The White Coral-Sand Beaches in Similan Island
ironwood and gum trees are among the larger trees, while jackfruit, rattan and bamboo form part of the denser undergrowth. The islands are home to crab-eating monkeys, dusky langurs, squirrels, bats, lizards and a good variety of birds (though the monkeys are shy and rarely seen by the casual observer). But the most striking feature of these islands, at first glance, are the huge boulders that litter the western and southern shores on several of the islands.
Another highlight, as the visitor soon discovers, are the white coral-sand beaches, splendidly picturesque and often deserted. The most interesting sights, however, are to be found beneath the waves. Some of the most spectacular coral growths in the world can be found here – and the same boulders that scatter the shores have turned the waters around the Similans into an adventure playground for divers.
At various times in the past – with sea levels fluctuating by as much as 150m with the advance and retreat of the polar ice-caps – these islands have been under water, battered by storms, covered with marine growths, visited by creatures long extinct. As you squeeze through the crevices and archways, imagine them covered with colourful corals, sponges and algae. Where today you find birds and butterflies and squirrels, at one time dense schools, bright streams of fish instead commuted this way and that, with bigger fish and marine dinosaurs cruising through on the hunt.
A variety of forces have given shape to these islands. To begin with, the Similans were intrusions, upwellings of hot magma that found their way through weak spots in the Earth’s crust 100-150 million years ago, working their way through thick layers of sedimentary rock already laid down at least 100 million years earlier still. Then, unimaginably powerful movements in the crust cracked the granite substratum into blocks, preparing the way for experiments in sculptural form by wind and wave.
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