The Best Diving in Thailand!
The Similan Islands national marine park is widely recognized as the number 1 scuba diving area in Thailand, and most would agree that the reef and marine life is some of the best in Asia. The dive sites vary from gentle sloping hard coral reefs to wild current swept rocky landscapes. In general the Western sites are rocky, while the East coast features sloping reefs. This variety makes the Similan Islands very popular, especially for liveaboard diving trips, and every year divers from all over the world head to Thailand to sample the fantastic diving in this area.
What are the options for Similan diving?
There are around 20 dive sites in the Similan Islands. Combined with the Surin Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, you have well over 25 top scuba sites to choose from, many of which cover an area too large for a single dive. Richelieu Rock for example is always worth 2 or 3 dives. From Phuket or Khao Lak, you can make day trips, overnight tours or liveaboards. Over the last 20 years, liveaboard diving has become very popular here. There are many boats to choose from with different prices, comfort levels and schedules – contact Sunrise Divers – we can help you to find a trip to suit your needs.
Similan Islands – Similan Diving Sites
Elephant Head (Hin Pusar)
Often rated as the most spectacular dive site in the Similan Islands, Elephant Head Rock is composed of giant granite boulders which form a complex maze of swimthroughs, channels and gorges reaching depths of over 40m. From the surface, one rock resembles an elephant (if you have a vivid imagination). Currents can be quite strong, but shelter behind the rocks and the dive is not difficult. Located just south of Island No. 8 (Ko Similan). For sure one of the best dive sites in Thailand!
Another of the Similan’s best sites with boulders, soft corals, arches and passages spread out over a huge area on the west side of island no. 9. More than one dive is needed to see it all. Depth from 35m to the surface. A great site to explore and get lost! White tip sharks are often seen in deeper sandy areas. Beautiful soft coral gardens hide between the rocks, and the sand rubble bottom is great for critters like nudibranchs and ribbon eels.
Christmas Point is a cluster of submerged boulders, with the exception of a pinnacle at the surface that is located on the northwest ridge of Island 9 (Koh Ba-Ngu). Underwater, there are a number of large stacked boulders that stretch from the island to a depth of 35 to 40 meters., which create an arch-like swim-through at 24 meters. The crevices are covered by colorful soft corals and sea fans. In the northeast, there is a mooring line tied to the top of the pinnacle
East of Eden
Probably the best reefs and most variety of any site in the Similan Islands. This is a typical east coast site featuring a healthy hard coral reef mixed with soft corals. There is often a gentle current here, making it a great slow drift dive. East of Eden is true “aquarium” diving. Many divers rate is as their favourite site. Turtles are commonly seen on the shallow reef top. In the morning, on the outer sanyd area, there is a good chance that you will be able to spot some sharks.
Boulder City / Shark Fin Reef
These two sites are part of a rocky ridge that runs away from Similan island No. 3. Both are great sites for spotting larger fish such as bumphead parrotfish, napoleon wrasse and leopard sharks. Beautiful fan coral gardens decorate the passages between the enormous granite boulders. Both sites cover a wide area, with depths from 5 to 35m – too much to see in one dive.
The marine life here is truly diverse and is similar to that of Shark Fin Reef. Sharks sometimes can be spotted around the sand bottom.
Beacon Point / Beacon Reef
The Southern Tip of Similan island No. 8 is wild and rocky. A rock on the surface resembles a face (the Thai name is Na Ling – monkey face) , and if you descend here, you find huge boulders from 20-35m on a white sandy bottom. Heading North, you reach the reef that continues for several kilometers along the East of the island. Depending on your drop off point, a dive can be rocks or reef or a mixture of both.
A landmark of this site is a shipwreck named “Rareung-Chon”, as known as “Atlantis-X”, which rests in the middle of the reef. The ship sank in 2002, and fortunately there were no fatalities from the incident. The wreck lies on the reef slope at a depth of 30 meters at the stern and 15 meters at the bow.
Due to the lush coral, reef fish such as angelfish, butterflfyfish, fairy, basslets, as well as pufferfish, porcupinefish, triggerfish and moray eels are abundant here. Large schools of pelagic fish such as bluefin trevally, snappers, fusilliers, goatfish and longnosed emperrors can be seen here.
Also called Barrucuda point for some reason – maybe an old name… This Similan dive site winds around island number 5, which from the surface is not much more than a rockpile, but there is a great reef underwater from 5 to nearly 30 meters and a lot of variety. There is a great big coral bommie on the east side and some big granite boulders right on the south of the island at about 30m depth. There is also a small wreck (a fishing boat) on the west side of the island, which lies at 28 – 40m. Enough to see here for several different dives!
Along the Eastern side of Similan Island No. 9 is yet more healthy and beautiful hard coral. The fish life here is abundant, especially bannerfish, damsels, groupers and hunting trevallies who dart into clouds of tiny baitfish. The reef depth drops to 25m, making a great multilevel dive. Your safety stop can continue in the shallows where you should keep an eye out for turtles. This is also a great night dive site.
Leopard sharks are common and sometimes two of three of these can be seen in the same dive. Seeing whitetip reef sharks and napoleon wrasse is also possible here. Kuhl’s stingrays, garden eels, groupers and triggerfish, as well as differant sort of gobies on the sand are a common side.
This side also is home to schools of soldierfish and bluefin trevally, as well as some camouflage experts such as octopuses and ghost pipefish. Furthermore, cometfish can also sometimes be seen in rock crevices. On the northern side, large swarms of friendly batfish and yellowtail barracuda can always be found swimming around.
Many people would agree that Fantasea Reef was one of the top sites in the Similan Islands. The variety and abundance of fish life is astounding, and the fish seem very curious. There are also some great rock formations, swimthroughs and soft corals that cover a wide area.
Note : The National Park had closed Fantasea Reef for regeneration, one of many new environmental projects being undertaken. After the tsunami on December 26th 2004, this site was reopened. Not clear if it will be available in 2018. It is likely that one or two other sites such as Christmas Point or Deep Six may be closed for a while. Overall the reef quality hardly changed due to the tsunami.
The dive site descriptions above cover some of the better known sites in the 9 islands of the Similan Island chain. All the islands have names, but are usually referred to by numbers. For further information, we now have an excellent Similan Islands Dive Site book for sale at our dive shop in Phuket. Price is just 1,150 Baht. The dive site descriptions are excellent and the book also contains some very good dive site maps. See you here!
Similan Islands Diving Options
Liveaboards will usually also include dive sites north of the main Similan islands including Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai and Koh Bon, and sometimes the Surin Islands. If you want to dive the Similan islands please Contact Sunrise Divers for more information!