Mu Ko Similan National Park has been rated first by the U. S. publication Skin Diving of the top ten dive sites in the world. The Similan Islands in the heart of the Andaman Sea are indeed unparelled in their exotic beauty. If planning a visit, keep in mind that anytime between December to April is recommended, with the best month being March, because the monsoons are over and the water is clear.
The national park is established in 1982 and located in Ko Phrathong Sub-distreict, Khuraburi District, Phang-nga Province and covers 128 square kilometers, 80,000 rais, of area, 14 square kilometers of which is land composed of all the islands put together. Located along the western coastline of the Andaman Sea and in the Indian Ocean, rest these nine exotic granite islands created by upwellings of hot magma during the Teritiary-Cretaceous Period some 65 million years ago, then smoothed by glacial ice and the wave action of the sea.
Similan is really the Malaysian word for nine, as there are nine islands in the Similan group: Ko Bangu, Ko Similan, Hin Huwagralok, Ko Payu, Ko Ha, Ko Hok, Ko Miang, Ko Payan, Ko Payang, and Ko Huyong. In 1998, the park boundary was expanded to cover Ko Tachai which is located further north of Ko Bon and the Similan group. Then the park area becomes 140 square kilometers.
Consists of numerous islands with high and steep granite mountain, beaches and rocks formation of many shapes. The shoreline of each islands are of inconsistent curves since they are situated in the outer part of the sea and are worn away directly by waves. Part of the water lies in the Andaman Sea and eastern side of the Indian Ocean while the shoulder of the continent borders the western shoreline of Phang Nga province and Union of Myanmar, paralleling the Nikobar Islands of India. There is no mud at all along the beaches, so the sands are very clean, white and very fine. Some islands do have hills in the area, which are usually quite tall with the highest top of 244 meters above mean sea level, while some islands are of flat area surrounded by sand dunes and coral reefs.
Summer begins in mid February and ends in May. Rainy season starts from mid May till October with North - Western wind. Average annual temperature is 27?c with average of approximately 83% humidity all year round. Average annual rainfall is measured at 3,560 millimeters with evaporation rate of 1,708 millimeters per year. In rainy season, the park will be closed during 16 May - 14 November every year for visitors safety.
Flora and Fauna
Mu Ko Similan National Park
Similan National Park Types of forests can be divided into 3 main characteristics.
- Beach Forest
open forest with scattered plants at approximate height of not over 15 meters such as Terminalia catappa, Barringtonia asiatica, Callophyllum inophyllum. Small perennials and large shrub not exceeding 10 meters in height found are Xylocarpus gaugeticus, Herltiera littoralis, Hibiscus tiliaceus which is a smaller shrub found are Capparis micracautha, Breynia vitris-idaea Fischer, Pandanus odoratissimus. Grounds covering plants common in the area are beans, Vigna sp., Spilanthes sp., Ischaemum barbatum, Lophatherum gracile, Hoya parasittrica, Asplenium nidus.
- Scrub Forest
Habitat for shrubs which can develop on grounds with soil depth of not exceeding 30 centimeters. A few cacti can be found while more common shrubs found are Cercus spp., Dracaena spp., Memecylon caeruleum, Cleistanhus polyphyllus.
- Primary Forest
Habitation for perennials at a height of 20 meters or above such as Dipterocarpus costatus, Dipterocarpus boudii, Shores spp.,. Lower perennials at 15-20 meters in height are palaquium obovatum, Eugenia denaiflora, Wrightia sp., 10-15 meters in height are Hydnocarpus ilicifolius, Semecarpus curtisii, Diospyros wallichii. Bambusa sp., Calamus longisetus, Plam, Amydrium medium and Bauhinia glauca are also found with other creepers and parasites such as betel pepper, bauhinia and orchid.
The most unique vegetation found only on Ko Yai in the Andaman sea are sapodilla and Nguang Chang Talay while edible plants are Manilkara sp., Toumefotia argentia, Bouea oppositifolio, Lepisanthes rubiginosa, Diospyros wallichii, Neang and Copparis micracantha.
