Overnight in Paradise: The Similan Islands
A camping trip like no other, the Similan Islands offer a taste of paradise just off the coast from Phuket.
A day trip to a desert island is nice, sure. You can meet other people on the boat, take a few photos and have a swim in the sea. You’ll arrive at 10, leave at 4 and be back in your own hotel room that same night. But don’t you think that’s missing out? What about the beauty of watching the sun set over the ocean? Or the adventure of camping out on the beach, waking up as day breaks slowly across the sky?
If this sounds good to you then the Similan Islands in the Andaman Sea should be at the top of your list. Remote, unspoilt and blessed with crystal clear water, they’re only a short boat ride from Phuket but are in a world of their own.
A Paradise Worth Preservation
There are nine islands in the Similan group but you’re only allowed to set foot on numbers four, eight and nine. The other six islands are so ecologically important that they’re permanently off-limits to visitors- yes, this place really is that precious! The landscape is less dramatic than Pha Nga Bay – think rounded rock formations covered in thick forest rather than vertical karst cliffs- but it’s just as beautiful in its own way.
The real draw of the islands is the clear, warm water which is perfect for snorkeling and diving. Add in a secluded setting and beaches that you can have all to yourself overnight and you’ve got a recipe for success.
The Camping Experience
An overnight camping trip is the best way to see the Similans. You’ll start off just like the day-trippers from Phuket, arriving at island number 4 in the morning for some classic desert island photos before hopping back on the boat for some snorkeling stops. It’s in the late afternoon that you start to appreciate your choice though, arriving at island 8 and seeing the beach empty of tourist boats- everyone else has gone home!
After you’ve been shown to your tent (already erected- this is still a holiday after all!) you can climb the nearby rocks at the end of the beach to savor the sunset. Even if you’ve seen plenty of them on your travels you’ll still be impressed by the Similans’ efforts! When the show is over then head back to the beach for a delicious dinner under the stars. It will be simple but delicious- chicken, rice and vegetables.
You’ll probably be up early in the morning- sunshine on canvas is a warm experience! But that’s OK, it just means you’ll have longer to enjoy the snorkeling today. The Similans are often listed in the world’s top ten sites and you can access many of the reefs from the beach.
Take your time to explore the area, either taking your tour boat or making use of the long-tail boats operated by the National Marine Park Centre on island four. Donald Duck Bay on island 8 is particularly recommended- don’t be put off by the name, the beauty of the coral here is no joke!
How to Get to Paradise
The Similans are 85km off the coast of Phuket and the easiest way to visit overnight is on an organized excursion. Expect to pay around 2,000 baht for a budget operator up to around 3,500 baht for a more luxurious option. This price will include all your food and drink for the trip, as well as snorkeling gear and hotel transfers in Phuket.
The Best Time to Visit the Similan Islands
The islands bask in sunshine and calm water for about seven months a year, but when the monsoon hits they’re closed for business. The normal opening dates are 15 October – 15 May but these are subject to change depending on the weather and sea conditions, so make sure you check locally before you start planning a trip.