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.

Food! Credit

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 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!

gonzo3 me2 P1050023 trigger5 fishbowl6
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