Similan Islands – Tranquil Hidden Gems in Thailand

There are many reasons why I love Phuket and keep going back there. Be it the relaxed pace of life there or the cohort amalgamation of people from all over the world looking to have a time of their lives. This “Pearl of Andaman” is an excellent take-off point or a gateway to several beautiful islands scattered across the Andaman sea.The Similan Islands is one such place that is often overlooked by visitors who mostly head to the much publicized Phi-Phi islands instead.

Islands in Thailand
View from the top of Similan Island

About the Similan Islands

The Similan Islands is a cluster of eleven islands that are actually part of the Mu Ko Similan National Park, located off the coast of Phang Nga bay. The waters around these islands are home to a plethora of diverse marine ecosystem which provides some excellent diving and snorkeling spots. However, three of the eleven islands are off-limits to tourists as they are entirely functional for the marine life protection and preservation initiative of the national park. These islands were the first Thai territories to get hit during the disastrous 2004 Tsunami resulting in extensive damage to the underwater life which left the place with damaged corals and displaced species. Dedicated efforts are being made now to conserve and protect the reefs which shelter thousands of sea turtles, manta rays and the occasional sharks.

Similan Islands
Pristine blue waters around Similan Islands

It was my love for beaches, islands, the sea and the urge to go places that are not the most popular that led me to visit these islands. A 90 minute boat ride from Khao Lak took us to a cove that was brimming with nature at its most honest and serene best – under the sea and on the land. Snorkeling in the clear waters alongside the stunning variety of marine species, some amazingly beautiful coral reefs and a couple of curious sea turtles, I did not want to stop.

Similan Island
Coast of Similan Island 9

These islands are absolutely devoid of the usual rapid development activities and have hardly any modern amenities to mention. Filled with forests and surrounded with turquoise waters all around, the beaches here are probably the most pristine I have seen in Thailand till now. Beautiful pieces of sea stones and corals wash ashore with every wave that hits the beach. Inland, the forests are thick, green and humid with a few harmless monkeys jumping around. I had a friendly encounter with one of the thousands of hairy-legged crabs that crawl all over the island.

Beaches of Thailand
White sand beaches of Similan Islands


On the island, there is a “Hill” which is actually a formation of huge rock boulders piled up on one another. The summit of this hill is an excellent viewpoint that provides stunning views of the island and miles across the surrounding ocean. However, the climb to the top can be quite rough and physically exhausting as one would need to go through several steep narrow passages between the rocks. There were quite a few people who took that climb as I realized it was worth all the effort once I reached to the top.

Islands of Thailand
Beautiful view of the island cove from the summit of the hill
Islands of Thailand
View of the ocean from the summit of the hill at Similan Island

These islands are entirely managed by the national park authorities with the sole purpose of sustaining and protecting the marine ecosystem. Visitors to these islands are always provided with special guidelines on responsible tourism before setting foot on the shores or venturing under water. There is a constant effort to keep these islands safe, clean and away from the commercialization that has happened to Phi Phi over the years. This is visible from the availability of accommodation which are limited to camping tents and basic bungalows by the sea which are also provided by the national park management.

Similan camping

How to get there and back

Tour agencies from Khao Lak operate fast boats to these islands everyday. You can choose for the day trip that departs at 9 AM and returns by 5 PM or the overnight camping trip which departs at 9 AM and returns the next morning. Camping on this quiet island can be fun and peaceful at the same time. The Fantastic Similan Travel group are well-known for their outstanding service with responsible and efficient staff. Visit for more info on their available trips.


I found the below two websites providing the best information on the Similan Islands. Various aspects of the place like the history, wildlife and accommodation process are available on these sites.

Similan Islands



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Similan Islands – Tranquil Hidden Gems in Thailand

Indonesia: Have Fun in Gili Trawangan Island

What is it about island getaways that is so irresistible? Is it the feeling of a free laid back life while being surrounded with so many elements of nature that makes the beer/cocktail/milkshakes taste that extra smooth? Especially when on an island like Gili Trawangan – also known as Gili T – where shenanigans of the outside world take a backseat to a natural rustic charm. An island so small that it can be circled around in one hour riding a bicycle yet it is big enough that even four days of fun might seem less. Once having set foot on the shores of the island one does not need a second invitation to say “When in Gili T, be like how this place deserves us to be”.

Lazying at the beach and/or Exploring the reefs

Beach GiliT
Empty beaches like this are everywhere on the island
The beautiful marine life off the coast
The beautiful marine life off the coast

Well, this is the most obvious and easiest thing to do on Gili T. The beaches are pristine white and the waters are crystal clear. Majority of the shoreline is surrounded by a network of coral reefs hence the scattering of many corals along the beach. Getting a Bintang and lying down on that white warm sand is an easy temptation. Even better, head out to the sea for a swim/snorkel past the shallow water and dead coral reefs to catch a glimpse of famed sea-turtles and beautiful marine life. You don’t even need to go out on a boat for snorkeling. Just rent the equipment from the many shops/bars/restaurants along the beach and head out yourself.

