Similan & Surin Islands
The Similan and Surin Islands are the ultimate diving destinations in Thailand, and only a few hours' sailing from Phuket.
The Similan Islands, some 50 miles northwest of Phuket, form a Marine National Park comprising nine islands in a tight archipelago, as well as two islands further north named Koh Bon and Koh Tachai. The Similans' waters are famous for their clear visibility, colourful coral reefs and incredibly diverse and prolific marine life, making the archipelago one of the most popular dive sites in the world. The National Park is only open from 1 November to 30 April each year. The islands are patrolled by Park Rangers, and a fee of 200 Baht per vessel and another 200 Baht for each passenger or 400 Baht for scuba divers per day is levied. Cruising to and among these islands is not recommended during the southwest monsoon season as the seas can be very rough and there are few protected overnight anchorages.
Some 15 miles northeast of the Similans is Koh Bon, one of the best places in Thailand to see manta rays. The island is surrounded by deep water and anchoring is not possible. A further 15 miles north of Koh Bon is Koh Tachai, home to another excellent dive site, as well as a beautiful sandy beach on its northeastern shore, though the island is a little too exposed to be used as an overnight anchorage.
Some 42 miles north of the Similans and just shy of the Myanmar border are the Surin Islands. The five Surin islands comprise the Surin Marine National Park, and their relative remoteness means that they are much less-travelled than the Similan Islands to the south. The diving in the area is unparalleled, particularly at Richelieu Rock, one of the most famous dive sites in the world. The Marine National Park fee levied here is the same as at the Similans. The Myanmar border is just a few miles north of the Surin Islands and permission is required in advance before entering these waters.
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Charts courtesy of Southeast Asia Pilot - www.southeastasiapilot.com