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Diving in Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan offers the best access to the Gulf of Thailand’s premier dive site, Sail Rock. With some good local dive sites, access to Koh Tao’s diving and plenty of things to do on land Koh Phangan is a good choice.

Diving in Koh Phangan

Quick facts

Located between the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan is an iconic Thai diving destination renowned for whale shark sightings and access to some of the best dive sites in the region. Underwater you’ll find yourself immersed in colours and life while on the island itself there are numerous stunning white sand beaches fringed with coconut trees, incredible sunsets and friendly locals. Koh Phangan is somewhere you can choose to relax and unwind or party until the sun comes up Similar to the neighbouring island of Koh Samui, many dive trips visit the sites around Koh Tao, with one big difference; Sail Rock. From Koh Phangan, Sail Rock can be reached in just 15 minutes by speed boat and around an hour on a normal dive boat. Probably the best dive site in the area, Sail Rock usually makes it into any Thailand dive site must see list. Shore dives are possible in Koh Phangan but only around the small island called Koh Ma. This isle connects to the main island via a sandbank. Otherwise diving close to the island is on fringing reefs that offer mainly hard corals, some interesting topography and vibrant reef fish. While Sail Rock can experience current, dive sites are mostly calm and suitable for entry level but still pleasing for more advanced divers too. It’s a good place to test the waters for the first time and for newer divers to get some experience too. It’s a quieter training area than neighbouring Koh Tao so groups will be smaller and courses more relaxed. Although the gulfs best dive site lies just off the coast, diving is not a headliner on the island. It does, however, make a great spot for those divers who travel with non-divers but still want to get a few great dives in without a problem.

When to go

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Water temperature

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Sail Rock (Hin Bai) – This 30 metre / 100 foot submerged rock pinnacle is often regarded as the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand and one of the best sites for whale shark sightings. With few other pinnacles nearby, Sail Rock is a magnet for fish. On sunny days the suns’ ray filters down below the surface and the coral encrusted pinnacle is a breathtaking sight. It’s not just a site for big fish though, you’ll find a plethora of colourful smaller fish darting in and out of the reef and the currents bring in hunting trevallies and barracuda. Sail Rock is always alive with action both around the pinnacle and in the blue. Angthong Marine Park – Made up of 42 limestones islands, Angthong offers a number of caves, swim throughs, overhangs and sloping reefs. Angthong has incredible diversity of coral including abundant soft corals, barrel sponges and anemones as well several types of black corals and sea fans. Marine life here is equally diverse and you’ll find numerous species among the reef. In deeper sections you can spot large snappers, blue-spotted sting rays, schools of fusiliers and yellowtail barracuda. Koh Ma – This gently sloping reef dive site offers a great mix of hard and soft corals and a huge diversity of marine life. Expect to see all of the “Usual Suspects” such as lionfish, angelfish, butterfly fish and clownfish but the real highlight is the unusual. You’ll see schools of razorfish, hermit crabs, cuttlefish, stingrays hiding out under the sand, sea horses and some incredible macro life. When the currents are running look out for barracuda in the blue. Mae Haad – A nice, fringing reef in a sandy bay. If you are hoping to see diverse reefs and marine life, Mae Haad should not be overlooked. Here you will find everything from unique nudibranch species, seahorse, cuttlefish, and sting rays through to groupers. Mae Haad offers easy diving conditions but no matter what your experience level, there’s always a highlight.

What to see

Whale sharks cruise into Sail Rock around soar around the pinnacle. The best time to see them is March, April time, but you can be lucky outside of this time too. A glorious school of batfish shimmer in the blue here too. The number of barracudas can be a little intimidating. Around the island, you’ll find colourful reef fishes and an array of macro delights too. Bluespotted ribbontailed rays are common reef dwellers to the area and some quite sizeable groupers too.

Calendar

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Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

Koh Phangan is an island that lies off the east coast of Thailand. It’s home to the infamous Full Moon Party. Urban legend has it that around 30 years ago Paradise Bungalows welcomed 20 or so travellers to their simple resort with a party lit by the full moon. Today it can attract up to 30 thousand neon painted partiers to Haad Rin Beach to dance until dawn. Its popularity has spawned more parties with names like Half Moon Party and Black Moon Party. While these parties may help extend revellers stay they don’t have the same draw. Outside of the few day’s pre and post a Full Moon Party the island returns to a normal holiday destination renowned for beautiful beaches, scenery and spiritual, health and wellness journeys. 

Typical of the surrounding islands, the early inhabitants would have been fishermen and coconut farmers and not so typically, tin miners. Coconuts are still important to Koh Phangan’s industry, but tourism is now the mainstay. Resort development circles the 25 miles (40km) of coastline and there are numerous beach areas to choose from and explore. As a rough rule of thumb, the further away from Haad Rin, the quieter the area is likely to be. The interior is mountainous and covered with jungle and while resorts and retreats do perch higher up it's mostly inaccessible.

Other attractions

The marine reserve of Ang Thong lies within easy reach of Koh Phangan and makes a great day trip of beautiful scenery. Koh Phangan has many spiritual, health and wellness options that will nicely complement a relaxing rejuvenating holiday.

Getting there

The closest airport is on the neighbouring island of Koh Samui. Numerous daily connections are available from Bangkok. From Koh Samui, it’s just a half hour ferry ride to Koh Phangan. Budget airlines land at airports on the mainland at Nakhon Si Thammarat and Surat Thani. These leave from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok rather than Suvarnabhumi Airport. They do link to ferry services, but this route is the slower option.

UTC+07:00

Time zone

THB

Currency

+66

Calling code

220-240 V

Electric volt

A, 

B, 

C

Plug type

USM

Main airport
Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.