A few secret tips for a scuba diving holiday in Thailand.
Thailand is a popular vacation destination. Not only with divers, but also with culture lovers, backpackers and beach goers. In the most popular places like Phuket the ‘Thailand feeling’ is sometimes hard to find but it is incredibly easy to avoid mass tourism! Here are a few ‘secret’ tips.
In the southwest of Thailand, in Trang province, lies a series of small islands where you can still find the ‘Cast away’ feeling. On the Muslim islands of Koh Mook, Koh Kradan and Koh Libong, the road network still consists largely of sandy paths and you can still lie on deserted paradise beaches. There are some diving schools on Koh Mook and Koh Kradan, but they are mainly beautiful destinations for snorkelers.
More diving schools are on Koh Lipe which, because of its brilliant white beaches and diving opportunities, is sometimes called “the Maldives of Thailand”. Koh Lipe is located in the southernmost part of the Andaman Sea, where the Koh Tarutau National park forms the border with Malaysia.
The dive sites around Koh Lipe are many shallow reefs where you can see an abundance of soft corals and fan corals.
Ko Kho Khao
Phang-nga province is known for the limestone cliffs of Phang-nga Bay and the area around Krabi. On the west side of the province you have two large islands with a totally different nature. The island of Ko Kho Khao is easily accessible – 2 hours by bus from Phuket airport and 10 minutes by boat.
The island consists of grasslands and mangroves with the occasional sleepy village and a few Buddhist temples. It is slowly starting to appear on the tourist radar. Especially German and Scandinavian tourists enjoy the tranquility, the vast beaches and beautiful sunsets.
Slightly north lies the island of Ko Phra Thong which is even quieter and has a savanna-like landscape. Here you are totally away from mass tourism.
What makes these islands interesting for divers are the nearby Surin islands. Divers can take a day trip from here to Ko Surin and the famous Richileau Rock dive site. These dive sites are otherwise only accessible during a multi-day dive safari to the Similan and Surin National parks.
Cave diving in Thailand – Sra Keow cave
Cave diving in Thailand? Is that possible? Another secret!
The limestone cliffs in Krabi province can form huge pillars. The famous ‘James Bond’ pillar from ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ is a famous example. Centuries of erosion have also created impressive caves in the limestone cliffs. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Sra Keaw cave. Two insignificant turquoise lakes give access to one of the most impressive cave systems in the world.
Most divers will not see the bottom here. Belgian Ben Reymenants reached a record depth of 239 meters in this cave in 2007! In 2018, Ben played a crucial role in the rescue of a thai soccer team and their coach from a flooded cave in Chang Rai. For many years he has run a diving school in southern Phuket (www.bluelabeldiving.com) from where he organized cave diving trips and trained cave divers.
Should Phuket also be in the list of “secret” destinations in Thailand? Yes it should. On the island of Phuket it is also super easy to get away from mass tourism.
Most beachgoers and partygoers book a hotel in Patong, Phuket’s tourist center. You only have to drive half an hour to reach the southernmost part of the island, called Rawai. Here there is a very different feel. Rawai is unknown to most tourists, but loved by expats. In Rawai you can find several little beaches that are an oasis of calm compared to the hustle and bustle in Patong. You can even find some diving schools and take a dive from the beach.
Drive 10 minutes north from Patong and you come to Kamala, another unknown and quiet part of Phuket. Here, over the green hills run a few winding roads along the coast. You can find small hotels, villas and apartments with beautiful views of Kamala Bay.
Also in Kamala are a few diving schools that offer shore diving or diving by longtail boat.