Explore Thailand Underwater for the New Year!
We are excited to dive the "Best of Thailand" including the Similan, Surin, and southern Andaman Sea on board our all LGBTQ+ charter of The Phinisi liveaboard this New Year's!
November-March is the best season for diving the Andaman Sea. Underwater highlights include cephalopods like octopus, cuttlefish, and squid, colorful soft corals, unique Indian Ocean fishes, zebra sharks, and with a little luck, mantas or maybe something even bigger!
Our expedition begins in Phuket, Thailand, where you should plan to arrive by 1 pm on Friday, December 29. We'll depart that afternoon for the warm waters of the Andaman Sea!
Friday, December 29, 2023: Arrive Phuket (HKT) by 1 pm.
Transfer to Chalong Pier to board our charter.
Saturday, December 30 - Saturday, January 6: up to four dives daily from The Phinisi
Sunday, January 7: Two or three dives followed by return to port
Monday, January 8, 2024: Disembark at 10 am from Tap Lamu pier in Khao Lak
Please plan your onward travel for no earlier than noon on January 8.
Some of our Planned Thailand Dive Sites:
The above water scenery will provide stunningly beautiful white sandy beaches with small forested areas. Dive some of the following sites; Boulder City, Sharkfin Reef, Anita's Reef and Three Trees. Under the surface you may see: Leopard (zebra) shark, blue spotted stingrays, clown trigger fish, rabbit fish, scorpion fish, snappers, emperor fish, giant trevally and angelfish. The coral gardens, bommies and boulder formations are wonderful to dive.
Elephant Head Rock, visible from the surface, is the biggest pinnacle in the Similans and has some fantastic swimthroughs. Whitetip reef sharks, batfish, trevally and barracuda can often be seen on the perimeter of the boulders. If you look closely in the cracks and in the rubble you can see smashing mantis shrimp, porcelain crab, moray eels and cleaner shrimp.There are also sites dominated by huge granite boulders such as Deep Six, Christmas Point,and North Point where you can see white tip reef sharks, schooling giant trevally, and schools of neon fusiliers.
Koh Bon: This is generally the most likely place to see manta rays on this itinerary. You are also likely to see Napoleon wrasse, sweetlips, octopus, bluefin trevally, giant moray eels, great barracudas, fire dart goby, spiny lobster and nudibranchs of many types. The dive sites vary from wall diving to gently sloping reefs and from submerged boulders to coral gardens. Diving on the West Ridge can be an adrenaline filled drift, with amazing views, while the North Reef is a gentler experience over a hard coral garden.
Koh Tachai: This island is famous for its pinnacle dive site, known by many as Twin Peaks, as well as more relaxed reef diving on the North Reef and South Reef. Normally, turtles, barracuda, pipe fish, and nudibranchs can be found here. There is also a chance to see bigger species in this area like manta rays and whale sharks, especially from late January until April.
Richelieu Rock: This limestone pinnacle was allegedly named by Jacques Cousteau after Cardinal Richelieu due to the similarity to the colour of his gown as there are gorgeous purple dendronephthya soft corals covering most of the pinnacle. There are other areas covered in magnificent sea anemones as well. Barely breaking the surface at low tide, this horseshoe-shaped outcropping, slopes steeply to a sandy bottom at 18 to 35 meters (60-120 Ft). This site offers great diversity for such a small and isolated spot. It also offers excellent multi-level diving and, because it’s a high-profile reef, there’s always sheltered areas to hide from current. The marine life is prolific and includes amongst, many other things; pharaoh cuttlefish, large octopuses, all five varieties of anemone fish of the Andaman Sea, variety of moray eels, ornate ghost pipefish, smashing mantis shrimp, harlequin shrimp, tigertail seahorses, Spanish mackerel, frogfish, many schooling snappers and occasional sightings of manta rays and whale sharks.
The topside scenery of Koh Surin, with evergreen forests, mangroves, and small beaches, surpasses even that of the picturesque Similan Islands. Underwater, the reefs of Surin offer some of the greatest hard coral diversity in Thailand. Across sites like Torinla Pinnacle, Hin Kong, and Turtle Ledges you are likely to see Napoleon wrasse, yellow-masked angelfish, bumphead parrotfish, tomato anemonefish and barramundi, as well as lots of turtles that still come ashore in this area to lay their eggs. Due to the remoteness, not many liveaboard boats visit these islands and you will be able to enjoy the dive sites without sharing them with tourist hordes.
