Goatfish, Lionfish, Groupers and Titan Triggerfish.

hawksbill sea turtle

  • Maximum depth: 50 meters
  • Location: Island nr. Between 6 and 7
  • Formations: boulders
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Advanced (one of the most difficult dive sites of the Similan Islands)

11. Hideaway (Barracuda point)

The dive site, unfortunately, has nothing to do with its name, since the schools of barracudas are not commonly encountered here. This dive site is very diverse and it incorporates both: large series of boulders and a fringing coral reef. The coral reef is located at 7 meters deep, but some parts of the dive site are located as deep as 35 meters. Next to the bigger boulders you can find Blue-spotted Kuhl’s Stingrays and Black-spotted Garden Eels.

On the southwestern part of the dive, you can find a wreck of a fishing boat also referred to as “the tuna wreck”. The wreck is between located between 25 and 40 meters. The species you may expect to see at the boulder part of the Hideaway are Clown Triggerfish, Emperor Angelfish, Great Barracudas and Yellowfin Goatfish. The other species you can find in the coral area are Sea Stars, Urchins and Sea Cucumbers, Bannerfish, Moorish idols, Trumpetfish, Oriental Sweetlips, Snappers, Bicolour Parrotfish, Wrasse, Fusiliers and Dogdaced pufferfish.

Puffer fish

Further at this dive site, you may find a set of small mermaid status. They are located at around 10 meters deep. This monument was set up by the national park in 2005 as the memorial of the 2004 tsunami.

  • Maximum depth: 35 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 5
  • Formations: boulders and fringing coral reef
  • Current: no current
  • Level: Open Water

12. Turtle Rock

Although there are indeed turtles at the turtle rock it is not how the dive site received its name. Some people believe that the rock formations on the island nearby closely resemble a silhouette of a turtle. Compared to other dive sites on Similan Island, Turtle Rock is relatively easy and shallow. The dive site is located not far from Donald Duck Bay.

green turtle

The dive site is centred around a huge boulder which is covered in Staghorn and Gorgonian coral as well as Seafans. The most common species here are Green and Hawksbill Turtles, Spotted Garden Eels and Blue-spotted Stingrays. All of the species can be found on a sandy seabed. Similarly to many other Thai dive sites, there is a very good chance of seeing Leopard Sharks at the bottom of a Turtle Rock. Other marine species often seen here include Oriental Sweetlips, Titan Triggerfish, Groupers, Parrotfish, Trevally, Lionfish, Angelfish and Boxfish.

  • Maximum depth: 25 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 8
  • Formations: Boulder
  • Current: Light
  • Level: Open Water (one of the easiest dives also available as a night dive)

13. Stonehenge

This is a deep dive site that takes its name from the series of boulders located on the sandy seabed. The dive spot is best suitable for divers who use their air carefully. You might consider diving on Nitrox if you want to spend a little more time exploring. This dive site is ideal to see something bigger in the deep blue sea, so keep your eyes and mind open. At this dive site, you should expect to see plenty of Trevally, Barracudas and Tunas.

You may also notice some Leopard sharks and occasionally Guitar sharks, relaxing on the sandy seabed. While other shark species like Whitetips and Blacktips can often be seen passing by. Lionfish, Scorpionfish, Yellow Boxfish, Clown Triggerfish, Longnose Butterflyfish, Yellowtail Wrasse and Giant Moray Eels are all very common at Stonehenge. Sharp-eyed divers may even spot an occasional Ornate Ghost Pipefish. These species usually hide in Seafans and Whip corals; they are very hard to see even if you are directly looking at one. Stonehenge starts deep; therefore the dive site is less popular than other spots in Similan Islands. Nonetheless, experienced divers who take pleasure in macro photography will love it here.

Shark

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters (starts at 25 meters)
  • Location: Island nr. 4
  • Formations: Series of boulders
  • Current: Medium to Strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water (experienced diver only)

14. Christmas Point

Located just south of North Point this dive often has strong currents. Nonetheless, when conditions are good, it can also be suitable for all level of divers. The dive site compromises a series of boulders and a fabulous set of swim-throughs. The most popular one is located at 24 meters, but it’s not the only one. At the deeper end of the dive site, you may be able to spot some sharks and rays including Leopard, whitetip, guitar and blacktip.

2 Moray Eels

Potentially, at this dive site you can also see the big two: giant manta rays and whale sharks. Other bigger bony species include chevron barracuda, napoleon wrasse, oriental sweetlips and bigeye trevally. There are a lot of cuttlefish you can spot here as well as red fire gobies. Christmas Point is a deep dive that has suffered during the 2004 tsunami. Nonetheless, there is still a lot to see here, especially if you are after big species.

