Khao Lak Diving
With over 12 miles of white sand beaches, luxurious resorts, lush tropical forests and endless reefs, Khao Lak is a paradise for divers and non-divers alike. Take a short boat ride to discover world-renowned reefs, wrecks and the famed Similan and Surin Islands’ mantas and whale sharks.
Diving in Khao Lak
Situated in the province of Phang Nga in southern Thailand, the quiet coastal town of Khao Lak features over 12 miles (20km) of white sandy beaches surrounded by glimmering azure waters and luscious tropical forests. Lacking the bustling tourism and crowds that are seen in nearby Phuket, Khao Lak is ideal for divers, beach bums and nature-lovers that enjoy quieter, off-the-beaten-track spots that boast untouched, chilled-out island vibes.
There are plenty of options for diving in Khao Lak, with a nice amount of dive centers and dive resorts to choose from that cater to all budgets. Many dive operators offer half and full-day dive trips and even travel to the highlight of the region - the iconic Similan and Surin Islands, and the islands to the north. Due to its distance from the mainland, the majority of Khao Lak diving is done via full-day trips. The majority of dive trips depart from Tap Lamu Pier, where a myriad of dive boats are available, from speedboats to larger diving vessels. There are excellent dive sites near the mainland, however, the best and most famous spots are those that are further afield.
There are lots of liveaboards that head to the world-class Similan and Surin Islands, and many divers that wish to visit as many sites as possible all within a relatively short time frame, opt for these dive safaris that typically last four days and nights. Shorter trips are available, and there are liveaboards to suit any budget, from value accommodations up to modern, luxury private yachts. Dive operators also offer overnight trips to the must-see dive sites of Richelieu Rock and Koh Bon.
Thanks to the number of dive operators in the area, it’s an ideal place to take dive courses. Varied training locations include sites that are suitable for beginners to obtain open water licenses, and for experienced divers wanting to take advanced courses, wreck and deep specialties.
Scuba diving highlights around Khao Lak include four wreck sites, and rich reefs that attract exceptional life. Diving conditions vary, offering experiences that suit both beginners and advanced divers alike. Overall the visibility is good, and currents are mild, so anyone can enjoy diving here no matter their experience or preference.
Best time to dive
As Khao Lak enjoys a stunning tropical climate, the diving is great all year round. The three seasons include the slightly cooler season that runs from November to March, which is also the high tourist season; a very hot season that lasts from April to May; and finally the monsoon season that typically starts in June and ends in October, which is the lowest season in terms of tourism.
The best time to visit, particularly for divers, is often said to be the cooler peak season, between November and March, as the weather is usually warm and sunny, and much less humid. Ocean conditions are similarly welcoming during this time, with calmer waters and better visibility.
No matter the season, the Andaman sea normally fluctuates between 28°C-31°C (82°F-88°F), meaning diving is comfortable all year round. February and March can experience slightly cooler temperatures in some areas, due to nutrient-rich currents bringing in colder waters. But this isn’t a bad thing, as these waters attract large pelagics to the dive sites.
While diving is possible throughout the year, it’s important to be aware that the most popular attractions, the Similan and Surin Islands, are closed from May to October.
Types of diving
Reef diving is common practice in Khao Lak, due to its abundant, thriving reefs that host a ton of tropical marine species. The Similan Islands are the most visited in the area and are protected marine reserves. As a result, the reef dive sites here are phenomenally healthy and appear to be thriving, so it’s really no surprise that divers flock from around the world to experience the underwater wonderlands that are submerged around these islands.
Wreck diving is also very popular in and around Khao Lak, where seasoned divers come to marvel at encrusted shipwrecks that serve as artificial reefs, hosting tons of life, from macro all the way up to larger creatures. Must-see wreck sites include the Bunsoong Wreck, which is the most famous. It’s an old tin ore processor that sank in 1984 and has since been completely taken over by mother nature. The Sea Chart I Wreck is an 84-meter ship that’s only young, as it sank in 2009. There’s also the Premchai Wreck, which was a tin dredger that sank in 2001 and remains mostly intact. Finally, there’s the T13, which sank in 2014 outside Khao Lak Beach.
What to see
As is typical in this tropical part of the world, the marine life in Khao Lak, the Similan Islands and the Mergui Archipelago are absolutely stunning. Your mask will be fogged by vibrant coral reefs populated by colorful hard and soft corals, sea anemones and sea fans of varying species. A whole host of diverse marine life can be seen, including macro creatures like nudibranch, shrimp, seahorses and frogfish, and also an array of magnificent reef species, like angelfish, lionfish, wrasse, triggerfish, grouper, moray eels, batfish, scorpionfish, pufferfish, octopus, cuttlefish, squid, pipefish, anemonefish, jellyfish, sea snakes, stingrays and countless more. Schooling fish like snapper and barracuda are seen in numbers, while turtles and sharks similarly thrive here, including black and white tip reef sharks. The much-loved manta ray and whale shark also make appearances, although only to lucky divers.
Best places to dive
The Similan Islands boast intense underwater action and are cited among Thailand’s best diving destinations thanks to extreme numbers of fish, vibrant coral and impressive seascapes. Expect giant bommies surrounded by fish, enormous coral structures and gorgonians, all while sharks, turtles, barracuda and plenty of colorful reef fish and macro life decorate the sites. The Boonsung Wreck, which acts as an impressive artificial reef, hosts tons of macro life, as well as amazing reef fish. Even the surrounding sandy areas shelter rays and leopard sharks. You can explore the wreck multiple times and it feels like a new site each dive. Richelieu Rock is a horseshoe-shaped rock in the Andaman Sea, famed for large creatures, like whale sharks, clouds of barracuda and huge groupers along with a ton of tropical fish, it’s a hotspot for photographers. Koh Tachai is an underwater ridge covered in hard corals and boulders that feature tunnels and swim-throughs. The highlights are hunting tuna, barracuda tornadoes, leopard sharks, manta rays and whale sharks. It’s a big-fish lover’s paradise.
Koh Bon, is a pelagic hotspot, including manta rays, eagle rays and various shark species, like black tips. Macro life here is also awesome and includes hunting species like octopus.