Taking in the sunsets

A shot of the amazing sunset with the backdrop of Bali
A shot of the amazing sunset with the backdrop of Bali
People enjoying the view at the sunset bar
People enjoying the view at the sunset bar

Oh the magical sunsets on display from the west coast of this island!! Every evening there is a grand spectacle put on by the setting sun along with the clouds, sea and the island of Bali at a distance. At around 5:30 PM, people from all over the island throng to the several sunset bars and the beaches on the west cost of Gili T. With a cold Bintang (yes I can’t stop gushing about it!!) and a beanbag chair, I enjoyed watching the sky turning from blue to orange and even purple on some days. Admittedly, this was the first time I witnessed folks clapping at the sheer beauty of a sunset.

Walking up the hill

The machinegun bunker
The machinegun bunker
View from the top of the hill
View from the top of the hill

Not many know that this island was a small but important part of World War II. The hill at Gili T has remains of a huge machine-gun bunker which was used by Japanese forces during the war. The hill itself is not at all high and the walk up to the top takes not more than 20 minutes. Soak in a little piece of history as you have a look at the several small bunkers and the machine-gun post. For the believers in the supernatural, get up to the top to defy a local myth of the hill being haunted. Honestly, the place did feel a bit spooky as it bore a desolate look in the middle of the afternoon with nobody around. Read more about this place here.

Eating – at the night market or elsewhere

Fresh seafood at Gili Trawangan
Food in Gili Trawangan
Barbecue skewers on the grill at Gili Trawangan night market
Food in Gili Trawangan
Food in plentiful at Gili Trawangan

Being an island gives this place an advantage of being an obvious paradise for seafood lovers. However, the food here is beyond just seafood. Cuisines from almost all over the world are to be found here. Places serving Western, European, Chinese and even a restaurant with Indian food are dotted all around the island – especially near to the harbor. Dine it at these many restaurants or head to the famous night market if you want to experience Indonesian cuisine and delicious barbecue in an open communal setting. For as low as 2$, you can have a decent meal while being in the company of unknown friends.

Making new friends

Boat Trips in Gili Trawangan
Take the boat trips from Gili Trawangan

If you are traveling by yourself to this place, chances are that at the end of your trip you will have made at least 4-5 friends. The celebratory vibes of this island makes it so easy to say or respond with a “Hello” to a complete stranger. Be it meeting folks on a snorkeling trip or dancing with folks in to the New Year and even the bartender remembering you after one evening of drinks, making new friends is the way to go here.


People keep saying that Gili T is too much commercialized and is overcrowded. Well, there is a reason why “crowds” of people come to this place and it is because they love this place. Yes, like every place there are a couple of drawbacks to this island. There is an underbelly of drug abuse (which is rampant across most tourist places in Indonesia) on this island due to the party atmosphere during the evenings and late nights. The “crowds” like all other tourist destinations will always have a few bad apples. It gets really really hot here – I mean this is probably the hottest place I’ve traveled to. The horse-driven carts – I did not use them just by looking at the state of those poor horses. I can’t imagine those creatures dragging tonnes of baggage around all day.

But inspite of the above drawbacks, I love Gili T. For me it is one of the best island getaways that can ever be. For its beaches, the friendly turtles, the amazing sunsets and for all the memories I’ve had with people, I will go back there someday soon.

How to reach

From Bali – Take the fast boat from any of the three ports Serangan, Padang Bai and Amed. Tickets cost around 45 USD one way to the island(s) and the journey takes from 60 – 100 minutes. You can book the tickets from any travel agent in Bali. You could also take the public ferry which is much cheaper but takes 5 hours to reach the islands.

From Lombok – Take the fast boat from Teluk Nara or Teluk Kodek located along the West Coast of Lombok. The journey takes roughly 30 minutes due to the close proximity of the islands to Lombok. You could also take the public boats from Bangsal harbor which takes longer but it much cheaper than the fast boats.

**If you are lucky, you can spot some dolphins on the way.



  • Gili Trawangan is the largest among the group of three Gili islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno. These three islands are located in the Lombok Strait between the islands of Bali and Lombok.
  • Renting a bicycle should actually be the first thing you should do after you check-in to your accommodation. The island of Gili T (also the other two Gili islands) does not have a single motorized vehicle which is one of the major reasons I love this place. Bicycles and horse-driven carts are the only two modes of commute here.
  • Stock up on water as this island does not have a water supply of its own. Water is being brought to this island everyday from other places.
  • Avoid taking luggage that have roller wheels. The fast boats will drop you right on the beach. You don’t want to be dragging around that luggage on the sand.
  • Luxury resorts, hostels and homestays are the three types of accommodation available here. For a more social experience, opt for a homestay.


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Indonesia: Have Fun in Gili Trawangan Island