Thailand Diving Paradise
By far the best diving takes place
in the area northwest of Phuket Island. This area offers both the expert
and beginning diver the opportunity to observe large animals in the
wild including exciting silver tips sharks, huge whale sharks, occasional
contact with migrating pseudo orcas and dolphins and other pelagic wonders
such as manta rays. It is also one of the best areas in Southeast Asia
for water clarity and a tremendous growth of pristine corals and kaleidoscopic
fish. This triangle includes:
The Similan Islands feature huge granite boulders forming swim-through
and overhangs as well as incredible varieties of soft corals in a rainbow
of colors. This is the most famous area for diving in Thailand because
of the beautiful beaches, water clarity averaging 20-30 meters, and
the biggest concentration of small tropical fish. Truly world-class
Burma Banks, located 180 kilo-meters northwest of the Similans, are
a series of underwater mountains rising up from over 350 meters to within
15 meters from the surface. Located in open ocean far from shore, these
banks are famous for large animal action, including free-swimming nurse
sharks and large silver tip sharks . Some operators offer a controlled
shark attraction experience using freshly caught tuna for bait.
The Andaman Islands, part
of India, have just opened up after more than 50 years of isolation
from the outside world. Located another 400 kilometers from the Banks,
these islands are just now being explored by several diving operators
out of Phuket. Almost no commercial fishing is allowed in the Andamans,
thus the size and numbers of fish are frankly amazing.
Surin Islands, located right on the border with Burma, are visited
mainly for an underwater rock located just to the east named Richelieu,
which is one of the best areas of the world to consistently observe
the massive whale shark. Lush growths of soft coral cling to the rock
while large schools of pelagic fish circle it, feeding on the abundance
of food found here. Peculiar animals such as the guitar shark, large
octopus, and cuttle fish are commonly sighted here as well.
Ko Bon and Ko Tachai are
located between the Surins and the Similans and feature vertical walls,
large sea fans of every shape and size, rays, and leopard sharks. These
islands are normally visited on the way back to the Similans from either
the Surins or the Banks.
Most of these areas can only be visited by way of live-aboard dive boats.
Trip duration is between three and fourteen days and costs vary depending
on the comfort and size of the boat, destination, and of course, length
Day trips and shorter live-aboard
are available from Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Krabi and Ko Lanta. The highlights
Ko Dok Mai features a vertical
wall plunging to almost 30 meters. Colorful cadorn the wall and a wide
variety of fish patrol the depths.
Shark Point lies about two
hours to the east of Phuket and is one of the most popular day trips
because of the colorful and prolific marine life found there. It is
named after the friendly, approachable leopard shark, which can be observed
on most dives. Although visibility varies, this is one of the most beautiful
sites in the Andaman Sea.
The Phi Phi Island group
is also a popular day trip from Phuket and Krabi. Accommodation and
dive centers are available on the island as well. Stunning scenery both
above and below the surface of the sea and the tremendous variety of
diving environments makes Ko Phi Phi one of the most visited places
on the west coast of Thailand.
Ko Ha, about two hours south
of Phi Phi, has better visibility than Phi
Phi does and divers
can enter a large cave and actually surface inside of the island.
The islands of Krabi offer
cave diving, a ship wreck or two, and inviting coral gardens visited
by dive centers located on Ao Nang and Ao Phra-nang.
Daeng and Hin Muang are two pinnacles located southwest of Ko Phi
Phi and visited by live-aboard boats from both Phuket and Phi Phi. Aside
from the Similan Islands, these two dive sites feature the finest diving
in Thailand. Literally covered in pink and purple soft corals, you 'll
find large schools of fish, amazing amounts of anemones, and sharks
and rays. Also, along with Richelieu Rock, this is one of the most probable
places to sight a whale shark.
The twin islands of Racha Yai
and Racha Noi are located directly south of Phuket and are visited
by both live-aboard and day-trip boats. Since they lie offshore, the
visibility here often exceeds 20 meters. Drift diving over sloping hard
coral and granite boulders is the norm.
By The Sea | Thailand Water Sport