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The Bida Islands
Koh Bida Nok and Koh Bida Nai are two small, rocky islands that are found about 500 metres off the southern tip of Phi Phi Ley. These two islands are arguably the best sites on Phi Phi, offering the best visibility, and the best chance of seeing Sharks and Turtles.
The smaller of the two – Bida Nai, can be circumnavigated in one dive if the tide is slack. It has a beautiful hard coral garden that slopes from the surface down to the sand at around 18 metres.
Bida Nok is best dived one way, jumping on the north wall, and heading towards the bay to surface. The larger of the two Bida islands, it offers undeniably world-class diving, over 100 different fish species and strong healthy coral can be spotted in the first twenty minutes of the dive!
A little visited site, about one kilometre past the Bida islands. It’s a large reef that rises from the sand about 25 metres to the surface. The reef itself resembles a splayed, three fingered hand, the fingers and sandy patches in between offering the best coral and most fish life. Leopard Sharks are often found resting in the deeper areas and Fire Coral can be found everywhere here.
Always look out for the Cuttlefish here, in particular the Pharoah Cuttlefish which are considerably bigger than the other more common species found throughout the Phi Phi sites. They have a very distinct blue and white pattern over their body, and can often be seen courting.
Phi Phi Islands
The name is given to the site that takes you into or out of Maya Bay to the north. There are two beautiful swim throughs near the corner, and both are normally crowded with many different species of fish, and are dripping in soft coral inside and out. Continuing out of the bay, there is a handful of deeper pinnacles with very healthy coral coverage where large pelagics can sometimes be seen.
The reef that continues on toward Maya Nui is a sloping hard coral reef that hits the sand anywhere between 12 and 18 metres. There are plenty of pinnacles and boulders off in the sand, and these are normally covered in soft corals.
Found at the southern end of Phi Phi Ley, with a small island in the middle. The coral gardens in the shallower parts of the bay are in pristine condition, though the area is busy with speedboats and longtails so you must be careful diving here.
The small island in the middle is mostly a coral covered wall beneath the surface, though on the outside there is a spectacular canyon that is just wide enough for two divers. Heading out of the bay to the north, you will find a cluster of pinnacles dropping to around 22 metres, quite often with large Groupers there. Exiting the bay to the south, the dive site becomes known as Whale Shark Wall, and is one of the best sections of wall found anywhere on Phi Phi.
This site has an artificial reef made from concrete blocks stacked up into three separate pyramids. There is a coral growing programme in full swing on the pyramid so divers should pay particular attention to where they’re putting their fins, and be extra careful around these new corals.
The shallow area of this site, near the entrance to the bay, has a beautiful garden of healthy Seafans, and the deepest pinnacle has a whip garden accross the top. The long stretch of sand between the coral gardens is a great place to search for Flounders and Cuttlefish, and in recent years there has been an amazing variety of Nudibranchs found on the pyramid, and it’s well worth taking time to explore this site.
Koh Haa Neua
This site is famous for the long narrow chimney that starts at 5 metres and drops down to 20 metres. The fringing reef here is in exceptional condition and the normally clear water makes for a beautiful dive.
Look out for big stuff in the blue and small critters amongst the coral, harlequin shrimps along with frog fish and ghost pipefish have all been spotted here before.
Koh Haa Lagoon
The lagoon is just made for diving, dotted with hard corals, sea fans and anemones. The two smaller islands are easily explored in one dive, and they both drop away on the back to well over 35m.
Koh Haa Yai
The Cathedral is famous for the enormous cave – known as “The Cathedral”. You can enter at about 18 metres and slowly ascend and swim through a large window at 12 metres to the second chamber then exit. This cave system is very user friendly and is bathed in light from the enormous entrances.
Aside from the Cathedral, the island itself offers a beautiful fringing reef that drops well beyond 30 metres in places. There are plently of outer pinnacles away in the sand and for the most part the island is well protected from current.
Ao Nang Islands
The most popular of the Ao Nang local sites, and the island is often crowded with snorkellers as well as dive boats. The deepest parts are the north and south ends, where the fringe reef drops to around 20 metres. The island is surrounded by healthy hard coral though many places on Koh Sii offer beautiful soft coral gardens that rival anything on koh Phi Phi.
There is a large cave here that you can enter on the surface, which makes it a fun place to start your dive by decending then exiting through the narrow archway at the back of the cave, but don’t try if conditions aren’t right. The northeast side is a long wall that stretches for 80 metres, and it is here that you have the best chance of finding the Tigertail Seahorses.
This dive site offers the best of the local Ao Nang islands with caves, swim throughs, huge schools of fish, rare Nudibranchs, big pelagics and strong healthy coral all the way round the island.
The smaller swim through, is home to many seahorses, you just need to look in all the fans along the one side. The “fish pinnacle” on the eastern side is home to a large school of Bigeye Snapper, and also an enormous colony of Sweepers that shelter in a small overhang there.
“The Tunnel” is about 50 metres long and is carpeted in Hydrozoids so obviously no touching but have a close look and you might find the tiny pink Flabellina Nudis that live on them.
This dive site is undivable on a strong current, and it’s possible to become disorientated with the swim-thrus, so pay close attention to the map and follow your guide!
Hin Daeng & Hin Meuang
Hin Daeng is undeniably king of the dive sites. Manta Rays and Whale Sharks are seen here regularly every year, along with the occasional Grey Reef Shark, and everything else found anywhere in Thailand. Visibility often exceeds 30m and depths are way beyond recreational limits over much of the site. It’s actually connected via a deep ridge to Hin Meuang, but the shallower areas of the dive site are breathtaking.
This is Hin Daeng’s little sister and its name translates literally as purple rock due to the carpet of anemones in the shallowest section of the site. Famous for the manta cleaning station at around 10 metres many divers have spent the whole hour just hovering next to these gentle giants as they come in for a clean. Whale sharks have also been spotted here.
A series of submerged reefs that are aligned from north to south, making navigation very simple.
Shark Point 1 breaks the surface, and it is here that most boats drop their divers. Providing the tide is dropping, the current will push you gently round the pinnacle and then sweep you to Shark Point 2. Once there the current can become quite strong so you need to be careful not to be swept away. The soft corals on these pinnacles are breathtaking, everything here is bigger, brighter, stronger, and more colourful. Most divers forget to look at the fish because the reef itself is totally mind-blowing. Shark Point 3 is rarely visited, simply because the first two pinnacles are so good, divers don’t feel inclined to explore further!
This reef is a giant Anemone covered pyramid that rises from the seabed at 25 metres to within five metres of the surface. It was this reef that sealed the fate of the King Cruiser, and you can still see where the top of the reef was cleaved in two from the collision.
Marine life is intense here, the shallow parts of the reef are dominated by the carpet of anemones which give the reef its name. In the deeper parts and out on the sand are enormous sea fans.
King Cruiser Wreck
Just a few hundred metres from the cause of her fate, Anemone Reef, the King Cruiser was a car ferry that sunk almost 20 years ago. No lives were lost, when this twin-hulled ferry ploughed unceremoniously into the only navigational hazard for miles around and quickly sank.
Often blasted by strong currents, and plagued by unpredictable viz, The Cruiser is best dived with an experienced guide. Huge Common Lionfish are all over the wreck, along with superbly camouflaged Scorpionfish, clinging to the rails and superstructure of the wreck, and large Octopus are often found here too.