The Complete Guide to Scuba Diving in Ao Nang & Diving in Krabi

Swarm of Fusiliers, a common sight diving in Krabi

Written by Joel

Joel is the Co-Founder and Manager of Sea Gypsy Divers.

January 13, 2021

Want to go diving in Krabi? As a dive shop operating here, we can tell you all you need to know. This article is meant to give a thorough and unbiased account of what to expect on a dive trip in Krabi and Ao Nang, including destinations, dive site profiles, and boat options. We will not limit the information to only tell you about the trips that we offer or destinations we frequent, but instead give a complete profile of all options in this area so you can decide what best suits your needs.

Most dive trips originating in the Ao Nang area of Krabi go to either the dive sites of Koh Phi Phi or the Ao Nang Local Islands. However, there are some other options as well depending on the time of year and boat trip schedules. If you like what you read and want to dive in Krabi, you can see our schedule of trips, or contact us with any questions and we will be more than happy to help you.

The Basics

Ao Nang is a lively tourist destination located on Thailand’s Andaman Coast in Krabi province. Some tourists just pass through on the way to the Koh Phi Phi Islands. But many decide to stay in Ao Nang as well, and for good reason. There are many activities to suit all tastes, in a beautiful setting. Scuba diving is one of the top activities available, both for divers with a lot of experience or those trying for the first time. Starting from Ao Nang, you can experience some of the best diving in Krabi.

There are currently about 10-15 dive schools based in the Ao Nang area of Krabi. Most shops are PADI-affiliated, but there is also representation from other organizations such as SSI and CMAS (March 2019 update: currently there are no SSI schools anymore in the Ao Nang area). Ao Nang is somewhat unique on the Andaman Coast of Thailand, because here you can scuba dive year-round. The best diving in Krabi is generally from November to May, with flat seas and visibility up to 30 meters. From June to October is rainy season, where conditions can be slightly more unpredictable. Water temperature ranges from 27-30 degrees Celsius year-round. The majority of dive trips include two dives at two different sites. It may also be possible to go on a three dive trip.

We will give a detailed overview of diving at the various destinations accessible from the Ao Nang area of Krabi. Feel free to jump around using the links below:

Dive Destination #1 – Koh Phi Phi

Quick Facts:

  • No. of Dive Sites: 20
  • Level: Easy to Advanced
  • Current: Mild
  • Depth: 0-18 meters at most sites, up to 25-30 meters at few sites
  • Visibility: Good (10-20 meters average)
  • Water Temperature: 27-30°C (80-85°F)
  • Sea Life: Blacktip reef sharks, hawksbill sea turtles, giant moray eels, soft corals, big schools of fusiliers, leopard sharks
  • Journey Time from Ao Nang: 2 – 2.5 hours
  • Best Time to Dive: October to May

Dive trips from Ao Nang often go to the beautiful and world-renowned Koh Phi Phi islands. Koh Phi Phi offers some of the best diving in Krabi, considering the quality and variety of dive sites.  It takes a typical dive boat around two and a half hours to reach Phi Phi from Ao Nang.  A speedboat can make the trip in 45 minutes. Here there are as many as 20 distinct dive sites. Most have conditions perfect for beginners, but some other open ocean sites have potentially strong current. Visibility is often good, as the islands offer protection to many sites from prevailing weather conditions. Most dive sites are close to the islands, either the bigger Koh Phi Phi Don or smaller Koh Phi Phi Ley. There are various wall-diving opportunities here, but access to shallow sandy areas also provides ideal conditions for training. A few sites are set away from the islands in the open ocean, including a wreck dive. Although currents can be stronger in the open ocean and visibility more unpredictable, these sites offer fantastic varieties of sea life.

