Most divers pass-over the opportunity to dive off the beach on Chaweng Reef in Koh Samui in favor of the clear waters of Koh Tao and Sail Rock. They don’t believe that there could possibly be anything worth seeing in this unlikely location.
Strangely, Chaweng Reef is one of my favorite places to dive. The obvious detractions are actually part of what makes me like it.
Chaweng Reef has a maximum depth of 6-8m (18-25 ft), some would say that this depth could be snorkeled and it’s hardly worth using a tank. I love this shallow depth because I can stay down as long as my air lasts, and take my time! It’s a no-rush no-stress dive and the lower visibility forces me to go slower and really look at things. Every time I dive here I find something new.
Along the beautiful white sands of Chaweng Beach, Chaweng Reef has the obvious concentration of marine life. The reef runs parallel to the north end of the beach, just 50 meters offshore and ends in front of Chaweng Gardens Beach Resort (The best place to gain access to the outside of the reef, which is the place to dive). The reef consists of a surprising variety of hard corals on jumbled boulders. There’s barrel sponges, anemones, giant tridacna clams and even a new yellow gorgonian seafan. Fish are plentiful; needlenose, pocket and seven-stripe butterflyfish, bannerfish, squirrelfish, schools of yellowtail barracuda and many many porcupine fish, pufferfish and boxfish. Sergeant majors and damselfish swarm around divers in the hope of a hand-out and schools of parrotfish and rabbitfish grazing on algae and seaweed flee from approaching divers.
My favorite time to dive here is in the summer (March-October) the water is flat calm and warm, usually about 30 degrees centigrade or higher and the visibility averages about 5 meters. I’ll find a buddy and walk into chest-deep water and then descend at the rocks marking the start of the reef. Swimming along between the reef and the sand I can spot the timid glassy eyes of porcupine fish peering out at me from under rocks, and the watchful well disguised shapes of small rays concealed beneath the sand. A school of sergeant majors follows me for a while in the hope that I brought some bread for them. We continue like this until one of us is down to half a tank of air, usually after 30 minutes or more. We then turn around and slowly make our way back to the beach, this time swimming a little bit higher on the reef to get a different view of things.
Chaweng Reef also offers excellent night diving opportunities. There is tons of phosphorescence and plenty of crabs and shrimps. It is also common to see blue-spotted stingrays, big pufferfish and cuttlefish.
There is another dive to do off the beach at Chaweng which, in terms of sheer delight, is a new discovery. I would have to rank it my very favorite! After diving on Chaweng Reef about 1,000 times my husband and I began to wonder what was out in the sand in the center of the bay. One day we decided to find out. We imagined that it would be homogenous sand but we were surprised to find many distinct zones. Setting-off from the beach the bottom is made-up of boring basic sand. In this sand, it is easy to find stingrays, the occasional garden eel and a strange worm that makes volcano shaped mounds in the sand. Further out are bands of short sea grass, then buried brittle stars with just their arms sticking-out from beneath the sand and finally an area populated by oysters. Interspersed among these areas are interesting orange and purple sponges, sea pens and anemones with lovely saddleback anemonefish. Newly hatched squid, cuttlefish and octopus are especially cute and easy to find. There are many diverse organisms and species never found on the reef, such as fantastic pink sea cucumbers, tiny skates, eels, wonderful varieties of urchins and my favorites, the nudibranch. Nudibranchs are sea slugs of the most amazing variety of shapes and colors. Their gills are actually exposed on their backs like delicate little trees waving in the water. Nudibranch means naked gills.
The most easily recognizable area is the “junkyard.” This is a narrow strip approximately 150 meters off-shore where all sorts of junk are deposited by water movement. The best thing about this area is that all the masks and snorkels and sunglasses and fins lost in the past year are conveniently deposited here for us to re-claim! We’ve also found wallets and paper money and we are still looking for a pair of sunglasses with a gold and diamond keeper chain which a tourist reported lost a few years ago.
If you’re looking for an easy, no-fuss dive experience then Chaweng Reef or Bay can provide an excellent fun-dive. Don’t pass it up just because it’s small. Chaweng Reef is a laid-back dive site for easy-going divers. It doesn’t take an exhausting full day trip to make new discoveries.