The dive sites of Phuket Thailand has always been a big draw for scuba diving and for Phuket snorkel tours alike. What makes Thailand Phuket especially popular is the diving is easy with mild currents and shallow depths. Ok there are many other places with shallow diving but very few are as stunningly beautiful with such a varies sea life as when scuba diving Thailand.
When diving Phuket there are many choices. Do you dive the east side in the gulf of Thailand or the west side in the Andaman ocean? What will follow will be a guide to let you know the best dive sites, the most popular dive sites, when is the best time to dive them to help you get the most out of the scuba diving Phuket has to offer. It does not matter if you have never tried it before or are an experienced diver diving in Thailand will will impress you.
First up is a well known dive site to all divers who have been diving in Phuket as it is the location of the the third dive of many day trips. Many Phuket dive centers use Koh Doc Mai as its a great but easy drift dive that you need to pass on your way back from other locations such as Phi Phi and King Cruiser. The other bonus is that being a nice long drift dive that even if other boats are there before you then they will be further along the wall when you begin your dive and everyone drifts with the current at a similar speed.
Koh Doc Mai literally means “flower island”. There are different stories of how the place got its name – some say it is because the island was once full of blossoming flowers, and others claim its name comes from the underwater beauty around its shores. The little limestone island stretches vertically down 24 – 28 meters, creating a wall all around. Although the west side, with hard coral extending out from 12 – 18 meters, is shallower, the east wall is more popular with divers. There are many cracks and crevices along the walls at all depths, but the most frequented visit is a big cave and small cave located on the east side of the island. However, the small cave is narrow and long, so divers who have not obtained a cavern diver specialty are not encouraged to penetrate the cave. There is no access onto the island. The currents are light to moderate and run in a north-south direction. The current is stronger on the north side at low tide, and on the south side during high tide but well with in the ability of any open water diver as Phuket diving is easy compared to many other locations around the world. On days with strong current, there may be up-currents or down-currents as well. While the debris and rubbish has since been cleared by co-operative activities by locals, divers and aid organizations, you will still see the scattered rocks nearer to the shore. At depths of 4 meters, you will see coral reefs, extending from the shore, mostly consisting of brain corals and pore corals, stretching to a depth of about 12 meters.
A good variety of small creatures make this site a favourite for Phuket dive shops. Tigertail seahorses, ornate ghost pipefish and anglerfish are among the species frequently found along the walls. Go slowly and check crevices in the wall or the sea fans and you may spot them when they move. The walls are also a paradise for macro photographers, as colourful nudibranch, flatworms, tiny white eyed morays and groups of 10 or more dancing shrimp are guaranteed to make an appearance.
Do examine cracks and small crevices for giant morays, and enjoy the schools of yellowline snapper, trevally and fusilierthat usually swim along the wall. For those interested in bigger fish, great barracuda may be seen clser to the wall if there are strong currents, and leopard shark may also catch a few winks at the bottom of the wall.
Dive slowly if you don’t want to miss the small creatures this divesite is famous for, but with any good Phuket dive shop their instructor will not let you miss anything. Thailand Divers is know for its very experience instructors who have been diving these sits for many years as they live here all year round. Many newer Thailand dive centers will use gap year students and backpackers as guides as a cheap way to get guides in the busy times but if you want to get the best from the diving then its better to go for experience over quantity of divers everytime. It should be possible to get half way around the island in an hour. It is usually a one way dive along the wall side, but it can get tricky when there are strong currents, as the up currents and down currents can rapidly reduce visibility from a good 25 meters to 10 meters very fast.
Get advice from your dive guide or boat crew on where to end your dive and ascend, and plan to have enough time to swim back if you go pass the assigned area. Depending on the season and sea conditions, it might take the boat more than 10 minutes to realize that your group is up on the other side where they can not see you. At the end of the dive, ascend with caution and beware of boat traffic. Use a safety balloon. When surfacing, swim away from the island so the boat can make a pick up easily.
Koh Doc Mai is a great dive to end you open water course Phuket with as its fun, and different type of dive site compared to the sloping reefs that have been where you were doing most of your skills on. When you learn to scuba dive Phuket has some great spots and Koh Doc Mai is the last dive on the way home from places like Phi Phi and thus a great way to end the course especially if a Whale shark makes an appearance. Its also is a great spot for other dive courses Phuket such as Advanced course or for a deep dive too as there is plenty to explore just a bit away from the wall too but be aware of the current as its very easy to drift away from the pick up spot and find yourself in deep water too but thats when the experience of the instructor really pays off and you will get a great dive as they know there is far more there than just a wall dive.