Koh Phi Phi Aerial
The beautiful and world-renowned Koh Phi Phi Islands offer some of the best diving in Krabi

Typical sightings in the Koh Phi Phi area include hawksbill turtles, blacktip sharks, giant moray eels, and huge schools of fusiliers. Many people associate diving in Krabi with leopard sharks.  Although there are not as many as there once were, divers can still spot leopard sharks with frequency at certain sites. Even whale sharks, dolphins, spotted eagle rays, and manta rays have been known to pass through from time to time. Macro life includes many varieties of nudibranch, durban dancing shrimp, banded boxer shrimp, mantis shrimp, pipefish, and even an occasional seahorse. Colorful soft corals blanket many of the sites of Koh Phi Phi as well.

Getting to and from Koh Phi Phi

Different scuba diving shops will have slight variations, but generally this is what you can expect for a trip to Koh Phi Phi. Diving in Krabi, you will typically go on a bigger dive boat, which can fit anywhere from 30-50 divers. It will take around two and a half hours to reach the dive sites. It is typical for a few dive shops to share the same boat. Your dive shop will pick you up at your hotel around 7-7:30am. Typical return time is 4:30-5pm for a two dive day, or 5:30-6pm for a three dive day. Some trips depart from the beach in Ao Nang, which involves being shuttled from a longtail boat to and from the big dive boat. Others leave from Port Takola, a marina located around 15 minutes drive from Ao Nang.

As of the time of this writing, there is no regularly scheduled speedboat trip for diving to Koh Phi Phi, although it would be possible to charter a private speedboat through most dive operators on request. This would shorten the travel time considerably, to around 45 minutes each way.  Chartering a speedboat would open many options for diving in Krabi, even at further sites like Koh Haa.

Key Points of the Big Dive Boat

There are a few big dive boats making the trip to Phi Phi, varying slightly in size and features, but all share some common characteristics. There is generally a lot of space to relax, which is good considering the long journey to Phi Phi. All of these boats should have an indoor dry area, outdoor shaded area, and sunbathing area. The trip will generally include food service (lunch and possibly a light breakfast), fruit, water, electrolytes, and soft drinks. Beer may be available for purchase on some boats, on the way back from diving of course. Boats typically have a designated smoking area away from the other guests. All boats will have at least one marine toilet on board. It is important to remember not to throw paper or any other products into the toilets, as it will go straight into the ocean and pollute the underwater environment. Safety is essential for all dive shops in Krabi, so all boats are equipped with life jackets, emergency flotation, oxygen, and first aid kit.

Dive Sites of Koh Phi Phi

There are over 20 dive sites at Koh Phi Phi. Here you can read about just a few, to get an idea of why Koh Phi Phi offers some of the best diving in Krabi.

Viking Bay

Located off the northeast corner of Koh Phi Phi Ley, Viking Bay is an ideal site for beginners and experienced divers alike. Inside the bay, there is access to shallow sandy areas which are perfect for practicing skills during a course, making sure there is no chance to damage corals. For the fun diver, Viking Bay offers a varied mix of topography and sea life. A typical fun dive could start towards the southern end of the site, where there is an artificial coral reef called The Pyramid. Ranging in depth from about 10-20 meters, The Pyramid is a collection of giant cement blocks piled on top of each other that provide a surface for corals to grow. Started after the devastating 2004 tsunami to help coral regeneration, The Pyramid has seen extensive coral growth and multitudes of fish. Batfish typically find shelter here, along with giant moray eels, scorpionfish, pufferfish, and tiny dancing shrimps for the macro-lovers.

Moving north along the site, divers can explore thriving coral gardens. They start as shallow as 4-5 meters, with some deeper pinnacles reaching over 20 meters depth. Here one can spot hawksbill turtles, pipefish, and many varieties of clownfish (nemo). Usually there is also a school of hundreds of fusiliers which, if approached slowly, can surround divers for a truly surreal experience. Don’t forget to glance in the sand. Hundreds of shrimps and gobis symbiotically coexist all over this site, along with mantis shrimp and blue spotted stingrays. Finally, take a safety stop at the far north end of the site along the wall of the island. Here is one of various places around Phi Phi that you can spot blacktip sharks.