Beneath the sea at Mu Ko Similan National Park lies a complex ecosystem commonly called the rainforest of the sea: the coral reef. The major residents of the reef are coral and the closely related sea anemones; of the Phylum Cnidaria, Class Anthozoa, which contains all radially symmetrical invertebrate animals. Corals and sea anemones exist as individual polyps living in either solitary or mostly colonial forms. The polyps of hard corals construct communal limestone homes which are built up into a multitude of shapes and sizes eventually giving rise to a coral reef. Soft corals have soft bodies made of large numbers of identical polyps connected by fleshy tissue (Zooxanthallae). These soft corals contain small algae within their tissues which are able to convert the sun's energy into food. This cooperative relationship is known as symbiosis and also exists in hard corals, clams and other marine organisms. There are several factors that support good environment for the reef i.e. temperature, salinity, light, wave and tide, sedimentation and nutrient. Therefore, healthy coral reef can be found easily in the Andaman Sea comparing to the Gulf of Thailand. In Andaman Sea, coral reefs are able to classified as deep water and medium water. For the deep water coral reef grow down to 30 m. Of course, in this case water allows enough light for the algae. This reef type is mostly found in Similan and Surin islands. For the rest area, medium water coral reef grow between 8-15 m beneath the surface.
Coral can also be classified to fall into these structural categories: massive, columnar, encrusting, branching, foliceaous, laminar and free-living coral. The hard corals found in Mu Ko Similian National Park are deep water species of mostly staghorn coral types (Acropora echinata) and the smaller cauliflower shaped types (Seriatopora histrix). Many other species of marine life co-exist within the coral reef: Gorgonian sea fans, flower-like soft coral, several species of crabs, spiny painted lobsters, squid, sponges, sea cucumbers and giant clams.
Above the sea surrounding each island lies Beach forest, which steadily becomes Tropical forest further inland. Important tree species include Manilkara sp. Cordia subcordia, and Tournefotia argentia. A survey conducted in 1992 revealed that 39 species of birds can be found on the nine islands. Resident species include the Brahminy Kite, and the White-breasted Waterhen, while migratory species include the Pintail Snipe, and Grey Wagtail. Temporary migratory species include the Barn Swallow, Cattle Egret, Watercock, and the Roseate Tern. The most commonly seen species include the Pacific Reef-Egret, Nicobar Pigeon, Pied Imperial Pigeon, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, and the Collared Kingfisher.
The environment of Mu Ko Similian National Park is obviously that of a small island, wherever you go, you are not far from the sea. Natural fresh water reserves are few, and as a result, large mammal species cannot exist. Surveys have revealed that 27 species of small mammals exist within the park, including 16 species of bats namely: the black-bearded tomb bat, the lesser false vampire bat, the intermediate horseshoe bat, the lesser bent-winged bat, and the hairless bat. 3 species of squirrels can be found including the gray-cheeked flying squirrel. 4 species of rats: the yellow Rajah rat, the rice field rat, roof rat and noisy rat can be seen scurrying around as well. Finally, the more unusual but fairly common residents include the bush tailed porcupine, common palm civet, flying lemur and the bottlenose dolphin. 22 species of reptiles and amphibians can be found in the park including the banded krait, reticulated python, white-lipped pit viper, common pit viper, garden blue lizard, hawksbill turtle, leather turtle, Bengal monitor lizard, common water monitor lizard, ornate frog let, common Asiatic frog, marsh frog, and the common bush frog. Finally, another most interesting species located in the Similans island is called the hairy leg mountain land crab. This crab is found in such large numbers you will be sure to see many just by walking around a bit. No matter where you are on the island, seeing this creature will be a reminder you are never far from water.
- Ko Huyong (Huyong Island)
Huyong Island or Island 1 is the closest to Phuket with the longest clean white sandy beach of all the islands, making it an inviting place for turtles to come lay their eggs. Huyong Island has the easiest dived at a depth of 10 to 15 meters. With hard and soft corals and an abundance of sea fans. The shallowness of the area allows sunlight to penetrate to the bottom resulting in a region teeming with marine life.
- Ko Payang (Payang Island)
Payang Island or Island 2, The area is full of rocky mountains with cliffs and rocks formation round the island.
- Ko Payan (Payan Island)
Payan Island or Island 3, The area is quite rocky with cliffs; there are no beaches on this island.
