How to dive Phuket
Last week we convinced you why to dive in Phuket. Now lets get down to details.
When to dive Phuket
Phuket is an all year round destination and local diving day trips run 365 days of the year.
That being said there are different seasons:
Phuket diving seasons:
November to February: North east winds provide cooler (but still hot) weather. Dry and sunny days. This is the main tourist season, especially around Christmas and New Year.
March to May: These are the hottest months, it gets really humid. But there is no wind and the sea is flat so it’s great weather to be on the dive boat. This is typically the time of year when the most big fish are sighted, like manta rays and whale sharks. The weather is mostly dry. The rainy season can start from about mid April on, but normally just short tropical downpours that bring relief from the heat. Similan / Surin Island diving is possible until mid May, the national parks close to tourists on the 15th.
June to August: As the monsoon changes from north east to south west we get more find and rain in Phuket. The weather is cooler. The gentle ripples on Phuket’s west coast beaches are replaced by breakers just big enough to surf on. At this time of year the diving can be awesome, but you can also be unlucky and get a week of bad weather. The big advantage is fewer boats, and fewer divers on the boats. Hotel rooms can also be found at bargain prices.
September to October: These are the wettest months. You might get lucky with great weather. But you might not. The wind normally starts to change back around from the north east by mid October. The Similan and Surin Islands national parks open again on October 15th.
Where to stay in Phuket
You could stay at any Phuket hotel and still dive Phuket’s local dive sites. By local dive sites we mean the trips that depart from Chalong pier to the Racha Islands, Phi Phi Islands, Shark Point, King Cruiser Wreck and Koh Doc Mai.
However many people do not realize that Phuket is quite a big and developed island with some serious traffic issues, so if you stay in north Phuket it could take you an hour to drive down to Chalong pier in the south, and there will be an extra charge for the service.
For convenience it’s best to at one of Phuket’s southern beaches like Kata or Naiharn. Chalong bay is ideal if you will be diving for multiple days, then you can just walk to the pier each morning. Chalong bay has plenty of nice bars and restaurants for evening dining and entertainment. It’s also the hub for dive centres and scuba equipment retailers. What Chalong lacks is a nice beach so if you are just planning a couple of days diving and want to spend the rest of your holiday on the beach then you would be better staying elsewhere.
The exception to the above is if you choose to do diving day trips to the Similan Islands and Koh Bon. These trips depart from Khao Lak so it’s a long transfer in the morning from Phuket. The further north on Phuket island you stay, the less time you will spend sat in a minibus. If possible we recommend diving the Similan and Surin Islands by liveaboard, it’s an all round better experience.
Phuket day trip diving itinerary
Day trips are full days with 2 to 3 dives per day. Breakfast and lunch is served on board.
The say starts with pick up by air conditioned minivan from your hotel reception. For trips departing from Chalong these are the approximate pick up times from hotels around the island:
Pick Up Times
Mai Khao/Nai Yang 06:30 am
Bang Tao/Laguna 06:45 am
Kamala/Phuket Town 07:00 am
Patong 07:15 am
Karon 07:30 am
Kata 07:40 am
Rawai/Nai Harn/Chalong 07:50 am
If you have your own transport you can also make your own way to the pier and meet there.
When all guests are at the pier your guide will direct you onto the shuttle bus that will transfer you to the end of the pier where you will board the boat.
Then it’s time for the briefings. There will be a boat and safety briefing as well as crew introductions. The dive briefing comes later, when you are closer to the dive site.
Phuket dive sites are around 1 – 2.5 hours boat ride from Chalong pier. Dive boats cruise at 8-10 knots, they are comfortable with shaded areas, sun bathing areas, a saloon, toilets and fresh water showers.
On the journey out to the dive site you have time to set up your dive gear and chat with your divemaster and fellow instructors. You are expected to set up your own dive gear, we like to see if you know how. But if you need any help you will get it. A light breakfast is provided in case you missed it at your hotel. Tea and coffee are also available.
About 20 minutes from the dive site there will be a dive briefing. The first briefing of the day is the longest as it will include all the boat and safety procedures, signals and so on. The briefing may be conducted by your guide to just your group, or the tour leader to the boat as a whole.
Then it’s time to kit up and do buddy checks. By the time you’ve done that you’ll be at the dive site.
All Phuket dives are guided by qualified divemasters. Dive groups are 4 divers per 1 divemaster and divers are grouped based on experience.
Entry into the water from the boat is by giant stride off the large rear platform.
In normal conditions your DM will wait until all divers are together on the surface and give the signal for descent. Occasionally if the sea is choppy or currents are strong it may be necessary to descent more quickly, your guide will give full instructions.
Most descents are free descents without a line. Ascents at the end of the dive are also free ascents. All diving is no decompression diving within recreational limits. All dives end with a safety stop at 5 metres. Divemasters use a safety balloon to signal their position so it’s best to ascent close to them.
Entry back onto the boat is at the rear platform. There are large ladders making it pretty easy and the crew are there to help. You will take your tank back to it’s location and secure it in place. You do not need to change your tank to a fresh one, there is a compressor on board and crew will fill the tanks during the surface interval. Make sure to keep all your bits together, like your fins and weighbelt. There are fresh water rinse tanks for cameras.
Surface intervals are at least one hour. Normally the boat will be cruising to the next dive site during that time. Time to relax , check the fish ID books and fill in log books. Lunch will be served between dives, either after the first or second dive depending on the day.
The second and third dives follow a similar routine. After the final dive you have plenty of time to rinse your gear and back it away (the staff will take care of rental gear). There are fresh water showers on board.
By now the beer should be nicely chilled, time to crack open a cold one for the cruise back to Chalong pier. Or find a place to snooze, diving takes it out of you.
Once at the pier the morning routine is reversed. Pier shuttle to minivan to hotel to dinner to bed. Then start it all again the next day.