Koh Phi Phi is not all about “The Beach”; it is rather all about “the diving”! You will be thrilled to get into the Kingdom of Leopard Sharks, Turtles, Morays, and Anemones as soon as you submerge yourself into warm waters of this archipelago located in the Andaman Sea. Any “macro” life photographer might get lost because of the abundance of species, colors, and forms.
Koh Phi Phi mains islands were devastated by the 2004 tsunami, although they had another rebirth like the Phoenix. What is sure is that the dive sites suffered very little or no damage at all and they continue to delight their guests.
The marine park’s full name is “Hat Noppharat Thara-Mu Koh Phi Phi National Park” and is part of the Krabi Province. There are no airports and no cars on the Phi Phi islands. The only way to get there is by sea. The main island of Koh Phi Phi Don can be reached by daily ferries from Phuket, Krabi Town, Ko Lanta, Rai Leh, and Ao Nang. A one-way ticket costs between 200-600 Baht (~5-17 USD).
It will take you about 1 hour to get to the archipelago from Krabi Town and about 1.5 hours from Phuket. Ferries have a strict schedule and don’t sail when it gets dark. If you are late for a ferry you can also hire a speedboat from the same destinations.
There are also several liveaboards offering diving trips to Koh Phi Phi.
Diving at Koh Phi Phi is year round. The months from January to March offer the best visibility. The months between May and December can also be an option providing a more private atmosphere.
There are about 15 main dive sites around the Islands. You can either choose a daily boat diving trips from Koh Phi Phi or choose to join a liveaboard dive safari.
If you go with the daily diving option usually there will be 2 dives including a lunch in-between and fresh tropical fruits refreshments after the dives. As the waters are warm all the year round, you can use a 3mm shorty or wetsuit.
Best dive sites overview
The limestone rocks penetrate the sea creating unforgettable seascapes mixed with coral gardens full of sea life. If your accommodation is on the Islands, it will give you an opportunity to visit all of the main Koh Phi Phi dive sites as well as to snorkel at some of them.
Some dive clubs offer unique routes and dive sites (for example, Leisure Dive Center). Others might stick to the most famous diving spots. You can find such dive centers as Kon-Tiki Lanta, Hippo Divers, Scubafish and some others on Koh Phi Phi.
Anemone Reef & Shark Point
These are the 2 great dive sites which are situated very close to each other. As they are located in the open sea Anemone Reef & Shark Point are recommended for advanced divers. Buoyancy control is important in order not to harm the unique reefs and yourself.
Anemone Reef fully deserves its name as it is completely covered with Anemones and an enormous number of Clownfish. Clownfish are always on guard to protect their territory. So you just need to wait when they rush into your camera to make a close shot.
The Reef starts 5m (16 ft.) below the surface and it extends down to 25m (82 ft.). If there is a strong current on the one side of the reef, do not struggle with it and just go to the other side where you will be well protected. You should expect schools of Glassfish, Lionfish, and Snappers. Turtles are frequent guests on the reef. Morays are represented by White Eye, Whitemouth, Honeycomb and Zebra types. If you notice one of the cracks it will be most likely swarming with Dancing Shrimps.
Shark Point (also called Hin Bida) dive site starts from the surface and goes down to 21m (68 ft.). Gracious Leopard Sharks are the ones whom you should expect based on the name of the place. They can swim by or rest on the sand. Like on Anemone Reef, there are plenty of Anemones. There are also soft corals, Gorgonian Sea Fans and Giant Clams at the dive site. You should expect Stonefish, Morays, Barracudas, and a large variety of reef fish.
Bida Islands (Bida Nok & Bida Nai)
The Islands can be reached within 50-55 min by a boat from Koh Phi Phi Don. They offer a number of dive sites in this area, the most famous are Bida Nok and Bida Nai.
Reefs in the shallow waters of Bida Nok Bay are usually protected from currents and they make a great dive site for open water level divers. The maximum depth in the Bay is 15m (49 ft.). Beginners should take care not to touch the reef especially as Scorpionfish lives there. The inhabitants of reefs around Bida Nok include a colossal number of Nudibranch types, Ghost Pipefish, Glassfish, Clownfish, and Morays.
