If you enjoy wreck diving, if you prefer to escape from noisy and crowded Phuket, and to be located close to the starting point of most of the liveaboards in Thailand, then Khao Lak is the best location for you.
Some of the dive sites are perfect for beginners to practice and advance their wreck skills. Besides, these artificial reefs have become home for a large variety of the Andaman Sea fish. Whether you are taking a Deep Dive Course, a Nitrox Course or would like to practice your technical diver skills, then there are a few spots for you as well.
Khao Lak covers about 20km (12 miles) of the Southern Thailand coast. The easiest way to get there is from Phuket which is situated about 100 km (62 miles) to the south. You can arrange a transfer by taxi, bus or mini-van.
Though the water is warm it might be useful to take gloves for dives at Khao Lak, they will protect you if you try to hold on the wreck.
Officially you can go to the dive sites not far from the Khao Lak’s shore all the year round. However, as Similan National Park and Surin National Park close between June and October due to the monsoon season it might be not the best idea to arrive at this rainy and windy season. Moreover, most of the liveaboards leave this area and some of the dive clubs cease operation during the wet season.
Dive Map of Khao Lak
Best dive sites overview
Boonsung used to be a 60m (196ft.) long tin dredger. It sank in 1985, so there was plenty of time for soft corals to settle all around the artificial reef. Though 2004 tsunami broke the wreck into 5 pieces it only made it more interesting for divers of all levels. It is not allowed to penetrate the wreck because of sharp protruding parts.
The wreck stays on the sand with the maximum depth of 20m (65ft.) and her highest point is at 14m (45ft.). This dive site can be reached within 30 minutes by a speedboat from Khao Lak. As it is not far from the shore do not expect great visibility. Usually, it is about 5-10m (16-32ft.) with gentle currents. Nonetheless, the “fish nursery” around the wreck will excite you.
Try to spot Yellow and Bluestripe Snapper, Porcupinefish, Yellowtail Barracuda, Lionfish, Trevally, and Scorpionfish. Often you can find Cuttlefish, Crocodilefish, and Stingrays on the sandy area between the sections of the wreck. Look for a variety of Morays in the crannies, like Leopard, Zebra, and White-eyed Morays. If you take a closer look at the holes or at the soft corals you might be able to distinguish Mantis Shrimp, Pipefish, Goby, and Nudibranch.
Another old mining station formed Premchai Wreck when it sank in 2001. It is said that it was sunk on purpose to provide more spots for recreational diving around Khao Lak. It is located not far from Thai Muang Beach. The wreck can be recommended for all divers.
It settles at the depth of 22m (72ft.) on the sand going up to 12m (39ft.). The visibility is not very good because of the coastal tide influence. You should expect 5-10m (16-32ft.).
There is a line attached to the buoy to get in and out. If you take a closer look you will find small Mussels on the line surrounded by Juvenile Fish. From time to time Turtle is spotted near the buoy. Get ready to meet Lionfish, Scorpionfish, Snappers, Barracudas, Banded and Leopard Morays, Angelfish, Boxfish, and Pipefish.
Do not try to penetrate the wreck as there are many nets and cables.
Khao Lak Wreck Park
There are several US military ships which were deliberately sunk not far from Khao Lak thus creating Khao Lak Wreck Park. The first vessel was 98m (321ft.) long HMTS Prathong 715. She was sunk in 2013. She used to be a US military ship during the Second World War. The next one was T13 patrol boat which was sunk in 2014.
The maximum depth at T13 dive site is 15-18m (49-59 ft.), her upper deck is located at 8m (26m), so the dive is good for beginners.
Both wrecks are quite new and not much inhabited by the soft corals, but they already attract wildlife and divers.
Sea Chart 1 Wreck
Sea Chart 1 used to be an 84m (275ft.) long cargo ship. She sank due to bad weather conditions in 2009 during the transportation of teak wood from Myanmar to Vietnam. All crew and passengers were saved. The transfer to the dive site takes about 1 hour.
As the average depth of the dive is 24m (78ft.), the wreck is recommended only for advanced, Nitrox and technical divers. The maximum depth is 40m (131ft.) and you can face medium currents. The visibility in average is 10m (32ft.). You can examine the cargo on the sandy bottom, propeller, and wheelhouse.
Besides beautiful small staff like Nudibranchs, Octopus, and Ghost Pipefish there is a chance to find Frogfish on the ledgers. Be careful with Lionfish around. Barracudas are usually waiting for you near the buoy line.
Best dive season
It is best to arrive between February and April at Khao Lak as for most Thai dive destinations. The dry season ensures warm and calm waters.
The average temperature during the dry season is 28-31ºC (82-87ºF). The visibility at Khao Lak is about 10m (32ft.). The coat of Khao Lak is sandy and there is no house reef that is why snorkeling is not recommended here.
Khao Lak’s wrecks provide an overview of different pelagic fish typical for this area, like Yellow Snapper, Yellowtail Barracuda, and Batfish. A large number of Lionfish and Scorpionfish is usually living on the wrecks so you should take care not to touch any of them.
Other typical inhabitants will be schools of Glassfish, Fusiliers, Nudibranchs, and various species of Morays. At some dive sites, you might be lucky to spot rare guests or inhabitants like Turtle, Frogfish, and even Manta Ray.
You can find any type of accommodation at Khao Lak depending on your requests. Though it might be a good idea to stay at a Diving Resort integrated with a Dive Center.
