Diving around Koh Phangan is rewarding. You can see a variety of marine life. There are some good corals and the sites aren’t over-crowded with dive boats as they tend to be in Koh Tao which is much more famous for its diving. Generally you can expect to learn how to scuba dive in Koh Phangan in small groups of 4 or 5 people if you choose an operator such as Chaloklum Diving or H20 Scuba School.
The downside about diving near Koh Phangan is that for the seasoned diver the chances of spotting new types of sea fauna are small. The dives aren’t that challenging. The only 5 Star PADI rated dive site in the Gulf of Thailand is Sail Rock. The other famous spots are Ang Thong National Park, Chumphon Pinnacles and Southwest Pinnacles. These sites take an hour or so to get to by standard chug-chug dive boats.
What the diving outfits in Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Koh Samui are reluctant to tell their customers is that the diving is much better on the other side. That is the Andaman Coast. The Surin Islands and the Similan Islands near Khao Lak offer world class diving. The Similan Islands dive sites are rated by National Geographic Magazine as in the top 10 in the world. To dive these places you have to sign up for a liveaboard trip usually for 2 or 3 nights.
Anyway back to dive sites in Koh Phangan. Here they are:
Koh Ma is a small island off the north-west coast of Koh Phangan that is joined to the mainland by a sandbank. It is the Nang Yuan of Koh Phangan – only not as impressive. At Koh Ma there are hard corals, soft corals and whip corals. The maximum depth is 24 meters. Here you can see banner fish, barracuda and grouper. Koh Ma is good for independent snorkeling. Just rent a bike and head over to Mae Haad beach. The corals are a short swim from the beach and the marine park is free to enter.
This is a beach on the West Coast, known as the Pirate Beach. Hence one of the local diving outfits is called Pirate Divers. The coral at Haad Salad is 150 meters from the coast. There are a range of corals and you can spot some colorful reef fish. Maximum depth is 18 meters. Not a very difficult dive.
Haad Yao is a great beach. Stretching across the entire bay are corals. There are table corals, brain corals and coral sponges to see. It is possible to see blue spotted sting rays, porcupine fish, parrot fish, squirrel fish and fusiliers. It is possible to dive straight from the beach. The biggest dive shop in Haad Yao is Haad Yao Divers.
Optimistically called ‘Koh Phangan’s Sail Rock’ – Rock Point (Kong Yai) is a chimney rock just off the coast of Chaloklum. It is a seasonal dive. There is a swim through and plenty of fish to see. The maximum depth is 20 meters.
Haad Khom is a pretty beach next to Chaloklum. There is a coral off the coast that offers good snorkeling. Dive schools in Chaloklum use it for its proximity.
Koh Tae Nok
Koh Tae Nok is the island that is seen by people arriving by boat at Thongsala. It’s quite a big island with a beach which I’ve often thought would make a good spot for a small shed-like bar. There’s a coral reef off the coast and sometimes small reef sharks can be seen. Maximum depth is 19 meters.
Haad Chao Phao
This beach is on the west coast. The coral reef is 100 meters from the beach. There’s a range of hard corals and reef fish.
If you enjoy diving it is worth traveling farther in a boat to go to the better sites in the Gulf of Thailand. The dive schools also prefer this as they can charge more money. However for doing your first couple of dives for an Open Water Course Koh Phangan dive sites are great as they are not too deep and the marine life is not scared off by too many divers.