Phuket scuba diving holidays in Thailand are hugely popular because they offer something for everyone. Beginners can learn to dive in very safe conditions, but still expect to see plenty of interesting creatures. While challenging dive sites ranging from wrecks and caves, to boulders and walls, will appeal to more experienced divers.
Recreational divers will enjoy the variety of topographies of the dive sites, making each dive very different. There are beautiful pinnacles covered in soft coral and anemones and rugged wall dives with limestone cracks teeming with life.
Explore impressive boulder sites where bush coral hangs from enormous granite boulders. Here divers feel like they’re swimming through huge canyons. Many of the Islands in the area have pretty sloping reefs that are great for beginners. Plus there are plenty of wreck dives of different sizes.
The icing on top of this varied diving is the sheer diversity of the marine life at all of the dive sites – it often surprises even the most experienced diver. There’s also technical diving available in the region including some interesting caves to explore on Phuket scuba diving holidays.
While the air temperature varies from 25 to 34°C (77 to 93°F), the water temperature remains constant, at around 29°C (84°F) throughout the year. So there’s no need for full length wetsuits. Most divers opt for a 3mm shorty, some even dive in rash vest and board shorts.
During the monsoon season (i.e. the “Green Season”, May to October) the wind blows from the west, bringing moist air from across the Indian Ocean. The saturated air tends to pile up into rain clouds when it hits the land, so you can expect rain for around two weeks out of every four during this season.
During the rest of the year – high season – the wind comes from the east, carrying dry air. So you can reasonably expect not to see rain for months at a time. This is especially true during the peak of the high season, from January to March.
There can be waves at any time of year. But the roughest weather comes at the change of the seasons: May/June, and September/October. These months normally have the most rainfall and biggest waves, so although there is still good diving most people avoid planning their Phuket scuba diving holidays in Thailand at these times.
Marine life around Phuket is abundant and varied. The corals and artificial reefs attract plenty of pelagic (ocean going) fish visitors, and they shelter many reef fish, schools of glass fish and juveniles.
Expect to see schooling fish such as snapper and fusiliers. These all attract predators like trevally, barracuda, rainbow runners and tuna. Trigger fish, surgeon fish, grouper, damsels, wrasses and parrotfish patrol the reefs in good numbers, and we have healthy populations of scorpion fish, lionfish and the occasional stone fish too.
Turtles, blacktip reef sharks and leopard sharks are getting rarer these days, but still make an appearance. Rays including Jenkins whipray, blue spotted rays and porcupine rays all make regular appearances at most of the dive sites.
Macro lovers will not be disappointed. Ornate ghostpipefish visit on their annual breeding cycles and, at some dive sites you can spot pegasus fish, indian ocean walkmen, harlequin shrimp, frogfish and seahorses. Cracks and crevices provide shelter for all kinds of shrimps, moray eels and pipefish. And keep your eyes peeled for a diverse population of nudibranchs.
Mantas and whale sharks are also frequently spotted on Phuket scuba diving holidays in Thailand. Whale sharks can glide by on any dive, and we have a few pelagic cleaning stations that keep the mantas coming back – they often sneak past unsuspecting divers, who are busy photographing nudis!
There are a multitude of dive sites accessible from Phuket. But the Oceanic Dive Center have recommended their favourites, which should be included in your Phuket scuba diving holidays in Thailand. For more information check out our more detailed article about the best dive sites in Phuket.
At just 75m from the shore Kata House Reef is both surprisingly good and an easy to access shore dive right outside the Oceanic Dive Center. The maximum depth is just 12m making it great for photography, and the shallow depth can mean longer dives. A dive here rarely disappoints.
The reef is mostly hard coral with a few soft corals and anemones. You can expect to see all species here but regular highlights include schooling cuttlefish, young chevron barracuda, seahorses, blue spotted rays, lionfish and scorpionfish. If you are lucky our resident harlequin shrimp and pair of mimic octopus will put in an appearance.
Racha Yai and Racha Noi are are considered great dive sites for beginners. In the bays there is good visibility and mild currents all year round so perfect conditions for learning to dive. For the more experienced there is a great swim through wreck dive.
If you love octopus this is a great spot for you, there’s also a very healthy population of moray eels. Racha Noi is a top Phuket scuba diving spot as it’s the most likely place to spot manta rays, who visit the cleaning station at the southern plateau.
The King Cruiser wreck is a must for any advances divers on a scuba diving holiday in Thailand. The 90m car ferry sank in 1997 and provides Phuket with a spectacular wreck dive and constantly changing artificial reef that teems with life.
Diving at 16m+ the volume of schooling fish impresses all divers and you get some huge lionfish here. The colourful soft corals harbour many macro species too, including a fabulous array of nudibranchs.
Fairly near to King Cruiser, these two sites are all about the soft coral and anemone growth. Although similar sites Anemone Reef is a little quieter than Shark Point but offers less shelter from currents.
They are great sites for spotting sleeping bamboo sharks, tigertail seahorses, ornate ghostpipefish, mantis shrimps and a multitude of nudibranchs. You’ll also see all the usual reef fish and schooling barracuda. Leopard sharks are still spotted here but no longer on every dive.
This is a tiny limestone island, with sheer cliffs both above and below the water and many varieties of soft coral clinging to the walls. It is the ideal place to stop on the way to or from Phi Phi or Shark Point.
The soft corals attract many reef fish, and the cracks and crevices are home to abundant macro marine life. There are also two small caverns that offer stunning photos of divers silhouetted against the entrance.
There are a multitude of dive sites around the Phi Phi Islands with Bida Nok and Bida Nai being the most popular. It is a long day trip from Phuket but worth it, however check the forecast to avoid a rough crossing.
The Phi Phi Islands are the best place to see blacktip reef sharks, leopard sharks and turtles particularly from November to May. There is a great variety of dives available including wall dives, granite boulder swim-throughs and coral gardens.
With National Park status the Similans, along with Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, are widely considered one of the top ten places to dive in the world – well visiting during Phuket scuba diving holidays. Although the Similans and Koh Bon are possible on a Phuket day trip we recommend you join a liveaboard to properly enjoy the area.
The granite boulders of the western Similan Islands are famed for their 40m+ visibility, whilst the eastern side has sloping coral reefs teeming with marine life of all types. Richelieu Rock is a macro heaven, and one of the top dive sites to see whale sharks on scuba diving holidays in Thailand.
Koh Bon is limestone island with a oceanic cleaning station that is popular with manta rays, it also has a fabulous variety of macro life. Mantas come to feed and be cleaned at Koh Tachai’s submerged plateau, where you’ll also see huge schools of fish and predators such as rainbow runners, trevally and barracuda.
The only way to see the full magnificence of the Similans and Richelieu area is to take a liveaboard trip as part of your Phuket scuba diving holiday. Oceanic Dive Center provide liveaboards from Phuket, lasting four days or more they have options suitable for all budgets.
They offer a low cost backpacker-style liveaboard, with communal accommodation. They also offer a first class luxury liveaboard with lower numbers and individual rooms.
Whichever style you choose you can’t help but fall into the divers’ rhythm of Sleep, Dive, Eat, Repeat. And being Thailand, the quality of the food on board is always first class, regardless of the class of boat!
I would like to thank Oceanic Dive Center for providing the words and images for this guide to Phuket scuba diving holidays in Thailand. For more information and honest advice contact them at: [email protected]