Snorkelling and Conserving: Working at the Similans
During my time at GVI Phang Nga on the marine conservation project, we had the opportunity to visit one of the many stunning Similan islands for 3 days and 2 nights, assisting the national park staff in protecting and preserving the lush islands and their beaches. The Similan islands consist of 9 separate islands, with 4 and 8 being the most popular destinations with the hundreds of tourists that visit them daily.
Leaving early on Tuesday morning we headed to the port of Thap Lamu to hitch a ride with one of the many tourist boats that leave the pier, our destination island 8. But before we reached the island the tourist boat dropped us off at island 4 for a couple hours, my first experience of the shiny light blue waters that surround the islands. Only seeing these types of sandy beaches and tranquil waters in movies and postcards, I was amazed to believe I was in a similar location. It felt like I was in a picture on a postcard! Whilst exploring island 4 we went on one of my first snorkelling trips in years. We could have snorkelled for hours following and being chased by all the triggerfish was a highlight. Another highlight was seeing the endangered Nicobar pigeon on the island.
Finally, we reached island 8 after indulging in a buffet the tourist group had put on. Very similar to island 4, 8 included the famous salt rock that perfectly stands at an angle on other rocks looking over the long beach. Now it was time for work, waiting for the herds of tourists coming between 10am-4pm, consisting of beach cleans and upkeep of the local environment, making sure the tourists obey the rules in place and keeping an eye out for people damaging coral or smoking on the beach. You’ll be surprised at the amount of cigarette butts and plastic bottles that people just throw onto the beautiful beach, potentially filling 2 large bin bags during the day!
When 4pm came around and the last tourist boat left, it was just a few rangers and us that had the island to ourselves, leaving me with a tingling feeling being left on a remote island with only a few others; it really was a surreal experience. During our free time we once again went snorkelling, seeing a green turtle, a school of squid, triggerfish and other marine life. We also had the opportunity to travel around the island by boat with one of the rangers, spotting eagles and once again finding time for a snorkel, finally ending with the best sunset I have ever seen. The Similan islands gave me one of the greatest experiences in my life.
Written by Dan Hulin (England), 4 week Marine Coastal Conservation volunteer
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