Thailand has long held the crown for top tourist destination in Southeast Asia, and Phuket is one of the best diving destinations within Thailand. Jutting out on the southwestern coast into the sparkling Andaman sea, Phuket is not only a great destination in itself but also a good jumping-off point for many of the smaller islands and destinations nearby. The possibilities for diving sites Phuket has to offer are immense with many great spots such as Phi Phi easily doable on a day trip.
The variety of diving sites around Phuket is excellent for all levels of diving and to suit all tastes from easy shallow reef dives to wrecks and wall dives. Many of the dive sites are also in protected marine parks so the diversity of species is high. Whether you’re looking for tiny nudibranchs or bigger creatures like turtles, reef sharks and whale sharks, there are dive sites here where such animals are regularly spotted. Some of these amazing places which are further away, such as the Similan Islands, can be done in a day trip, however, a few days on a liveaboard will give you a much better diving experience. The boats depart regularly from Chalong Pier which is at the southeastern tip of Phuket. So let’s have a look at some of our favourite diving sites Phuket has to offer.
It entirely depends on you whether you are looking for a diving experience with black tip sharks or would like to spot some seahorses. Below are our top10 diving spots in Phuket, based on the dive conditions, bio-diversity and attractiveness.
Or, if you’ve finished with your diving or are looking for another way to enjoy the beautiful Andaman sea, check out our blog on finding the best-uncrowded boat trips around Phuket’s must-see places to visit in Phuket.
Suitable For: Experience & Intermediate Level
Best Dive Site For: Leopard sharks, pink 7 purple corals, snappers, scorpion fish
Shark Point is a pinnacle almost midway between Phuket and Phi Phi. The sharks that give this dive site its name are leopard sharks. These docile creatures were absent for a while but are happily making a come-back, although you’re not guaranteed to see one, they are now seen here fairly regularly. The limestone pinnacle goes down to a depth of around 24m and is home to large coral fans, multiple colours of soft coral, and large schools of yellow snappers, scorpion fish, and lionfish.
Being within the confines of a protected marine park, this sight is teaming with a wide variety of species, it’s also a great spot for macro hunters. Just 30km away from Phuket, this site is usually visited on a three-dive day trip, taking in the two other nearby sites of either Anemone Reef, King Cruiser and Koh Doc Mai
Suitable For: Beginners & infrequent scuba divers
Best Dive Site For: Yellow-lipped kraits, spotfin lionfish
Racha Yai is a hugely popular dive site, a 90-minute boat trip out of Phuket, it’s usually visited on a three-dive day trip. The larger of the two Racha islands, it’s also home to a couple of up-market resorts. There are quite a few dive sites here with depths from five to twenty-five metres, there’s some great coral in the shallower water and a large number of cubes, submerged to form an artificial reef, great for those looking for macro critters.
There are even a couple of small wrecks where you’ll find schools of yellow snappers, stonefish, some great nudibranchs and a frogfish if you can find it! Because of the calm bays on the island, this is a great spot for beginners and many come here to complete their Open Water certification. Depending on the currents there are some great drift dives too.
Suitable For: Beginner level
Best Dive Site For: whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays
Racha Noi is the smaller of the two Racha Islands and another half-hour’s boat ride away from its larger sibling. The clarity of the water here is quite often remarkable with visibility of twenty to thirty metres. Having dive sites of depths from five to thirty metres it’s also suitable for beginners although some of the dive spots are only suitable for the more advanced divers due to the currents.
Being that little bit further out and in slightly deeper water, pelagic visitors are more common here and eagle rays, although shy, are quite often seen. You’re also likely to see schools of barracuda, turtles, blue spotted rays and, on rare occasions, manta rays. The reefs around the island are also home to some beautiful soft corals, coral fans and many varieties of hard corals.
Suitable For: Beginners & Intermediate Level
Best Dive Site For: Gold Bang fusiliers, Scrawled filefish, barracuda
Anemone Reef is situated quite close to Shark Point and is often dived on the same day trip. Like Shark Point, it’s home to a wide variety of species with large schools of snapper and barracuda, moray eels, filefish and colourful soft corals. In addition, though, the shallower reaches are festooned with anemones, many of which are home to different species of clownfish, from the iconic Nemo clownfish to skunk and fire clownfish. It’s a very beautiful dive site.