Koh Phi Phi: Lying in Phang-Nga bay about 45km east of Phuket and 30km southwest of Krabi, two breathtaking limestone islands make up the greater part of Moo Koh Phi Phi; the largest island of Phi Phi Don being a few kilometres north of Phi Phi Lae. Limestone cliffs rise vertically into the sky, where the trees take over. There are many beaches, coves, and bays which make for dramatic scenery to enjoy during surface intervals
There are many dive sites around the Phi Phi island group, many consisting of wall dives, the limestone dropping to depth ranges between 10m and 25m. The walls can have gorgonian fans, soft corals and coral bushes and interesting rock formations and swim throughs. At the base of these walls there are often hard coral gardens to explore. You can expect a great amount of fish life, including lionfish, wrasse, Moorish idols, angelfish, rays, trevallies. Also keep an eye out for leopard sharks sleeping on the sandy bottoms or blacktip reef sharks cruising the reefs. Turtles can also quite commonly be seen here. Lastly, check the fans and bushes for tigertail seahorses and harlequin ghost pipefish.
King Cruiser: The King Cruiser was a car ferry that used to travel between Phi Phi and Phuket. In 1997, ‘the cruiser’ hit Anemone Reef on her crossing and sank a short distance away. No lives were lost, but divers were left with a great wreck dive! While she is largely broken up now, but is covered with soft corals and hides some wonderful gems, as well as being home to several large schools of snappers. While currents can be strong and visibility sometimes challenging, this is a great site to dive as part of an Advanced Open Water course.
Shark Point and Anemone Reef: These pinnacles are part of the same reef system and are only a very short distance apart from each other. Both sites are covered with colourful soft corals and anemones with a variety of fish to suit all divers. From barracuda to seahorses and for the lucky ones of course, the iconic leopard shark!
Koh Haa: Possibly some of the most underrated diving in the whole of Thailand, Moo Koh Haa (literally 'five island group') sits almost halfway between Hin Daeng and Phi Phi and is part of the Koh Lanta National Marine Park. There are actually several dive sites around Ko Haa but the highlights are Ko Haa Lagoon, Ko Haa Neua, and Ko Haa Yai. Around these amazing islands you can see pinnacles, walls, boulders, caverns, and swim-throughs. Ko Haa lagoon is ideal for night dives, courses, and snorkeling, while The Chimney and The Cathedral offer things that you cannot see on other Thailand liveaboard itineraries with caverns, swim-throughs and chambers all over the sites. Ko Haa has varied marine life too, with ornate ghost pipefish, morays eels, octopus, hawksbill turtles, sea horses, marble rays, and sometimes even leopard sharks.
Hin Daeng & Hin Muang: These two sites are pinnacles (translating directly as Red Rock and Purple Rock) in the open ocean, reaching down to over 70m, and are best known for manta ray and whale shark encounters. Whether these are sighted or not, the sites also offer giant moray eels, pharaoh cuttlefish, schooling rainbow runners and snappers, barracudas, groupers, fusiliers, and bluefin trevally. On the pinnacles, there are fields of Magnificent Anemones, walls of Hemprics soft corals, and huge gorgonian sea fans. Almost perpetual good visibility and dramatic topography combined with huge fish numbers makes for excellent liveaboard diving.
Itinerary and dive site selection are always subject to modification
depending on conditions and captain's judgment.
Diving conditions in and around the Andaman Sea are generally suitable for all levels of
divers. You should have a minimum of 10 logged dives and Advanced Open Water training (the AOW course can be completed on board) to join this scuba adventure.
We'll return to Tap Lamu Pier in Khao Lak just north of Phuket and disembark on the morning of Monday, January 8.
You may fly home or elsewhere from Phuket Airport (HKT) that afternoon.
Airfare to Phuket (HKT), marine park and port fees of $115 (paid on board), instruction or gear rental if needed, Nitrox if desired ($175 for 10 days), alcoholic beverages, crew gratuity, diving insurance (required), or travel insurance (required for this vacation).
From North America, please plan to arrive in Phuket (HKT) on or before December 29 by 1 pm or earlier. Enter Thailand from abroad directly at Phuket (HKT) or via Bangkok (BKK or DMK).
At the end of this expedition, you can plan to fly home, to Bangkok, or elsewhere after noon on January 8. We are happy to help with flight and itinerary suggestions.
Ask us about adding on other destinations in Thailand or a Cambodia. We are happy to recommend hotels. Many of us plan to visit Angkor Wat for a few days over Christmas before the liveaboard.
$700 to hold your space; second deposit of $1000 due nine months prior to departure, third deposit of $1000 due 180 days prior to departure, and final payment due 120 days prior to departure.
We're happy to arrange a monthly payment schedule if you prefer - just ask!
How to reserve your space:
We'll place a space on courtesy hold for you and send you a confirmation e-mail.
Complete and return the trip application and waiver online, and arrange your deposit by check or credit card.
Make your airline reservations. We're happy to help you find the best flights.