Thalang District is the northernmost half of the island of Phuket, arguably one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. It’s known for the protected rainforests of the Khao Phra Thaeo reserve, its recognized non-hunting status, and the protected coastline of the Sirinat National Park, an ancient birthing ground for sea turtles. Its links to the sea are reinforced by its reputation as one of the best areas for scuba diving in Thailand.
Less outgoing and noisy than the southern half of the Phuket island, Thalang is best known for its quieter spa resorts, lush tropical vegetation, and relaxing pace of life, but even so, its tourist attractions have a nautical leaning, with marine watching tours and leisurely catamaran sailings leaving from Mai Khao and Choeng Thale daily.
Scuba diving in Thalang is a popular tourist activity, and its abundance of coral reefs, intriguing reef dives and advanced wreck descents have attracted divers from around the world to vacation here. Dive shops and supply outlets can be found in the main towns and resorts, springing up to cater for the influx of sub aqua fans. Moreover, gentle beach dives and easy beginner drift dives from the west coast regularly run to the isolated Similan Islands and the delights of the Malacca Strait in the east. Abundant marine life, crystal clear waters, and a range of diving experiences to try, make this a location worthy of its well-regarded reputation in the diving community.
The weather in Thalang is reflective of the weather on Phuket as a whole. Its monsoon season is relatively short, affecting the later summer months with warm weather but high rainfall. Diving during this time is usually only possible around the eastern waters of Thalang, where the ocean is largely protected by land. But in the open expanse of the Andaman Sea, most dive sites become impossible to visit. Diving over the winter month, from November until April, is considered the best choice.
The island of Phuket lies in an enviable location in the Andaman Sea, giving scuba divers access to some internationally renowned diving sites, as well as several protected National Marine Parks. Thalang, with its two coastlines on both the Andaman Sea and the Malacca Strait, gives divers the best of both worlds when they visit the waters around Thailand, from the gentler, sheltered seas to the east, to the more dramatic waters in the west.
A firm favorite of all divers is the rocky outcrop known as Richelieu Rock, a unique 50-meter natural formation lying just below the surface. Discovered by sub aqua pioneer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, it’s a favorite location for advanced divers and famous for attracting a wide variety of colorful marine creatures, including manta rays, harlequin shrimp, and shovelnose rays. The ‘rock’, as it’s commonly known, lies in the Surin National Park, around 180km off the mainland. Its distance off shore means it’s usually visited as part of a liveaboard diving trip, although some scuba diving shops in Thalang run day trips by speedboat.
The Similan Islands make up another of Thailand’s National Marine Parks, and lying northwest of Phuket Island, they’re perfect to reach from Thalang. This chain of tiny atolls is rich with varied marine life and a good number of interesting dive locations, each with something different to offer. Divers visiting this location have caves and arches, drift dives and reefs to enjoy, and the colorful coral and vibrant marine animals make it a popular location for underwater photography enthusiasts.
To the east of Phuket Island, the islands of Koh Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi lie in the Malacca Strait between Phuket and Krabi on the mainland. These islands are largely unaffected by the tourist boom because their beaches have never been considered suitable for the building of large-scale resorts. The result is two quiet and undeveloped pieces of paradise, with some amazing beach dives to enjoy. They’re a great location for a spot of relaxed snorkeling, but for scuba diving, head beyond these two islands to Mosquito Island and Bamboo Island further east. These tiny islands have some dramatically rugged scenery above the water, and below the surface, some fabulous reefs with gentle currents that make them perfect for beginners.
Thalang doesn’t have the largest concentration of dive shops compared to the Mueang Phuket district in the south of the island, but there are still a few to choose from. The difference here is that most of the scuba diving outfits are connected to hotels and resorts rather than being independent companies in their own right. But even so, training courses, including internationally recognized PADI certifications, are still possible. In fact, some of the dive schools from the south of the island will offer a pickup service to many of the main resorts, giving access to some of the best dive sites lying between Phuket and the mainland.
Thalang’s advantageous location, close to the rest of Thailand, also means that day trips to some of the outlying National Parks are a lot more accessible from here than from the south, and the good variety of dive types available means that most scuba diving outfits on Thalang can run speedboat tours and liveaboard trips for beginners as well as advanced divers.
In the north, almost where Phuket is connected by bridge to the mainland, Aqua One Watersports might seem like a small shop from the outside, but it runs a lengthy list of watersports in the waters of the Andaman Sea. Liveaboard trips to the Surin and Similan Islands are the main focus given their northern location, but they do still make it as far as the popular Koh Racha Islands to the south of Phuket. Leaving from Nai Yang Beach, they offer a full range of PADI courses, and for something a little different, snorkeling and body boarding activities can be incorporated into a tour.
Getting to Thalang is easiest by plane, with Phuket International airport conveniently located in its very center. Coming from the mainland means driving over the Sarasin Bridge, which joins Phuket to the mainland, but it’s a longer journey by road from the next airports at Krabi and Hat Yai International in the south.
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I hadn't bee Scuba diving since I was 16 years old so I was nervous to start up again after so long. I called into the shop intending to do a refresher before a trip away and ended up signing up for the Advanced open water course. I was able to speak to the instructor at the shop and he explained clearly what my options were. I signed up to do my Advanced course and had a fantastic 2 days of diving. The visibility was terrible but Andy the instructor and dive center manager was able to make th...
Decent dive operation but this is not a luxury liveaboard. Tired decor in cabin, mattress on floor and badly leaking pipework in the bathroom. It is very basic. The crew are helpful though, the divemaster good and the dive deck well organised. The sites in Similan Islands are pleasant but average with the exception of Richelieu Rock which is very nice. All sites are very crowded with many boats around.
The island of Phuket lies in an enviable location in the Andaman Sea, giving scuba divers access to some internationally renowned diving sites, as well as several protected National Marine Parks. Thal...
Thalang doesn’t have the largest concentration of dive shops compared to the Mueang Phuket district in the south of the island, but there are still a few to choose from. The difference here is that mo...