Phuket is the main dive centre of the Andaman Sea, with its warm and clear waters. This Sea is one of the most diverse in the world and has thousands of tropical fish species including the whale shark.
Many serious divers will be attracted by live-aboard trips to world class dive sites such as the Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock, Ko Bon, Ko Tachai, and Hin Muang.
However Phuket also offers great day diving trips much closer to your holiday base - off the west coast of Phuket, King Cruiser wreck dive, Ko Doc Mai, the Racha (Raya) islands, Shark Point and the Phi Phi islands.
|West coast of Phuket
There are a few easy and pleasant diving and snorkelling sites in shallow water just off the west coast.
The most popular is Ko Po (crab island), which is a small uninhabited islet in Kata bay. It lies one mile offshore and can be reached in about 10 minutes by longtail boat.
The east side is a pretty dive with a large range of hard corals, table top, stag horn and the odd lettuce coral.
There are abundant colourful reef fish, although they are quite small. You may spot a few Moray eels.
The north and west sides have large boulders and drop down to sand at 17m. Fish were hiding underneath every crevice,
There are also lobsters, crabs, razor fish, large porcupine fish and a few nudibranchs.
Karon Rock lies just off the southern end of Karon Beach, and consists of two huge boulders with a small amount of hard coral and a few Gorgonian sea fans.
What makes this site interesting is the amount of life on it. There are numerous shoals of fish - especially yellowback fusilier, blue lined snapper, squid and batfish.
There are also scorpion fish and the occasional blue spotted stingray.
Other small, easy and very shallow sites include Freedom Beach, Paradise Beach, parts of Patong Bay, and Bang Tao beach near the airport.
Raya (Racha) islands (Yai and Noi)
Racha Yai island is about a 90 minutes ride south of Phuket. The water is calm and clear (visibility 20 - 30m) for diving all year round.
The island is suitable for divers of all levels of experience. Non divers can enjoy snorkelling here as well. The best diving is off the east coast.
There is also an artificial reef, named Star Ruby Port, off Racha Yai's Teu Bay.
Star Ruby Port consists of two sunken vessels - the 18 metre long steel hulled vessel named The Harruby, and a wooden fishing boat.
The vessels were sunk at the end of 2009, and have become home to a variety of marine life including puffer fish, moray eels, butterfly fish and sea turtles.
The aim of this artificial reef is to help local marine ecosystems to recover by taking pressure off the popular natural coral reefs.
Racha Noi is more appropriate to the more experienced diver, and more challenging with generally greater depths and stronger currents.
It is a further 30 minutes south of its sister island. The southern point gives a good drift drive, and on the south-west coast there is an old
wooden ship wreck. The northern point has a large pinnacle and larger marine life.
These dive sites offer mainly hard corals with an abundance of colourful marine life. Multicoloured parrot fish,
yellow tailed snappers and cheeky trigger fish are common residents.
Most diving operators offer a one day trip to each island, and a few companies have two day live-aboard trips for both islands.
Please also refer to our Raya island section.
Phi Phi islands
The Phi Phi islands - Ko Phi Phi Don and Ko Phi Phi Ley - are one of the most picturesque and stunningly beautiful islands in the world.
Ko Phi Phi scuba diving ranks amongst the top five dive destinations in Thailand. Limestone cliffs rise dramatically out of the sea to heights of 500 metres and plunge straight back down underwater, forming the colourful soft coral walls for which the islands are famous.
There are more than 15 different dive sites with many rugged vertical walls, interesting caves, cavern penetrations, overhangs and swim-throughs which are often obscured by dazzling clouds of glassfish and gorgonians.
Shoals of snappers, angelfish, butterfish are found in abundance around this underwater wonderland, and the sea fans harbour pipefish, seahorses and shrimpfish.
The islands are fringed with shallow coral gardens, where a profusion of soft corals, large orange fans, black corals and sea whips prosper harmoniously amongst the myriad marine life.
In addition to the incredible number of colorful reef fish, you will encounter black and white banded sea snakes, squid, angelfish, crocodile long-toms, black-tip reef sharks and leopard (zebra) sharks, and perhaps green and hawksbill turtles.
Please also have a look at our Phi Phi island section.
Day trips are available but liveaboards lasting upto 5 days are recommended.
Diving is available throughout the year, but the best conditions exist from February to May, when the waters are at their warmest and clearest.
Ko Doc Mai
Ko Doc Mai is a small uninhabited oblong shaped rock rising straight out of the sea. It lies about 10 miles (one hour) south-east of Phuket. This small island makes a wonderful wall dive as there is a sheer drop on three sides down to 20m. The fourth side
slopes gently down. The underwater cliffs are covered with soft and hard corals, sea fans and sponges, and gardens of yellow tube corals.
The wall is teaming with life. You will encounter families of lionfish, giant pufferfish, moray eels, giant barracuda, white banded sea snakes, various species of nudibranch and cowries, seahorses, and the occasional anglerfish and ghost pipefish.
At about 15m there are two caverns for the experience diver. Night dives are available.
This site is a fairly short dive, and is normally included on trips to Anemone Reef and Shark Point. which lie a bit further south east towards the Phi Phi islands.
|For Sea Air Wreck dive
Completed on 1st December 2008, this site near Ko Waew island, off Bang Tao Bay on the west coast, could become one of the most popular wreck dive sites in the region.
