How to Dive Phuket Over the Weekend (& Where to Eat, Shop, Party)

Diving in Phuket is good all year round and supposed to be exceptionally good during her dry season, which is from November to February. Stifled and starved of compressed air, Phuket was the best option in terms of budget, dive season, duration of stay.

There was someone to pick us up to the hotel the moment we landed at the airport. The first day was just spent settling in.

Diving in Phuket starts in the morning between 0715 to 0740, where we were picked up from our hotel, and whizzed off to Chalong Pier, about ten minutes drive away from where we stayed at in Chalong.

Tip: There are three diving routes when diving in Phuket - Racha Yai/ Noi, Phi Phi Islands/ King Cruiser Wreck. The selection of dive sites in each route will vary with the changes in weather and current conditions; the changes, however, will not be drastic as it will be more or less the same sites along the same route with minor adjustments. 

Once we reach Chalong Pier, the operator/staff of the dive centre was there to meet us in person to get us on the shuttle bus that brings you to and fro on the pier. It is a bustling scene at the pier. What’s noteworthy is that despite the number of people on the pier, it is not messy and rowdy. There are lots of staff carrying out ushering duties and maintaining the order; it is a cacophony of loud commands in Thai, the occasional sounds of shrill whistles to ask people to move their asses and the excited chatter of divers. 

Tip: We brought our full set of gear for the trip. On retrospect, however, it might be a better idea to have just brought only my soft gear along, saves the hassle of having to carry it around to and fro from the boat to the van and then back to the hotel room every day. If you brought your own gears along, you’d have to lug it on your own most of the time. The only way to buffer that is probably to be super nice to the boat crew, or just pay them a small tip as porter fees. 

Dive trips are carried out as day trips here in Phuket. Each diving day has 3 dives packed in one day. The boat leaves the pier at around 8 am or so and it takes an hour or so to travel to the first dive site. So you will be on the boat the whole entire day till 5 plus or so. And you do not have to worry about being hungry, you will be well-fed throughout the day with more than enough meals - breakfast, lunch, tea break.

The Diving!

King Cruiser Wreck
Just like all wrecks, visibility is reduced and currents are stronger. The King Cruiser Wreck is about 1.5 hours from Phuket’s shores, it is eighty-five meters in length and the top of the wreck only fourteen meters away from the surface, making it a great wreck for recreational divers to explore. The descent to the wreck is a rope, visibility decreases as you move down further, you might want to bring a torch for this dive. The surface currents are strong but it subsides as you descend further. There are currents underwater but it is manageable.

Tip: As you descend, maintain the pace of your breathing at a consistent rate and descend slowly, face your back against the current, so you won’t need to exert yourself so much. Air consumption rate will be more consistent. 

Diving in Phuket
The school of fusiliers at King Cruiser Wreck

If you want to explore the wreck in its entirety, you will need more than one dive. There are lionfish, barracudas, and schools of fusiliers at the wreck, and the resident groupers are huge. Being out there in the open ocean means it is not going to be an easy dive, but it is well-worth the efforts.

Anemone Reef
Anemone Reef is one of the most popular dive sites in Phuket. The dive site  is a pinnacle that starts at 5 metres and goes down to twenty-five metres with a sloped channel to the south. Soft corals populate the site with endless clusters of sea anemones and clownfishes. Amidst the crevices, you will find white-eyed moray eels occasionally popping themselves out to greet you.

Legend has it that there are tiger-tailed seahorses at a depth of 11 metres. It has been a long-time resident of Anemone Reef and sightings of it has been confirmed. Scorpionfish, pipefish, coral-banded cleaner shrimps and nudibranchs are common residents of this dive site.

Diving in Phuket
The resident Puffer Fish!

Diving in Phuket
Look at that endless stretch of Anemones!

Koh Dok Mai
Dok Mai is a site great for wall dives. A huge limestone rock that rises out of the water, you can drop into the water and explore the site in one hour. Shaped like a flower from aerial view, Koh Dok Mai means “Flower Island”. The walls are filled with soft and hard corals, harps and sea fans, anemones and more. The site is a haven for macro, shrimps, ghost pipefish, crustaceans, nudibranchs.

Diving in Phuket
The ginormous sea fans!

Racha Yai/Noi
These two sites are the best for conducting Open Water and Advanced Courses. Visibility is great. Water is calm. That also sometimes mean that there is not much action underwater. Generally, these sites are situated at the bay area, sheltered from the wind. It is extremely picturesque at the surface of the water with the magnificent looking islands.