Maya Corner

Sea Turtle
Maya Corner is home to various hawksbill sea turtles

Moving to the western coast of Koh Phi Phi Ley, we can find one of the most famous beaches in the world: Maya Bay. This is the spot Leonardo DiCaprio made famous with the movie The Beach. Exiting the bay and turning just a little north along the coast is the dive site Maya Corner. Another site good for both beginners and experienced divers, Maya Corner provides a decent chance to spot a sea turtle. A number of hawksbill turtles make their home on the shallow ledge at the northern end of the site, around 6 meters deep.

If you are lucky enough to see a turtle, continue by dropping off the ledge sloping down to 18 meters depth. Here you can find colorful soft corals, along with some good macro life. Look here for many shrimp varieties, including durban dancing shrimp, banded boxer shrimp, and mantis shrimp. Bent stick pipefish also reside here. “The finger” is a very nice area of the site, where the reef juts out west in a finger shape, full of sea fans and soft corals. Around here you can usually encounter yet another massive school of fusiliers. Big golden trevally often lurk in the area, waiting for a quick meal. Shallowing up to around 5 meters depth provides another chance to see blacktip sharks, if you’re lucky. Your guide will take care not to get too close to the Maya Bay entrance, where constant speedboat traffic means divers should steer clear.

The Bidas (Bida Nok and Bida Nai)

Off of the far southern tip of Koh Phi Phi Ley rest two small islands known as the Bidas. Bida Nok, the outer island, and Bida Nai, the inner island, provide some of the best diving around the Koh Phi Phi area. Divers can frequently spot blacktip sharks at various shallow water spots around the islands. It is even possible to spot a leopard shark resting in the sand. Bida Nok boasts a massively large school of fusiliers, easily numbering in the thousands. Big trevally often put on spectacular hunting displays, working together to create confusion in the school and catch a quick meal. As well, the macro life is abundant and varied. Many shrimps, pipefish, and nudibranchs make their homes here. Other common sightings at the Bidas are giant moray eels, cuttlefish, barracudas, banded sea snakes, turtles, blue spotted stingrays, pufferfish, and trumpetfish.

Kred Gaeow Wreck

Lionfish on Wreck
Lionfish are a common sight at the Kred Gaeow Wreck

Purposely sunk in 2014, the Kred Gaeow was formerly a Thai Navy transport vessel that now provides a fabulous wreck dive opportunity in the Koh Phi Phi area. Off the east coast of Koh Phi Phi Ley not far from the site Viking Bay, the wreck has seen excellent coral growth during its short time underwater. The shallowest point of the wreck is around 14 meters deep, and extends to around 26 meters at its deepest. The wreck itself is almost 50 meters in length. The depth and conditions mean this site is suitable for Advanced Divers or above. There is an abundance of life, including massive schools of fish hovering over the structure. You can see barracudas, fusiliers, pufferfish, scorpionfish, and lionfish, among many others. Due to its depth and the possibility of moderate currents, the Kred Gaeow serves as an excellent training site for Advanced Open Water students.

Dive Destination #2 – Ao Nang Local Islands

Quick Facts:

  • No. of Dive Sites: 10
  • Level: Easy to Advanced
  • Current: Moderate
  • Depth: 0-20 meters
  • Visibility: Poor (2-12 meters average)
  • Water Temperature: 27-30°C (80-85°F)
  • Sea Life: Bamboo sharks, seahorses, nudibranchs, blue-spotted stingrays, banded sea snakes, barracudas
  • Journey Time from Ao Nang: 30-40 minutes
  • Best Time to Dive: October to May

The Ao Nang local islands provide spectacular scenery which gives this area much of its reputation. Sheer limestone cliffs rise out of the sea to create beauty not easily matched anywhere else in the world. These islands also offer a unique brand of scuba diving in Krabi. Only a 40 minute ride by longtail boat or 10 minute ride by speedboat makes for a quicker journey than Koh Phi Phi. Each small island is generally its own dive site, with approximately 10 sites in the area. Conditions are more unpredictable than Koh Phi Phi. The best visibility is around 15 meters, but oftentimes it is no more than 5 meters. All of the sites have the possibility of moderate to strong current, so always best to check the tide table here.

