Thailands Krabi province is equally beautiful as it is stunning, above and below. A good way to explore this area is by making Ao Nang your basecamp to see the best diving in Krabi. From here you can reach the highest number of dive spots in the whole area. If you were to dive from Phuket you can reach about 34 dive sites. If you dive from Phi Phi you can dive only at around 26 dive sites and from Koh Lanta only about 27 dive sites. However if you dive from Ao Nang you can reach a total of 46 dive sites!!!!. This is truly the gateway to the Andaman.
Diving in Krabi is suitable to all level of divers, there is something for everyone. You can find caves, wrecks, deep pinnacles, and some strong currents. Also there are many shallow sheltered spots for beginners, courses and snorkeling. Another bonus here is that you can dive year round as long as the monsoon permits it. I have been diving this area regularly since 2007, and even after all these years and thousands of dives in the area, I can still find species I have not seen before.
The area is very divers, there are hundreds of species of corals, fish, and invertebrates to be found here. Though unfortunately theres not so many large creatures as some other areas in the world. Having said that, it is indeed possible with some luck to see Whale Sharks, Eagle Rays, and Dolphins. There are also 3 other species of sharks in these waters: Blacktip ReefSharks, Whitespotted Bamboo Sharks, and Leopard sharks. Unfortunately Leopard shark numbers have been in decline in recent years. So there only a few spots left where you have a good chance of seeing them. On the positive side the numbers of Blacktips has increased in the last years.
Animal Species: around 14 varieties of Butterfly fish, 2 kinds of Angelfish, 5 species of Anemone fish, many kinds of Groupers, Surgenfish, many Triggerfish, Filefish, Trevallies, Parrotfish, 4 species of Barracuda, many Wrasse, Banded Sea Kraits (sea snake), many kinds of Pufferfish, Boxfish, Trumpet Fish, and many kinds of Morays(including Zebra and Starry).
Also Razor Fish, Frogfish, Pipe fish, 4 species of Lion Fish, Scorpion Fish, Stone fish, Indian Ocean Walkman, Seahorse, Ghostpipefish, Gobies, Cuttlefish, Octopus, Green and Hawksbill Turtles, Sweetlips, Crabs, Shrimp (including Harlequin Shrimp), Kuhls Stingray, Spearing and Punching Mantis(Peacock), Snappers, Fusiliers, Snake Eels and lobsters.
Soft & Hard Corals: Giant Gorgonian Seafan’s, Whip corals, table corals, Giant Barrel Sponges, Mushroom leather coral, and many more. In Thailand there are 4-500 species of coral to be found.
diving in Krabi
Thailand has many diving areas, and 15 years ago it was considered amongst the 10 best places in the world to dive. Unfortunately this is no longer the case, like all reefs in the world (including the Great Barrier Reef), they are generally in decline. This can be blamed on pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
Nevertheless there still is some great diving to be done here. If I would put Thailand’s diving on any list it would make the top 10/best “most accessible dive areas” in the world. The truly best dive areas are very remote, expensive to go too, and expensive to dive, like Papua, Solomon Islands and Galapagos.
Ao Nang Local Islands
These are the closest islands to Ao Nang. The archipelago consists of 14 islands/islets, of which 7 are good dive sites. Here you will find a rich diversity in topography and marine life. Some spots have more abundant marine life than the further dive spots. If you love macro, this is also the best place in the area to find the little critters. Also there’s a few very nice caves and tunnels.
All of the islands here can be dived, however some are really only suitable as training dive sites. There are also 2 wrecks from WWII here, a Japanese Submarine and Torpedo boat. These are very old and not much is left of them, and what is left has sunken far into the limestone sediment. There are aslo 3 purposely sunk wrecks which can be dived, but often there is no decent line.
Only a few dive centers from Ao Nang dive these islands because of the low average visibility. The average visibility here is around 5-8m. When conditions are right, usually around half moon, you can sometimes get up to 15m visibility. Though on the other side of the spectrum, when it is full moon and there has just been a storm, it can be as low as 2-3m.
