Koh Doc Mai

Phuket dive site

Koh Doc Mai nudibranchKoh Doc Mai is a small limestone island about 40 minutes sail east of Phuket. It is often dived on the way to or from Shark Point, Anemone Reef and King Cruiser Wreck. It is a favourite dive site of dive pros on Phuket because of the vast number of weird and wonderful fish life that can be found here. It is also an excellent night dive location.

Koh Doc Mai means flower island in Thai but when you approach the island you’ll see a distinct lack of flowers just green trees and bushes with birds flying around and the odd water monitor lizard on the rocks close to the waterline. When you descent though you will see the reef wall come alive with colour. The wall is completely covered with soft corals, large gorgonian sea fans, zigzag clams, featherstars and anemones. Most of Koh Doc Mai is a vertical wall dive down to 30m deep although there is a hard coral garden that slopes out on the west site.

It is possible to see leopard sharks and grey reef sharks here. Whale sharks have also been spotted on rare occasions. However most divers dive Koh Doc Mai to hunt for small critters in the wall and local dive guides have become expert at finding them. Koh Doc Mai is definitely a dive when a macro lens is most applicable for your camera. It is also a good idea to have a torch.

Koh Doc Mai is the best place around Phuket to spot seahorses, ornate ghost pipe fish and harlequin ghost pipe fish. Look in every sea fan and you should be able to find them. Boxer shrimps are everywhere and large morays take advantage of their cleaning services. If you leave your hand still for long enough the shrimps will even venture out to give you a free manicure. White eyed morays can be seen on their own or in groups sharing one hole.

There are a couple of points on the reef wall where they can be seen free swimming up and down crevices. Lionfish and scorpionfish are numerous, often around barrel sponges. Bamboo sharks can be found under small coral heads at the foot of the reef. Octopus can also be found hiding in coral and rocks. Crocodile longtoms are always swimming in groups just under the surface.

On the east side of the wall are a few caverns. The largest one is big enough to enter as there is a lot of natural light inside. Look up at your liquid metal looking bubbles on the cavern ceiling and while you are looking keep an eye out for more ghost pipefish. At the back of the large cavern is a small dark cave which should not be entered except by qualified cave divers with suitable equipment.

Koh Doc Mai is particularly colourful on night dives when all the coral polyps open up to really resemble blooming flowers.

Currents can be strong at times making Koh Doc Mai a good drift dive site.

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