Swimming with the Fishes: Diving in Phuket
Crystal clear blue water. Incredible beach landscape. Protected coral. Shoals upon shoals of fish. What’s not to love about the seas around Phuket? Time to go diving in Phuket!
Diving has long been a hobby and love for the thousands and thousands of tourists who visit Phuket every year. That’s not surprising. Some of the best dive sites in the world lie within reach and there are options for everyone. If you’re a beginner then courses are available. If you’re an expert then who week long trips or more await. Or just jump on in for a day dive. Whatever you choose, diving in Phuket is easily one of the most exciting activities in Phuket!
What makes Phuket so great for diving?
The actual diving around Phuket is great, but not spectacular. That said, what makes Phuket such a great place to go diving is its positioning. Set on the Western coast of Thailand, Phuket is a gateway to the likes of Koh Phi Phi and The Similian Islands. Thanks to the ever-growing tourist infrastructure there are plenty of reputable companies, well stocked boats and educated instructors to choose from.
The most popular dive option is to go on a day trip from Bodega Phuket. This makes diving affordable, accessible and a great way to add an experience to your trip. The large, slow moving boats set sail early in the morning around dawn and you’ll be back late afternoon. Pick the right package and you’ll be picked up and returned to your hotel or hostel door.
Lots of operators out of Patong etc will tout diving around Koh Phi Phi. Be wary that this is a seriously long trip with a 3 hour journey each way. You won’t have much diving time on a day trip so we’d recommend spending a couple of nights on the island itself if you really want to dive there.
The other option is to hire a longtail for a morning or whole day. The benefit of this option is flexibility on location and timings but you’ll pay a premium for this. If you’re interested in this as an option you should still enquire at a local dive shop. Simply hiring a local fisherman and his boat for dives isn’t recommended, they are highly unlikely to know any safety regulations and you could end up in serious trouble quite quickly…
If diving really is your thing then chances are you’ve already heard about liveaboard trips. If you’re a diver planning a trip to Phuket then you might already have one booked. For those not in the know, these ships are like small cruisers that offer accommodation, board and equipment for extended explorations. You’ll usually share the trip with between 10-20 other divers and the comradery flows freely.
The best thing about these boats is that they don’t need to return to port each night. Being self-sufficient means that extended 3,4,5 or more day long trips are available allowing time to visit the more distant, less visited and most pristine dive sites.
Prices for liveaboard trips vary massively. If you’re happy with the basics and few mod cons then you’ll pay less. If you’re after a boat that looks like it’d be more at home in a rap video with the latest in equipment, you’ll pay considerably more. It’s also worth knowing that the further you go, the more fuel you’ll use, the higher the price. That said, a quick bit of math makes a liveaboard a viable option when you consider you won’t be paying for food, drink, equipment, dives or accommodation once you’re onboard!
The Similan Islands
These are the jewel in the Phuket diving crown. The Similian Islands have long been renown for their incredible diving spots. The vast majority are best reached through a liveaboard boat due to their spread-out nature and the huge variety that you can see. The best dive spot in Thailand, Richelieu Rock, is there and waiting.
From there lots of boats, illegally, pop over the border into Burmese waters to explore the Mergui Archipelago. Boats have been doing this for years, it makes for an expensive trip but is worth it as the number of other divers is extraordinarily low and the sights are second to none.
Beginner Divers Welcome
Phuket isn’t only for the experienced. Diving schools are everywhere and most have excellent instructors. There are two primary ways to learn; completing a PADI lingo / Discover Scuba Dive or taking a full diving course (usually over a few days to a week). The best conditions will be between November to April, but lessons run all year. Instructors will always speak English but there are international dive schools in almost all European and Asian languages!
Do your research. Read reviews from those who have dived before and don’t skimp. Diving is an incredible experience but it’s not worth saving a few baht when you’re taking your safety into your own hands. Spend that little bit more and you’ll thank us later.