Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, with bustling nightlife and shops, plus quiet villages, temples and mountainous jungles just waiting to be hiked. An array of dive and snorkel sites await you; offering easy reefs, pinnacles, wrecks, caves and deep walls hosting beautiful corals, whale sharks and numerous tropical fish.
As the third longest beach in the region, Karon Beach is understandably popular and offers an array of dive and snorkel options for new and experienced divers. Enjoy easy shore dives hosting numerous critters and fish or hop on a boat to discover some of Thailand’s most iconic dives
One of Phuket’s most popular destinations, Kata Beach offers dive centres and resorts for all budgets, plus liveaboards to nearby iconic dive spots. As the macro diving capital of Thailand, expect to find rare and abundant macro critters at reef and muck diving sites whilst you’re there.
An array of resorts and dive centres offering open water to professional level courses, plus easy access to beautiful reefs, make Patong Beach a popular destination for divers. Discover local reef dives full of critters or hop on a liveaboard to explore some of Thailand’s best dive spots.
Diving in Phuket
As the largest island in Thailand, Phuket truly has it all for holidaymakers looking for everything from bustling nightlife and shopping trips, quiet villages and traditional temples and mountainous jungle hiking, to white sandy beaches decorated with swaying palm trees and diving and snorkeling in crystal clear turquoise tropical ocean. Often rated among the top ten diving destinations in the world, Phuket should be on any diver’s bucket list.
Phuket has a lot more to offer than just the famed spots west coast such as Patong, Karon Beach and Kata Beach. For those that venture off the beaten track, there’s an entirely different side of Phuket to discover that boasts viewpoints and secluded beaches. Overall, the island is a unique vacation destination, and caters to divers and non-divers alike, no matter one’s budget.
The majority of scuba diving in Phuket is done by boat, as many dive operators offer day boat trips to nearby smaller islands and off-shore dive sites. Many of the best spots are only accessible by boat, but worry not, for there are a ton of dive centers and dive resorts to choose from. Popular day diving and liveaboard trips that depart from Phuket include the Phi Phi Islands (Phi Phi Don, Phi Phi Leh and the Koh Bida Islands), the Koh Racha Islands and the mesmerising King Cruiser wreck, and Shark Point and Anemone Reef dive sites, which are normally included as a three dive day trip together. Koh Doc Mai is also nearby Phi Phi, and is a delight for macro hunters. Many dive operators also include the iconic pinnacle sites of Hin Deang and Hin Muang in their itinerary, which not only boast purple-colored soft corals and vast amounts of reef life, but also offer a good chance to see manta rays.
For world-class diving in protected marine reserves that promises an absolute ton of diverse life, from macro critters to whalesharks, take a liveaboard trip to the famous Similan or Surin Islands in the Andaman Sea, which is one of Thailand’s best diving locations. Phuket does have some nearby shore diving opportunities, and some spots can be reached by longtail boat, but this is usually only from November to April due to strong winds and choppier seas outside of these months.
Phuket Province and its surrounding diving hotspots are great places to take dive courses, thanks to fantastic training locations and ocean conditions, and abundant dive operators that run courses in multiple languages that are all very affordable. Shallow sites with minimal current that boast masses of colorful marine life are perfect for beginners to obtain an open water license, while shipwrecks, caves and deep walls offer experienced divers great specialty or advanced training opportunities.
Diving conditions are normally all-round excellent, relaxing and easy in and around Phuket. The absolute maximum depth at most dive sites is usually anywhere between 20-30 meters, allowing for longer dives for those divers that seem to eat through air quickly. Visibility can be anywhere from 10-30 meters, depending on tide variation, with the best visibility seen around the half moon period during all seasons. Currents are also normally at a minimum, though again, it does depend on the dive site and the tides.
Best time to dive
Phuket enjoys a year-round warm tropical climate, and as a result, diving is possible no matter the season. With air and water temperatures ranging between 28°C-30°C (82°F-86°F) all year, even thermally-challenged divers will have no problem diving without a wetsuit. The high season is when scuba divers enjoy the best conditions, which is typically from November to April, when seas are less wavy, and visibility is at its best. It’s a little cooler than any other time of year, (with the exception of March and April, which are exceptionally hot), and experiences the least rain and storms. You can expect hot, sunny weather with clear skies and water that is just as welcomingly warm. This period is also the best time for liveaboards, as they’re way more abundant, and are able to visit divers’ favorite areas like the Similan Islands, which are closed during the low season.
During the rainy season from May to October, you can expect to find great deals on flights, diving and accommodation, as it’s the region’s low season. But don’t be put off by the higher chance of rain and thunderstorms, as it doesn’t mean bad weather every day. There are days that are just as nice as in the high season, with rains that pass quickly and can often be refreshing in the high heat and humidity. Some dive sites may be inaccessible due to challenging ocean conditions, but there are always sheltered sites available to explore. Overall, no matter the season, diving is incredible all year round. Critters remain unchanged, the only difference is which dive sites you can safely go to.
