Scuba Diving & Snorkelling on Koh Phangan

Whale sharks can be spotted quite often.

Koh Phangan is blessed with a litany of scuba diving sites around the island which offer beginners a safe place to learn and also something more challenging for experienced enthusiasts. Koh Phangan’s nearest dive sites are located on the island’s southwest, west and north coasts, with most being to the west.

There are plenty of enthralling reefs just a few metres from the beach which are easily accessible by both snorkellers and those embarking on PADI courses, while Ang Thong Marine National Park and all of Koh Tao’s pristine dive sites are just minutes away by speedboat.

Koh Ma is the island’s finest dive site with abundant coral and sealife, although there is also a vast array of reef-dwelling fish around the island, especially off Ban Tai reef. Many divers stay on Koh Phangan and then travel with the dive tours to the Koh Tao dive sites such as Chumporn pinnacles, Sail Rock and islands off the marine national park.

If you prefer snorkelling you can still join the dive boats whose operators will provide equipment and safety briefings. You can also rent or borrow snorkelling equipment form many of the islands resorts and rental companies, or purchase your own.

Although it is not nearly as famous for marine life as its nearby sister of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan has decent fine hard and soft coral which is inhabited by a wide variety of fish plus sharks and the occasional turtle.

Common species include damselfish, large and small groupers, angelfish, goatfish, wrasse, parrotfish, anemonefish and snapper to name but a few. But Koh Phangan scuba divers also have a good chance of spotting stingray, large barracuda, tuna, cuttlefish and mackerel.

Popular Snorkelling and Diving Spots in Koh Phangan

Koh Ma is a tiny island connected to the northwest of Koh Phangan by a sandbar and offers a huge variety of colourful fish and coral. Although its best known as a Koh Phangan snorkelling spot, the steeply shelves of hard and soft coral cuttlefish can also be explored by novice scuba divers. Schooling fish, barracuda, bannerfish and large groupers are common here.

Mae Had is another popular Koh Phangan scuba diving site with maximum depths up to 15 metres. It boasts a long graduated coral reef dive plus diverse reef species amongst the hard corals. The reef at Ao Chao Phao is just 100 metres from the beach and the drop off attracts a wide variety of marine life including some large species.

Haad Salad offers a relaxed coral reef dive amongst calm waters plus an excellent range of hard corals that boast lots of reef fish up 14 metres in depth. And the larger Haad Yao nearby offers similar terrains off its shore which is accessible to both snorkellers and scuba divers in Koh Phangan.

The small island of Koh Tae Nok situated immediately off the southern coast of the island near Thong Sala is a popular Koh Phangan diving site offering hard and soft corals, lots of tropical fish and even the odd reef shark.

Haad Khom is a popular Koh Phangan snorkelling spot owing to the extensive array of living coral that protects its bay from open seas and the great visibility that results. Many dive schools visit the area, especially from close-by Chaloklum Bay, and it’s one of the better spots on the island to see a breadth of marine life.

Sailrock is without question the Thai Gulf’s most famous area for marine life and easily accessible on Koh Phangan scuba diving excursions as well as Koh Tao. All levels of divers from novices to experienced enthusiasts will thoroughly enjoy diving here, with the spectacular rock rising proudly out of the water creating a dive wall with a maximum depth of 40 metres. Koh Phangan scuba divers here will get to experience a wide variety of marine life, stunning rock formations plus the legendary ‘chimney’ swim-through tunnel.

Ang Thong National Marine Park: The National Marine Park around Koh Phangan was the inspiration for Alex Garland’s backpacker treatise The Beach and is made up of 42 pristine tropical islands. The park also offers some of the most colourful and undamaged coral in the whole of the Kingdom, and is rightly a mecca for divers craving diverse marine life and stunning underwater rock formations.

Boat trips to Ang Thong take around two hours from Koh Phangan, with the best diving towards the northernmost extreme of the park. Here divers get their best opportunity to see rarer creatures of the Thai Gulf such as turtles and seasnakes, but there are also other points of interest such as two-metre giant hydroids and black corals. There are depths here of up to 30 metres.

Ang Thong is not so much about huge drop-offs, but gradual shelving with special features such as swim throughs, outcroppings and shallow caverns. And the best thing about scuba diving in Ang Thong Marine National park is that it is a thrilling experience for all levels from novice to expert, and is also easily accessible to snorkellers as well.