Diving in Khao Lak
Anyone for a Similan Liveaboard Dive Safari?
Along with its beautiful coastline and lush tropical jungle interior, Khao Lak is fast-becoming a favourite among Thailand scuba divers, especially regular visitors.
The main reason for this is that it is the gateway to the Similan Islands which are situated just a short hop west across the Andaman Sea. The other popular dive sites of Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, with their lure of a whale shark or manta ray encounter, are found just a little further north. Khao Lak itself also has its own interesting dive sites which can be visited by daytrip boat.
The Similans and up to Richelieu Rock are considered to be the best liveaboard diving destinations in Thailand. As well as being a convenient place to access these fabulous dive sites, Khao Lak is also a great place to take a holiday especially for those looking for a quieter, more laid-back scene than Phuket.
Diving holidays in Khao Lak offer stunning, unspoiled beaches with a natural, lush jungle background providing the ideal destination for couples, families, honeymooners and nature-lovers. There are also plenty of adventure activities on offer too!
Dive Site Descriptions
Boonsung Wreck - This is a dive site just off the shore of Khao Lak Beach. The boat is an old tin ore processor that was sank in 1984 and lies on the sea floor in a north - south direction. The devastating tsunami of December 2004 caused major structural damage to the wreck, breaking the 60 metre long, 12 metre wide and 6 metre high vessel into 5 major sections. One could say that the Boonsung is not really a wreck anymore; it is more a very well populated artificial reef and a great dive!
There is a myriad of fish life on the wreck and as you descend at the beginning of the dive, you'll soon find yourself surrounded by schools of juvenile yellowtail barracuda, yellow snapper and the hordes of common porcupinefish that linger around the bottom of the mooring line. The wreck is littered with nudibranchs, including several rarer varieties. Long-fin batfish serenely hang around in small groups and spotfin lionfish can be seen hovering everywhere.
You'll see schools of bluefin trevally, and lots of different types of snapper including Ehrenberg's and blue-lined snapper. Other residents include masked and common porcupinefish, often with their accompanying remoras. Look out for bearded scorpionfish lying camouflaged against the wreck.
The 2 main sections of the wreck enclose a flat sandy area where you can usually find several Kuhl's stingrays and often pharaoh cuttlefish. All along the sides of the vessel, several types of moray eels have made their home. Keep your eyes peeled for white-eyed morays, spotted morays, leopard morays and zebra morays.
Watch where you put your hands because there are loads of bearded scorpionfish and lionfish on every wall. Look carefully on the sand to see the symbiotic relationships between shrimp and gobies and occasionally you might find the odd spearing mantis shrimp watching from its hole. This all while swimming through walls of pickhandle barracuda, bluefin trevally, pompano, and various types of snapper.
Sea Chart I Wreck - This young wreck, which sank in 2009, is a relatively new addition to the Khao Lak diving scene and is already becoming a real highlight. Lying on her starboard side, the 84m Sea Chart I varies between a depth of 24 and 38m. It is therefore not for beginners but it is an ideal site both for nitrox and technical divers.
This bulk carrier that was transporting Burmese logs may not have been underwater long but it is already home to a considerable amount of marine life. Large schools of snappers and rainbow runners often swirl around over the wreck while inside a keen eye can spot all manner of interesting creatures. There may be frogfish perched on ledges, ghost pipefish hanging in quieter sections, or nudibranchs feeding on sea squirts. Many single lionfish are dotted around in spots sheltered from the current and a large school of batfish have taken up residence here.
You can explore the wheelhouse, propeller and the cargo which lies partially spilt over the sea bed. Too soon the dive will be over and you will ascend the line with schools of fish and even a resident great barracuda coming by to give you a good send off. Although your time on this deep site may be restricted, there is a lot to see and an ever changing scenery to explore. In time, the sessile life and resident fish will become ever more impressive, making the Sea Chart I a dive site to cherish as time goes by.
Premchai Wreck - This tin dredger sank in August 2001 and is largely intact. It is an ideal dive site on the way back into the port of Tap Lamu, near Khao Lak, since it is only about 40 minutes away from the pier.
Lying pretty much upside down, it ranges from 10 to 22m in depth and is covered in clams and hard corals with a smaller number of soft corals also making the keel their home. In the nooks and crannies you can find different types of moray eels, such as the relatively rare honeycomb moray eel and the banded moray.
Surrounding the wreck are schools of snappers, juvenile barracudas, fusiliers and groups of batfish. Be very careful where you place your hands, if you have to place them at all, since the wreck is home to uncountable and very well-camouflaged scorpionfish and hovering lionfish.
On your way up on one of the attached buoy lines you will marvel at the small mussels attached to the line, surrounded by delightful little juvenile fish. Here they will stay and grow until they are large and brave enough to descend down to join the throng of life on the wreck.
How to Dive Khao Lak
The best way to plan your diving is to join our daily scuba trips. There are plenty of places to stay in the area and a range of budgets to suit all pockets.
If you'd like to spend time diving Khao Lak's offshore sites at the Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock then you can take a Thailand liveaboard trip and choose the number of nights you prefer.
2 monsoons influence the climate of Khao Lak. You can dive here from November to May but the best diving conditions are from November to April, during the northeast monsoon, as it is driest then. The southwest monsoon starts in April, bringing rain from the Indian Ocean. October is the wettest month of the year.
The weather is warm all year, and the water temperature ranges between 26-30°C, usually warmest in the dry season. The water clarity during the dry months is usually great for diving, with up to 30m often experienced in the diving season.
Most of the marine creatures of Khao Lak, including sea snakes, leopard sharks and reef sharks, can be spotted all year around. Chances to encounter manta rays and whale sharks are especially good during the months of February to April.
The Similan liveaboard season runs from early November to mid May, which is the main attraction in the area as the Similans are only 60 km west of Khao Lak and therefore easily reachable. The diving season has calmer waters, making the trip to the islands more enjoyable for divers as they cruise on flat seas.
Good for: Small animals
Not so good for: Beginner divers, visibility and snorkelling
Depth: 12 - 18m
Visibility: 2 - 15m
Surface conditions: Can be rough
Water temperature: 26 - 30°C
Experience level: Intermediate
Number of dive sites: 5
Distance: ~90 km north of Phuket (1½ hours)
Access: Day trips and Similan liveaboards
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 2 days, or 1 week to dive all destinations that are accessible from here