The underwater world is amazing with colorful tropical fish in all sizes and beautiful coral gardens, which you can experience in the waters at the many islands surrounding Phuket.
With speedboat it take from 10 minutes - 3 hours to the more distant islands. You can also snorkel from beaches on Phuket but the reefs can't compare to those found at offshore islands with the exception of Kata Beach.
But don't let that stop you from swimming with small tropical fish only 1 - 3 meters from the beach in shallow water, perfect for small and large children.
It's no problem to stay long time in the water since the sea is very warm, around 27 - 29 degrees.
But to avoid a bad sunburn wear T-shirt with a good waterproof sun block.
For taking underwater pictures a disposable camera cost around 600 baht and takes OK pictures in clear water, but better to rent camera in a diving shop for higher quality pictures. Use flash cameras for best color.
In rainy season some islands can be inaccessible because of high sea or the boat trip can be very rough. Check with your travel agency before buying ticket since waves are much higher in open sea then near the beach. If you choose to go, take seasick pills and plastic bag with you, just in case.
Also the beaches on Phukets west coast have often too much waves for snorkeling in rainy season. Best time for snorkeling are from mid November to end of April when the sea is calm.
Koh Waeo -
Scenic rock formations in the open sea and can be reached by longtail boat from Bang Tao or Nai Thon Beach.
The sea is very clear here (10-25m) and even if most of the corals are to be found in deeper waters, I found it to be a very interesting place that I hope to explore further on a later occasion.
More experienced snorkelers who dive underwater will get the most out of snorkeling at Koh Waeo since there is no shallow coral reef here.
www.aquadivers.com - "The Island Koh Waeo is an exceptional dive spot"
Laem Singh Beach - Rock formations along the south end offer okay snorkeling.
Paradise Beach - A coral reef start 150 meters from the beach with lots of corals in deep water. Even if some areas was badly damaged by the tsunami, Paradise is still a nice place for snorkeling. Concrete blocks has been laid down on the sea bottom at some places and new small corals are all ready growing on them.
Merlin Beach - A good place for snorkeling both in shallow and deeper wboth in shallow and deeper water around 80 meters off the beach, with lots of corals in crystal clear water.
Freedom Beach - A family beach only a short boat trip from Patong. Lots of fish close to the beach, perfect for children. Freedom Beach was hit hard by the tsunami with several meters high waves. Most corals in shallow water was destroyed. Have corals in deeper water, but not so much.
Karon Beach - Perfect for children at high tide when lots of fish swim close to the beach in shallow crystal clear water. Go to the south end of the beach and look for a big rock.
Kata Beach -
The best shallow coral reef in Phuket. You find the reef at the north end, 150 meters out from the beach and stretching toward the small Poo island.
The sea can be very clear on good days with up to 15 meters visibility, but on not so good days it can be as low as 1 meter visibility. Avoid swimming near the cliffs where there are too much sediments. If you are lucky you can spot a sea turtle swimming along the reef, definitely a highlight of any day.
For children the best place to see fish in shallow water is at the most southern end of the beach, along the rocks. Unlike at Kata Reef, it is not necessary to swim far to see tropical fish in all sizes and colors.
Kata Noi Beach - At the south end lots of fish close to the beach. Have mostly rocks, but also a few corals.
Nui Beach - I only snorkeled for a short time but the snorkeling in Nui Bay looked very good. The sea are abounding in beautiful corals in all sizes only a relatively short swim from the beach along the hillsides. The sea at Nui Beach is not so clear as Kata but it get clearer the further out one swim.
Ao Sane Beach - Good water visibility together with corals close to the beach, make it the best place for snorkeling in Nai Harn area.
Racha Yai Island - Good snorkeling on the east coast with veeery clear water. Located 30 minutes south of Phuket with speedboat.
Coral Island - One of the most popular day trip destinations, only 10 minutes from Chalong bay with speedboat. Have nice corals at the border between shallow and deep water 130 meters off the beach. The sea can be crowded with speed and longtail boats all over the place.
Khai Nok & Khai Nui Island - Great shallow coral garden reef midway between the two islands.
This reef is so beautiful that it should be on Unesco's World Heritage list.
Only minus is that water visibility can vary a lot, from low to good visibility.
And with the odd tourist standing on the corals so it breaks apart, who knows how long this great reef will last.
One can spot Black Tip Reef Shark around 100 meters off Khai Nok, and dolphins can also be seen in the surrounding waters if you are lucky.
Khai Nok is located 15 minutes east of Phuket by speedboat.
1) Test if a mask fits correctly by putting it on without the strap and breathe in through the nose and the mask should stick firmly to the face.
It is important not to over-tighten the mask strap. Over-tightening will break the seal, causing the mask to leak.
2) To avoid fogging, spit on the inside of your mask and rub it in, then wash in the ocean.
There is also anti-fog you cae shops that may last all day.
You can also try to rub toothpaste on the mask, both inside and out, leave it on until entering the water, and wash it off. This will keep fog away for the day.
Don't try to breathe with your nose or else the mask will quickly fog up.
3) You clear a leaking mask by pushing the heel of your hand into the top of the mask to hold it in place, then exhale through your nose with a steady effort to push the water out from the bottom of the mask.
1) Clearing a snorkel is easy, just blow the water out as hard as can from your mouth.
2) You may find yourself biting down hard on the mouthpiece but there is no need, just relax and breath slowly and naturally.
1) Avoid walking with fins on. If you must walk, shuffle your feet sideways or backwards only.
2) Your fin kick should be a fluid up and down motion, not a "bicycle" back and forth motion. Instead of splashing the surface with the fins, try to keep them slightly submerged for optimal performance. You will have better thrust if you can keep your legs together, not spread apart.
To avoid a bad sunburn wear T-shirt with a good waterproof sun block.
Don't forget Phuket is a tropical island where sunburn can occur very quickly.
Snorkeling Maui has a great Snorkeling Frequently Asked Questions page
9 March 2006