Snorkeling is one of the favorite watersports found on Phuket. Phuket offers several great places to view the colorful reefs just below the surface of the crystal-clear Andaman Sea. However, one must know where to go. The reefs at many of the more crowded beaches have been severely damaged or destroyed from overuse and overcrowding. Finding less crowded beaches or government protected beaches is essential to having a great snorkeling experience while visiting Phuket. Listed below are some of the best snorkeling beaches either on Phuket or departing from Phuket.
Phuket’s Best Snorkeling Beaches – Ao Sane
Located on the southern end of Phuket is Ao Sane Beach. After taking the route to Nai Harn Beach, the road continues past the Nai Harn parking area toward the Royal Phuket Yacht Club. This is a higher-end hotel located on the northern end of Nai Harn. The road will pass through the hotel grounds and continue up a moderate hill. Parking at the top of the hill is highly recommended as the road going down to Ao Sane isn’t suitable for all vehicles. It is recommended to go down the other side of the hill to Ao Sane on foot.
Ao Sane is only 200 meters long, but is big enough to provide plenty of rock outcroppings where the better reefs are found. The reefs are largely intact and not far off shore. Thousands of tropical fish can be seen. Ao Sane provides a tranquil and secluded escape from the more crowded beaches of Phuket, even though it is only five minutes from Nai Harn. While there are not any peddlers or vendors hassling visitors, this also means that visitors must bring their own gear as none is available at Ao Sane. Snorkeling equipment can easily be rented at Nai Harn for around 150 THB per day. If visitors are planning on getting there early, it is not necessary to bring beach umbrellas or chairs as there is plenty of natural shelter immediately by the beach. The prime spots with natural shade do get snatched up early so visitors should plan accordingly. There is one restaurant with facilities and for everything else Nai Harn is a very short distance away.
Snorkeling Phuket’s Kata Beach
Kata Beach is located on the West Coast of Phuket about 15 minutes south of Patong Beach. Kata Beach is one of Phuket’s most beautiful and popular beach destinations, but it is also great for snorkeling right off the beach. Both the north and south ends of Kata Beach are enclosed by great rock formations. These rock formations extend out into the ocean and host a wide array of coral and aquatic life. The visibility of the water is outstanding between the months of November to April.
Due to the popularity of Kata Beach, there are many vendors. This makes it easy to get a beach chair and an umbrella. Once a visitor is situated, a simple no thank you (yang mai ow in Thai) will do to keep from getting hassled to buy the vendor’s other products. Snorkeling gear is easy to find on Kata Beach and costs around 150 THB for the day. There is no shortage of restaurants and bars in Kata, and most will serve visitors right on the beach.
Snorkeling Tours from Phuket – Phi Phi Island
There are many operators who have several trips departing daily from Phuket to go snorkeling at Phi Phi Island. Most of these trips depart from either Chalong or Rawai Pier and are usually taken by speedboat. On the full-day tours, these usually include transportation to and from hotel, speedboat fare, soft drinks en route, full snorkeling gear including lifejackets, lunch, and National Park fees. Please note that some operators do not provide fins or flippers as part of the snorkeling gear. The cost for these tours is around 3,100 THB for adults and 1,600 THB for children. The speedboat takes about an hour each way, so Phi Phi Island is close enough to Phuket that half-day trips are also available. The half-day trips usually also include the same things as the full-day, only in a shorter timeframe. The cost of the half-day is around 2,600 THB for adults and 1,300 THB for children.
Phi Phi Island is world famous for its beaches, crystal-clear water, greenery and rock formations both above and below the water. It hosts some of the best snorkeling and diving in Asia. Because of its tropical beauty, it is protected by National Park status, which has made it one of the most popular island destinations in Asia.
Snorkeling the Similan Islands
Operators offer several different trips to the Similan Islands from Phuket. These trips can be in packages of one, two, or three day periods. By speedboat it takes about 90 minutes to reach the first of the Similan Islands from Phuket. Due to the time and the distance from Phuket, a longer stay on the Similans may be a wiser choice. Most of the packages are all inclusive and the operators take care of everything. The evening meals are provided at the National Park restaurant. While the accommodations are primitive, consisting of a tent and a sleeping bag, the stay on the island is worth it. The average costs of the different trips are listed below:
|1 Day||3,900 THB||2,100 THB|
|2 Days||5,200 THB||3,100 THB|
|3 Days||7,200 THB||4,200 THB|
Similan is one of the most famous diving sites in Thailand, and noted as one of the top ten dive destinations in the world according to the National Geographic Society. It has typically two different kinds of diving. East side diving consists of gently sloping coral reefs with sandy patches and the occasional boulder in between. The west side is known for its huge underwater granite boulders with numerous swim-throughs. The Similan Islands are mostly covered in jungle and are not as developed as Phuket. Arriving at the pristine beaches it is easy to see why it is such a popular destination to escape the crowds to a more secluded area. The sand on the beaches is often compared to talcum powder, and the water like light-blue glass. The more isolated environment offers a snorkeling or diving experience that more closely resembles the natural habitat before it was touched by man.
Either snorkeling on Phuket or taking a tour to a nearby island, Phuket offers many options. There is ample opportunity to see a wide variety of tropical fish and amazing coral reefs. While the tours are all inclusive, very few of them offer sunscreen. It is highly recommended that sunscreen be worn. Sunscreen can be the difference between an amazing day of snorkeling and a serious personal injury in Thailand.