Types of diving
The reef diving in and around Phuket is world-class, with beautiful hard and soft coral structures, gardens that host a wide variety of reef fish and critters. Wreck diving is also fantastic here, with plenty of encrusted and mostly intact shipwrecks teeming with marine life to explore, all within a boat ride’s distance. Some of the best wrecks in the area are the King Cruiser, a ferry that sank in 1997 inside a marine reserve in the middle of Phang-nga Bay, and Kled Geaow just off Phi Phi Leh island. Other awesome wreck dives to add to your list include four sites at Koh Racha Yai, and nearby sunken vessels like Tin Lizzy, which is shallow and great for beginners, and for those into technical diving, the HMS Vestel is an exhilarating deep wreck for adventurous tech-fanatics.
Amazing underwater seascapes provide excellent topography for those that enjoy wall and cave diving. Plunging walls that include those seen at Koh Bida Nok, Koh Bida Nai, and Palong which is situated on Phi Phi Leh Island, are all unmissable and are visited daily by dive operators in Phuket.
Drift diving isn’t hugely common, though there are sites that permit it at times, including at sites like Nui Bay and Koh Dok Mai. Cave diving is also possible for qualified divers, as is diving in fun swim-throughs, tunnels, rocky pinnacles and boulders, canyons, and floating over breathtaking drop-offs.
Night diving is also very popular in the region, where the underwater life is a completely different story to that seen during the daytime.
What to see
“What marine life can’t be seen in Phuket?” would be more accurate to ask. At some sites, you’ll likely complain that you can’t see beyond your hand due to incredible tornadoes of schooling fish, like yellow snapper and barracuda, which isn’t a bad thing of course.
Tiny macro cuties like colorful nudibranch, crabs and shrimp are dotted around most dive sites, and uncountable species of hard and soft corals, sponges, sea fans and giant gorgonians are just as abundant wherever you look. A plethora of pretty reef fish can be spotted anywhere and everywhere, including such favorites like angelfish, chromis, triggerfish, lionfish, loads of different anemonefish, batfish, trumpetfish, parrotfish, cometfish, grouper and so many more.
Curious creatures like various species of eel, like ribbontail and moray all hide in cracks, and sea snakes slither up and down the reefs. Stingrays glide across the sand, and cuttlefish, squid and octopus put on color-changing, shapeshifting shows for divers.
Masters of camouflage like frogfish and scorpionfish can also be spotted by observant eyes, and a whole host of reef sharks like black tips and leopard are all present. Lucky divers can even be graced by manta rays and whalesharks.
Best places to dive
Shark Point features three pinnacles boasting a kaleidoscope of color, from tons of hard and soft coral, macro critters and pretty reef fish, to leopard sharks, black tips and even whalesharks for lucky divers.
Anemone Reef, directly next to Shark Point, is a hypnotic site that is home to a seemingly infinite carpet of swaying anemones. Words cannot describe its serenity, as it’s a truly unique site that is a must for any diver in the area.
The King Cruiser Wreck is a ferry that sank in 1997, and is still mostly intact. Having been completely overtaken by mother nature, the encrusted vessel is now home to a boatload of exceptional marine life, including huge numbers of lionfish and pufferfish.
Koh Dok Mai offers amazing wall and drift diving, and is teeming with sea fans, soft corals and a wealth of diverse life. Even rarer species like seahorses and ghost pipefish can be spotted here, and from November to April, baby nurse and whalesharks have been seen, so keep your eyes peeled.
Bida Nok and Bida Nai are famous spots, and for good reason. As beautiful underwater as they are above. Expect breathtaking topography, like walls, caves and long reefs, combined with a myriad of marine life, from tiny nudibranch to sea snakes, turtles, reef sharks and an array of tropical fish.
Racha Noi South Tip boasts awesome topography and can offer action-packed drift diving. Manta rays, whalesharks and tuna are attracted by currents, which make for impressive encounters as you pass by. Currents can vary here, so it may be suitable for beginners and advanced divers alike.
There are dive centers in Kata Beach, Karon Beach and Ao Chalong.
The top dive centers are the Aloha Diving, Phuket dash Scuba dot Com and Tommy's Dive Center Phuket.
Advanced Open Water Diver prices range from €292-€431. See all Advanced Open Water Diver courses in Phuket.
Discover Scuba Diving prices range from €52-€158. See all Discover Scuba Diving courses in Phuket.
You can obtain your Advanced Open Water Diver in Kata Beach.
You can obtain your Discover Scuba Diving in Kata Beach.
Diving is available in Kata Beach, Patong and Karon Beach.