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Scuba Diving at Khao Lak

Many divers consider the west coast of Thailand, especially the Similan Islands, as being an area with some of the best scuba and snorkeling locations in the world.

Yet, join one of the daily boat trips to the lesser known Khao Lak dive sites, and you will find some unconventional wreck dives that are bursting at the seams with marine life.

A Focal Point to Explore Underwater Wrecks

Khao Lak is a diving hub on the Andaman coastline. You'll find it in the west of Phang-Nga province, about sixty kilometres north of Phuket.

The distinctive features that visitors will notice first about this shoreline are the white, sandy beaches and the clear blue water.

In addition, a stunning backdrop of dense tropical rainforest is another reason why this region is popular with tourists.

But, most of Khao Lak's visitors come to scuba dive the Similan Islands or for the local wrecks (e.g. Boonsung Wreck).

The climate along this part of the Andaman Coast is tropical. Thus, the days are almost always hot and sunny and the average sea temperatures range between 26° and 30° Celsius (78° to 86° Fahrenheit).

The dry months usually begin in October and run through to April. As a result, the best months for scuba diving at Khao Lak are December to February. This is when the underwater visibility can reach up to thirty (30) metres.

Note: Each year, the National Marine Park for Mu Koh Similan and Mu Koh Surin islands opens for scuba activities in November and it closes in May.

Ocean Life at Khao Lak Dive Sites

There is no shortage of plants, animals, and other aquatic organisms (e.g. sea life creatures) to see - as you swim around local underwater ruins and remnants. But, some of the most notable includes:

But, what about divers who enjoy underwater photography? Typical examples of macro marine life found in shallow water, includes:

Note: It's common to have random shark encounters in the open water (e.g. leopard sharks, silvertip reef sharks) and see sea snakes at the dive spots in Khao Lak at almost any time of year. But, the best months to see majestic manta rays and colossal whale sharks are February to April.

List of Khao Lak Dive Spots

Artificial Reef

The Artificial Reef dive site, also known as Tor 13 and The Underwater Museum, was officially launched in 2014 in honour of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

Note: Another section explains why artificial reefs are important, how they are created, and why they are becoming popular in many diving destinations around the world.

Boonsung Wreck

The sunken remains are a popular diving destination for Khao Lak daytrips. But, they often combine it with liveaboard trips to the Similans.

This section explains everything divers need to know about the Boonsung Wreck dive site, including how it sank, the average depths, and what marine species inhabits the rusty ruins.

Khao Na Yak

If you're looking for a place to practice your buoyancy or underwater navigation skills, this shallow reef is ideal. The maximum depth at the Khao Na Yak dive site is nine (9) metres.

Look out for brain corals, staghorn coral, and small table corals as you swim down from the rocky shoreline to the sand at the bottom.

Common sightings here include, giant moray eels, honeycomb morays, and the usual species of reef fishes, such as angelfish, butterfly fish, sweepers, and small triggerfish.

HTMS Pratong

Before the Thai Royal Marine Corps used the vessel for navy training, HTMS Pratong was an American ship used in World War II.

They sold it to Thailand after it participated in the Cuban missile crisis and it went down to its final resting place in March 2014.

In general, the water currents are mild at this dive site and underwater visibility ranges between fifteen (15) and thirty three (33) metres.

Despite being a recent sinking, the marine life around the HTMS Pratong shipwreck is improving every year. Typical examples include chevron barracudas, frogfish, ghost pipefish, and octopus.

MV Sea Chart 1

The question about the largest, deepest, and most challenging wreck in Khao Lak is simply answered with MV Sea Chart 1. You can consider it as being a strong contender for the ultimate wreck dives in the world - but only for experienced divers.

The German cargo ship was first constructed in 1970. It sank near Thai Muang beach in August 2009 while transporting cargo from Myanmar to Vietnam (1,200 tonnes of teak wood).

MV Sea Chart 1 Dive Site Khao Lak Thailand.This huge vessel is 85 metre long and 12 metres wide. It's still intact (resting on her starboard side) at a depth of forty (40) metres.

The shallowest point is about 22 metres from the surface and a lot of the original cargo on board remains in excellent condition.

A Magnet for Diverse Marine Life

Some of the common sea life species found at this dive site include:

  • Barracuda
  • Batfish
  • Frogfish
  • Ghost pipefish
  • Lionfish
  • Nudibranchs
  • Rainbow runners

Important: The dive site at MV Sea Chart 1 is deep. Hence, many of the local dive schools place certain prerequisite restrictions on joining the trip (e.g. Advanced Open Water Diver certification with 50+ logged dives). Furthermore, they don't allow juniors or snorkelers to participate. Another section contains further information about deep diving training and how to dive beyond the recommended depth limits for entry level divers (e.g. 18 metres/60 feet).

Preimchai Wreck

This dive is a good choice for divers with a tight schedule. The location of the sunken tin dredger is close to Thap Lamu harbour and only a few hundred metres from the south of Khao Na Yak.

Despite a large crack appearing in recent years, the hull still remains in one piece (for now). It has become a nursery for diverse varieties of marine creatures. But, wreck penetration is off limits due to the hazardous fishing nets and hanging cables.

The top of the wreckage is about fifteen (15) metres from the surface and the ruins rest on the sandy floor at eighteen (18). Many of the local dive shops use the Preimchai Wreck dive site to conduct the PADI Nitrox diving certification.

The structure has become a favourite hiding place for a variety of juveniles, such as small barracudas and fusiliers. Even so, divers with sharp eyes will find unusual cephalopods (e.g. cuttlefish, squids), goby fish, as well as flounders concealed in the sand.

Thai Muang Wreck

Unlike many of the shipwrecks near Khao Lak, this one is almost intact. Yet, the Thai Muang dive site is one of the least dived in the area.

First built in Sliedrecht (the Netherlands) in 1976, this tin dredger finally met her demise in the September of 2000 when she sank a few hundred metres off the beach at Thai Muang.

The structure rests in twenty three metres of water - on her side. You can also dive around some dredging equipment remnants close by.

You should catch sightings of typical marine fishes that live around sunken wrecks, such as an assortment of colourful nudibranchs, boxfish, batfish, lionfish, moray eels, and scorpion fish.

Related Information and Help Guides

Note: Another section explains PADI® Wreck Diver requirements and how to determine whether derelict salvage was intentionally sunk to form an artificial reef for scuba divers.

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