Diving Khao Lak

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Khao Lak, Thailand

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Country: Thailand  Area: Thailand

Water Temp: 26 - 31°C (79 - 88°F)

Visibility: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

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An unspoilt environment on the beautiful Andaman coast, surrounded by National park forest, Khao Lak is ideally situated for diving in Thailand and trips to the Similan Islands and Surin Islands which are home to some of the best dive sites in the world!

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Khao Lak is a small coastal town approximately 60km north of the island of Phuket on the Andaman Coast and is the ideal departure destination for liveaboard’s and day boats to the world famous Similan Islands, Surin Islands and other excellent dive sites such as Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock.

Khao Lak is a pristine area which is not over developed and as yet untouched by the mass tourism that can affect other areas in Thailand, perfect for those that want to escape the crowds and relax on a quiet, empty white sand beach.

An eel trying to come out, Credit

Khao Lak was one of the worse hit areas in the 2004 Tsunami which destroyed most of the beaches, resorts and vegetation. Since then it has made an impressive recovery, with the rebuilt resorts more subtle as it is now prohibited to build above the coconut palm line. The vegetation has been replanted and the beaches restored back to their original glorious beauty and you would never be able to tell that utter destruction that was caused.

Marine Conservation

Lots of dive centres run Marine conservation courses which last a day and reach you about reef life, coral ecology, global threats to the ocean and training in the international CoralWatch program which monitors coral health.

Marine Turtles have been legally protected in Thailand for many years. At Thai Muang National Park beach every March there is a seven day event to release young turtle hatchlings. Leatherback and Olive Ridley are the two main nesting turtles on this beach and the young turtles are raised by the Fisheries Department and then the event is used to promote conservation efforts and local awareness of the need to protect marine turtles.

Starfish, Credit

The Royal Thai Navy has an active role in the Turtle protection and patrol the beaches at the Similan and Surin Islands watching for intruders and poachers. They also protect the Green and Hawksbill eggs for natural predators like birds and reptiles and once hatched they collect them up and take them to a protection centre where they are raised for another 6 months to give them the best chance of survival before being released into the ocean.

Climate

The climate along the Andaman Coast is tropical so although it is lovely and warm for most of the year it does have a monsoon season running from May to late October. During this period there are very rainy days but a lot of the time it is still sunny with just a late afternoon heavy shower. The monsoon does make the Andaman Sea very rough with high winds so all the dive liveaboard's shut down during this time and the day boats cannot be guaranteed to run so the main dive season runs from the beginning of November to May.

It’s advisable to avoid December and January as this is peak season, accommodation can be hard to find and is more expensive, and the dive sites are very crowded. The best time to visit for diving is from February to April when the weather will be at its best, the seas at their calmest and the dive sites less crowded but also will have the highest chance of big pelagic encounters with manta rays and whale sharks. The water temperature is warm and pleasant year round with the coolest temperatures during the monsoon and warmest time being late March to May.

 
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Wildlife Calendar

                   
                   
                     
                             
                   

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Day Trips

Most dive centres in Khao Lak run daily trips to the Similan islands and Surin islands along with longer liveaboard options. The Similan islands can be reached  by speedboat in just over an hour and Richelieu Rock in two hours. The small speedboat will then meet with a larger boat where your dives will be conducted from.

Clownfish in Khao Lak, Credit

A typical day consists of two dives with a lunch provided in between during the surface interval. This option is great if you don’t have much time but it can be a long and busy day, leaving early and getting back late, it also is quite an expensive option and doesn’t cost much extra to stay overnight at the Similan’s so if you have the time a liveaoard may be better value for money.

The day boats also visit Koh Bon which is one of the best places to see Mantas. Koh Bon is 40km north of the Similan’s and included in lots of the liveaboard trips but it can also be reached in just over an hour in a speedboat from Khao Lak. It’s very different to the Similan Islands, as it is a Limestone rock where as the Similan’s are granite. This means different underwater colours and nutrients for marine life to feed on. This location is not a dive for inexperienced divers as there can be strong fierce currents, which the mantas love to feed in.

See my dots, Credit

Liveaboard Trips

Khao Lak is the ideal departure destination for liveaboard’s to the world famous Similan Islands and Surin Islands. The Similan's are 50km from Khao Lak so most operators can get there on a speedboat in a couple of hours which meets a larger liveaboard boat that stays out there constantly. This is the best option versus a long day trip as you can thoroughly explore the area and can relax at the end of the day in beautiful surroundings rather than rush back to the mainland.

Most operators have a choice of days ranging from 1 night to a week and visit all the best dive sites. The Similan's can be dived by beginners, with a lot of divers choosing to complete the practical portion of their course on a 3 or 4 day liveaboard. The variety of marine life is a major factor into why this area is so popular with divers, especially the chance to dive with two of the biggest plankton feeders of the sea, the Whale Shark and Manta Ray, along with other popular marine life such as Hawksbill Turtles and a variety of Reef Sharks.

