The Andaman Sea stretches
along the western side of Thailand and has the distinction of
possessing crystal clear waters. Indeed, the Andaman Sea is
unique in the entire South-East Asian region in that the color
of its waters is distinctly blue and one can quite easily look
at the sea from its surface and see the fishes underwater. The
beaches of Thailand that lie along the coasts of Andaman are
wide and delightfully sandy so much so that visitors often come
to the western coast just to enjoy its fabulous beaches. An
often cited cliché these days is that the location scouts
for the movie ‘The Beach’ could think of no better
place in the world than the Andaman coasts of Thailand to film
the movie. Fortunately, in spite of all the clichés and
consequent inrush of tourists, it does not take a great deal
of effort even today to find a stretch of beach along the Andaman
coasts of Thailand all for oneself.
is also a remarkable fact that one can find a complete and
cohesive underwater ecology along the Andaman coasts of Thailand.
This means that along a micro-stretch of these coasts, one
is likely to find marine life ranging from large fish to microscopic
fauna and an astoundingly colorful coral reef that is widely
regarded by experts as being amongst the best in the world.
One of the consequences of this almost overabundance of marine
life is that snorkeling is very popular here and people often
equate their experience with that of Maldives. Of course,
the difference being that the grainy beaches of Maldives get
replaced by the soft and sandy beaches of Thailand with all-time
stars such as Patong Beach and Karon Beach just waiting to
delight the visitor.
Andaman coasts of Thailand also have an element of mystery
to them. Quite apart from the prospect of lost treasures and
hidden beaches that has attracted adventurers from around
the world; even the local people often tell stories expressing
their profound respect and awe for these coastal stretches.
There is, for example, an old story told by the natives that
“Beyond the blue seas lies a green sea that only a man
who is aware of the passing time can ever hope to find.”
Although there might be deeper connotations to this enigmatic
parable, the generally accepted view is that it refers to
an extraordinary site called Talay Whak. At Talay Whak, during
low tides, a strip of land quite remarkably emerges out of
the Sea connecting two islands on which one can walk and which
are surrounded by a Green Sea entirely uncharacteristic of
Andaman coasts of Thailand also contain, quite predictably,
what are regarded as some of the best dive sites in the world.
Hin Muang, Hin Daeng, the Similans, Surin Island etc are but
few instances of such sites. What makes this region an outstanding
destination for diving is quite simply the unmatched diversity
of underwater flora and fauna one can find here. The Government
of Thailand, conscious of the above fact, has taken measures
to close the area to tourists during the rainy season with
the intention of preserving its underwater ecology. The characteristic
friendliness of the people in this region also reflects on
the service provided by the boat-crew which makes the diving
experience all the more enjoyable.
would need to travel to the Southern parts of Thailand (usually
Phuket or Krabi) to visit the above mentioned dive sites and
beaches. The recommended mode of conveyance, especially if
one wants to go exclusively for Diving, would be to take one
of several flights that go from Bangkok to Phuket daily. Flight
options range from low cost airlines that could take one from
Bangkok to Phuket in about 25 USD to the more conventional
airlines. Taking the Bus is another option; Phuket or Krabi
would be the destinations depending on the point where the
boat needs to be taken. The Highway from Bangkok to the Southern
regions is not particularly good but traveling by car (or
motorcycle) is never a bad choice in Thailand. One needs to
get on to Highway 34 that is west-bound and then continue
south along Highway 4 which would take one to both Phuket
as well Krabi. Taking the train is relatively more time consuming
and is recommended only if one wants to get a feel of what
a train ride is like in Thailand.
The name Hin Muang in
Thai translates roughly to ‘Purple Rock.’ The
local people have named it so because the site consists of
a rock that is completely submerged underwater and is entirely
covered with soft purple corals. The unusual color of these
soft corals attracts a wealth of underwater life to Hin Muang.
One can experience what is called ‘wall diving’
at Hin Muang as the edge of this rock is almost vertical.
Hin Muang is covered with anemones, colorful sea-fans and
contains an abundance of little caves, ledges and rocky outcroppings
which provide shelter to innumerable underwater creatures.
Manta Rays and Grey Reef Sharks are also often cited at Hin
far from Hin Muang is the formidable Hin Daeng. Hin Daeng
in Thai translates to ‘Red Rock’ and it is basically
a colossal limestone rock that lies submerged underwater.
As can be guessed, Hin Daeng is covered with red corals that
are often confused as being the surface color of the rock
itself. A first experience of Diving at Phuket usually begins
with the sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang that are often covered
in the same trip due to their relative proximity to each other.
Hin Daeng also offers ‘wall diving’ and is considered
as offering the deepest ‘wall diving’ experience
Thailand with depths exceeding 60 meters. Little fish like
Nimos and Cartoon fish thrive at Hin Daeng as this is one
of the spots where they learn how to survive. Whale Sharks
have also often been cited here.
name of this site in Thai is Hin Jom which means ‘Sunk
Rock’. This site features another enormous submerged
limestone rock but covered totally with sea anemones. The
anemones that sway in harmony with the water currents make
the rock appear alive; the whole waterscape is a truly phantasmagoric
sight. This spot is famous for lion fish which often come
out in packs here. Barracudas and Tunas are also easily seen
and with a little bit of luck, one might spot Leopard sharks
King Cruiser actually hit Anemone Reef and sank on May 4th,
1997. Fortunately, every one of the several hundred passengers
escaped. Currently, she lies at a depth of 12-30 meters underwater
not very far from Anemone Reef. The King Cruiser wreck holds
a plethora of difficult to find underwater life. It is advised
that the diver be a little cautious while diving through this
wreck as many years have passed since it was sunk. However,
the unique varieties of underwater life that hide within the
interstices of King Cruiser Wreck and the sheer excitement
of swimming through a real wreck are not to be missed.
dive site has the unique distinction of being a favorite resting
spot for the Leopard Shark and has consequentially been named
after the Shark. The Leopard Shark can often be seen resting
at the bottom of the sea-floor in this area. Shark Rock is
another name by which this site goes by. There is a fair variety
of fauna around the Shark Rock as well but not quite like
what can be seen at the previously listed dive sites. One
thing the prospective diver should keep in mind is that the
water currents at Shark Point can be a little strong and it
is therefore recommended that one perhaps plan for a ‘drift
dive’ so that excessive energy is not wasted in trying
to swim back to the boat.
are a group of nine islands and they derive their name from
the Bahasa Malayu word ‘sembilan’ which means
nine. This place has been repeatedly listed as one of the
top ten dive sites in the world. One of the amazing aspects
of the Similans is that if one draws a line dissecting the
eastern islands from the western ones, this would be roughly
in correspondence with the change in topography one finds
The western side of these
islands features enormous granite boulders that stand on top
of each other creating amazing natural underwater archways.
The eastern side, on the other hand, offers an exquisite display
of hard corals that create an underwater landscape reminiscent
of gardens on earth. Diving over these corals is quite like
flying weightless over queer gardens of another world. The
hard corals in these parts slope downwards 30-40 meters underwater.
As can be imagined, there
is an absolute overabundance of underwater life in this region.
Experienced divers, in fact, often visit the Similans once
a year just to catch a glimpse of rare underwater flora, fauna
and big fish. Whale sharks and Leopard sharks are often cited
at the Similans. Most divers prefer taking a live-aboard boat
when visiting the Similans as this gives them maximum time
as well as freedom to take in the beauty of this unique destination.
It is also recommended that one be a little careful of maintaining
steady buoyancy while diving here as mistakes can lead to
defaced corals that take very long to grow back.