The popular movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, put Koh Phi Phi firmly on the map. Since then, it has become one of the most popular destinations in Thailand. The six islands that comprise Koh Phi Phi offer beautiful beaches, bays, and dramatic rock formations that attract tourists looking for both adventure and relaxation. A national marine park, the waters around Koh Phi Phi are also a diver’s paradise. The stunning limestone walls and shallow coral gardens are home to an abundance of marine life. The boat diving here will please beginner and experienced divers alike. Here, we take a look at some of the best scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi.
The southernmost island of Phi Phi offers one of the best dive sites in the area. Bida Nok, or “Outer Father,” is a small limestone island that juts out above the ocean. Below the surface, the island’s cliff face drops down to 92 feet (28 m). Colorful soft corals cling to it, offering some stunning wall diving. The topography of the dive site is varied, with sandy bottoms, sloping reefs, and small caves.
Bida Nok has one of the biggest concentrations of fish in the region. Large schools of trevally, snapper, and tuna are often present. Octopus, moray eels and lobsters hang around in the overhangs and crevices while the sandy areas hide blue-spotted stingrays and cuttlefish, as well as the occasional leopard shark or blacktip reef shark. Divers of all levels will enjoy the variety that Bida Nok offers.
The “Inner Father” island of Bida Nai may not have the diversity of Bida Nok but it still serves up some great diving. The site is slightly more challenging with boulders and swim-throughs to traverse. Sea whips and blooming gorgonian sea fans cover the northern wall. A coral outcrop called Fantasy Reef is awash with lionfish, trumpetfish, filefish, and well-hidden scorpionfish.
The massive schools of jacks are a sight to behold as they make continual attacks on hundreds of bait fish. Bida Nai is also one of the best sites in Koh Phi Phi to spot hawksbill turtles and, if you’re diving at the right time of year, keep an eye out in the blue for passing whale sharks.
Just outside of the main harbor of Phi Phi Don,the largest island in the group, is Hin Dot. Otherwise known as “Chimney Rock,” this site consists of three pinnacles submerged below the surface. The main chimney bottoms out at 100 feet (30 m) and has distinct shelves further up, making it an ideal choice for multi-level dives.
Clams and oysters can lurk around the lower depths as well as nurse sharks, which like to rest on the sandy bottom. Vibrant purple and orange soft corals adorn the walls of the pinnacles, attracting snappers, barracuda, and macro-worthy ghost pipefish. Hiding in the nooks and crannies of the shallower areas you’ll find crabs, shrimp, small lobsters, and different kinds of nudibranchs.
On the west side of Koh Phi Phi Leh is Maya Bay, famous for its starring role in “The Beach.” This idyllic and iconic area is popular with snorkelers wanting a piece of paradise. So popular, in fact, that environmental concerns have meant that the bay is now closed indefinitely.
Outside of the bay, a wall stretches to the north and south, dropping down to around 100 feet (30 m). Covered in hard coral, the wall is home to Moorish idols, wrasse, bannerfish and many other reef fish. Swim-throughs and caves filled with glassfish are a playground for advanced divers. At the northernmost point of the wall, divers will find blacktip reef sharks circling around 33 feet (10 m).
Nui Bay is situated on the northwest coast of Phi Phi Don. Two giant limestone rocks sit in front of the bay, making for an enjoyable shallow dive. Toward the west is a wall that descends to a depth of 65 feet (20 m), where there’s loads of exploring to do with some exciting swim-throughs. Sweetlips, seahorses, and ghost pipefish are just some of the species you can spot. Nui Bay is also a popular hangout for turtles.
Meaning ‘sunken rock,’ Hin Jom is one of the lesser-known dive sites in the area. Located off Koh Yung (Mosquito Island), the rock stretches 89 feet (27 m) below the surface. This makes it one of the deeper dives in the area. Stingrays are common, along with huge schools of jacks, fusiliers, and barracuda.
Cobia fish, resembling sharks, are also present on many dives. One of the unique things to see at Hin Jom are the unusual sea fans with black branches and white polyps. They can grow over 6.5 feet (2 m) tall.
