Diving and Snorkeling
Local Dive Sites
Koh Ma is located off the coast of Mae Haad Beach. It is the only designated marine park in Koh Phangan coastal waters. It is great for snorkelling as it is easily reached from the coast. People tend to snorkel rather than dive at Koh Ma because of the convenient location. You can find a profusion of marine life. The most common sights are bannerfish and barracuda. You can, if you are lucky, spot turtles and rays.
The coral reef at Haad Yao is about 400 meters off the coast. Those who make it out to the coral are rewarded with an abundance of things to see such as fusiliers, damsel fish, parrot fish, porcupine fish and if you are lucky, blue spotted manta rays. The coral types include brain corals, barrel sponges and table corals.
The coral reef is just 80 meters off the coast at Haad Salad. Despite a good variety of corals to be found as well as plenty of marine life, Haad Salad is not a favourite with dive companies. It is a shallow dive. Fish you can spot at Haad Salad includes porcupine fish, damsel fish and angel fish.
Dive Sites in Gulf of Thailand
Sail Rock is between Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. It is the only 5 star PADI rated dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. This is the dive site most commonly visited by dive shops in Koh Phangan. It is a rock with a chimney swim through. It is about 20 meters deep around the rock. There is a wonderful profusion of fish to see. However, the star of the show is the whale shark- the largest fish in the world.
Chumphon Pinnacle is a popular dive site just off the coast of Koh Tao. It consists of large underwater shelves. There is a main pinnacle as well as several other pinnacles. There are depths of 35 meters. This site is suitable for advanced divers. At Chumphon Pinnacle it is possible to see bull sharks, reef sharks and whale sharks.
Ang Thong Marine Park consists of a small cluster of islands an hour and a half west of Koh Phangan. It is uninhabited except for park officials and one island which has a community of sea gypsies. Islands soar out of the ocean in craggy limestone outcrops creating hidden coves and beaches. There is also a large inland lake. It is fascinating just to visit the park. For divers Koh Yippon and Koh Wao are the places to head. There are cave swim throughs and the chance of seeing turtles and whale sharks.
Map of Dive Sites
Dive Shops near Mae Haad
There are numerous dive shops on Koh Phangan. It is a great place to take a scuba qualification or go on a fun dive. The water is warm and the prices for diving are cheaper than in Europe, America or Australia. Nearby Koh Tao is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in terms of the amount of people who go to the island to gain their first scuba qualification. Dive shops in Koh Phangan don't have quite the same mentality. Whereas, prices vary in Koh Tao for diving because competition is firece, prices in Koh Phangan vary only by 1,000 Thai Baht or less. A few dive shops, such as Chaloklum Divers, offer discounts on accommodation when you book a dive course. Unlike Koh Tao, it is unusual for free accommodatino to be offered when you sign up for a dive course.
The best way to get a small discount is to do the academics part of a PADI course online using the official PADI website.
Here is a list of dive shops near Mae Haad where you can do a dive course or fun dive along with web addresses. All shops include equipment rental in their price. Many also offer free lunch on the dive boat and transfers between dive shop and resort.
- Haad Yao Divers - www.haadyaodivers.com
- Reefers Dive Resort - www.reefersdiving.com (offers packages that include accommodation)
- Pirate Divers - www.piratediversthailand.com
- Blue Horizon Divers - https://sites.google.com/site/bhorizondivers/
- France Plongee - www.franceplongee.com Uses French divers but can also give lessons in English and Spanish
- Chaloklum Diving - www.chaloklum-diving.com
- The Dive Inn - www.the-diveinn.com
- Sail Rock Divers - www.sailrockdiversresort.com
This is not a complete listing. There are more dive schools in the area. However, the above web addresses will give you a good idea about courses, prices, equipment etc.
Snorkeling in Mae Haad
If you are staying at a resort at Mae Haad you just have to find a snorkel and mask. The cheapest are in Thongsala. You can hire snorkelling equipment at Island View Cabana for 80 Thai Baht an hour (100 THB deposit). It is likely that most resorts in Mae Haad will be able to find you a snorkel set.
Walk down the beach and head north. Especially in the low tidal season from April to November the shoreline is rocky and it is difficult to enter the water. There is one area where the rocks have been cleared to make easy access to deeper waters and the best snorkelling. To find this entry spot follow the signs on the beach.
If you are staying outside of Mae Haad then the first thing to mention is the road. It is flat and not particularly dangerous but there is a sharp turn that catches some drivers a little bit unawares. It is also a dirt road in parts. Most people get to Mae Haad either by taxi or rented motorbike. Mae Haad is less than 20 minutes away by bike from Chaloklum, Haad Salad and Haad Yao.
Snorkeling in Koh Phangan
There is plenty of coral around the coast of Koh Phangan much of it close enough to swim out to from the beach. Other than Koh Ma the most popular places to snorkel off the coast of Koh Phangan are Haad Yao, Haad Salad and Haad Khom (just east of Chaloklum). There is over 10 km of coral that stretches along the west coast from Srithanu up to Mae Haad. By contrast, the east coast of Koh Phangan doesn't have any corals.
Many people join dive boats going to the big dive sites such as Sail Rock and opt to snorkel instead of dive. It is a cheaper option and doesn't require a PADI licence. Most dive shops are happy to take people who want to snorkel on a dive trip.
The other option is to join one of the numerous island boat tours that are advertised on nearly every beach in Koh Phangan. They usually stop at Mae Haad or Haad Khom for snorkeling. Lastly, package tours to Ang Thong Marine Park often include snorkeling.
Remember that if you are organizing your own snorkeling trip to care of the currents. They can often take you farther out than you think. Mae Haad doesn't have any strong currents.
Dive Sites - Local
|Marine park near coast. Nudibranches, bannerfish and barracuda|
|Long coral reef. 600 meters from coast. Parrot fish, damsel fish, fusiliers|
|Shallow dive with porcupine fish, angel fish and damsel fish|
Dive Sites - Gulf
|Chimney swim-through. Only 5 star rated dive site in Gulf of Thailand. Whale sharks.|
|Under water plateau with whale and bull sharks.|
Ang Thong Marine Park
|Cave swim throughs with turtles and whale sharks|