Suitable For: Advanced certified divers
Best Dive Site For: Bamboo sharks, turtles, lionfish
If it weren’t for the Anemone Reef, the King Cruiser dive site wouldn’t exist. Back in 1997, the 87m catamaran car ferry wandered off course, struck the reef and sank close by, fortunately, there were no cars on board at the time, and there was no loss of life. As the years have passed, the wreck has collapsed somewhat, closing the gap under the hulls. The wreck is reached down a line so you may wish to take gloves, at its deepest, the dive site is a little over 32m and the currents can be quite strong so this spot is not recommended for beginners or those who haven’t dived in quite some time.
On a good day, the wreck is hardly visible through the teaming fish, however, when they clear you can see it’s covered in soft coral and many scorpion fish so be careful where you put your hands. Turtles are regularly seen here, as are bamboo sharks and occasionally leopard sharks. The abundance of sea flora and fauna here is pretty impressive.
Suitable For: Experienced divers
Best Dive Site For: Clownfish, Angelfish, butterfly fish
This is one of the dive sites which is often done on a three-dive day trip from Phuket. A little over halfway between Chalong Pier and King Cruiser, this small, sheer cliffed island offers a great opportunity for a wall dive. This is not a deep dive site, being from only five to fifteen metres, however, it can get quite dark on the side in the shade so you may want to take a torch with you to look at the incredibly colourful corals, and sponges clinging to the wall of the island. There is an abundance of fish here, sometimes it can look as if it’s raining fish as they swim down the vertical wall.
There are a couple of caverns on the east side, be sure to only venture in if accompanied by your Dive Master. If you’re lucky, you may find such rarities as seahorses or ghost pipefish, and this is a great dive site for macro spotting.
Suitable For: Advanced levels divers
Best Dive Site For: Moray eels, green turtles, boxer shrimps
Depth: 5 – 45m.
The Similan Islands are a well-known destination for divers. They are reachable from Phuket on a day trip, however, they are best enjoyed as a liveaboard excursion, when you can take full advantage of a large number of dive sites available. Top of the list for many is Elephant Head Rock. Due to the topography of large granite boulders, there are many swim-throughs and channels and, although the currents are not too bad, the site is only recommended for the more experienced diver.
The myriad of sea life on show all around the Similan Islands is breathtaking, and at this dive site, you’re likely to see white tip reef sharks, leopard sharks, large groupers and blue-ringed angelfish amongst many others, in the shallower water you may even spot a Similan Island jawfish. This dive site starts at about five metres and falls to over 45m, there is much to see at all levels.
Suitable For: All divers
Best Dive Site For: Batfish, reef fish, large stingrays
Another one of the Similan Islands’ most well-known dive sites is East of Eden. A sandy sloping floor is home to some immense coral bommies, the largest of which is around 12m high and it’s alive with soft corals, sponges and a myriad of fish species, a National Geographic team once spent a week photographing just this and even they probably still didn’t capture everything.
This dive site is suitable for beginners and more experienced divers alike as it deepens down to around 30m and the visibility here is usually very good.
Suitable For: All divers
Best Dive Site For: Barracudas, Batfish, scorpionfish, moray eels, Lion Fishes
Viking Cave is to be found on Phi Phi Leh, the other side of the small island from Maya Bay. Above the water, the cave can be seen with scaffolding for the harvesting of swift nests for birds’ nest soup. Under the water though, is another world. Several years ago, many cubes were laid down to form an artificial reef, to help rejuvenate the reefs after the tsunami, and frames have been built to ‘farm’ coral to be seeded elsewhere. The result is quite eerie,
the frames look like ancient sailboats but the cubes are a testament to what can be achieved to help the marine environment, covered as they are with soft corals and home to schools of snappers, batfish, turtles and blue spotted rays. A great dive site for all divers, especially macro hunters but also leopard sharks have been known to hang out here too.
Suitable For: All divers
Best Dive Site For: Balck tip darts, leopards sharks, reel fish
Those who have never visited Phi Phi are probably not aware that there is more than just one island, altogether there are six, two of the smallest are twin limestone towers to the south of Phi Phi Leh called Bida Nok and Bida Nai. Bida Nok is possibly the best dive site on the whole of Phi Phi as it has so much to offer. Most dives start off in a small shallow bay which looks tiny from above the water, however, its sweeping coral floor rises up to only about one or two metres deep; this is where, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the black tip sharks.
Being a protected marine park, sharks have made a comeback here after being overfished for their fins, it doesn’t matter how often you see them, it’s still exciting to watch one swim by. Heading out of the bay you’ll drop down over the coral garden beneath you and venture into deeper water, here you’ll find clouds of snappers, turtles, sea krait, and batfish among many others with beautiful hard and soft coral. You can dive at this site many times and see something different each time.