- Ko Miang (Miang Island)
Miang Island or Island 4 is the next largest island in size to Similan Island and is the site for the headquarters of the park. Here are two white powdered beached, the large beach, in front of the island and the small beach, which is about 20 minutes walk away through evergreen forest. his is the best site for viewing wildlife and for an overnight stay in Mu Ko Similan National Park. By venturing further inland from the beach you may catch a glimpse of the Nicobar Pigeon or the hairy leg mountain land crab (Pu Kai in Thai, because it makes noise like a baby chicken). If all you want to do is snorkelling, try viewing off the beaches of Miang Island, in the channel between Miang Island and Payu Island, and also off Similan Island. Ko Tachai (Tachai Island)
- Ko Ha (Ha Island)
Ha Island or Island 5, It's a small island but interesting location for diving. The main attractions and uniqueness for this island is Garden Eels (white and grey eels) can be seen stretching their necks from holes in the sandy floor. There are so many of the place called “Suan Pla Lai”. Moreover, the area is also full of soft coral and stony coral.
- Ko Payu (Payu Island)
Payu Island or Island 6 has a very stunning snorkelling and scuba diving site on the eastern shore. Many divers prefer this site to any other because there are both hard and soft corals, sea fan and many species of schoolling fish. A minore site is found to the west, and another to the north has rocks covered with sea fans. The island has no beach.
- Ko Hin Pousar
Hin Pousar Island or Island 7 or Hin Huwagralok is the rock with the elephant head shaped-rock outcrop. Beneath this curious rock structure you will find caves, swim through and unique underwater formations to delight your eyes. This island is a rock of approximately 30 metres in width with piles of rock around it at a depth of 20-50 metres. Soft corals can be found along the cliffs and there are many types of fish around such as rabbit fish and wrasse. Further away from the piles of rock to the south, there are many sea fans scattering around at 30 metres. Manta rays and sea tortoises can also be found a little deeper.
- Ko Bon (Bon Island)
Bon Island or Talu Island, there is a beautiful white powered beach on this island but no accommodation. The waters are suitable for scuba diving, and Whale Shark is often found here.
- Ko Tachai (Tachai Island)
Tachai Island is located at the northern most tip of the park. There is a beautiful white powdered beach on the island but no accommodation. The water are suitable for SCUBA diving, and Whale Shark is often found here.
- By Car
There are daily bus services from Bangkok to Phang Nga (approximately 788 kilometres) Standard bus fee is 357 Baht, air-conditioned bus fee is 459 Baht, and VIP air-conditioned bus fee is 685 Baht. Then another 65 kilometres from Phang Nga to Thap Lamu District, it cost 35 Baht. for Motorbike can then be taken to continue on to Thap Lamu Pier (another 5 kilometres) at 30 Baht.
- By Plane
Flights from Bangkok-Phuket operate daily at 2,300 Baht. From Phuket, take a bus to Thap Lamu Pier, Phang Nga province then take a ferry to Mu Ko Similan National Park.
- By Boat
Thap Lamu Port to Mu Ko Similan National Park, you can take a private tour boat which controlled by the national park and serves tourists everyday. The cost for round trip is 1,500 - 2,300 baht per person. This tour boat departs from Thap Lamu Port at 08.00 am. in everyday. From the port to this islands is about 70 kilometers which takes about 3.5 - 4 hours of journey. The return boat from Mu Ko Similan National Park to Thap Lamu Port departs at 14.00 pm. in everyday. However, this service would be closed at May 16 every year because entering of raining season. Once reached Ko Similan, motorboats are available for tourist to get to different islands per the following fare. Ko 4 to Ko 6 - distance 3 kilometers a 150 Baht/person
Ko 4 to Ko 8 - distance 11.5 kilometers a 200 Baht/person
Ko 4 to Ko 9 - distance 13.5 kilometers a 300 Baht/person
Around Ko 8 and Ko 9 a 300 Baht/person
Camping site/Tent - Around the chalets (2.5 rais) with bathrooms and shared toilets. Around the national park office, Ko 8 (6 rais) with bathrooms and shared toilets. Docking , Boat Tie-up , Wharf - located at Ban Thap Lamu.
Raining season starting from mid of May - October with North - Western wind which has a highest level of rainfall. In rainy season, the park will be closed during 16 May - 14 November every year for visitors safety.