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Getting Away From It All In The Similan Islands
Vacations are something we all feel that we need to get us through the year of work, studies, or other stress. Holidaymakers generally like to go hiking, skiing, or sightseeing, but one of the most popular holiday activities is just to get away from it all. Take a vacation that allows you to relax without having to worry about the time, hawkers, traffic, schedules, or the next restaurant bill. No noise, smells, distractions or anything. Genuine peace and quiet is not the easiest thing to find nowadays, especially with the choice of some enjoyable activities to break up the sunbathing, relaxing and novel reading. Another important factor for enjoying a vacation is good weather. Some people like to be cool, but most Westerners prefer to be able to relax in the sun, or at least in warm shade. However, there are fewer and fewer places where it’s possible to get away from everyone and everything, just for a few days, and enjoy weather, tropical islands, and whichever activities you enjoy in such situations. Although Thailand is world-famous for busy nightlife, shopping, treks and fun, it has a hidden gem out to sea which is absolutely perfect for relaxing far away from noise, pollution, technology and people. In the southern province of Phang Nga out to sea lies a group of nine islands and dozens of islets and rocky pinnacles. This is the best place in Thailand to relax with a sea breeze and enjoy the very best scuba diving and snorkelling in the Kingdom. The Similan Islands make up a small archipelago 60km (37 miles) out to sea. The islands and islets are almost completely uninhabited and absolutely free from any disturbances. They are part of a national marine park, and two or three of them are owned by Thai royal family. This really is the best place to escape hubbub and reality, even if it I for just a few days at time.
How to get there and what to do
Most people visit the Similan Islands for scuba diving, but it is also a popular place to snorkel, or just relax and enjoy a cruise. The distance is perfect to ensure total peace and tranquility, yet it’s not too far to make getting there difficult, especially in the case of an emergency. Generally, sailing and liveaboard diving boats leave from Phuket or Khao Lak (Phang Nga) and sail overnight at a relaxed pace. Some large boats leave in the morning and still give guests three dives on that first day, but it’s a bit more rushed. It’s also common to visit the Similan Islands by speedboat or catamaran. This trip takes just two hours, with the catamaran boats providing the best stability and comfort. Speedboats can make the trip in less or just under or over an hour. On traditional dive boats the journey takes almost three hours. After reaching The Similan Islands guests can take a dip in the warm clear waters either to just enjoy a swim or snorkel with reef fish. The coral reefs are in great condition and there are lots of wonderful species to see in this part of the world. Twelve hours of sunlight every day ensures that there is always a chance to take and dip to cool off. Swimming at night is also possible, as long as others know where you are. Most boats at The Similan Islands have air-conditioned cabins but a lot of visitors still choose to sleep on the top deck, under the clear starry sky. The weather out there is absolutely perfect. It’s warm and sunny during the day, but with a cool sea breeze, and perfect at night to enjoy a meal, drink or a conversation with new friends or those you are travelling with.
Without doubt, the most popular activity at The Similan Islands is scuba diving. There are two dozen or more of the best diving sites in Thailand. Some are ideal for all levels of divers, including absolute beginners, and snorkelling, while others are a little bit too challenging, with nothing but deep water and schools of large fish. There are also dive sites which are suitable for both new divers and experienced enthusiasts. Some dive sites are great for newer divers but may be a little boring for very experienced and professional divers, but this is quite rare. More commonly, dive sites such as Deep Six are ideal for experienced divers but not for novices. However, in general most Similan Islands dive sites are great for everyone. There’s healthy coral and marine life right up to the surface, and deep areas for those who want to push their limits or explore something special. Scuba diving at the Similan Islands is among the best in the world, with lots of healthy fish and corals, but it’s not the only thing to do out there. There are islands which can be visited for short treks and lots of land animals to look out for. Pristine beaches are great for volleyball or soccer and there are even some easy boulders to climb up and get a view of the surrounding seas and islands. Donald Duck Bay is the most recognized Similan Islands postcard picture. It’s just a short and easy climb up to the top, revealing a wonderful view of the surrounding areas. While there are quite a few diving boats out at the Similan Islands during the diving season, whichever one holidaymakers find themselves on they will still feel like they’re away from everyone and everything.
Prices are much more reasonable than many think
Liveaboard diving boats and regular yachts are available for different trip lengths and suit all budgets. In fact, they can be much less expensive than many people presume, especially the budget liveaboard diving boats. These are designed for comfort more than luxury, and offer divers the chance to dive up to four times per day with accommodation and all meals included for less than they would pay on the mainland. In addition, the diving is far better than the dive sites which mainland-based dive boats visit. Diving day trips to the Similan Islands are also good value, but the fuel for speedboats and the obvious lack of accommodation make the ‘cost per dive’ higher. Liveaboard diving in the Similan Islands is among the best in the world, and certainly the best in Thailand. There’s a great selection of trips which vary in length and price to suit every need, taste and budget.
It’s not all about keeping to a budget, though. For those who really want to relax and enjoy the best tropical island or cruise vacation, there are yachts and luxury liveaboard boats to cosset and serve even those fussiest of guests. And for those who want total freedom and privacy, there are several Similan Island yachts available for charter. Whatever your needs are for an enjoyable and relaxing holiday out at sea, one of the many Similan diving tours are sure to meet your requirements.
Where are the Similan Islands?
The Similan Islands are in The Andaman Sea, which merges into The Indian Ocean, but still within Thai waters. Access is only by private boat, as no public ferries are available. There are no shops or motorized vehicles on the islands, nor is there a cellular service. One or two islands have park rangers, due to the fact that the islands fall within the national marine park. Entrance and diving fees apply, but are very reasonable. Two of the islands are owned by the Thai royal family, and therefore out of bounds to the public. The park is closed to all public access between mid-May and mid-October. This is because monsoon winds cause high or unpredictable waves, which is a risk for boats. Although some boats travel from Phuket, Tablamu Pier at Khao Lak is the most popular place to embark and set sail.