Palm Garden Resort Khao Lak
This Dive Resort is serviced by See Bees Diving. There are 10 bungalows hidden in a tropical garden. Each bungalow has its own terrace with a hammock and a separate room for diving equipment drying. There is a 3m pool with a waterfall and Jacuzzi specifically built for diving courses. The Resort also offers Spa treatments and a library.
JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort and Spa
If you prefer to spend a few days at Khao Lak beach in a 5-star Resort than JW Marriott is the one for you. It can hardly disappoint you with 5 restaurants, 3 bars, and on-site Water sports center. The Resort is also serviced by See Bees Diving. If you are not yet tired of sports, you can also enjoy a tennis court, squash, and a fitness center. Free WiFi is provided in all areas of the Resort.
Khao Lak serves as a gateway for many liveaboards with itineraries to Similan Islands, Surin Islands, and the Mergui Archipelago. Among the most famous liveaboards, there are “The Junk”, “DiveRACE Class E”, “Giamani”, and “Thailand Aggressor”.
Other activities for non-divers
Take your time to explore Khao Sok National Park which is situated within 2-hour bus transfer from Khao Lak. You will have a chance to see one of the oldest rainforests of the World together with Gibbons, Elephants, Tapirs, and even Tigers at this unique Park.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Khao Lak travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!
Coral Reef Discovered
Marine scientists are surveying the extent of an uncharted reef off Tai Muang, Phang Nga, which they believe covers an area of at least four square kilometres – far larger than any previously known reef in the region. However, the discovery of the new reef also brings challenges – to protect and manage the latest pearl in the Andaman Sea.
Khun Songpol Tippaywong, Head of Marine & Coastal Resources Unit for the WWF, said at a press conference that such a finding is very rare. The Department of Marine Coastal Resources has verified that it is new and not yet listed. He said no dive companies have yet accessed this site, but they could easily reach it from Khao Lak, and scuba divers could dive down the 6-8 metres to find it, just like the fishermen. He was, therefore, reluctant to reveal its exact location.
The discovery in the first week of January followed information given by local fisherman. “We never thought the reef would be so large,” said Khun Songpol, who is a Phang Nga native. “I have never seen a reef that is [even] one kilometre square in Thailand, and so far we have surveyed four square kilometres of this new reef. It is actually bigger; we have yet to survey the exact boundaries.”
Initial quick surveys have identified over 270 hectares of previously unknown relatively healthy reefs with over 30 genera of stony coral, and at least 112 species of fish from 56 families, including the parrotfish Chlorurus rakaura, first discovered in Sri Lanka and never seen in Thailand until now, and a rare sweetlips (Plectorhinchus macrospilus).
Prior to discovering the reef, Tippaywong was working for the WWF on two separately funded projects for conservation. One, a “Green Coast” project, is funded by the Netherlands and the other project was funded by UNEP. Finding an undiscovered coral reef was not part of the plan. “We say it is new coral reef but it has been there for many generations. This coral is not officially included in the coral map of Thailand,” Songpol explained. “This is the reason why it’s a new coral reef because there is no official report of it. During the tin mining period many years ago they possibly considered this area of coral as degraded.” His first reaction was “Marvelous! It was great. Very big and healthy. I never imagined a reef of that size. I thought it would probably be just some patchy coral. It is completely different from Similans, Surins or Richelieu. It is not sloping, but is flatter like a plateau.” He said the condition of the reef was very healthy with only about 1% tsunami damage. He said he has never before seen a reef that is one kilometre wide by one kilometre long in Thailand, although currently, they have surveyed over four square kilometres.
Unseen in Thailand
Songpol and his team have been back to the reef many times now gathering scientific information. “It is home to species never before seen in Thailand as well as species that are rare and only seen in the Similans. We also found one rock with over 20 individual lobsters. We named that site Lobster Condo.” The staff from National Park provided the boat and support to facilitate our work in the area. The exact location is currently being kept a secret, and Songpol would like to take precautions before revealing the location.
“Right now I don’t tell anyone exactly where it is. We must survey it, and collect all the necessary information, such as the coral status. The exact boundary is probably bigger than this. We consider this as having a good capacity of promoting tourism in the area after having a good management plan. We are in the middle of doing a field survey and collecting scientific data in order to zone the area and put in some mooring buoys.” Songpol explains that there are many challenges to protecting and organizing the management of the reef. “There are a lot of good laws in Thailand. However, the enforcement needs to be more effective. It’s manageable but we have to get involvement from all state authorities and all stakeholders: tour operators, local fishermen, and local communities.” Future plans include improving management strategies, raising awareness among local people, zoning, coral restoration and reintroduction of some rare species, and promoting tourism with participation from local villagers. Already 100 giant clams have been introduced on to the reef. However, he does not see tourism or diving as a threat to the reef. “If we have some regulations like UNEP’s Green Fins and a code of conduct, we can control the carrying capacity or set up some regulations,” he explains. “The dive operators love nature and are willing to help all kinds of conservation activities. I also understand they have to make a profit. We need to get all stakeholders involved in managing natural resources. We cannot do it ourselves or with just one or two authorities. Without participation from locals, dive operators, and tour operators we won’t get any effective management. [For monitoring the reef] I would like to use a camera that takes photos of the same location, either weekly or monthly. This way the growth or degradation can be monitored. I don’t have a pessimist point of view for dive operators because I know that they love nature. They’re relying on the beauty of nature.”