Four Douglas C-47 Dakota Skytrain military transport planes (used during the Vietnam and Korean Wars), as well as six Sikorsky S-58T helicopters, have been sunk
in an area with a sandy bottom.
The artificial reef created by these wrecks covers 2,500 square metres, with depths ranging between 15 to 20 metres.
All the wrecks were of course properly cleaned and prepared for the sinking.
This is the first artificial reef project of its kind in Thailand, and has also been named as the Corel Reef Squadron project.
(The Thai Dive Assocation are also surveying sites off KhaoLak, where they are planning their second artificial reef project with the help of the Hotel General Managers Club of Khao Lak.)
The site is close to the tin dredger wreck site known as Tin Lizzy.
Unfortunately by September 2009, only one plane remains intact. The aluminium of the planes and the helicopters was quickly damaged by trawler nets, anchors and winches.
Tin Lizzy Wreck dive
Tin Lizzy is an old tin dredger wreck near Bang Tao, and its scattered remains lay in about 17m depth of water.
Schools of yellow tail barracudas swim around and stone fish lay on the nearby rocks.
Lion fish and bat fish are also common here.
King Cruiser wreck dive
Shark Point Phuket (Shark Point Marine Sanctuary)
These three popular sites lie within one mile of each other, roughly midway between Phuket and the Phi Phi islands.
King Cruiser wreck dive
The 85 metre King Cruiser ferry used to travel the same route between Phuket and the Phi Phi islands every day for 10 years prior to the 4th May 1997. On that day it managed to hit the only navigational hazard within 40km - it bottomed on Anemone Reef and sunk to a depth of 32 metres within
twenty minutes. Everyone on board survived.
The ferry sits upright on a sandy seabed. It is quite large - although it was used as a passenger ferry, it was built as a car ferry in Japan. This well deveoped artifical reef caters for all levels of diving as the top of the wreck is only 14m below the surface.
Experienced scuba divers can enjoy the car deck and the deeper passenger lounges, whilst the less experienced can explore the upper decks.
The sunken structure attracts a high diversity of marine life. There are huge schools of barracuda and fusiliers, while countless lionfish and porcupinefish lurk amongst the cabins, and Morays have set up their lairs under rows of seats.
You will observe schools of five line snappers, yellow tail barracuda, fusiliers and seasonally big eye trevally.
The car loading deck of the vessel extends almost her entire length and breadth, and thus allows for a fascinating swim through - amongst banner fish, scorpion fish, puffers, and varieties of angel fish.
Anemone Reef and Phuket Shark Point are amazing macro dives for the fairly advanced diver who can deal with the sometimes moderate to strong currents.
Anemone reef is a single limestone pinnacle which is covered with swaying sea anemones, which provide a magnet for reef fish. The top of the pinnacle is submerged 7 metres beneath the surface, and drops down to 30 metres.
Marine life includes enormous healthy Gorgonian sea fans, tiny anemone crabs, cleaner shrimps, clusters of radiant soft corals. There are also hovering prides of Lion fish, and groupers, snappers, and clown fish in addition to larger game fish such as barracuda and tuna.
Shark Point Phuket
The site consists of three pinnacles lying north to south, and it was named after the numerous docile Leopard sharks which rest on the sandy sea floor.
This is a truly multicoloured reef teeming with marine life, and is decorated by soft corals and sea fans. Visibility varies from fair to very good. The site has several cleaning stations
hosted by cleaning shrimps and fish, and their customers include Mackeral, Jacks, Trevally snappers and the occasional Barracuda.
Shark Point Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1992. The marine park zone has a radius of 2.5km around the western limit of Shark Point, and it includes Anemone Reef. All commercial fishing, collecting of marine life or other harmful activity is prohibited. Official mooring bouys
have been installed - never drop anchor here.
Hin Muang and Hin Daeng
Both Hin Muang and Hin Daeng are renowned as exciting deep world class dive sites.
They derive there names from the purple sea anemones and red corals, respectively, that adorn their rocky faces. They provide a magnet for a range of Pelagic fishes, which are attracted by a variety of reef inhabitants.
The sites are situated 90 km's south east of Phuket, and 60km south of the Phi Phi islands.
Liveaboard cruises typically offer 2 days / 2 nights trips.
Hin Muang is a series of six pinnacles which are interconnected at depths ranging from 16 to 80 metres. The site derives its name from a rich garden of purple sea anemones on the top of the predominant underwater pinnacle.
It is one of the deepest sites in Thailand.
A sheer wall desends to a narrow platform at forty metres, and then plummets further to more than seventy metres.
The walls are a little barren, having scattered sea fans and orange sponges. There are several small valleys with numerous soft corals, sea fans, black coral shrimps and longnose hawk fish.
There is a prominent fifty metre cavern midway along the structure, which provides a great night dive with Bearded Scorpion fish, giant Morays, cleaner crabs, painted rock lobsters and Minute Reef crabs.
Hin Daeng just breaks the water at low tide.
It lies 500 metres from Hin Muang and is covered by the red Dendronephthya soft corals on the upper slopes and walls. Regiments of Titan Trigger fish are prominent in the shallower depths.
A series of walls, with intermittent shelves, have evolved along the rock structure, and they descend to a sandy floor at thirty five metres.
A small cave at 12 metres on the southwest wall is the occasional home of juvenile Nurse sharks.
Reef life in general includes Moray eels, manti shrimps, cuttlefish, leopard sharks, a range of snappers, and a concentration of invertebrates and cephalopods.