Ao Nang Local Islands
Two common sights in Ao Nang – longtail boats and beautiful island scenery

For macro-lovers, the Ao Nang local islands provide some of the best macro diving in Krabi. Here are the most varieties of seahorses, nudibranchs, shrimp, and pipefish. It is also possible to spot bamboo sharks hiding in the rocks, and blue-spotted stingrays hiding in the sand. For experienced divers with appropriate qualification, there is the chance to explore impressive caves, caverns, and swim-throughs, some spanning through entire islands. Inside you can see spiny lobsters, banded sea snakes, pickhandle barracuda, and baby blue-spotted stingrays.

Getting to and from Ao Nang Local Islands

If you are diving in Krabi at the Ao Nang local islands, the trip could depart anytime from 7-9am, depending on the operator. Return time is early afternoon. There are a variety of different types of boats that make the trip – longtail boat (cheapest), speedboat (fastest), or big dive boat (most comfortable). Most trips will depart from the local longtail boat pier at Nopparat Thara Beach, within walking distance from Ao Nang Beach. Since the channel is too small for big dive boats to enter, you would need to first hop in a longtail boat for around 5 minutes to reach the big dive boat. Speedboat trips to dive the local islands generally depart from Port Takola, around 15 minutes drive from Ao Nang.

Dive Sites of Ao Nang Local Islands

There are around 10 dive sites at the Ao Nang Local Islands. Here are profiles of just a few, offering some of the best macro and cave diving in Krabi.

Koh Yawabon

The main feature at Koh Yawabon is a tunnel-sized cave swimthrough spanning the entire island. If you are a properly trained cave diver, you should make a point to visit. About 50m long, at a certain point you can actually surface to see brilliant cave formations inside the island. Underwater, the biggest attraction is that the tunnel serves as a nursery for baby blue spotted stingrays. At times they cover the sand completely no matter which direction you look. Also keep an eye out for meter-long pickhandle barracuda who use the cave as a hideout during the day, before hunting at night. Outside the cave, there are plenty of chances to see the macro life that the Ao Nang local islands are known for. Look for seahorses, pipefish, and nudibranchs.

Koh Sii

Koh Sii provides a great opportunity to see a variety of life that the Ao Nang local islands are known for. Only about 15-18 meters at its deepest, go slowly to spot macro life such as seahorses, nudibranchs, bent stick pipefish, and shrimp. Bamboo sharks often hide in the rocks, so go slowly and check carefully in the cracks and crevices. There is a short swimthrough where it is possible to see banded sea snakes and spiny lobster. It may also be possible to spot blacktip reef sharks lurking in the shallows.

Koh Talu

Koh Talu is yet another site at the Ao Nang local islands that has a great swimthrough for qualified divers. As with Koh Yawabon, this one also spans the entire width of the island, but it is considerably shorter. Inside you can spot a unique and beautiful kind of nudibranch, a flabellina variety that is purple and yellow. You might also be able to spot seahorses and bamboo sharks around that area. Keep an eye to the sand for blue spotted stingrays, and be sure to look for macro life, which is abundant. Most of your dive here will be around 12 meters depth or less, allowing for a long dive to enjoy the life on display.

Other Dive Destinations in Krabi

Although most dive trips in Krabi head to either Koh Phi Phi or the Ao Nang Local Islands, there might be the possibility to do some special trips to other destinations, depending on the time of year and boat trip schedules. More than likely, it would only be possible to dive these sites on certain days from the months of November through April. From May to October, these sites are either closed by Thailand’s National Parks Service or largely inaccessible due to rainy season conditions. But if you have the opportunity during the right time of year, each of these destinations offers its own brand of great diving that makes any trip well worth considering.