Advanced divers can go straight to the southern side of Bida Nok for a fantastic wall dive. The maximum depth here is 35m (114 ft.). This part of the rock welcomes the bigger brothers of the coral reef residents like Leopard Shark, Blacktip Reef Shark, Nurse Shark, Turtle, Bluespotted Stingrays, and Banded Sea Snake. As for fish, you should expect huge schools of Sweetlips and Snappers, Parrotfish, Wrasse, Cuttlefish, and Boxfish.
There were a few cases between December and February when divers saw Whale Shark and Manta Rays on the western wall of Bida Nok.
Please note that depending on the season the visibility might fall down to 5m (16 ft.). In this case, you’d better concentrate on the reef with its rich macro life.
Bida Nai dive site is close to Bida Nok and it is suggested for any level of diving experience. The average depth is 10-20m (32-65 ft.). Beginners should start from the south while advanced divers can go from the northern wall of the Island. Sometimes you might face a pre-wall of Glassfish who crowd around the reef. Just drill through them to see the reef and rocks full of cracks and crevices. Most likely Durban Dancer Shrimp, Cleaner Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, and Seahorse will be hiding there from you. Among the other residents, you should expect to see Snappers, Barracudas, Groupers, Tunas, Scorpionfish, Lionfish, Pufferfish, and Porcupinefish. Leopard Shark and Banded Sea Snake can also be seen here.
King Cruiser Wreck
If you are tired of natural seascapes at Koh Phi Phi, try 85m (278 ft.) long artificial reef named King Cruiser Wreck. She was a ferry which hit Anemone Reef and sank not far from it in1997. There are rumors that it was made on purpose due to some financial difficulties of the boat operator. It’s good to know that all people were rescued. This dive site is recommended for advanced divers due to protruding elements of the wreck, currents and average depth of 20m (65 ft.). The bottom of the wreck lies at the depth of 32m (104 ft.) and the upper deck is located at 9-14m (29-45ft.).
The visibility can be reduced up to 8-10m (26-32ft.) depending on the season and currents. However, even with the low visibility, you will be able to distinguish Hawksbill Turtle, Grouper, Scorpionfish, Fusiliers, Rabbitfish, Goatfish, and Lionfish.
Currently, the only dive club at Koh Phi Phi who offers dives at “The Statues” is Leisure Dive Center. This place is located within 20 minutes from the Island, but not many people know about statues which sank there. You can enjoy this mystery dive site full of schools of Snappers, Nudibranchs, and man-made statues of a girl, birds, and some others. Any certified diver can visit this dive site as the average depth is 10-15m (32-49ft.) with the maximum depth of 20m (65ft.).
Best dive season
You have to take into consideration the tropical monsoon which influences the climate of Koh Phi Phi. It means that usually the best weather is encountered during January-April which is a dry season while May-December is a wet one with rains, winds, currents and waves.
In case you have a chance to choose between the dry season months, it might be the best idea to arrive at Koh Phi Phi in February. Most of the holidaymakers will leave the Islands after Xmas and New Year while those who are looking for Easter vacation will not yet arrive. Moreover, those lucky ones who saw Manta Ray and Whale Shark at Phi Phi spotted them between December and February.
If you arrive in Koh Phi Phi during the dry season, you will leave with great memories of relaxed diving in the calm sea and warm water. The water temperature ranges between 29-30ºC (84-86ºF) all the year round. The visibility during January-March is the best, sometimes it is up to 30m (98 ft.). The visibility starts to go down from April and becomes 5-10m (16-32 ft.) in average.
If you are diving from a small boat in one of the isolated areas you’d better take a diving buoy with you. Locals still tend to do dynamite fishing in remote spots of Koh Phi Phi. That is why it is really a good idea to warn them about your presence.