In terms of density of corals and marine animal sightings, Racha Yai and Noi may pale in comparison to the other islands. However, Manta Rays and Eagle Rays can be spotted at some random times in the year. I’ve never been the lucky type (having been to Renggis 1001 times and not even seen a silhouette of the black tip), so I am not going to count on that, I am sure your luck is better than mine!

The diving here in Phuket is generally comfortable. For the experienced divers who have been to exotic destinations, this is child’s play. It is just really pleasant. For those who have just completed your Open Water or Advanced Open Water certification, it is a relatively comfortable trip with decent dives. 

The Boat!

The dive boats here are really big. Breakfast, lunch and tea break are served onboard during the day trip. Coffee and tea are free-flow onboard all day while carbonated drinks and alcoholic beverages are payable. Expect fresh fruits and snacks in between dives.

Phuket Dive boat
The dining area

Phuket dive boat
The boat's lounge area

Phuket dive boat

The Travel!

Flights to Phuket are aplenty, just hop on one of the budget airlines and you’ll be there in two hours. AirAsia has a fixed schedule while Jetstar has a few more options of flight to choose from. If you want a better traveling experience with a full-service airline, SilkAir is also available!

The Accommodation!

Talking about the accommodation, it is worth a mention in my opinion.
The hotel, Lemonade Phuket, is hand-picked from the plethora of hotels available. Great place to stay at; it was the highlight of the trip. Everything is really new. It is spacious, clean, comfortable, the style of decor is also right up our alley. Lemonade Phuket is situated in Chalong, which is ten minutes drive from Chalong Pier, where the diving activity starts.

Tip: Chalong and Patong are the two main areas to stay while in Phuket. The meeting time every morning will be at 0740 when you stay at Chalong, whilst it will be 0715 or so when you stay at Patong.

Land Activities

Night Market
The time spent on land is remarkably fun. Night markets are a hell lot of fun here. And we could not get enough of it. Even the 7-11 got us spinning with joy. The variety of snacks and tidbits that can be found here are insane.

There are several very famous food markets here but we got lucky, with one situated at Chalong Circle, which is about ten minutes walk away. Let us whet your appetite with some of our favourites during our hunt!

Our first meal of the trip. Looks ordinary. The meat that lay hidden is so good. Spot this tze char stall 2 minutes walk away from Lemonade Phuket Hotel!

Packaged desserts!

Our stash from the 7-11 craze!

Patong

Patong, the face of Phuket.

Bangla Street - Where women are willingly objectified; a place where some throw their identities away for a night;  where conservatives would dub it as soul-degrading. What I like about the place is the outright proclamation of DGAF attitude; so what? Those two words are just screaming in the air as you traipse through each club and bar. They welcome everyone. Just be prepared to blast your pockets here.

Disclaimer: I am not encouraging any actions that will cross general moral boundaries here. It is entirely up to you how far you'd like to carry it through. You draw your own boundaries.

Patong Beach
The neon signboard on Bangla Street

Tip: For family-friendly entertainment, you can check out Monsoon. The live band is really good; fantastic at bringing the mood of the place up and they can really sing. In the span of half an hour that we were in there, people bought at least 4 rounds of drinks for the band members.

Others

Shopping, of course, how could we forget about that?

There are various shops and stores in the vicinity of Bangla Street for souvenirs and of course, the well-loved elephant pants. Jungceylon Shopping Mall is just around the corner if you want more upscale things. The basement is full of souvenir shops.

Tip: Feel free to haggle for better prices at 40 - 50% of what they tell you, it is possible to deal at that price.

One particular store worth a mention and one that I truly recommend is a beauty products store called Phutawan. We spent a good two hours in the store I think, combing through the product shelves and product descriptions. You can get the most multipurpose must-have aka coconut oil here. They have delicious flavors for hand creams, lip balms, and oh, essential oils at a fraction of the price here in Singapore.

Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to try the massage parlors around here.

So? Is Phuket worth a visit?

There are just some days when you feel like you need some compressed air to get you through the days ahead? Some peace and quiet from the numerous chaser emails and calls and a good get-together with your homies amidst the crazy schedule.

If you are looking for a weekend or a couple of days to just chill and get some decent dives in, Phuket is the perfect place, enough to satiate the desire for compressed air, yet vibrant enough for a jolly good time on land!

Itinerary:

 Day One  Day Two  Day Three  Day Four
Arrive at Phuket International Airport

Transfer to Hotel
Free & Easy

0730 Transfer to Chalong Pier for Diving

Breakfast & Lunch on boatUp to 3 guided boat dives
Transfer back to Hotel
0730 Transfer to Chalong Pier for Diving

Breakfast & Lunch on boatUp to 3 guided boat dives
Transfer back to Hotel
Breakfast @ Hotel
1200 Check Out
Transfer to Phuket International Airport

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