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Scuba Diving in Phuket
There’s many reasons why Phuket is widely regarded as one of the best diving destinations in Asia. For novices, the year-round warm waters, a great selection of good operators, comfortable facilities and bargain prices make it one of the best places in Asia to learn to dive. For experienced divers, Phuket is the starting point for an excellent range of top-class liveaboard trips as well as a number of superb day trips, on which you can confidently expect to see everything from brilliant coral formations to a variety of sharks and even an impressive wreck. Some of the dive sites in the area such as the Similan Islands are ranked amongst the finest in the world.
As a result of its ever-growing popularity as a dive destination, there are now over 50 operators on the island itself (10 years ago there were only five or six); and another two dozen or so spread throughout Krabi, Phi Phi and several other neighbouring islands. Although this recently led to what has been termed a “price war” between operators, the standards of instruction and levels of safety arc still generally first-rate. Prices fluctuate between high season and low season, and from operator to operator; but to give an indication, for a four-day This is one of the best-value activities in Phuket.
Although it shouldn’t be assumed that the more you pay the better the service many operators simply have more overheads it’s worth checking to see what you do get for your money. Check to see whether the Open Water Diver Manual isincluded, whether a day-trip is included, where lessons are held, and other factors. Compare, and when You feel you have enough information, make Your choice.
Ultimately, safety is the crucial factor. One important requirement of any operator is regular cylinder inspection. “In general, Phuket is an excellent place to learn, but I’ve seen abuse and neglect regarding cylinder maintenance,” says Frank Herbert, a certified cylinder inspector for Scuba Tech International. “I Would strongly advise people to dive only with operators who have had their cylinders checked regularly.”
A reassuring facility for divers in the area is the Phuket Hyperbaric Chamber in Patong. Previously, the nearest chamber was near Bangkok, a significant distance from this thriving diving centre. The PhLiket chamber has already proved its worth on a number of occasions, and consequently most leading operators are affiliated to it. Although nobody Would be refused treatment at the chamber, manager Steve Hatchett strongly advises people to dive only with these operators. “Most of the established operators on the island are affiliated to the chamber, but it’s certainly worth checking before you choose. An operator not covered by insurance isn’t so willing to admit a diver may need treatment.”
Along with the low prices and high safety standards, Phuket is a great place to dive because of its proximity to a huge array of top-class dive sites. For day trips, the best sites are generally to the south and east of the island. In the high season, day-trips Some of the top dives are on trips to the Phi Phi Islands, King Cruiser Wreck, Anemone Reef, Shark Point, Racha Yai and Racha Noi.
In general, the further from Phuket you go, the better the diving. Liveaboard trips are the only way to explore the amazing dive destinations situated in the Andaman Sea. Only opened to visitors last year, the Mergui Archipelago, north of Phuket, is one of the most exciting new dive destinations in Asia. Although a number of excellent sites have been discovered there – Black Rock is a renowned site for sharks – the area will remain an explorer’s dream for years to come long before Mergui was opened LIP, Phuket was already famous in diving circles as a base for excellent liveaboard cruises to the Andaman Islands, Burma Banks, Surin Islands and the Similan Islands. (Fast boats have made it possible to do a day-trip to the Similans but rarely do these trips do justice to the quality of diving in the area.)
Most liveaboard trips are inherently expensive because of the limited numbers and luxury living enjoyed on board – though prices and standards can vary greatly from boat to boat. These are definitely trips in which the quality of boat, food, facilities and standards of service should be thoroughly checked out before booking. One important detail to check before booking a trip is the number of dives per day – a major factor in determing whether a trip is really good value for money.