Diving locations.

Maldives

Thailand

Malapascua, Philippines

Bunaken, Sulawesi

Raja Ampat

Lembeh

 

Thailand

Thailand is a fabulous tourist destination despite its recent political troubles. From the chaos of Bangkok to the highland locations of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai there is a lot to see. The food is great and the people friendly. For beaches and diving you can head for either the east or west coasts of the peninsular. Phuket is the tourist mecca of the west coast and from here you can get to Ko Phi Phi and the Similan islands. Off the east coast is Koh Tao, one of the most popular places to learn to dive in the world.

Where ever you dive in Thailand it is likely to be crowded. There are hundreds of dive operators in the popular resorts. However if you want to combine a holiday with sightseeing, partying or other adventure activities like rock climbing then this is the place to come.

The diving

I have dived in two places in Thailand so far, Ko Phi Phi and Ko Tao. The first thing that strikes you in Phi Phi main street is the huge number of dive operators. How to choose? I browse the internet and come up with Phi Phi Scuba. They turn out to be safe and well run with good boats.

Phi Phi Scuba

Diving starts at 7 each morning - pretty early but they try to get to the sites before boats from the mainland arrive. If you have been out clubbing all night then this could be a problem. If you don't join the beach parties then you may need earplugs to get a good night's sleep.

Phi Phi diving boat

Dive sites are mostly around Phi Phi Lay, the high cliffed island to the south of Phi Phi Don famous for the film 'The Beach'. Beyond Phi Phi Lay are two small islands, Bida Nai and Bida Nok with more dive sites. Ko Ha, 2 hours south of KPP, are a bunch of small limestone karsts sticking out of the sea and was the best dive site I visited. The King Cruiser is a wrecked car ferry which sunk in 1997 after hitting Shark Point. It is quite deep and also prone to current.

snapper

Bida Nai: small island near Phi Phi Lai. 20m dive. Plenty of fish and soft coral. Frog fish, nudibranchs, octopus, big schools of five line snapper (above).

Ko Ha, The Chimney and The Cathedral: two fine dives. The Chimney starts with a dive down a chimney going in at 5m and out at 20m. The cathedral (below) is a big chamber that you swim into through a hole in the cliffs. Both dives had good viz, plenty of fish, soft and hard coral. Ko Ha also has a cave that you can climb up to during your surface interval and jump down into the pool below.

The Cathedral, Ko Ha

King Cruiser and Anemone Reef: big wreck which we dived in quite strong current and not very good viz. About 28m to the deck - deeper dive if you swim to bottom. Huge schools of fish, large groupers and a visit to the captain's toilets! Would be good to dive again with better viz and less current. Anemone Reef is a pinnacle nearby the wreck with a huge profusion of anemones and soft coral and again massive shoals of fish. Even see two seahorses on a gorgonian. Very good dive despite average fish.

A few months later we are visiting Ko Samui and go over to Ko Tao. Ko Tao is a hugely popular dive spot, particular for those wanting to get their Padi licences. From Ko Samui it is quite far - we go over in a fast and impressive (albeit expensive) boat run by 100degreeseast dive shop. I do two dives on Sail Rock, a small pinnacle between Ko Phanga and Ko Tao, and then a couple of dives on Ko Tao itself.

Sail rock diving

Sail Rock: supposedly the best dive site in the area. Good the day we were there with clear viz and loads of fish and fine hard and soft coral. Both dives max depth around 26m. Nice chimney swim through on second dive. Some really big groupers. V warm water at 31C.

Hin Wong Pinnacle and Ao Leuk, Ko Tao: first dive not great due to quite poor viz. Still some interesting little stuff like scrawled file fish and razor fish (19m). Second site a classic gentle 'second dive' with a reef and granite boulders covered in coral. More pipefish, trigger fish, angels and stingrays. Much better viz too.

Logistics

Most people get to Ko Phi Phi from Phuket which has an airport which connects to Bangkok, Singapore and other hubs in the region. From there it isa 30 min cab ride to the ferry terminal. Public ferries run to Ko Phi Phi every couple of hours. Accomodation in KPP is mixed. There are loads of backpacker places and few smarter hotels.

Weather in Thailand is very seasonal. On the west coast the rainy season runs from May-Oct so not a great time to go to Phi Phi. Ko Tao, on the other side of Thailand is less affected by the monsoon. There the weather is worse in Oct-Jan so if you are diving in Thailand make sure you are on the right side at the right time.

For info on my trip to Ko Phi Phi click here