Situated 84 kilometers northwest of Phuket, Similan is one of the most popular island groups in the Andaman Sea. It is best known for the awesome surprise waiting right at the bottom of the clear blue waters surrounding it. Divers all over the world wanted to explore its richness. This little island is also frequented by many yachts and tourist boats.
What makes this archipelago so attractive? What attracts people into this little island is not just what is found on the island, but more of the exciting things you can see beneath. Countless and most breathtaking coral growths can be found only in Similan, that it has become the playing field for most divers.
Divers are interested in a place that has abundant marine life. They are experts when it comes to coral reefs, and diverse coral reef ecosystem is found in this tropic island of Similan.
When I first toured the island with my son, I was amazed to see these under-the-sea explorers jump from their boats and swim around. My son was one of them, and upon their return, we all watched the videos they took while they swam around the reefs. The reefs look weird and at the same time wonderful. They talked about how marveled they feel as these beautiful creations surrounded them. The reefs were just there, beautifully painting the underwater with its variety of colors, making it look splendid, as they serve as home to many different fishes and critters.
What Are Corals?
Many are confused about what corals are. Are they fish, plants, or rocks?
Corals are animals that look both like a plant and a rock. Coral reefs came into existence through the symbiosis of corals and algae that resides in their tissues. It provides them with food (photosynthesis) and the reason for their perfect, brilliant colors.
Colors Of The Rainbow
Watching my son and his team roaming the bottom, swimming around the reefs, I imagine them like those we see in the coloring books. I was actually just waiting for Sponge Bob to just come out from one of those colorful reefs.
The colors in the screen of what we were watching were so vibrant, ranging from brown, pink, yellow, purple, blue, more than the colors of the rainbow. They say these colors are produced depending on the mix of the algae that are found in their tissues. There are also corals that are fluorescent. The unusual patterns of colors are because of the outlandish concentrations of algae in those corals.
Types Of Corals
Different kinds of corals are identified into eight categories.
Massive corals are the pillars of most reefs. They look like boulders and their size varies, anywhere from the scope of tiny egg to a huge two-story house.
Encrusting corals are commonly seen on shipwrecks by divers. They are fast growing and form a crust on the bedrock and spread all over the surface creating a thin colorful exterior.
Table corals are also one you can recognize easily with its rising trunk and attached branches that expands horizontally and create the table-like assembly. They are identified with the El Nino effect and coral bleaching.
Elkhorn corals got its name from the horns of elks. They bulge out vertically growing many off shooting side branches.
Mushroom corals resemble a cup of a mushroom. These corals are solitary corals that settle on the ground, unattached. They could grow up to 25 cm in diameter.
Digitate corals are like fingers or big clumps of cigars. These corals have no branches and grow vertically.
Branching corals are the most common types of colorful small corals. They have a form like that of a tree that has many branches and that grew some secondary branches.
Foliose corals can be easily recognized by its broad plate-like winged part that protrudes from the coral bed. Most often, they are called salad corals or leaf corals because they bear a resemblance to giant lettuce head.
Diversity in the corals depends on many factors like its environment and geographical location. Some say that genetics can also play a role in their degree of variance. What we saw in Similan are different from what can be found in the Red Sea and the Caribbean.
Khao Lak Explorer Dive Center. Different Coral types and how to recognize them. Retrieved from https://www.khaolakexplorer.com/marine-life-guide/coral-types/.