Thailand Dive Sites
Thailand Dive Sites:
Phuket Island is the perfect base for scuba divers coming to Thailand. Located in the Andaman Sea just off Thailand's west coast it is within range of the Similan Islands, Surin Islands, Richelieu Rock and Burma to the north plus Hin Daeng and Hin Muang to the south and Phi Phi to the east. Staying in Phuket allows divers to visit all these dive sites by daytrip dive boat or by liveaboard. Phuket also has it's own local dive sites like Shark Point, the King Cruiser wreck and the Racha Islands. The majority of diving is by boat with a limited number of shore diving options. Many of Phuket,s dive sites are equally suitable for snorkellers.
Phuket is a wonderful holiday destination with or without diving, attracting more tourists than any other Asian resort location. It boasts fabulous beaches, fun nightlife, fine restaurants and numerous shopping options. This gives Phuket a big advantage over many other Asian dive destinations where there is nothing to do when the diving has finished. In Phuket you can go elephant trekking, white water rafting, hire a jet ski or take a Thai cookery class. Or you can relax with a massage or a Singha beer in any number of watering holes.
You can stay in a budget guesthouse or a luxury resort. You can spend US$100 on dinner or eat a delicious meal from a street vendor for a dollar.The island is safe and has international standard hospitals. Phuket is just a 1.5 hour flight from Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and many budget airlines fly in to Phuket's international airport.
There are scores dive centres on the island offering dive courses, daytrip dives and liveaboard trips. Most shops operate under the PADI banner but there are a few SSI, CMAS and BSAC shops as well. You can buy, rent and service equipment on the island. There are three recompression chambers on Phuket. Despite recent fuel price increases Phuket diving is still great value compared to most other world dive destinations. Thai divemasters are friendly and professional and very good at finding the hard to spot critters.
The main diving season is November to the end of April when the high season sunny weather gives the best underwater conditions. The ideal months to dive are February to April. They are the peak months for whale shark sightings. The sea is flat at that time with no wind.
December to January can be windy producing some waves. The low season runs from May to October when tropic downpours are common but even in the rainy season it is still sunny most of the time. Showers are short and hard and often in the evening. October is the wettest month of the year. Seas can re rough in the low season and visibility can drop.Nearly all liveaboard trips to the Similan Islands and Richelieu stop running during these months but daytrips to local dive sites do still run daily. Some divers prefer the low season in Phuket when there are less divers on the boats and in the water.
Phuket Beach Dives
For divers who prefer not to spend all day on a dive boat but prefer the convenience of diving from shore Phuket does have a limited number of options. Shore dives are available along the west coast beaches of Phuket from November to April. From May to October waves on the beaches make shore diving impossible. Shore dives often have low visibility on silted reefs and you are unlikely to see any large marine life but critters can be spotted and these sites can make a very pleasant morning or afternoon dive. They are perfect sites for a quick refresher dive, for a training dive or for a night dive.
Kamala Beach has a shallow offshore reef running parallel that can be walked out to. Further off shore is an island called Koh Waeo that is accessed by longtail boat. Dive centres in the Kamala and Bangtao beach areas often take divers to KOh Waeo first then to a small tin miner wreck closer in to Bangtao beach. The wreck itself is not that exciting although the excavator buckets are still present. What is impressivle are the large stonefish and the crocodile fish in the sand around the wreck.
No dive centres offer dives directly off Patong Beach except for training dive scenarios like rescue diver courses. Longtail boats do take divers to several spots on the outside of the bay. These rocky reefs are suprisingly healthy. Divers who have just arrived in Phuket and are departing on a liveaboard in the evening often do one of these dives to test equipment and weights. A favourite dive from Patong beach is a longtail dive to a small secluded beach south of Patong beach call Freedom beach where a small restaurant can provide a relaxed lunch on the beach after the dive.
Meridien Beach is the house reef of the Meridien hotel and the dive centre located in the hotel is lucky to have one of Phuket's best beach reefs. This long reef that follows the rocks out of the bay is full of critters including harlequin ghost pipefish, scorpionfish and moray eels.
Karon Beach has an ok reef at the southern end of the beach as does Kata beach at the north. The reef at the southern end of Kata beach is dived daily by two local dive centres and they find loads of interesting stuff there including robust ghost pipefish, bent stick pipefish and juvenile emporer angelfish. Blue spotted stingrays are also common there.
Long tail dives are also possible from Kata Beach to Koh Poo (crab island) just off the northern headland and Karon Rock, a submerged rock just out from Karon beach. Dive these sites in the morning and you are likely to see just as much as you would on a daytrip boat dive to Racha Yai Island but you'll be back on land in time for lunch and you'll have saved yourself some money. Kata Noi beach also has a very nice reef at the southern end of the bay.
North of Naiharn Beach is a small and hard to find beach (drive under the Yacht club hotel) that locals love because of it's seclusion. One dive centre offers dives around the rocks here. Visibility is usually good and this is also a good snorkelling site.