Hidden in the middle of the ocean, 1.25 miles (2 km) from Phi Phi Don, is Garang Heng. This seamount, whose top lies 15 feet (5 m) below the surface, is difficult to spot without GPS. Many dive centers will not venture to this remote location, making Garang Heng a very special dive site.
The reef is made up of soft and hard coral. Anemones, sea fans, and barrel sponges provide the ideal habitat for small reef fish like glassfish and fusiliers. These attract larger predators and it’s common to see leopard sharks and yellowtail barracuda. Banded sea snakes are also common on Garang Heng.
Loh Samah Bay
Next to Maya Bay, on the south of Phi Phi Leh, is Loh Samah Bay. This is another area popular with snorkelers. An inlet at the mouth of the bay provides divers with some pretty reefs to explore. It’s quite a shallow dive at around 65 feet (20 m), but this allows divers the chance to circle the inlet on a single cylinder.
At 50 feet (15 m) there’s a canyon where you will find soft corals, gorgonian sea fans, clams, cuttlefish, giant moray eels and octopus. Liveaboards in the area use Loh Samah for night diving. Being sheltered, the bay is a great place to see bioluminescent algae. It also provides the opportunity to see moray eels hunting.
Phi Phi Shark Point
Shark Point is sometimes called Hin Bida to distinguish it from Phuket’s famous Shark Point dive site. Hin means rock in Thai, and the main rock of Hin Bida consists of five finger-like pinnacles. They break the surface and descend down to a sandy bottom between 50 to 65 feet (15 to 20 m).
Barrel sponges are plentiful and hide numerous scorpionfish. Colorful anemones mean clownfish are resident. Plume worms, feather stars, and giant clams also make this rocky outcrop their home. One of the main reasons to dive Phi Phi Shark Point is the number of leopard sharks that populate the shallow waters.
Kled Gaeow wreck
In March 2014, the ex-naval gunship, Kled Gaeow, was purpose-sunk off the coast of Phi Phi Don. Sitting at 86 feet (26 m) it should be on every advanced diver’s to-do list. The ship itself is 155 feet (47 m) long with a wheelhouse situated at 45 feet (14 m).
Kled Gaeow has quickly become host to a variety of local marine life. Huge lionfish and scorpionfish occupy the railings and staircases. The wheelhouse is populated with yellow and white snapper. The deck offers sightings of porcupinefish and frogfish. Large schools of trevally and glassfish hang around the tower and stairs. Sharks and barracuda drift past out in the blue.
A firm favorite with experienced divers, Hin Daeng is 37 miles (60 km) off the coast of Phi Phi Don. The drop-off reaches down to 197 feet (60 m), so good depth control is essential. Titan triggerfish, black coral shrimp, and morays are some of the species to spot when deep.
Dendronephthya crabs, mantis shrimp, and long-nosed hawkfish all populate the shallower waters. Schools of snapper and barracuda make way for gray reef and bull sharks. Out in the blue, manta rays, whale sharks, and other shark breeds are often present. Hin Daeng is home to practically every species found in the Andaman Sea.
When’s the best time for scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi?
Koh Phi Phi is great for scuba diving all year round. February to May offer the warmest water temperatures of 85 F (29-30 C). The coldest months are December and January, when temperatures drop to 80 F (27 C).
November to January brings monsoons from the northeast. During these months, diving mostly takes place on the western sides of the Phi Phi islands, as they provide more shelter. Southwest monsoon season occurs from late May to October. The sea can be rough, with big surface swells. Visibility falls by around 25 percent.
However, even during monsoon seasons, the sun still shines on Koh Phi Phi making for comfortable diving conditions. It would be very rare for a shop to cancel a dive due to bad weather.
The best time to visit Koh Phi Phi for diving is February through to April. Not only are the waters at their warmest but they are also at their calmest. Tourist numbers are fewer as well, making dive sites less crowded. And if that’s not enough of a reason, February to April is also whale shark and manta ray season.