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SIMILAN ISLAND (Scuba Diving in Thailand and Burma)



SIMILAN ISLAND

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A group of 9 small islands 50 kms. off the west coast of Phang-Nga in the Andaman Sea. The National Park covers an area of 80,000 rai. Skin Diving Magazine rated them among the ten loveliest places on Earth, because of the great natural beauty found on the islands themselves and also because of the extensive surrounding coral gardens beneath the waves. The islands are undeveloped and unspoiled; numerous species of fish, crustaceans, and other forms of sea-life abound; water clarity and diving are excellent. Similan is corrupted from the Malay Sembilan and means nine. From north to south in order the islands are: Koh Bon, Koh Ba Ngu, Koh Similan, Koh Pahyoo, Koh Miang (two islands), Koh Pahyan, Koh Payahng andKoh Hu Yong.

Koh Ba Ngu is also called Hua Gah Lok or Skull Island. Beneath the waters, a field of grass and coral appear to be growing in a deep valley. Schools of fish are everywhere.

Koh Similan is the largest island. It has a long curving bay, and beneath the waters coral reefs remain pristine. The beach is composed of fine grain sand. Diving to look at the fishes and corals is strongly recommended. At the island's northend are bizarrely shaped big boulders; one looks like a soldier's boot, another is shaped like a sailboat. Here also is an excellent view.

Koh Miang is actually two islands connected and forms the second largest land mass in the group after Koh Similan. The National Park Office is here, and there is a fine beach where visitors can stay.

KohHu Yong has the Similans longest white sandy beach. From November till February sea turtles come up to lay eggs and their tracks may be seen in the sand.

Travel to the Similans
is easy from either Phang-Nga or Phuket. Chartered boats leave from Lap Lamu Pier in Tai Meuang District of Phang-Nga and take about 3 hours to reach the islands. Here is also the office of National Park located. Alternatively, trips to the Similans can be arranged in Phuket. A boat trip from Patong Beach takes 4 hours. Divers, however, go to the islands on boats that leave from Patong Beach and also take 4 hours by diving companies. Moreover, visitors can leave from Chalong Bay on scuba diving excursions. These leave in the evenings and take about 7 hours. A typical dive trip lasts 4 nights and 3 days, and includes 10 dives. Prices range from 9,000 to 25,000 baht, depending on the level of luxury, and include food, and accommodations. The Similans are regarded as mainly "deep water" diving.

For those wishing to stay a shorttime on the Similans: basic accommodations are available at the National Park Office on Koh Miang and can be reserved by contacting: the Similan Islands National Park Office, Moo 1, Tambon Lam Kaen, Tai Meuang District, Phang-Nga. Tel. (076)411913-4.

The best time to visit the Similan islands is from December through April, March being the best month, when the winds are lowest and the water clearest.