Best Phuket dive sites for beginners
What are the Best Phuket dive sites for beginners or newly certified divers? This is one of the questions people ask us every week, along with:
- What at the best Phuket dive sites for Beginner Divers or newly certified divers?
- Which are the best Phuket dive sites for Learning to Dive?
- Which Phuket dive sites are best for me to Try Diving?
- On the Phuket dive sites for beginner divers, is there still lots of fish and corals to see?
You can find accurate dive site descriptions and photographs on our website last updated in September 2017. Incidentally, the authors of our dive site descriptions are some very experienced Tour Leaders who have been diving these dive sites for quite literally decades!
However, in this article, we are going to look at the best Phuket dive sites for beginners. This is based on your dive ability, and how much time you have / how many days diving you will be able to do.
Best Phuket dive sites for Learning to Dive
For those of you who have never dived before, whether you are taking part in a Try Dive or PADI Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) discovery experience. Or if you are taking your PADI Scuba Diver or PADI Open Water Diver Course then your dive site choices are limited to The Racha islands. These are the Racha Yai and Racha Noi Islands.
Before 2017, it was common practice for people doing a PADI DSD (Discover Scuba Diving) to go to The Phi Phi islands. However, the Phi Phi Island dive sites are actually all in a National Marine Park. As such, divers without proper training can no longer dive here.
Similarly, students who are taking the PADI Open Water Course must take their first dives at the Racha Islands, being the only suitable location. However, if you want, you can still complete the last two dives of your course at Phi Phi. This is due to the depths of the dive sites. Try Dives / DSDs and the first 2 dives of the Scuba Diver / Open Water Diver have a depth limitation to 12m. For your last 2 dives of the Open Water Course maximum depth is 18m.
Best Phuket dive sites for Beginner Divers
Beginner divers and newly certified divers are usually only certified to a maximum depth of18m or 20m. This depends on the Certification Agency. For example, PADI Open Water Diver is 18m, RAID 20m, CMAS 20 and SSI 18m. This opens the door to many more dive sites than 12m. Not that there is anything wrong with diving in the 5-10m zone. There is a LOT to see at these depths at most Phuket dive sites. However if you are doing a few days diving, then you will probably want to dive as many different dive sites are you can.
The Racha Islands are definitely a good bet for the divers who can count their dives on one hand or the diver who is still nervous and apprehensive. Because of the bays and gentle sloping bottoms, the dive sites are what we call “easy dives”. By this we mean the depth is slow and gradual, with sandy bottoms. This helps to make sure that you won’t become a coral killer with poor buoyancy control.
Racha Yai for beginner divers on Phuket
Racha Yai, as well as being suitable for beginner divers, has lots to see. There are plenty of shallow natural reefs teeming with marine life. These lie from around 3m to a comfortable 10m or so, Due to the increase in boat traffic the past 5 years or so, the surface above is now roped off as a “No Boat Zone.” This protects beginner divers from the sometimes “crazed speedboat captains”. If you follow the reefs a little deeper, there are many large areas of Thailand’s artificial reef projects.
On either side of the concrete reef, divers can find a couple of scooters, good for photo opportunities and general horsing around. Beyond the 18m Mark lie the shipwrecks. One is a purposely sunk vessel for divers, the Harruby Liveaboard wreck. Then there are a couple of dive boats that actually became wrecks during their tour of duty. Last is a section of a cargo ship that snapped its mooring during a storm and broke up against the nearby Coral Island.
Racha Noi for beginner divers on Phuket
Racha Noi, the smaller island to the south is pretty dead. The shallow bays have patches of hard coral with massive sandy areas in between, with little life to spot apart from garden eels. Perversely, the southernmost tip of the island is perhaps the best dive site that Phuket has to offer although it’s very rarely dived, this is because it’s a site that’s only for experienced divers.
Featuring a steep wall down to 60m, South Tip has two strong, converging currents that make it a challenging dive. The rewards can be the Manta rays that divers can often encounter there. It’s these Mantas that the dive shops around Phuket will babble on about when trying to sell you a trip to Racha Noi. But beware! Even the advertised trips to south tip rarely ever go because some dive centre lied to the boat operator to get their customer, usually a DSD, on board.
For the deeper diver, Racha Noi really comes alive at around the 25m mark from here down to 40m are some pristine staghorn corals, untouched by divers and tourism. At 35m we have found big marbled stingrays and leopard sharks too. This is a good place for deep training dives and Tec courses as 50m can be found quite easily.
With a two dive trip to Racha Yai will return to Chalong Pier by 2:30 pm unless you choose the deluxe boat. In that case, the longer surface interval during which you can go to the beach or go kayaking will stretch the return time to 4:30 pm. All of the 3 dive day trips to Racha Noi & Yai get back at 5:00 pm to Chalong pier although that can change if departure is delayed for any reason.