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Similan Islands Thailand: Another great spot for divers

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map- similan island locationAndaman sea, Indian ocean
A tiny string of granite islands sitting off the coast of Thailand, the Similans are best explored by liveaboard dive boat, but with some of the best beaches in Thailand, they have a great deal to offer both above and below the water.

Stone and sea
The Similan Islands consist of nine large granite outcrops sitting 40 miles (64 km) off the coast of Thailand. They rise from the depths of the Andaman Sea, and run for 15 miles (24 km) north to south. Although the islands do have individual names, they are commonly known simply by numbers, starting in the south with Number 1 (Koh Huyong), and continuing to Number 9 (Koh Bangu) in the north. They are characterized by steep granite undersea cliffs on their western shores, with more gentle slopes to the east, where, sheltered from the summer monsoon winds, the coral growth is particularly lush. Over 1,000 fish species swarm over reefs colonized by a dazzling array of soft corals. Brightly colored species, such as coral grouper, sweetlips, snapper, and blue triggerfish are present in great numbers and, from October to May, whale sharks and manta rays are frequently encountered.

map_similan3 similan tdve008

fishingThe thriving reef systems around the islands were once threatened by overfishing as well as “dynamite fishing”—the use of explosives to kill and collect large numbers of fish—but the islands were declared a national park in 1982, and commercial fishing is now banned. The sweeping coral fields of Christmas Point are particularly spectacular, although they were slightly damaged in the tsunami of 2004. Other notable attractions include a dramatic maze of huge boulder formations at Elephant’s Head Rock. Similan Islands dive sites remain well worth every hour of sea crossing required to visit them.

Conditions

Water Temperature: 79–84°F (26–29°C)
Ecosystem: Tropical
When to visit: Visit the Similan Islands between October and May.
Must-sees: Whale sharks and manta rays; boulder formations at Elephant’s Head Rock; Christmas Point


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