Anemone Reef, Shark Point, King Cruiser Wreck; even the names of the dive sites around Krabi convey a sense of adventure. The Andaman coast is recognised throughout the world as excellent for diving. Its tropical waters are home to thousands of species of fish and coral, including leopard and whale sharks (both harmless!), turtles, moray eels and dolphins.
There are more than 40 scuba diving schools in Krabi and Phi Phi, all of which cater for licensed divers as well as beginners. In fact, the relatively low prices and clear, shallow waters of the Andaman Sea make Krabi an ideal place to learn diving.
Diving in Krabi for beginners
PADI* Open Water courses (the qualification needed to obtain a diving licence) takes around three to four days to complete, or you can do a taster day called ‘Discover Scuba Diving’. Both courses are supervised by qualified Western instructors, who between them speak most of the major European languages, and there is always a practice session in a swimming pool before you jump in!
Once you experience diving, as one recent graduate of the Open Water course here describes, ‘it’s like swimming in an amazing aquarium’. The opportunity to view the beautiful, and often strange, marine life up close is something you will never forget. If you become hooked, it’s also possible to increase your skills and knowledge by completing any of the PADI series of qualifications and speciality courses, right up to dive instructor level.
All equipment is provided and includes introductory dives and safety instruction. You can then dive anywhere in the world with this certification. Thailand is one of the cheapest, most comfortable and beautiful places in the world to complete a dive course. The OW1 PADI course costs about US$400, or you can opt for a one-off discover scuba programme (lasting a day, with two dives) for about half that.
Of course, not everyone is able to dive. People with certain medical conditions, including those with heart and lung issues, laong with pregnant women and children under the age of seven, are some of them. If in doubt, it is best to seek medical advice from your doctor before you leave for Thailand; he or she can also write you a clearance form which is required for insurance purposes.
Non-divers can still enjoy the underwater world on snorkelling trips – even if you are not a strong swimmer, life jackets are provided to help you stay afloat while you watch the shoals of multi-coloured fish swim by. You can join an excursion on a dive boat, or take a boat trip dedicated to snorkellers; equipment is always provided.
Diving in Krabi for experienced divers
Krabi is one of several popular centres in Thailand for diving, and where you choose to dive can depend on the season and your personal preference for the area once you are out of the water. In this respect, Krabi has far more to offer than Phuket and Koh Tao, with reasonable prices, a decent amount of activity and facilities, along with other pursuits, such as rock climbing and unbeatable scenery.
The major dive sites are centred around the Phi Phi Islands and to the south of Koh Lanta and all are accessible on day excursions from the mainland, by regular dive boat, or speedboat.
Talk with the staff in a local dive centre to see which course or sites would be suitable for your level of experience. You will also get a chance to meet the instructors – it is important, if you are diving, that you find one you can communicate well with. If you are an experienced diver, you may also like to find out about the centre’s equipment and boat, and check the dive briefs for the sites. All this information is available in the shops.
In general, diving in Krabi is world class and monitored by experienced international staff. This particular sport is mainly operated by Westerners in Thailand and you can expect the same standards of safety as you would anywhere in the world, with modern equipment and prices up to half of other popular areas such as the Caribbean, Red Sea and Australia. There is a hyperbaric recompression chamber in Phuket Town provided by the SSSNetwork.
Dive Operators Krabi
Kon-Tiki: this popular dive and snorkel centre right in Ao Nang offers a five star service to a great range of courses and dive sites, including Koh Haa Yai and Phi Phi. Features a fleet of four vessels and various dive and snorkel tours. 137 Moo 2, Ao Nang (along the beachfront), tel: 098 014 1996, email: email@example.com, website: www.kontiki-krabi.com.
Aqua Vision Ao Nang: another of Ao Nang’s experienced dive centres, with choice of trips to numerous destinations as well as a full menu of courses and days out. Multiple languages spoken by the professional instructors. 76/12 Moo 2, Ao Nang (near McDonalds) tel: 086 944 4068, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.diving-krabi.com.
*PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is the world’s largest and most widely recognised diver training organisation. It establishes the standards for diver training, trains and certifies instructors, and maintains training activity records. Krabi is dominated by PADI-accredited dive schools.