Things to do in Phuket
Swimming, snorkelling, diving, yachting, sailing, jet-skiing and parasailing are among the more popular activities on the island. Other activities include freediving, windsurfing, kite surfing, wakeboarding, and deep sea fishing. Popular kite surfing locations include Nai Yang in summer and Chalong Bay in winter season. Sea canoeing is a popular activity in Phang Nga Bay, as many grottoes are only accessible by canoe. Sailing Regattas includ the Kings Cup in December, Pangna Bay Regatta normally in February and Phuket Raceweek in July.
Phuket has some decent dive sites. Most dive sites are off nearby islands, but distances are fairly short and there are dozens of dive shops and boats to cater to your needs, most based near Chalong Bay. The reefs in the area are in a healthy condition with both solid hard corals and colourful soft corals. There is also an abundance of marine life. Most of the dive locations are suitable for all levels of divers, but there are also some that are quite deep.
The most well-known dive site in the Phuket area is Racha Yai with its sloping rocky reefs and its abundance of solid coral forests. It is home to Ter Bay where there is an exciting wreck in the depths of 25–35 m. The island south of Racha Yai, Racha Noi, is a haven for experienced divers as the depths are greater and the currents stronger. The overall topography is strikingly different from Racha Yai with huge granite boulders. The diving in Racha Noi compared to Racha Yai is definitely more challenging but the rewards are greater.
Just off Phuket, is the limestone island of Ko Doc Mai that soars vertically from the seabed. It is home to a diverse fish and offers the opportunity to view leopard sharks, moray eels, octopus, and turtles. Phuket can also function as a base for dives further afield, such as Ko Phi Phi. Diving in Phuket's warm clear blue waters is best from mid-Oct-May, when the calm seas and rain-free days make Phuket diving great.
Snuba Diving is the safest and easiest way to try diving on holiday in Phuket. The word Snuba is a portmanteau of "snorkel" and "scuba". The swimmer uses swim fins, a diving mask, weights, and diving regulator as in scuba diving. The air, however, instead of coming from tanks strapped to the diver's back, comes through a long hose from tanks on pontoon rafts on the surface. No certification required, children 8+, just like scuba diving except easier. Snuba trips go to most Phuket dive sites. No heavy equipment to wear, no long classes, maximum depth of 7 m. Professional dive guides accompany each group.
Phuket is a leading dive centre in Thailand and has recently become a freediving hotspot. It is the home of the area's only AIDA instructor training centre. Most freediving trips go out with scuba dive boats to well-trafficked dive sites, but some freediving off the beach is also possible. The local operators are usually very happy to find like-minded divers and will happily give pointers.
There are many muay Thai camps on the island offering instruction to visitors. There are courses available for people of different levels of fitness, and those who train hard may be given the option to fight. Chalong Bay and Rawai especially is home to almost a dozen muay Thai gyms. If you're interested in a one day lesson or a six month training stint, it's a good place to look.
Sailing and yachting
Phuket has become a sailing and yachting centre of Thailand and adjacent countries. It's the home of Cape Panwa Hotel Phuket Raceweek, King's Cup Regatta, Phang Nga Bay Regatta, the Phuket International Boat Show (PIMEX), four marinas, and two yacht clubs: the Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC) and the Phuket Yacht Club (PYC). Well-sheltered anchorages teem with yachts. The marinas are all on the east side of the island, which makes them an ideal starting point to explore the natural wonders of Phang Nga Bay. An entire fleet of traditional junk-rigged boats is berthed there, offering day trips.
Snorkelling can be enjoyed in sheltered bays all around Phuket. It is particularly enjoyable at easily accessible reefs at Patong, Karon and Kata Beaches. Fins, mask, and snorkel can be rented on a daily basis from shops all over the island. Full and half day trips are available to the islands surrounding Phuket. Most popular are Ko Hae, Ko Racha Yai, Ko Khai (a hidden gem in Phang Nga Bay), andKo Phi Phi. There are many tours available at very cheap rates and speedboats will be filled with up to 65 people. Research your options before signing up for any tour.
Snorkelling trips to Racha & Phi Phi Islands
Agencies sell all-inclusive day trips from all over Phuket. Prices for group tours range from 1,400-3,900 baht. Quality and safety seem to correlate with prices paid. The lower-end speedboat tours take approximately 30-35 passengers per 2-engine speedboat and 50-60+ passengers on 3-engine speedboats. Very cheap tours take over 100 people in a speedboat. The higher-end tours take approx 15 to 18 passengers on 2-engine speedboats. Insist on knowing the exact number of guests that will be on the boat. Keep in mind that tour desks will tell you anything to get your money, as they receive up to 65% commissions from the lower-end tours. It is always best to contact the dive company directly to ensure that you are getting what you pay for.
The more people on the boat, the longer it takes to get on and off at each stop, thus lowering the amount of time you get to spend off the boat. A packed boat is not very fun or safe when there are large waves.
Private companies providing small group tours are few (currently only 3). Full day tour prices range from 3,200-3,900 baht (no discounts are offered. Can only be booked direct). The tours include stops at all the major sights, higher quality lunches (from picnic to seaside sit-down restaurant meals), full sets of snorkelling gear, minibus transport, fresh tropical fruits, snacks & drinks on board, foreign owner/guide, small groups, attention to safety, and national park fee. Prices vary based on services, amenities and extras are provided.