Phuket Island is consistently ranked as one of the best places in the world to enjoy scuba diving. There are many excellent dive sites within the Phuket area making it a good beginning point for many diving adventures.
There are even some sites right off of the island where one can dive simply by walking or swimming into the ocean. There are also many businesses and organizations on the island which can supply divers with all the equipment they need, give them proper training and provide them with logistical support.
Phuket Island is located in the Andaman Sea, which contains some of the best coral reefs and most interesting underwater rock formations in the world, as well as brightly colored fish, turtles, small sharks and other interesting or unusual forms of aquatic life.
Together, these things combine to make a facinating and vibrant ecosystem in which to enjoy diving. The waters of the Andaman Sea are usually crystal clear and visibility usually exceeds 30 meters (100 feet). The water temperature is also very diver friendly, averaging around 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit).
Visibility and temperature are generally good year round, but during the monsoon season, June to October, the seas can be rough and visibility reduced somewhat. The best time for diving is November to May, although some divers prefer the more difficult but less crowded times.
The water immediately adjacent to Phuket does not offer great diving. It is too shallow and the beaches are too sandy. There are, however, a few places on the island where one can wade into the water and immediately find some good sites, such as the rocky headland of Laem Promthep and Ao Sane Beach.
Kata Beach and Kata Noi Beach also have some excellent coral reefs adjacent to the beach that are suitable for diving. Most of the best sites, however, involve taking day trips.
Among these destinations are Phi Phi Island, The Similian Islands, Koh Racha Yai and Noi, and Koh Dork Mai or "Flower Island". Also within easy traveling distance is "Shark Point" 15 miles southwest of Phuket, which is named for the large population of Leopard Sharks that live there. Nearby is Anemone Reef, home to large numbers of Lion Fish.
Most of those interested in diving will probably desire and need the help of local people knowledgeable about diving. There are dive shops located all over the island. At least 50 and the number is growing. They can provide equipment, logistics and training to those that wish to dive on a day trip basis. Some of them can also help divers to do "liveaboard" trips to more faraway locations.
Of course, they can also be very helpful in helping customers deal with more ordinary problems such as securing affordable accommodation on Phuket Island itself. Most shops tend to specialize in a limited number of dive sites so it might be necessary to call around to find a shop that does tours to the places one is interested in going.
Many shops also tend to focus on certain types of customers, so one must check to see if one feels comfortable with a particular shop. It is definately a good idea to seek the services of a dive shop where the personnel are properly certified. The two certification systems most generally recognized are PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors), although there are several other systems in use.
Those who wish to dive must be properly certified to secure the assistance of an ethical dive shop operator. If one has a proper certification through PADI, NAUI or another recgonized certification body, then there will be no problem.
Those not certified will need to take a course and get certified, which is not difficult. Courses are offered through most shops. The basic certification course lasts from three to four days and costs around 8,000 to 14,000 baht. Specialty courses, such as "Night Diving" or "Deep Water Diving" are also available. These courses usually are of shorter duration and cost less. Certifications are generally recognized around the world.
Estimating the cost of diving is somewhat difficult but it appears that day dives, when done with small groups, will cost roughly 2,000 baht to somewhat less than 4,000 baht a day. One must remember that one must rent equipment, pay a guide, secure a boat and crew (sometimes the guide and the boat operator are the same. A crew usually is no more than two people), buy food and so forth.
The cost also depends to some degree on the distance one must travel from Phuket. The cost of liveaboard diving adventures is much more variable as some divers want to travel in a state of luxury not necessary to enjoy the diving experieince. It is generally estimated that the low end of pricing for a liveaboard experience is 15,000 baht a day and it can range all the way up to 50,000 baht a day, or more.
Those who wish to have many of the same experiences enjoyed by scuba divers, but who do not want to invest so much in equipment or training can do snorkling. Several beaches on Phuket Island - Freedom Beach, Laem Sing Beach, Ao Sane Beach, Kata Beach, Kata Noi Beach, Paradise Beach and Tri Trang Beach – are considered good locations for snorkeling. Generally, snorkeling can also be done at most of the day trip locations frequented by the scuba divers.