If you are lucky and get good conditions here, you will have a spectacular dive, maybe better than a good dive on Phi Phi Island. For me the biggest difference to Phi Phi is the amount of people diving here. Since only few operators dive here, the number of divers you will meet underwater here is close to zero!!!. The islands are suitable to divers of all levels, with the exception of the caves and the wrecks. It takes about 45 min to get here with a normal boat.
This is my favorite dive site here. The name of the island means, island you can go through. The island has 2 tunnels that allow you to pass straight underneath!!!. So basically the whole island is standing on 3 legs!!!. There are many outer pinnacles here too, so there is much to explore. The highlights here are Nudibranchs, Flaberlinas, Bamboo sharks, Seahorse, Razor fish, Bent-Stick pipefish, schools of Snapper, Sea-Kraits, Kuhls Stingrays, and obviously the tunnels.
Koh Yawabon Depth
This is a very cool dive site. The main attraction here is a huge tunnel more than 90m long traversing through the island. The Tunnel is only 10m deep, but because of its length is only suitable for very experienced divers. In the middle you are 55m from the surface in terms of distance. On one end of the tunnel there is an air pocket on the celling. It is a large chamber like a cathedral with stalactites 30m high. Also this is the best dive site for Nudibranchs. I have found up to 20 species on a single dive. Many Tiger-tail Seahorse are to be found here too.
A stunning spot when conditions are just right. There is a small cave here with 2 chambers. In one of the chambers it is possible to swim in, so you can start or end your dive inside the island!!!. You can find a huge variety of hard corals here as well as soft corals on the northern side. This is also the best spot on the island. There are 2 pinnacles here teaming with life. When the visibility is good you don’t know where to look, there are so many fish everywhere. There are thousands of Snapper, Fusilier, Sardines, and sometimes Big-Mouth Makrel’s. Also you can find Bamboo sharks, Stingrays, Sea Kraits, File Fish, Pipefish, Seahorse, and a Green Turtle here.
This is the name of one of the wrecks, but there are actually 3 (the others are HTMS Ravi and HTMS Kolam). All identical: LCU TYPE 501, built in US in 1944, American tank landing crafts. The same as the ones they used in Normandy (D-Day). They were sold to Thailand and re-purposed after the war, until they were prepared as artificial reefs in 2013. Many Fusiliers, and Lionfish surround the wrecks. Also Bamboo sharks can be found here.
Phi Phi Island
Here you will find the most famous dive spots in the area. So famous that dive operators from Koh Lanta, Phuket, and Ao Nang also come here. This means that around Christmas and New Year the dive sites are very busy, best avoid this time period. There is a huge variety of dive sites here. Around 22 dive sites in total, of which 3 are closed for preservation. Also of these, most operators only visit less than half of them. There are a few dives I have not included in the above total. That is because they are real cave dives, only suitable for those with fully cave certified.
Among the most popular here is Maya Corner, because here you have the best chance of seeing Hawksbill turtles. Sometimes you can see 3 or 4 on one dive, but almost always one for sure. Phi Phi is suitable for all levels of experience, except for a few sites. The average visibility here is 10-15m, though in Monsoon season during full/black moon it can drop down to 5m. In the high season between January and mid-May, the visibility is best, often between 15-30m. It takes about 2-2.5 hours to get here by big boat.
Koh Bida Nok
For many this is one of the best dive sites in the Phi Phi archipelago. It is a small island south of the main islands. You can see everything here from shallow reefs, walls, pinnacles and small caves. The highlight is a finger reef on its south side with abundant coral and fish. Massive schools of thousands of snappers and fusiliers can be found here everywhere. Often a pack of Golden Travellies are patrolling the reef and dive into these schools for to get some lunch.
Also here in the shallow is a great place to see Blacktip Reef sharks. Sometimes it may just be one or none, but on a good day there can be a dozen or more. Also here you can find Hawksbill Turtles, Reef Octopuss, Khuls stingrays, Pipefish, Frogfish, Harlequin Shrimp, and in the high season Harlequin Ghost Pipefish.
