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Diving Southern Thailand

Author: bill mashek (More Trip Reviews by bill mashek)
Date of Trip: January 2005

Elephant Rock, Donald Duck Cove. Huge boulders sea fans and hard corals. Again, many small and colorful reef fish. Visibility here was not as good—approximately 70+ ft. Snorkeling and free diving in Donald Duck Bay (they say the rock at the point looks like Donald Duck??) was superb with depths ranging from 5-20 ft. There is a nice beach here and a relaxing lunch stop.

Turtle Rock; this was a fast drift dive for a short time until we went around the island. Not as many fish but saw several lobsters and a ribbon eel. This was a fairly deep dive (95 ft) and the visibility was much better than Elephant Rock.

Our last dive was Breakfast Bend. It was here I had a provocative experience with a banded sea snake (poisonous but not aggressive) that was wrapping himself around my leg and passing through my bc vest. This dive was a Similan classic, turquoise water, 200 ft visibility and copious fish population.

The Similan Islands offer an exceptional diving experience for both novice and experienced divers.

We played tourist for a couple of days and went to Ko Sac National Park. Interesting limestone formations and another site not to be missed. After a 3-mile hike to a waterfall we stopped outside the park and went on an elephant trek. (I am glad I did this so I don't have to do it again). The next day, we rented kayaks and paddled 10 miles on a class 1-2 river (creek) that followed the highway. Saw a 10-ft. king cobra, gibbon, two wild elephants and a fist size spider, scenery was superb and trip worth repeating.

Krabi Area and Phi Phi Islands
From Khao Lak. We traveled by taxi to the Krabi village of Anong Beach. Swiss tourists mostly populated this area. Subsequently, we stayed in some quaint Swiss bungalows across from the beach called Wannas Place. At $30. per night this was a bargain. Just don't get the bungalows way up the hill (a long hike).

The next day we dove with a Swiss operation, Anong Divers. They put us on a Kon Tiki Boat (Swedish) and we dove the Phi Phi islands. In my opinion, Krabi area is not recommended for diving out of because of the distance to dive sites which is reflected in the price. Your best bet here is to stay at West Railey Beach for a couple of nights then go to Phi Phi island, where you are only 15 minutes from most diving.

We spent our last two nights on Phi Phi Island. From Phi Phi, I took a “speed boat” to Hin Daeng; this site is considered one of Thailand's best wall dives and a noble end to a remarkable dive vacation. Hin Daeng is also considered the place to see mantas and whale sharks—of which I saw neither. Hin Daeng (red rock) is an insignificant rock protrusion in the middle of the ocean. Underwater, the rock is mammoth. If you like wall diving you will love Hin Daeng. Saw bigger fish here including, large groupers, schools of big barracuda, several morays, lionfish mating, and all the normal tropicals. Visibility and depth of dive exceeded 100 feet with challenging currents. Definitely, need to watch your computer at Hin Daeng.

The next dive, only 100 meters from Hin Daeng was Hin Muang (purple rock). This is an under water reef covered with a variety of corals, and abundant sea life. Hin Maung is another deep dive with moderate to strong currents. The dive operator was Phi Phi Scuba, an Australian operation on Phi Phi Island. The next morning we took our ocean taxi to Phuket and after a six-hour wait at the airport flew home.

Diving in Thailand (***** best * worst)

Experienced *****
Beginners ***
Similans *****
Accommodations ** to ****
Food **** (if you like Thai food)
Money's worth *****

Travel Tips
Get air price information by calling the airlines directly -- not via internet. Then go through an Asian travel agency, usually in a larger city. They buy most of the wholesale tickets and this is reflected in their prices. I saved over $100. on my ticket. The best time to travel to Thailand (weather) is December to March.

Plan on spending some internet time checking out dive operators and planning an itinerary. Use a local (Thailand based) operation not an American travel agency for booking your dives. Almost all dive operations are European or Australian managed. All boat captains are Thai.

Excellent diving equipment can be rented for about $12 - 15 per day, I choose to bring my mask, snorkel, fins and regulator and rented a bc and torch for about $3.00 per day. If you are going to do a lot of dives and are on a budget you may consider bringing your equipment, especially your computer. Thai folk like receipts keep all receipts or you may pay twice.

Rent a moped, but not in Bankok or Phuket.

Check out Tourist trips. Like sea kayaking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, side trips and trekking. Diving is great but not the only thing to do and see.

Spend a day shopping in Bangkok.

Take a cooking class.

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