Shot to fame by the blockbuster movie “The Beach”, Koh Phi Phi is still one of Thailand’s most popular holiday destinations. Koh Phi Phi is a place to explore white sand beaches, beautiful coves and bays as well as a range of dive sites. The island is surrounded by national marine park and dive sites are characterised by rugged, coral adorned limestone walls. Vivid soft corals and gorgonian fans are a highlight here combined with colorful shallow coral gardens to explore during your safety stop Koh Phi Phi is as fabulous below the ocean’s surface as it is above it. The stunning rock formations continue underwater allowing for some great diving, interesting wall and sloping coral gardens with plenty of nooks and crevices in which critters can hide. The King Cruiser Wreck lies not too far away, for the advanced only, this wreck thrives and pulsates with life and will delight non-metal-heads just as much. Koh Phi Phis diving is almost exclusively by boat. It has some great local diving and some fabulous sites a little further away too. The conditions locally are suitable for entry level and those newly certified. The further flung sites are for the more advanced diver, they are deeper and can experience some current. Local dives take place from larger dive boats, leaving around 9 am and returning around 3 pm. These trips include lunch and a long relaxing break in one to the beautiful bays. The further afield sites like Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are usually by speedboat, make sure the ocean is flat for the comfiest transfer.
Bida Nok / Bida Nai – These two limestone islands are breath-taking both above and below the water with stunning walls home to sea snakes and hawksbill turtles. Bida Nai also has numerous caves and overhangs where seahorses and other small critters like to hide out. The highlight here is the wide range of marine life from moray eels, wrasses, barracuda , leopard sharks, ghost pipefish and scorpion fish camouflaged against the reef. Hin Daeng / Muang – This is a firm favourite for many divers with vibrant red soft corals, gorgonian fans and vast carpets of colorful anemones. When you are not peering into the corals for critters remember to watch the blue as manta rays are often seen here along with occasional grey reef sharks, leopard sharks and even whale sharks! Above the corals look out for needlefish, hunting barracuda, schools of fusiliers and colourful jewel-like damsel fish darting back and forth. Hin Dot – Also known as Chimney Rock, this dive site comprises 3 submerged pinnacles and showcases dramatic underwater scenery at its best. The main pinnacle drops down to almost 30 metres / 100 feet with distinct shelves which are often occupied by scorpion fish, moray eels, lobsters and other crustaceans. The coral adorned pinnacles attract schools of snappers, fusiliers and jacks. Barracuda and trevally are often seen hunting and nurse and leopard sharks hide under rocks in the deeper sections. The shallow soft corals are a major pop of color and attract a myriad of small colourful damsels and well disguised macro critters! Malong Bay – If you love to see turtles then this should be on your bucket list as they are spotted on almost every dive. The topography here is varied and features corals gardens and swim throughs which are home to numerous species of shrimp. The reef is decorated with gorgonian sea fans, anemones, barrel sponges and beautiful soft corals. There is a wide range of marine here including seahorses and tiny critters through to a plethora of reef fish. Kled Gaeow Wreck – Sunk in March 2014, the Kled Gaeow quickly became home to a host of local marine life including nurse sharks and frogfish. The wreck is a 47 metre / 155 feet long gunship which is now surrounded by huge schools of fish. The top of the wheelhouse sits at just 14 metres / 45 feet under the surface and the wreck bottoms out at 26 metre / 85 feet. Highlights include passing sharks in the blue, schooling barracuda and lionfish which are both huge in numbers and size!
Koh Phi Phi offers some great and colourful reefs with both hard and soft coral. Keep a keen eye on the sand for resting leopard sharks. Clouds of glass fish hang around fissures and small openings often obscuring grouper and maybe some macro delights. Look carefully for mantis shrimp and seahorses. A myriad of reef fish glide passed scorpion fish and around lionfish. Triggerfish dart around, barracuda hang in the blue and octopus morph. Apart from the overall richness of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, their draw is the chance to see manta rays and the possibility of a whale shark too. The best time of year to spot them is from February to April.
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Koh Phi Phi is a collection of islands, but only Phi Phi Don is inhabited. This small island is not much more than a sand bar connecting two island peaks. These peaks counterpoint the glistening shoreline and provide viewpoints over this magnificent area. It’s impossible to overstate the astounding natural beauty of this area. You can take a boat trip to explore the smaller limestone islands, bays and coves. You can snorkel or dive or just soak up their breath-taking scenery. Filming for The Beach took place in nearby Maya Bay, which has vastly increased visitors to this already popular bay. The island is busy and attracts a young crowd out for fun but as long as you choose your accommodation carefully it’s not too brash for a family vacation.
There are no roads or cars on the island. You might see locals on cycles and pushing carts of supplies, but most people walk to get to where they want to go. Given that everything is jam packed into the two main beach areas,
you don’t have for to go to find whatever you need. The lack of cars makes a pleasant break from road traffic noise and fumes.
Koh Phi Phi was badly affected by the 2004 tsunami yet was open again for business astonishingly fast. This speed demonstrates the importance of the tourist dollar to this area as will be evident by the touting as you arrive. The only legacy of the colossal tsunami today is the blue and white signs pointing out your closest evacuation point to high ground.
This entire region is home to some fabulous rock climbing and has suitable climbs for those that have never tried before. To truly appreciate the island's beauty, you should hike to a viewpoint, jump in a kayak or hop on a taxi boat to one the beaches that can only access by water.
You can fly into Krabi or Phuket Airport and from either transfer by road to a ferry pier for your journey to the island. Expect a combined travel time of three hours from Phuket Airport or two hours from Krabi Airport. Check the ferry schedule as you might need to stay overnight and catch a ferry the next day.