Krabi, where I live, is well known for the multitude of beautiful islands which can be reached with daily tours and multi-day tours: Koh Phi Phi and Bamboo, the Four islands, Hong & Paradise islands, the two Koh Yao, Koh Lanta and several more.
However, for a change of scenery and for some really stunning snorkelling experiences, I’m taking advantage of the unusually tranquil high season to travel a bit farther than usual and try out excursions that I wouldn’t normally have the time to do.
Last weekend I travelled north to Khao Lak with Fantasia Asia team and some family members for a three day-two night stay and two day trips to Similan and Surin Islands. Today’s blog is about the former, but there’s going to be a second part soon about the latter.
In Khao Lak our group chose to stay at The Briza Beach Resort, one of our partner hotels. The Briza has spacious, bright rooms settled around a large swimming pool, with partial or full sea view depending on the category chosen. The beach resort has a laid-back atmosphere and Khao Lak’s many restaurants, shops and bars are only a few minute drive away, as it’s the pier from which most sea-tour companies depart for Similan.
We woke up relatively early on our first day in Khao Lak and drove to the pier to have a second breakfast (after the large one at the hotel) served at Sea Star dock, then we checked in for our tour. We were given mask, fins, snorkel, a towel and a practical bag to carry all. You are free to bring your own snorkelling equipment and only sign in for whatever you need. Sea sickness pills and relaxing balms are also available for free.
We chose Sea Star because it’s one of the most popular boat operators in the area, and one of the few who is still running tours despite the Covid pandemic that hit the tourism industry of Thailand.
When we went to Similan it was Chinese New Year, which this year has been promoted to public holiday in Thailand to boost the tourism, and we were a group of 3 and 4-engine speed-boats traveling together from Khao Lak. Each boat carried between 30 to 50 persons. Once we arrived in Similan, after a 1-hour-and-a-half pleasant trip in very calm waters, I was surprised and very happy to observe that we were the only three boats: none had come from Phuket, or if it had, it had followed a different itinerary that day.
Our first stop was the turquoise bay of Koh Miang, also known as island number 4, where we briefly stopped to drop people who weren’t interested in snorkelling. If you haven’t seen Koh Miang before, you’re heading for such a great surprise and amazement: the island is stunning, a perfect representation of what we imagine when we hear the word “tropical paradise”. The white sandy beach is large, soft, fringed by palm trees, facing a transparent turquoise-meets-laps lazuli-meets crystal clear sea. We dropped some passengers in Koh Miang, well aware that we would be back there for lunch, and would get our chance to live the tropical dream on Miang Beach.
The first snorkelling – which lasted 45 minutes- was in calm waters on a secluded bay not far from Miang Beach. Visibility was about 15 meters, and the bottom mostly sandy or covered by the reef. The guides who accompanied us took extremely good care of those who weren’t confident in the water, keeping them close, helping them floating by holding a large piece of styrofoam tablet and dragging them around so that they could sneak-peak at the underwater world.
I spent the time snorkelling by myself, trying out my new underwater camera and looking for turtles that unfortunately didn’t show up that day: they might have gone on holiday for Chinese New Year.
After 45 minutes in the water, we went back to Koh Miang to eat a very good and spicy lunch at the National Park premises. The lunch had been cooked in Khao Lak and carried to Similan by Sea Star, and vegetarian or special meals were available. I had some rice, fried chicken and vegetarian curry, while others had prawns and fish with rice and curry. Soft drinks are included, and abundant.
After eating my lunch real fast I went down to the beach, which is only a few steps away from the restaurant area. Wow, I’ve seen several impressive islands in many parts of the world, but the color of the ocean in Miang Beach that day was one I won’t forget.
Having spent a few hours in Koh Miang we left to visit one more snorkelling site. It was good and offered flat waters and great visibility, and even if the diver inside me had been spoilt by many most impressive sites before, I had a good time swimming above the reef and checking fish and corals. Huge parrot and surgeon fish swim around everywhere in Similan, and there are many clown fish in their anemones, puffer fish and blue star fish.
Then it was time to head to the last stop of the day, island number 8, also known as Similan Island. The first glimpse of a white long stretch of sand beach surrounded by huge and curious-shaped rocks made most of the passengers in our boat cry out in delight. It is Donald Duck bay, the most famous beach in Similan, so called because of a large shaped rock on the Western part of the bay that looks a little bit like Donald Duck from the cartoon.
But the most famous landmark of Similan island is the Sail Rock, a unique round boulder that balances precariously on top of other rocks: from there, after an easy but sweaty 10-minute walk up to the “viewpoint”, stunning photos of the white sand beach and the turquoise waters below are guaranteed. So off I went, eager to get that stunning view on camera without the hundreds -maybe thousands- people that in normal circumstances crowd this island. And I wasn’t disappointed: the panorama was so beautiful I couldn’t take my eyes off of it and lost myself in a dream about mooring my own sailing boat there for the night, or the year.
Instead it was time to go back to Khao Lak where, after a smooth boat trip, we arrived before sunset and were offered dinner at the Sea Star pier: Thai popular dishes like papaya salad, yellow noodles, sticky rice and fried chicken, BBQ chicken skewers and a delicious home made coconut ice cream everybody ordered twice. Back to the Briza, I enjoyed a poolside Margarita, watching the sun sets on the ocean and daydreaming about past and new adventures in this unique corner of Thailand.
GOOD TO KNOW:
- The Similan archipelago consists of eleven islands that make up the Mu Koh Similan National Park, a perfect destination for diving and snorkelling enthusiasts, beach lovers and explorers.
- Similan means “Nine”in the Yawi native tongue of the area. In 2014 the National Park came to include two more islands (Koh Bon and Koh Tachai).
- Between mid May and end of October the Similan National Park closes to visitors. Additionally, some islands are closed to tourists all year around to protect the fragile sea turtles who are nesting on some of the beaches. Illegal fishing is still a problem, especially in low season.
- It was possible to camp in island number 4 until a few years ago, but it’s not allowed anymore, at least for the time being. Therefore, to visit Similan you can now take a day tour from Phuket or Khao Lak or book a multi-day cruise on a Liveaboard.
- Check out our YouTube channels Fantasia Asia and GogetMaya for more info and videos about this destination.
Do not feed the fish, even if they follow you begging for food
Do not touch or step on any coral or sea life.
Do not bring home sand, sea shells or any sea life.
Do not put tons of sunscreen before snorkelling, it’s toxic for the marine life. Wear a long sleeved t-shirt instead (or be ready to get sunburnt).