Shark Point (ASK Cluster)

Quick Facts:

  • No. of Dive Sites: 3
  • Level: Intermediate to Advanced
  • Current: Moderate to Strong
  • Depth: 0-30 meters (King Cruiser 18-30 meters)
  • Visibility: Fair (5-15 meters average)
  • Water Temperature: 27-30°C (80-85°F)
  • Sea Life: Leopard sharks, big schools of barracudas-fusiliers-snapper, rainbow runners, lionfish, scorpionfish, various kinds of moray eels, soft corals, blue spotted stingrays, cuttlefish
  • Journey Time from Ao Nang: 2 hours
  • Best Time to Dive: November to April
Leopard Shark
Leopard Sharks, although not as common as they once were, still reside in the Shark Point Marine Sanctuary

In the open ocean, west of Koh Phi Phi Don and on the way to Phuket, are three excellent dive sites in a small cluster known as the ASK sites. Anemone Reef, Shark Point, and King Cruiser Wreck are each top-notch sites offering superb diving. Located roughly two hours from Ao Nang, the sheer quantity of sea life on display makes these sites one of the top highlights of scuba diving in Krabi.

Conditions can be challenging at times. As these sites are in the open ocean, lacking any protection from land, currents can be strong. Each of the sites runs as deep as 25-30 meters, but at Shark Point and Anemone Reef there are plenty of shallower areas to explore. King Cruiser Wreck, however, is a deep site that should only be reserved for Advanced Divers or divers with prior deep diving experience.

King Cruiser Wreck

The King Cruiser sunk off the west coast of Koh Phi Phi Don in 1997 in an apparent accident after colliding with the shallow pinnacle of Anemone Reef. In the twenty years since, the wreck has been transformed into a thriving reef. Tremendous coral growth, along with the collapse of much of the original vessel, make it hard to define the form of the wreck at times. A mooring line is tied to the shallowest point of the wreck, around 16 meters deep, with the rest of the wreck dropping as deep as 30 meters. From bow to stern it is almost 90 meters in length. The depth, along with sometimes challenging conditions, means this site is suitable for Advanced Divers or above. In addition to the coral growth, thousands of fish have flocked to the area. Divers commonly spot big schools of jacks, barracudas, and snapper. A closer look at the wreck will reveal many scorpionfish trying to blend in to the background. Lionfish reside here as well. If you’re really lucky, an occasional glance up just might reveal a passing whale shark.

Shark Point

Some people claim that Shark Point got its name from the possibility to see leopard sharks resting in the sand. Others say that the small rock sticking up from the north end of the site resembles a shark fin, hence the name. However it got its name, Shark Point is one of the best dive sites that Krabi has to offer. A dive here will generally begin at Shark Point 1, the pinnacle easily marked by the “shark fin” rock sticking out of the water. The outer edge of the reef drops to around 18 meters, meaning Open Water Divers can enjoy this site in its entirety. After taking a lap around Shark Point 1, swim south through the sand for a short distance before encountering Shark Point 2. This pinnacle, completely submerged underwater and rising to a depth of around 8 meters, is covered in beautiful soft corals. The sandy areas around boast many stingrays. And if you get lucky, watch out for a resting leopard shark nearby. Massive schools of fusiliers and snappers circle the shallower areas of the pinnacle. If you continue swimming south, you will encounter Shark Point 3, with artificial coral reef and more soft corals covering the pinnacle. Legend has it that there is even Shark Point 4, 5, 6, etc. No matter which area you explore here, it is a truly spectacular dive site that is a highlight of diving in Krabi.

Anemone Reef

As its name suggests, this site boasts loads of anemones on its submerged pinnacles. Although it is a smaller site relative to the other two, the amount and variety of life makes this site well worth exploring. The majority of the site is made up of a single underwater pinnacle, reaching around 20 meters at its deepest and rising to 5 meters at its shallowest. The depth makes the site accessible for Open Water Divers, but the open ocean setting means currents can be quite strong, typical of open ocean diving in Krabi. Anemone Reef is located near the King Cruiser wreck west of Koh Phi Phi Don (the King Cruiser sank after colliding with the top of the reef). The site is home to some unique kinds of moray eels, such as white-eyed and fimbriated morays. Leopard sharks have been spotted at Anemone Reef, along with seahorses, and of course numerous clownfish to occupy the anemones.

