The region of the South Andaman sea stretches from Phuket in the north to Koh Lipe and the Malaysian border in the south. The area is home to hundreds of islands and a thriving underwater world, indeed some of the best dive sites in the country can be found here! The tourism industry in this part of the country is very well developed and there are several places and islands to stay while you are exploring the underwater world in the area. Below we will be covering some of them and bringing you some helpful tips on when to go and what you might expect to see.
Being so close to Similan national park, the area experiences almost identical seasons. The main difference is that while the Similans closes for 5 months of the year due to monsoon weather, the south Andaman is much better protected from the elements and you can dive here all year (although some of the further away dive sites may be harder to visit). The best time to visit the area is from November through May, however diving can still be good during the rest of the year.
The potential of what you might see in the region is massive. On the deeper pinnacle dive sites such as the excellent Hin Daeng/Hin Muang you might see the giant manta ray or a nice big whale shark. Speaking of sharks, there are both leopard and blacktip reef sharks in the area with other species occasionally dropping in as well. Other species of rays, turtles and big schools of fish are everywhere too, and the macro life here is sublime! With ghost pipefish, seahorse, frogfish and a huge variation of nudibranchs there's something for everyone
Where to go?
With so many places to choose from it can be confusing to figure out where you want to go. The good news is there's really some place for everyone, and you can dive and visit roughly the same spots regardless of where you're staying.
For the northern part of the region you have places like Phuket, Krabi, Ao Nang and Koh Phi Phi. Phuket and Krabi both have their own airport, and the one in Krabi is situated very close to Ao Nang as well, making arriving and departing much quicker. Koh Phi Phi is an island and you'll need to spend some time on a ferry to get here. The diving in Phi Phi is great but the lifestyle might be a bit busy for some visitors, unless you seek out some of the further away resorts. Phuket and Krabi both have "larger" cities with modern amenities such as shopping malls and cinemas, while Ao Nang is a bit more quiet and laid back, especially outside of the center area.
Further south you have the islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. Both are great with some truly unique local dive sites to visit. Lanta has the advantage of being closer to Hin Daeng/Hin Muang, the top rated dive site in the region. While they both require a bit more travelling, if you are looking for some quiet time at the beach then you can't go wrong with either.