Diving Around Phuket, Thailand
If you had the experience of exploring the deep and have been dreaming of ideal diving holidays, a trip to Phuket will satisfy your need for bottom time. Phuket is at the heart of the Thai scuba diving industry and is one of the world’s top 10 dive destinations.
- Dive Seasons: Although the Gulf of Thailand has a year-round diving season with good visibility, and the waters have a mean temperature of 28 degrees, the best diving months are December to May when the weather is good; the sea is at its clearest; and boat trips are much safer.
- Dive Hubs: Phuket is ringed by good-to-excellent dive sites. The nearest are sites off the west coast where you can explore soft and hard coral reefs teeming with large variety of tropical marine life. Several small islands sites to the south (Ko Hae, Ko Raya Yai, Ko Raya Noi) are highly favored by divers for their hard coral reefs, beautiful natural scenery, which are found in both shallow and deep waters (with dive up to 30 meters), making it good area for both pros and newbie. Other sites to the south are Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, the habitat and a favorite sleeping spot of harmless leopard sharks and stingrays. And to the east (Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai). The greatest attractions for underwater enthusiasts lie fifty six nautical miles to the northwest or one and a half to three hours away by boat are the nine Similan islands and Surin islands. The Surins and the Similan islands are almost virgin dive territory, with the clearest of water makes for great marine life and underwater visibility often up to 20 meters. The walls and pinnacles are alive with sea fans, gorgeous soft coral trees, sponges, and anemones. Sixty kilometers northwest of the Surins are the famed Burma Banks, a system of submerged seamounts: Silvertip, Roe, and Rainbow provide a five-star diving experience with coral gardens over flat sea floor and large oceanic and smaller reef marine species. Because of their remoteness (no lodging, hence the popular live-aboard), live-aboard excursion for four days will cost 20,000 Baht each.
- Dive Courses and Tours: Phuket has no less than 10 dive schools; all staffed with qualified instructors who are members of PADI or NAUI, and provided with all sorts of modern equipment. Fun divers should expect to pay 1,000 Baht per dive. Typical one day all-inclusive dive trips to nearby sites cost around 3,500 Baht featuring gear, two dives, guides and taxi transfers, and lunch. PADI or SSI Open Water certification course for first-timers cost approximately 9,500 to 19,000 Baht for three and a half to four days of several classroom sessions and four guided dives testing various skills.
- Dive Medicine: It is best to obtain your own private diving insurance before travelling. PADI or DAN is best; they cover diving accidents or decompression costs. There are three hyperbaric chambers in Phuket. Phuket International Hospital is just outside the town is considered the best; and another is in Wachira Hospital on Tanon Taowarat. The third one is a private Hyperbaric Chamber in Patong on Tanon Rat Uthit. Dive shop affiliation with the private hyperbaric chamber in Patong means that divers who need to use the chamber will be charged at a discount of US$200 rather than US$800 per hour of treatment (five-hour minimum).
One of the major assets of Phuket is its abundance of diving destinations known for their underwater wonders of tropical marine life and coral formations; the varieties of large, open water fish and exotic, brightly colored reef fish are staggering. If you have been toying with the idea of diving in the warm sea that feels like bathwater, Phuket is the best place to take a plunge and see what Jacques Cousteau was raving about.