Phang Nga province could well be Thailand's most scenic, both above the waves and below them. The huge bay formed by the province and its neighbor Krabi is full of fantastic rock stacks sheltering hidden lakes and lagoons. While to the west the ocean is full of some tiny deserted islands surrounded by great dive sites. In between is a lush jungle, much of which is a national park.
The jewel in the crown of Phang Nga dive sites is the Similan Islands, a chain of nine islands, and not a few rocks, around which are arguably some of Thailand's best. However, it's worth noting that most of these sites are closed during the monsoon season, from May to October.
Khao Lak is a very scenic beach area on the mainland of Phang Nga province, close to the Similan Islands. It was one of the hardest-hit areas of Thailand by the 2005 tsunami, but is now more or less fully recovered. The resort area has numerous accommodations to chose from, and makes a good base if you don't like liveaboards, or want to spend some time relaxing before or after your cruise.
There are several dive shops in the area, where you can get kitted up, book a tour, or even learn to dive.
While most divers head out to the Similan Islands or beyond, there are a few good dive sites closer to shore. One that seems especially worth noting is the Boonsung wreck. Sunk in 1984, the tin ore processor lies about 12 to 18 meters down.
The best dive sites of the north Andaman are far enough out to sea that liveaboards are generally the best option. You can choose from cruises that leave from Phuket or Tap Lamu harbor in Khao Lak. It is possible to get to some sites as a day trip from Khao Lak, but you'll be spending two to three hours, at least, getting to the dive site and another two or three to get back.
Getting to Khao Lak
Khao Lak remains somewhat inaccessible, which is part of its charm for many people. The beach lies about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Phuket, which is the closest airport. There was talk of building an airport in Phang Nga province, but these plans where shelved after the December 2004 tsunami wiped out much of the tourist infrastructure in the area.
For now, the best way to get to Khao Lak is to fly to Phuket, then arrange for ground transfer to Khao Lak. Many of the better resorts offer complementary transfers from Phuket airport. If you want to arrange your own transportation, a limousine service from the Phuket airport will set you back 2,500 Baht. There's also a van service, which costs about 800 Baht. However, Phuket taxis have a bit of a reputation problem, with many reports of stops at tour agencies and other rip-offs. I've heard good things about Khao Lak Taxi, which has competitive rates for airport transfers.
Hotels & Resorts
There are dozens of places to stay around Khao Lak, from tourist-class hotels, to luxury resorts. Our partners have a large selection of Khao Lak / Phang Nga area accommodations, at the best prices, on the web.
Khao Lak Dive Shops
There are dozens of dive shops, schools and tour operators in Khao Lak - seems like too many to me - but many of them are just booking agents for other operators. Here's a small list of a few that we've heard good things about.
- Big Blue Diving
- Big Blue, which also has branches on Koh Tao, is the other long-established dive shop in Khao Lak. They have speed boats for day-trips as well as a live-aboard.
- Sea Dragon Dive Center
- Nearly 20 years old, Sea Dragon is and English-Swiss operated dive shop. They are a PADI 5 Star IDC and a DAN supporter. They provide the usual for Khao Lak - day trips, live-aboards, training andother services.