This site is on the northern tip of Phi Phi Ley. This is generally a one way dive with walls, pinnacles, and a sloping reef. Also there are some small caverns for the experienced divers. The sites name comes from a coral/rock formation that looks like a giant mushroom covered in soft coral. The site is a great place to spot Blacktip Sharks. Sometimes you can see dozens of them on one dive, from juveniles until some pretty large adults. Some days I’ve seen groups of 15 or so swimming together.
However with larger animals there are no guarantees, sometimes they are there and sometimes they are somewhere doing something. Some days they are curios and come real close, and others they are skittish and keep their distance. There is also some lovely colorful soft corals to be found here with large schools of fish, turtles sometimes and all the other usual suspects from the area.
This is a pinnacle a few kilometers away from Phi Phi. It is the healthiest reef in the area, the coral there is simply stunning. Its diversity is not high though, but life is abundant and healthy. Many Giant Gorgonian Seafans, hard corals, soft corals, and Anemones can be found here. Also there are many schools of Fusiliers and Snappers. If you go out on the sand you might find Pharo-Cuttlefish, Stingrays, Flounders, and with a bit of luck a Leopard shark.
This is probably the place where you have the best chance to spot them. 10 years ago you could see them on every dive site on Phi Phi, unfortunately this is no longer the case. This is partially due to illegal fishing and partially due to the over use of GoPro Hero and other cameras. These sharks are resting on the seafloor in the daytime and don’t want to be disturbed when they sleep. So please if you see one, refrain from getting to close, using flash, and making a close selfie.
Kled Gaeow Wreck
Originally a Norwegian fishing boat, the RNoMS Norfest, built in 1948. Then it was purchased and commissioned into the Royal Thai Navy in 1956 and renamed the RTN Kled Gaeow. It was then in 2014 prepared as an artificial reef and sunk near Phi Phi Ley. It is 47.2m long and 7.7m wide. A great dive with abundant marine life: schools of Fusiliers, Barracuda, Snapper, Lionfish & Pufferfish (yes schools of them!!!).
Koh Haa National Park
This is beautiful group of 5 small islands between Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. Only one dive Centre in Ao Nang visits them once a week in the high season. They are part of Koh Lantas national Park which is only open in the high season. There are a few different dives you can do here, but the main attractions are the Lagoon, the caves on Koh Haa Yai, and the chimney on Koh Haa Neung. What sets these islands apart from the rest is the clarity of the water here. On a good day visibility can reach up to 40m.
There are also some different fish here compared to Phi Phi or in Ao Nang, though in general I would say fish quantity is less here. At the lagoon you may find Stone fish and the bizarre Dragon Sea Moth. The main reason you want to come here is for the cave on Koh Haa Yai. It is an impressively large cavern with several entrances. The best part is that you can surface inside the cave too see this immense chamber with stalactites. The celling is maybe 3-40m high and because of the exterior light it seems like your floating in a glowing emerald lagoon. It takes about 3.5 hours to get here with a dive boat from Ao Nang.
Shark Point Marine Sanctuary
A beautiful spot located in the open sea between Ao Nang, Phuket, Phi Phi, and Koh Yao Yai. This area is best dived in the high season. This is because in the monsoon season weather can change very quickly and the boat will have no place to hide from the wind and waves. When one hears the name, one presumes there will be sharks here. Unfortunately this is not the case, in the past this was true, now you can count yourself as very lucky if you are blessed with seeing a Leopard shark.
Nevertheless it is still an amazing place with abundant soft coral and many species of fish. There is a small island near here, it is called Koh Dok Mai. In some dive blogs it is listed as one of the best spots in the area. It is nice, but nowhere close to making any list. When there is full or black moon currents can be very strong in this area and the visibility low, especially on an outgoing tide. In general visibility ranges from 5-30m. This area should only be dived by certified divers, and I recommend best with Advanced Open Water minimum. It takes about 1.5 hours to get here with a dive boat.
