Scuba Diving in Phuket
Phuket ranks as one of the world’s top ten dive destinations, and with good reason. The water is warm and teeming with marine life; the Andaman being one of the most diverse seas on the planet. If you are lucky you might see whale sharks and manta rays. There are literally hundreds of islands and reefs to be explored by day trips or liveaboard cruises from Phuket, and a wealth of sites providing a wide range of diving opportunities.
Phuket possesses an abundance of dive companies, all ready to give you accredited instruction, provide equipment for hire, and take you on day trips or extended trips to more distant dive spots. The competition this has created among dive operators means a very high standard of safety, training, quality equipment and facilities. At the same time, prices remain very reasonable.
Conditions & Visibility
Diving in Phuket’s clear blue waters is best from November through to May, when the calm seas and rain free days make diving here an extraordinary experience. However, monsoon winds and surface swells in the Andaman Sea during the rainy season, running from late May to October, can make remote spots inaccessible. (See Phuket’s climate for more information).
Due to the weather and low volume of tourists, there are not many dive companies that operate regular liveaboard excursions during this period. However, day trips continue to run throughout the year, and the lower volume of boat traffic during the rainy season often means there is more marine life to be seen.
Water temperatures at the surface range from 26 – 29°C (79 – 84°F). During March and April, unpredictable thermoclines may cause a temporary drop of a few degrees, though at depth this can be as much as 10°C (18°F). Water temperature is highest during May and June.
Visibility is usually best at the start of the dry season, beginning in November, and can be as clear as 40m (130ft). Visibility is variable during the rainy season and is not necessarily influenced by the rain. Sometimes it can be very good, though occasionally storms can stir up silt which clouds the water at some sites.
Scuba Diving Courses
Whether you’re a total beginner or an experienced diver wishing to upgrade your skills, Phuket is a great place to take diving courses. Ranging from short introductory courses, which include a sample dive, to divemaster programs, there is something to suit every skill level. Standards of diving instruction are extremely high, and most dive centres will accept a referral as long as all your documents are in order. A PADI Open Water Diver Course will typically take 3-4 days to complete.
There is a wealth of good to excellent dive spots either in the waters just off Phuket, as well just a short boat journey away. You can hire your own equipment and charter a longtail boat, or go on a regularly scheduled day trip with a dive operator. Most day trips depart between 8am and 9am, provide 2 dives with a lunch, and return in the afternoon. There are now a number of dive operators offering half-day trips, leaving either in the morning or early afternoon. Tanks, weights, food and transportation to and from your hotel are usually included in the price.
The Andaman’s truly great diving locations are in remote areas, and although there are day trips, liveaboards are the recommended way to explore them. Liveaboard vessels also provide a much greater range of destinations by being self-contained and travelling overnight. Liveaboard trips can range from two to ten days and travel to dive sites as far away as India’s Andaman Islands. Other favoured destinations are the renowned Similan Islands, the Surin Islands and the Burma Banks.
Dive boats vary in style and level of comfort dramatically. It really depends on the company you book with. Cheaper prices will usually mean more crowded boats. At the lower end of the budget scale, liveaboards may provide sleeping quarters in one big cabin or even on deck. At the higher end of the scale liveaboard boats may possess large, private air-conditioned cabins with ensuite bathrooms, dedicated photo areas, film processing and editing facilities and many other amenities.
See also: Phuket Dive Sites
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