Turtle! Credit

These trips will usually include Koh Bon and Richelieu rock in most of their itineraries due to the chance of spotting large pelagic at these sites.

Richelieu Rock is regarded as the best place in Thailand to see Whale Sharks from February to April. This site can only be reached by liveaboard boat from Khao Lak. The site has amazing biodiversity of marine life ranging from lionfish, seahorses, pipefish and moray eels so even without a whale shark it is a wonderful dive and a photographers dream.

Khao Lak underwater, Credit

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How to Get there

Khao Lak is situated on one of the main highways of Thailand approx 60km north of Phuket where the nearest international airport is based. This makes it easily be accessible by taxi or bus from Phuket airport. There are also very good and regular bus connections to Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.

One more fish! Credit

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Where to Eat & Drink

Khao Lak town has a great selection of restaurants from traditional thai food to Italian and most other cuisines. Seafood is very popular along the beach which the fish that are served being caught that day.

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For such a small town there are a good selection of bars, with many pubs open late and with live bands and also some great cocktail bars with pages and pages of delicious cocktails.

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Other activities

Khao Lak is a perfect destination for nature lovers and those who want to get away from the usual hectic tourist areas and relax on a tranquil, peaceful beach. With so much more to do and see than just scuba diving, it is a destination that can be visited with non divers or families, whilst also allowing you to easily dive some of the best dive sites in the world.

Beautiful Khao Lak, Credit

Khao Lak is close by to many national parks, Khao Lak Lamru National Park and Khao Sok National park are two of the closest and most popular and lots of day trips are run to both from Khao Lak town. In Khao Lak Lamru is excellent for hiking, nature walks and has a picturesque scenery including cliffs, evergreen forest, beaches, hills and waterfalls.

Khao Sok is one of Thailand’s most impressive national parks which toering limestone cliffs, laeks, caves and rainforest packed with a diverse flora and fauna including leopards, tapirs, sun bears and gibbons and even a few tigers. Khao Sok is also one of the only places to see the largest flower in the world the Giant Rafflesia. There are lots of choices of activities, a popular one is bamboo rafting or tubing which sadly tends to be teamed with elephant riding.. see below for more about this.

Boy riding an Elephant, Credit

Elephant Trekking & Abuse

Please do not support Elephant torture and abuse by riding Elephants (or supporting Elephant performance) in Asia;

In Thai culture, the Phajaan or ‘the crush', is the torture method elephants undergo to become a part of the tourism industry. Essentially this involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time to make the Elephants submissive to humans.
Asian Elephant spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
There is responsible Elephant tourism in Thailand - a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them. 
Any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means they have undergone horrific abuse in order to get them to where they are
Please do not support Elephant torture and make your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry.
  • In Thai culture, the Phajaan or ‘the crush', is the torture method elephants undergo to become a part of the tourism industry. Essentially this involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time to make the Elephants submissive - starting as a calf
  • Asian Elephant's spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
  • There is responsible Elephant tourism in Thailand - a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them.
  • Remember; any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means the Elephants have undergone horrific abuse in order to train the Elephants

You can help these magnificent animals by making your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry. The main problem is a lack of awareness - most people have no idea! 

Dive Report is committed to raising awareness to the abuse suffered by Elephants used in the tourist industry. If you want to know more you can find out more hereherehere and here. Also see a PETA documentary video here.

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Tips

Thai vendors can sometimes make some people feel uncomfortable. They can approach you with goods to buy or  to persuade you to enter their shops or restaurant. A calm and clear, “No, thank you,” will usually do the trick.

Sunset in Khao Lak, Credit

The nearest international hospital is in Phuket which also has two diving recompression chambers.

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Rating 8/10

Wicked Diving at the Similan Islands and Khao Lak

Khao Lak8 Mar 2017 - 11 Mar 2017 with Wicked Diving

We booked our first livaboard and would recommend this option to anyone planning a visit. Never done one before and were sceptical. People and staff were great and you had the option to have 'me' time if desired.

We dived with Wicked, having been let down by Similan Divers -avoid.

Wicked are well run and safety conscious ensuring both you and they are free from risk.This made us completely at ease as in good hands.

Boat journey is about 5 hours. Our cabin was bunk bed and had aircon and a fan. This was perfectly comfortable for sleeping during our 4 day 3 night trip.The boats are simple and have all the necessary amenities.There are eco toilets and showers.Wicked provide reduced chemical shampoo and shower gel to limit the effect on the wildlife.The lower deck is where the tanks are held and filled; cabins and showers/ toilets are here too.

Next level up is the briefing area with tables and where meals are also had.