When a 3-minute tsunami destroyed everything on the surface of Koh Phi Phi in 2004, the underwater world remained almost untouched. Luckily, “coral bleaching” is doesn’t affect this archipelago at th moment. A large variety of corals like Gorgonian Sea Fan, Red Whip Coral, Table Coral, as well as Anemones, and Giant Clams prove their good condition.
The limestone rocks of the underwater world help you to distinguish better such contrast creatures like Banded Sea Snake, Bamboo Shark, and Nurse Shark. Leopard Shark tends to have the best camouflage with black spots over the yellow body, and the chance of seeing it at Koh Phi Phi is very high.
You will have a chance to admire the creativity of Mother Nature shown in such crustaceans like Durban Dancer Shrimp, Harlequin Shrimp, Cleaner Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, Porcelain Crab as well as small fish like Ghost Pipefish and Seahorse. Do not neglect to a large variety of Morays living near Koh Phi Phi like Zebra, White Eye, Whitemouth, and Honeycomb.
There are dive clubs offering daily diving trips directly from Koh Phi Phi Don. So it makes sense to stay there. You can reach most of the places within a short walk. Most of the dive centers are separated from hotels and are grouped close to Ao Tonsai Pier.
A liveaboard is also a good option especially if you want concentrate solely on the diving.
Holiday Inn Resort Phi Phi Island
This hotel is situated on Laem Tong Bay in the northern part of Koh Phi Phi Don. Some of the ferries go directly to that beach from the mainland. If you arrive at the other side of the Island at Ao Ton Sai Pier, you will need to take a ride on a long-tail boat (about 35 min.). There are all the needed facilities which you might expect from a 4-star resort, including 2 pools with open-air Jacuzzis, Kid’s club, Gym, Massage & Spa procedures, and entertainment programs. There is Sea Bees Diving Club conveniently located on the territory of the Resort.
PP Princess Resort
PP Princess Resort occupies a spot in the narrowest part of Koh Phi Phi Don. You can choose to go either to Ton Sai Bay or to Loh Dalam Bay on different sides of the isthmus. The facilities of the Resort will ensure a good rest after a diving day. They include a pool with a pool bar, a restaurant on the territory as well as close location to other restaurants and bars of the Island.
Usually, the liveaboard operators offer 2-3 days trips to Koh Phi Phi including about 8-12 dives. The most typical itinerary will cover the best dive sites of Bida Islands and King Cruiser Wreck. You’d better check in advance if the boat is to visit Anemone Reef and Shark Point.
Deep Andaman Queen
Deep Andaman Queen can take up to 21 guests on board. She is 28m (91 ft.) long vessel servicing up to 21 guests. The Master Cabin has plenty of space and panoramic views. The boat serves not only Koh Phi Phi, but Surin Islands, Similan Islands, and the Mergui Archipelago as well.
Flying Seahorse is a 24m (78 ft.) long liveaboard for 17 guests. A Zodiac helps to reach the needed dive sites. The itineraries include Kon Phi Phi and other main Thailand dive destinations.
A famous sailing yacht “The Junk” serves Koh Phi Phi as well as the main Similan dive sites. It is 33m (108 ft.) long built for 18 guests. You might be surprised not to find a dive deck on that yacht. But there are Zodiacs attached to the liveaboard to help you with the dives.
Other activities for non-divers
If you do not want to leave the archipelago without visiting ‘The Beach’ (Maya Bay) from the eponymous Leonardo DiCaprio movie, then you should join a half day or full day snorkel trip. Departing early morning or an hour before the sunset might be a good idea as most of the other touristic boats will arrive later in the day. Banded Sea Snakes are often seen at this site since it contrasts well with the limestone bottom.
There are plenty of other sites where you can snorkel in shallow waters near Phi Phi, including the likes of Bamboo Island and Hin Klang. Some of the dive clubs even offer night snorkeling tours in the nearby area.
Koh Phi Phi is famous for its Rock Climbing. There are special schools and shops where you can rent the equipment. So it might be a good idea to memorize the Islands through a Fisheye under the water and a Bird’s-eye view from the rocks.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Koh Phi Phi travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!