ENTRY LEVEL SCUBA DIVING PHUKET THAILAND
Thailand and Phuket offers some of the world’s best scuba diving for beginner divers and open water student divers. The islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand are popular for dive groups visiting to complete their open water certifications, thanks to calm, shallow dive sites close to shore. But the best and most popular is Phuket Island. Plus, the dive community on Phuket has an abundance of dive centers and resorts with great classroom facilities, making it an ideal training destination. In the Andaman Sea, scuba diving Phuket based divers can head to Koh Phi Phi or Similan Islands, another destinations with year-round calm conditions and local dive sites less than 18 metres/60 feet deep. At Shark Point, beginner divers can get up close with docile leopard sharks. If you have divers looking to log bottom time close to the metropolitan capital, Bangkok, Koh Chang and Koh Kood boast easy diving within the Koh Rang National Park, along with a Thai Navy ship turned artificial reef.
For dive groups interested in a Southeast Asian scuba adventure, Phuket area in Thailand boasts the perfect mix of modern amenities, affordable prices and great dive sites along 1900 kilometers / 1200 miles of coastline. Dive groups interested in visiting Thailand can venture either to the Gulf of Thailand to the east or the Andaman Sea to the west and idyllic, reef-fringed island chains with dive sites ranging from walls to wrecks, caverns and open-ocean sea-mounts.
Off the eastern coast, in the Gulf of Thailand, sits a group of three islands, each with its own character — Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. While all three islands offer services that cater to all types of dive enthusiasts, additionally, Koh Samui caters to a more upscale, low-key crowd. Koh Phangan is a popular destination among young backpackers, and Phuket Island is the epicenter of scuba diving in the region, known as one of the top spots in the world for entry-level PADI certifications.
From any of these islands in the Gulf of Thailand, the divers in your group will have access to the region’s best boat diving, including Chumpohn Pinnacle. The top of this dramatic undersea spire reaches to 12 metres/40 feet, where divers can spot clownsh frolicking among the tentacles of their anemone homes, and it drops to more than 30 metres/100 feet deep, where your dive group will thrill at the opportunity to spot filter-feeding whale sharks that sometimes visit the pinnacle. Japanese Rock, in the Ang Thong Marine Park, is another perennial favorite dive site for divers of all experience levels. Depths less than 18 metres/60 feet and protected sea conditions make it easy to explore the lush, sun-drenched coral gardens, punctuated by shallow swim-through.
On the western side of Thailand, the Andaman Sea is home to some of the country’s most popular destinations. Of those, Phuket is far and away the most visited island in the country, and the perfect jumping-off point for a wide array of dive adventures.
If your dive group is interested in day diving from Phuket, they’ll have lots of dive sites to explore within a short boat ride of the pier. “The Racha Yai and Noi islands offer some of the best conditions,” says Entremont. “And the nearby Phi Phi islands are rich in marine life.” But for experienced divers, a liveaboard trip to the north of Phuket is the surest way to experience the best the Andaman Sea has to offer. Here the uninhabited Similan Islands are famed for their beauty above and below the water.
Home to nearly 20 world-class dive sites, the Similan Islands are a national marine park and arguably the most sought-after dive hotspot in Thailand. The must-see dives that everyone in your group will be clamoring for are sea-mounts like Elephant Head and Richelieu Rock, a horseshoe – shaped pinnacle where fast currents attract batfish, trevallies and barracuda in droves. But the marquee attractions of these pinnacles are whale sharks — the ocean’s largest fish — and crobatic manta rays that cruise in from the open ocean to do their dance in the nutrient-rich currents. The Similans also host some of Thailand’s richest reefs, on which your group can get lots of bottom time exploring at sites like East of Eden, a calm, aquarium-like dive site loaded with sea turtles and reef fish.