Koh Haa

Quick Facts:

  • No. of Dive Sites: 10
  • Level: Easy to Advanced
  • Current: Mild to Moderate
  • Depth: 0-30+ meters
  • Visibility: Excellent (20-30 meters average)
  • Water Temperature: 27-30°C (80-85°F)
  • Sea Life: Giant moray eels, scorpionfish, stonefish, barracudas, hawksbill sea turtles, possibility of big species like whale shark, manta ray, and eagle ray
  • Journey Time from Ao Nang: 3.5 hours
  • Best Time to Dive: November to April

Koh Haa in Thai means five islands, and – you guessed it – there are a cluster of five islands with many excellent dive sites in this marine park. The Koh Haa sites are famous for great visibility. You can often get visibility of 25 meters or more in this area. The trip from Ao Nang is quite long – around 3.5 hours each way – but the unique dive sites that are accessible to all levels of divers make the trip worthwhile to consider. Koh Haa is designated as a Marine National Park, and it is generally closed from May to October.

There are roughly 10 sites in the area of Koh Haa. Most trips would visit the site Koh Haa Yai, which translates to “The Big Island”, and which features a brilliant cavern/cathedral. It is a large and well-lit cavern that is accessible to divers of any level. Some other sites are Koh Haa Sam (“Island Three”), providing a wide area for experienced divers to explore, along with a shallow lagoon which is perfect for snorkelers and beginner divers. At Koh Haa Nung (“Island One”) there is a chimney swim through with various entrance and exit points.

There is a wide variety of life on display at each of the Koh Haa dive sites. Barracudas, giant moray eels, scorpionfish, and even stonefish, and the elusive ghost pipefish all reside here. You can sometimes see a hawksbill sea turtle munching on some soft corals. Take an occasional glance out into the blue for a chance to see a big pelagic species passing by. Lucky divers at Koh Haa have seen whale sharks, eagle rays, and even manta rays. Don’t forget about the macro life, either. Underwater photographers can have a field day with the variety of small creatures you can see here.

Hin Daeng / Hin Muang

The world-class dive sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang (Red Rock and Purple Rock) are most often accessed from Koh Lanta Island, which is the closest hub from which you can make the trip. Still, even from there, the boat trip by big dive boat is over 3 hours each way. Add to that the fact that Koh Lanta is a roughly 2 hour car ride from Ao Nang, and you are looking at an extremely long day if you start from here. That said, if you don’t mind 4am wakeups and a lot of travel time, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are some of the best dive sites Thailand has to offer.

First and foremost, you should only consider diving these sites as a minimum Advanced Diver with substantial experience. Although the sites start out shallow, they drop to an excess of 60 meters in depth. Being unprotected sites in the open ocean, currents can be very strong.

As far as sea life, these sites are famous for the big stuff. Although never guaranteed, manta rays and whale sharks do pass through from time to time, and many a lucky diver has been able to spot these magnificent creatures here. The underwater pinnacles are blanketed by colorful soft corals. Fish swarm in abundance, with large schools of glass fish and snapper being hunted by rainbow runners and trevally.

As is the case with Koh Haa, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are inside a Marine National Park area which is closed from May to October. During other months, there are some three dive trips leaving from Koh Lanta which stop at each place – Hin Daeng, Hin Muang, and Koh Haa. It would be hard to find a better day of diving in Thailand outside of the Similan Islands.

Final Thoughts

With year-round accessibility, wide varieties of life on display, and dive sites suitable for all levels, diving is a fantastic activity to consider during your trip to Krabi. Dive shops are generally located in the Ao Nang area, offering daily dive trips to Koh Phi Phi and the Ao Nang Local Islands. There are some other special destinations which are accessible during certain times, depending on seasonality and boat schedules. We hope this information has been helpful as you consider planning your scuba diving trip in the Ao Nang area. We are more than happy to help with any questions you may have, so feel free to contact us if you would like any more information. Maybe we will see you here for some great diving in Krabi!

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