My trip to the Similan Islands, a cluster of 9 remote islands within the Andaman Sea, is a marked departure from my budget-savvy habits. Their inaccessibility and price steering most backpackers to other more developed islands (and those with reputations for the “party hardy”), I couldn’t resist the opportunity to experience their isolated beauty while here. With an underwater visibility of 30 meters, they are one of the best dive sites in the world. Being satisfied with snorkeling my way about, I bit my lip and forked over the 2,100 baht for this once in a lifetime opportunity, a one-day tour hitting 4 of the 9 islands. The fact that services on the islands are pretty much nonexistent and that a trip from the pier, on its own, almost exceeds the tour price, I placed my faith in the hands of Jack Similan.
The islands, accessed by a 1.5 hour speedboat trip, are only “open” November 15 through May 15. But all package tours warn that cancellations due to rough seas are a real possibility. Boarding, I wondered if I’d need the Dramamine they handed out. I had never been on a speedboat before. I grew my sea legs rather quickly, hoped for more of the initial roughness and wave-jumping of our ride. I was happy the boat wasn’t jam-packed. In fact, most of the other passengers snoozed the whole ride (see below).
Bangu (Similian Island #9)
I enjoy snorkeling to geek capacity. I was the first one out and last one in at each island. The first island we hit, Bangu, had the best clarity, tons of fish and a gorgeous variety of coral reefs. But at this early point, I was still getting used to working the camera in its vinyl raincoat. After 45 minutes, I didn’t hear the horn to board. The crew was all screaming “Kar-r-r-r-h-o-o-o-o-n!” when I finally noticed from seemingly miles away. Below is what kept me.
Similan (Similan Island #8)
Similan is the largest of the 9 islands. In Malayu it actually means row of nine islands in Andaman Sea. Here we ate lunch and had time to walk the island. The rock formation below is the symbol of the Similan Islands. Behind the lower rocks was a treacherous path up to the top, which I conquered much to the pain of my bare feet. The views were worth it. You can see how secluded these islands really are. My pictures weren’t freak moments when no other tourist was around. There was only a few small boats worth of people there.
Miang (Similan Island #4)
I stalked this huge fish, pictured in the first 3 pictures below, like the paparazzi. It was a spectacular fish, beaming with personality. Although he’d shoot me a look here and there, nothing stopped his feeding frenzy. The marine life at Miang was thriving. As a special treat for the always lone American, one of the crew took my hand and swam me out to an area of strong current to see shark-like fishies strutting their stuff, the underwater cool kids in school. They refused to be photographed.
Payu (Similian Island #7)
The last island did have some services likely because the National Park Headquarters and Navy offices were housed there. I spent the time trying to stay in the shade as a further burn would hinder my plans to hit a few other islands in the coming days. The water was shallow and a baby turquoise I’d never seen elsewhere in the natural world. Under a tree I pondered: “Am I really here?”