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters
  • Location: Island nr.9
  • Formations: Boulders
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Open Water (Advanced recommended)

15. North Point

This is the most northern dive site of the Similan Islands. The dive site is located not far from Christmas Point and it compromises a series of granite boulders. The Northern Point offers an excellent visibility and various swim-throughs and channels that make the dive spot an incredibly pleasant experience. The boulders are located at the maximum depth of 35 meters, and they rise all the way to 8 meters. You should expect to see many marine species here including Ribbon Eels, Mantis Shrimp, Jacks, Surgeonfish, Fusiliers as well as Giant Manta Rays and large schools of Chevron Barracudas. Therefore this dive site is well beloved by the underwater photographers.

Diver exploring

In the shallower bits, between 8 and 14 meters you will find massive flat plains covered with Cauliflower Leaf Corals as well as Stubbly Finger Corals. Therefore this is an ideal feeding spot for both Green and Hawksbill turtles. Leopard sharks can be seen at the bottom of the boulders here. If you decide to go a little further north, you will face the Northern Point Pinnacle. The pinnacle drops all the way to 50 meters. When the visibility is superb, it’s possible to see many sharks resting on the sandy bottom, as well as some Giant Manta Rays.

  • Maximum depth: 35 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 9
  • Formations: Boulders
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water

16. Sharkfin Reef

The dive site starts at the island 3 and extends all the way to the Boulder City. Sharkfin Reef can be briefly described as the submerged rocky ridge with beautiful scenery of enormous granite boulders covered in Gorgonian Seafans. At the low tide a part of the ridge breaks the surface and from far away resembles a shark fine. Most of the boulders are covered in hard coral. On the southern part of the dive site the boulders drop sharply into the deeper water creating a stunning underwater gorge. The reef is a home to a very diverse marine life including large cube boxfish, half-moon triggerfish, clown triggerfish, surgeonfish, batfish, bannerfish and blue faces bannerfish. At the deeper side of the area, you may spot sharks and Manta Rays, as well as Napoleon Wrasse and Bumperhead Parrotfish.

Giant Manta Ray

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 3
  • Formations: Boulders and hard coral
  • Current: Medium to strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water (experienced dives only)

17. Three Trees (Batfish Bend)

The dive site is named after three distinctive trees on the side of the island marking the start of the dive. This dive site is most popular for its marine life diversity. The dive starts with a sandy bottom, but the deeper you go, the more boulders you will find. In the sandy area, you can spot some Reef sharks. While in the boulder section of the dive site you can encounter some bigger fish using the boulders as the cleaning station. The boulder formations start at about 18 meters deep. Sting Rays, Garden Eels, Racoon Butterflyfish, Meyer’s Butterflyfish, Humphead Unicornfish, Oriental Sweetlips, Soldierfish, Powderblue Surgeonfish, Harlequin Sweetlips and Bigeyefish are all very common here. If you are lucky, you may also spot some Marbled Groupers, Yellowtail Emperors and Gigantic Napoleon Wrasse.

Racoon Butterflyfish

  • Maximum depth: 30 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 9
  • Formations: Sand and boulder formations at the deeper side.
  • Current: Medium to strong
  • Level: Advanced Open Water

18. West of Six (West of Eden)

This dive site has some of the best shallow coral on the Islands. You will start your dive of a sheltered bay that is home to many Turtles, Batfish, Glassfish, Yellow Goatfish and occasional Octopi. The shallower part of the dive is ideal for beginner divers who can spend the entire time here without being bored or challenged. Deeper down you will spot some Ribbon Eels, Frogfish, White-banded Cleaner Shrimp, Giant Moray Eels and the resident of this dive site: Blotched Fantail Stingray. Additionally, to end the perfect dive at the safety stop you will often be accompanied by Turtles and occasional Barracudas.

West of Six Octopus

  • Maximum depth: below 30 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 7
  • Formations: Boulder
  • Current: Strong
  • Level: Open Water (deeper parts only suitable for experienced divers)

19. East of Eden

East of Eden is a true legend of the diving community. The dive site was closed to public for almost ten years, and it’s now reopened in 2013. The colourful reef of East of Eden comes up from as deep as 40 meters and reaches very close to the surface. Therefore the spot is also ideal for snorkelling. The dive site compromises several bommies (outcrops) and sandy spots with plenty of fish and turtles. Probably, it is easier to list the fish that you won’t see here than the ones you will. Since the marine life of East of Eden is extremely diverse. You should expect to see everything from giant manta rays to tiny ornate ghost pipefish.

2 clown fish at east of eden

  • Maximum depth: 40 meters
  • Location: Island nr. 7
  • Formations: Bommies of soft coral
  • Current: Medium
  • Level: Open Water

Similan Islands are truly spectacular. They are remote, yet accessible. If you are planning to come to Thailand purely for diving, Koh Similan should be one of the first locations on your Thailand diving bucket list.