Food is excellent and varied. The fridge is stocked with beers and soft drinks; fruit, water and juice are FOC.You can bring your own drinks and food as required.The top deck is a sun and shade area with bean bags to lounge and chill on.Diving is great; visibility 30 metres and water 30 deg. Typically first dive about 7; night dive can be sunset or total darkness depending upon your comfort level.Off the boat, we did a local dive. Boonsung is a must! A wreck in 3 pieces; home to a whole host of nursery age fish in outrageously large volumes! Loved seeing the tiny barracuda in more numbers than I could count!! At one point I was in the middle of a ball of fish! You won't struggle to find lion fish and stone fish.Giant tame puffer fish glide alongside you. Great opportunities to see nudibranches that you might not ordinarily see - very flamboyant! Diving was great and Wicked as a company are excellent. It's not 5 star accommodation, so if that is what you need, search elsewhere, the service, safety, food, atmosphere and attention to detail are!

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Edward Callahan

This sounds really good! I have not been there yet.. but would like to next winter!

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Edward Callahan

This sounds really good! I have not been there yet.. but would like to next winter!

Rating 5/10

Note Similan Islands close May to September!!!!

Khao Lak10 May 2015 - 26 May 2015

We have just returned from a 2 week break in Khao Lak.

A lovely quiet location in a fabulous resort (La Flora).

Unfortunately, the diving I am unable to report upon, as we were unable to dive Similans just an hour or so from the resort :(

We looked on many websites (as we normally do) to find how good the diving is, what is on offer and so on. Then when satisfied we booked our flights and hotel.

Then we sent emails requesting pricing and options to discount if we paid in advance etc ...

At this point it was clear, that off peak in Khao Lak means off completely!!

The Similan Islands are a national parks that shut from the 15th May until September due to the weather conditions and to let the life rejuvinate.

There is no notification on any of the websites we visited and as to this fact!! We therefore went to Phuket for a few days to make the most of our time - this was good.

The location Khao Lak is great and it is a very chilled atmosphere. I wanted to warn that if you want to go there to dive do it after September and before mid April (Thai New Year) for optimal results.

Llan

Rich Ward

Hey - thanks for posting this! Really useful report.. especially I was looking at that time of year :D

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Joanne Roberts

Let us know when you do go and if I should rebook :) thanks

Rating 10/10

Similan Islands Diving

Khao Lak9 Apr 2013 - 14 May 2013

Great dives with Khao Lak Explorer Dive Center. http://www.khaolakexplorer.com

Rating 10/10

our dive philosophy

Khao Lak1 Jan 2013 - 31 Oct 2013

The team would like to welcome you and thank you for diving into the Wetzone, whether you are an experienced diver or you have never even got your feet wet!

For several years we have been diving here in the Andaman Sea, the beautiful unique Similan Islands, Koh Bon with the gentle giant Manta Rays, Richelieu Rock the pearl of this sea, the Boon Song Wreck nearby the coast of Khao Lak. Or as a special trip the freshwater diving at Khao Sok Nationalpark Lake. As a daytrips with our own high-speed catamaran or rather more days safaris, we like to invite you to share in our experiences.

All our instructors are PADI qualified to various levels. We provide courses from Open Water Diver until Dive Master the first step to get a professional.

If you have ever wanted to dive with whale sharks in the clear Andaman Sea, or in scenic freshwater lakes, our doors are open to you from October until May, but you can contact us all year round.

The Dive Centre is directly in Khao Lak located. We'll provide an own filling station with Nitrox for free. Also we'll offer a free WIFI Internet access point.

Just in front of the Centre we opened a small bar the "Drinkzone" there you can relax and end your diving day with yummy fruit shakes, ice cold beer or fancy tropical cocktails

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Rating 8/10

Similan Islands Rock

Khao Lak10 Jan 2011 - 14 Jan 2011

Apart from a Discover Scuba dive and a couple of goes in a pool before departing this was my first proper Dive Trip. On board I did my Open Water and Advanced Diver certificates while in the Similans and what a place to learn how to scuba!

The dive spots included East/West of Eden, Elephant Head Rock with tons of awesome swim throughs, Khoh Bon, The Dome, Richeleau Rock - a fantastic site and many more! Every Dive had visibility of 25m or more with heaps of fantastic sea life swimming about.

I got to see Sea horse, Clown fish, Octopus, Trigger fish, all kinds of moray, honey comb eel, Nudibranch, Boxfish (my favourite! aka world's most unco fish), stingrays, Lionfish x 1000, all the different shrimp, blacktip, fish, fish and more fish but sadly no Mantas! Next time maybe!

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Catherine Jones

A fantastic place to learn to dive! Shame about no mantas, i feel your pain after the lack of them in the Maldives :(

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Nathan Murphy

Looks great Tim!

Rating 7/10

Quick Day Trip to the Similans

Khao Lak27 Oct 2010 - 27 Oct 2010

I stopped of in Khao Lak for a few days on my from KL to Bangkok to sneak in one last dive of the holiday! It was the very beginning of the season so most dive schools weren't running trips yet but managed to find one and get on their second trip of the season out to the Similians. Really enjoyed the day, got on very well with my buddy, beautiful scenery, amazing viz, great macrolife and a few turtles! Really Really want to go back and dive once the season is under-way and at its best as was great even on the second day!

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