This is a series of 7 or more stunning large pinnacles that are in a North/South alignment. The first one sticks out of the water, but the others are completely submerged. Generally only the first and second are dived. The second pinnacles top sits 5m below the surface, an ideal spot for making your safety stop. The site has abundant purple/pink /white/yellow Hemprich’s soft coral, Giant Gorgonian Seafans, and Giant Barrel Sponges. Often you can see a barrage of large Pickhandel and Chevron Barracudas hanging in the current. Also when conditions are right you can find Harlequin Ghost Pipefish here in the high season. There are many species of fish here and many morays, including the Yellow Fimberlated and Zebra Moray.
Hence the name it is a pinnacle literally covered in Anemones. This is a really beautiful spot with many corals, critters, and schools of fish. It is not a very big site so you go deep first and circle around the pinnacle in a spiral until your safety stop. There are many species Morays here, Seahorse, Shrimp, Brown Marbled Groupers, Shrimp, Barracuda, Bearded Scorpion Fish and Lionfish.
This is one of my favorite spots in this area. This is a massive car ferry the crashed with Anemone reef in 1997. It measures an impressive 85m long and 25m wide. The main superstructure is intact but the upper levels have crumbled because of poor Iron quality. The wreck is covered with soft corals and schools of fish. Often so many fish, you almost can’t see the wreck. There are schools of Snapper, Barracuda, juvenile Barracuda, and Fusiliers. Also many Lionfish, Scorpionfish, Pufferfish, and under the boat you may find Whitespotted Bamboo shark. Penetration of the wreck is possible but his is only for the Wreck certified.
where to stay and who to dive with?
There are endless accommodation possibilities to fit your budget and needs in Ao Nang. From 5 star resorts, private Luxury villas, Hotels, simple Guest Houses and dorms you have to choose from. Have a look in Agoda or Booking for the best price.
There a few dive-centers to go diving in Krabi. Most noteworthy are Kon Tiki, The Dive, Sawatdee Divers, Poseidon, SeaGypsy Divers, and Aquavison (they all visit Phi Phi and Sharkpoint). Aquavison, Poseidon and Kon Tiki are the only ones that visit the Local Islands regularly. If you want to go to Koh Haa Yai only Kon Tiki visits them in the high season (Nov-Apr) once a week.
when to go
It is possible to dive here all year round. The best time to go diving in Krabi is between January and possibly mid-May. The high season officially is from October til the end of April. From May to the end of September is the monsoon season.
In this season, the worst weather is generally at the end of may until the middle of June, and then from the end of September til the beginning of October. This is when the worst weather usually is, and storms can last for days. In general the rainy season means 1-2 hours of rain per, and then you have the occasional big storm in-between, but it normally dosn’t rain all day long as one presumes.
July and August weather is usually like in the high season. However with global climate change, seasons are not as defined as they use to be, and has become quite unpredictable. A good weather resource is WindGuru and Windy.
You can also dive this area by Liveaboard. To this you need to depart from Phuket, there are no regular liveaboards starting from this region. If you are interested in taking a liveaboard to the Similan & Surin Islands, check out our review of the 23 best liveaboards in Asia.
Taking a journey on this boat is a unique experience in itself. It is a traditional merchant trading boat that has been completely renovated. The outside as well as the inside are simply beautiful. It has even starred in a 007 movie. In the low season iy travels the South Andaman and in the high season, North to the Siliman & Surin Islands. The southern trip goes to many of the best spots in the Koh Phi Phi area including Hin Daeng, Koh Bida Nok, and Shark Point Marine Sanctuary.
The southern trip last 3 days and cost €350 only, north from around €885 (Oct-Apr).
how to get here
To get here there are many options. You can fly directly to Krabi from Denmark, Finnland, Russia, and China. Otherwise you can fly from Singapore, Kula Lumpur, Phuket, and Bangkok. If your staying in Phuket you can take the ferry. Also you can take a bus or minivan from the neighboring cities. Another options is to take the overnight bus from Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur to Krabi town.