Koh Racha Noi, one of the more popular dive locations near Phuket, features two granite islands and a number of large underwater boulders. Located some 32 kilometers off the coast of Phuket, Racha Noi attracts divers who want to see spotted rays, stingrays, eagle rays, barracudas, turtles, and leopard sharks. Racha Noi is also one of the few spots near Phuket where sightings of both manta rays and whale sharks are fairly frequent. The island’s southwest side features the wreck of a wooden ship that attracts scores of colorful reef fish. Currents here range from mild to very strong in some areas, and depths vary from 10 to 45 meters. Racha Noi offers opportunities for divers at every level from beginner to advanced; the dive spots at the very north and south ends of Racha Noi feature strong currents and are best left to advanced divers. A day trip with two separate dives here costs approximately 3,500 Baht per diver.
Shark Point, or Hin Musang in Thai, is a designated Marine Sanctuary with three separate reefs located about 25 kilometers east of Phuket. Made up of a series of seven adjacent pinnacles, Shark Point features gorgonian sea fans, mushroom coral, bamboo sharks, leopard sharks, sea snakes, moray eels, puffer fish, and dainty seahorses. Most divers prefer the sights around the first and second pinnacles, but there is abundant marine life throughout the entire area. As the diving depth range here is from 0 to 28 meters and the currents are variable but generally mild, Shark Point is suitable for beginning divers and up. Expect to pay about 3,900 for a three-dive trip that includes stops at King Cruiser Wreck, Shark Point, and Koh Doc Mai.
Koh Doc Mai, also known as Flower Island, is a submerged rock made of limestone that is located about 20 kilometers from Phuket. The rock provides a number of interesting formations such as caverns and a sheer wall; marine life to be seen here includes seahorses, white eyed moray eels, sea snakes, ghost pipefish, and frog fish. The number of different types of colorful nudibranch that can be found here is astounding, as well. Mild to moderate currents and a range of depths to 32 meters make Koh Doc Mai an appropriate dive site for all levels, but the deeper parts are best left for more experienced divers. The average price for diving at Koh Doc Mai runs 3,900 Baht for three dives that include King Cruiser, Shark Point, and Koh Doc Mai.
King Cruiser Wreck, jokingly referred to as the “Thaitanic,” provides an interesting dive site at the location where a ferry boat called King Cruiser sunk in 1997 some 26 kilometers from Phuket. All passengers were rescued safely, but the wreck remains in place and is now home to a variety of interesting marine life, Divers here expect to see lionfish, nudibranch, rabbit fish, porcupine fish, and turtles. The ferry wreck itself is considered unsafe to swim within, as more of the wreck is collapsing with each passing year. With a site depth of 35 meters and mild to moderate currents, the King Cruiser Wreck is generally considered to be an intermediate level dive. The cost is approximately 3,900 Baht for a daytrip with three dives that include King Cruiser and two other nearby dive locations.
The Similan Islands, a group of nine islands located approximately 90 kilometers north and west of Phuket, are one of Asia’s most popular diving destinations. Coral reefs here are home to a diverse range of marine life that includes anemones, sea fans, soft coral, giant trevally, barracuda, spider crabs, mantis shrimp, turtles, and reef sharks. The mild currents and shallow to moderate depths make the Similans a suitable dive spot for divers of any experience level. In late March through early April, warmer sea temperatures contribute to plankton bloom here, which attracts many of the larger varieties of marine life to the area. Notable specific dive locations in the Similans include East of Eden, known for a breathtaking array of coral, and Elephant Head Rock, where divers are thrilled by swim-throughs, caverns, arches, tunnels, and gullies. Day trips to the Similan Islands generally include two separate dives and National Park fees; prices average about 5,900 Baht per diver.
Richelieu Rock was discovered by as well as named by the legendary Jacques Costeau. Shaped like a horseshoe, Richelieu Rock is only visible above the water’s surface during low tide. Diving experts consider this site to be one of the top areas in the world to see whale sharks; other marine life here includes octopus, lionfish, scorpion fish, guitar sharks, giant clams, and harlequin shrimp. As the currents here are often quite strong and the site depth ranges from 12 to 50 meters, Richelieu Rock is thought to be better for experienced to advanced divers. With its location north of the Similan Islands and just off the Burmese border, most dive trips here from Phuket are live aboard journeys. Prices vary according to the dive shop, boat, and number of days; for a 6-night trip through the Similans and Richelieu Rock in a double cabin, See Bees Diving charges 46,000 Baht per person.
The Phi Phi Islands boast a number of excellent dive spots; in particular, Koh Bida Nai is noted for its striking archway that is usually home to batfish and near a shallow coral garden. Diving here is classified as easy; the mild to moderate currents and shallow depth mean that even novice divers will have no trouble diving here. Other interesting dive spots in the Phi Phi Islands feature caves, towers, swim-throughs, and overhangs that are home to a vast number of creatures and a multitude of both hard and soft coral. In fact, several species of coral are found nowhere else in the world except for the waters surrounding the Phi Phi Islands; one of these particular coral species resembles a white Christmas tree, complete with ornament-type decorations. The Phi Phi Islands are about one and a half hours by boat from Phuket; a day trip with two dives here costs about 3,500 Baht per diver.
Anemone Reef is 26 kilometers from Phuket and is part of a designated marine park. With its location very close to Shark Point, many dive trips stop here in addition to Shark Point, King Cruiser, and/or Koh Doc Mai. As its name suggests, Anemone Reef is notable for its amazing fields of colorful anemone interspersed with soft corals. Marine life here includes schools of snapper, tuna, or barracuda, moray eels, leopard sharks, nudibranch, and leatherback turtles. This site features mild to moderate currents and shallow depths, making it a good choice for beginners and all other diving levels. Prices for a dive here run approximately 3,900 Baht for a day trip that also includes a dive at King Cruiser and at Koh Doc Mai.
Koh Racha Yai, located just to the north of Racha Noi, offers divers the chance to experience hard and soft coral, puffer fish, lionfish, feather stars, blue spotted rays, and the weird and wonderful garden eels. The top diving spots in the Racha Yai area include the two bays on the island’s north end and the rocky slope just off the island’s east shore. With a maximum depth of 28 meters and mild to moderate currents, Racha Yai is suitable for divers of all levels. The cost for a day trip with two dives here is approximately 3,800 Baht per person.
Kata Beach, a local beach dive spot, is convenient for beginning divers and for dive training. With no currents and shallow reefs, Kata Beach lets divers walk in from the beach and swim to deeper areas. Marine life in and around Kata Beach includes ribbon eels, moray eels, cuttlefish, bat fish, and lionfish. Occasionally sea turtles are spotted here; divers here should watch out for poisonous stonefish, which are difficult to distinguish from the rocks themselves. Diving off Kata Beach is inexpensive; with no boat trip involved, divers pay just for equipment and tanks.