Thailand's resort paradise of Phuket is the perfect getaway for anyone looking to relax on the beach and soak up some sun. The place is well known for its scenic coastlines, lively nightlife, and relaxed atmosphere but it's also a world-class scuba diving destination. From the city, divers can access to some amazing locations, with options that are beginner-friendly and options that will enthrall to veteran divers. If a scuba excursion to Thailand is in your future, these are the best dive spots near Phuket to keep you occupied during your stay.
Don't let the name of this place scare you off. Yes, there are indeed sharks to be found here, but they are of the not-so-dangerous leopard shark variety. These creatures aren't aggressive at all, giving divers the opportunity to check "dive with sharks" off of their bucket list. The docile creatures also happen to be just one of dozens of species that can be spotted in this marine sanctuary, where multicolored coral reefs and large sea fans are nestled among towering limestone towers that are home to a stunning array of brightly colored tropical fish.
Located less than 20 miles from Phuket, a trip to Sharks Point makes for an easy day trip. The protected reserve has at least three very impressive spots to visit, making for a fun experience that will leave a long and lasting impression, while still managing to have you back in the city in time for dinner.
Not far from Sharks Point is another outstanding dive spot called Anemone Reef. Here, another limestone tower rises out of the seafloor, creating a landmark for visiting divers to explore. As you can probably guess from its name, the main attraction in this spot is the incredible number of sea anemones that have made this place their home. Those creatures dot the landscape in large numbers, giving divers an opportunity to witness the diversity of size, shapes, and colors that they come in.
But anemones aren't the only form of sea life that calls this reef home. You'll spot snapper, clownfish, leopard sharks, tuna, and other species circling the area as well. Divers might even get lucky enough to catch glimpse of a barracuda or the occasional moray eel, which often come to prey upon the smaller animals.
The Wreck of the King Cruiser
The limestone pinnacle at Anemone Reef rises about 100 feet from the ocean floor, putting it just below the surface of the ocean. That makes it a great dive spot, but dangerous for passing boats. In fact, back in 1997, a large ferry called the King Cruiser accidentally ventured too close to the rock tower, ripping a large hole in its hull. All of the passengers escaped the sinking vessel safely, but now the remains of the ship sit near the reef in plain view in the clear waters.
This famous wreck makes for a fantastic site for divers, who can approach the ship at a depth of just 50-100 feet. Once there, they'll spot the remains of the ferry and an array of sea life that now call it home. Barracuda are fairly common here, as are snapper, lionfish, and a number of other species. This combination of a large wreck and plenty of fish makes the King Cruiser a must-do for adventurous divers.
A word of caution is necessary when it comes to this dive however, as it isn't for beginners. In recent years, the wreck has deteriorated significantly, making it less safe to venture too close. Still, veteran divers will find a lot to like here, provided they take caution as they go.
Koh Racha Yai
Take an hour-long cruise out to the island of Koh Racha Yai and you'll find yet another amazing dive site that is well worth the visit. Known for its crystal clear waters, visibility stretches out to as much as 100 feet. That makes it easy to spot the large numbers of corals that come in every color of the rainbow. Of course, where there is a coral reef, there are bound to be plenty of fish too. Barracuda, puffers, moray eels, and much more.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg for what Koh Racha Yai has to offer. This beginner- and snorkel-friendly destination also has a few small wrecks to explore and there are even underwater statues of elephants to discover. There is so much to see here in fact, that a single day trip may not be enough to take it all in.
Koh Racha Noi
Venture another hour south of Koh Racha Yai and you'll find another outstanding dive site in Koh Racha Noi. This island destination is known for its fast and strong currents, so some of the spots aren't as well suited for beginners. But the deep waters found just off shore are home to larger sea life that isn't common in other locations. Here, you'll get the chance to see manta rays, barracuda, and even whale sharks at times.
Drift divers may find the currents at Koh Racha Noi to be quite a thrill ride, offering up strong currents to push them along. The island also happens to be less touristy than Koh Racha Yai, making it a quieter all around experience.
Koh Dok Mai
If you've had your fill of wreck dives, swimming with sharks, and drifting over large coral reefs, then why not give wall diving a go? Located en route from Phuket to Sharks Point, Koh Dok Mai is a large limestone karst that juts from the sea in dramatic fashion. Visitors won't find any beaches on this rocky island, nor any other way to actually land on its shores Instead, they'll discover sheer cliffs that reach into the sky, and stretch back under the ocean all the way to its floor.
Diving along those rock walls reveals a stunning landscape. Not only are the walls of Koh Dok Mai lined with coral reefs, but there are also plenty of sea anemones and sea fans too. Underwater creatures are in abundance with the usual array of colorful tropical fish. If you're lucky, you might even spot a seahorse or two, as well as a moray eel.
Better yet, if you're visiting between November and April, you just might get the opportunity to see baby nurse sharks or whale sharks in the vicinity as well. That's the beauty of a dive at Koh Dok Mai, you never really know what you might encounter and each visit is unique.
Bida Nok and Bida Nai
After you've added wall diving to your resume at Koh Dok Mai, head over to the twin limestone towers of Bida Nok and Bida Nai to try some cove diving. While none of the caverns found there are especially large, there are a number of openings in the rock that divers can drift in and out of. But the big draw at these two karsts is, once again, the abundant sea life. Tiny sea horses hide amongst the rocky overhangs and brilliant coral, with the elusive ghost pipefish not far off either. Sea snakes are also common here, while the hawksbill turtle is a frequent visitor. Zebra sharks and stingrays may be the most popular creatures in the area, however, with both seen frequently in the clear blue waters.
Bida Nok and Bida Nai are both beginner-friendly destinations, although only experienced divers should explore the caves. Snorkelers will love Koh Dok Mai, as the fantastic water clarity and abundant sea life near the surface make for a great outing.
Elephant Head Rock
You may have to close one eye and cock your head a bit to understand exactly how this location got its name, but Elephant Head Rock is a top-notch diving destination for experienced divers. This spot off the coast of the Similan Islands cements Thailand's reputation as a fantastic diving location by providing dozens of caves, tunnels, and arches to swim through. It also offers the chance to spot barracuda, green turtles, and reef sharks, which are frequently here in abundance.
In addition to the caves and tunnels, there are strong currents to be found around Elephant Head Rock. This combination of features means that less experienced divers should stay away. But scuba veterans will love the clear water, interesting topography, and the fact that there are fewer divers to contend with.
East of Eden
More suitable for divers of all experience levels, East of Eden can be found not far from Elephant Head Rock. Coral is found in large numbers here, making it a colorful and tranquil spot. The so-called "orchid garden" is especially popular thanks to the vast amount of sea life that calls that spot home. Divers will come across angelfish, scorpionfish, and ribbon eels throughout the area, although it is the blacktip and leopard sharks that garner the most attention. The region is also home to the rare, giant moray eel, which can reach nearly 10 feet in length.
Whether you're making your first dive in Thailand or you've been there numerous times, East of Eden has a lot to offer.