South Andaman Sea Diving
The South Andaman Sea has some unique dive sites with fantastic soft corals and interesting macro life on most of the sites. Divers can encounter sharks on many sites.
The South Andaman Sea area includes the pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Muang, the five islands of Koh Haa, the islands of Phi Phi and the dive sites that transit the route back to Phuket.
In the green season, liveaboards are also available to the Racha Islands.
In comparison to the Similan Islands and the northern Andaman Sea, diving here is very different. It is possible to combine trips to cover the whole area.
The dive sites in the south are a mixture of pinnacles, rock islands, walls and sloping reefs. There are a few wreck dives in the area including the King Cruiser which is a 90m ferry that sank in the 1990’s.
Soft corals and macro life are fantastic in the area. Larger pelagics such as whale sharks, leopard sharks and black tips can be seen along with manta rays at some locations.
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South Andaman Sea Diving - 4 LIVEABOARDS
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The main areas for the liveaboards are the pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Muang, the marine park of Koh Haa, the dive sites around Phi Phi and the dive sites between Phi Phi and Phuket.
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang
Often called the Richelieu of the south, these two pinnacles names translate as red and purple rock due to the colour of the soft corals covering the rocks. Hin Daeng has a few rocky points breaking the surface of the water, but Hin Muang is completely submerged with the shallowest point being 12m.
They less than 300m apart but are very different, Muang is a wall with sheer rock faces covered with soft corals and anemones. The depth goes to over 50m, and often you see reef sharks swimming below. The rock face has many cracks and crevasse where the macro life hangs out, and it is one place a weedy scorpionfish has been spotted.
Most divers keep their eyes out to the blue water though in the hopes of spotting a manta ray, whale shark or mobula ray that may be passing. Safety stops are often a hangout place for the batfish who also like to hang around the mooring line.
By contrast, this pinnacle has some shallow area’s and even a coral gardening the central area of the site away from the sheer rock face. Cuttlefish are very often hanging around in this area displaying for the mating season.
When the boat arrives in the area, you see five uninhabited rock islands rising from the ocean in a small cluster. The main dive sites here are the Chimney and Cathedral. Both are unique in their own way. The topography of the area is reefs and walls with both soft and hard corals.
The Cathedral starts on a reef where turtles are often found along with Kuhl's stingrays in the sandy area. As the reef turns you come to a field of whip corals before peering into the first cave, here sweepers cover the entrance hiding in the shadows. A further 10m on there is a large cave divided by a wall down the centre which has an opening in the shallow area wide enough for divers to swim through.
To exit the second part of the cave there is a series of swim-throughs back to the reef, often inside there you find interesting nudibranchs. The dive ends by following the reef shelf at 5m where banded sea kraits and mantis shrimps are often seen.
The Chimney dive site starts by descending into a boulder formation with a multitude of swim through into the coral garden in the centre. The whole area is surrounded by a field of soft tree corals and gorgonian sea fans.
After spending some time in this area you can see the entrance to the Chimney itself, this starts at 14m, and you swim horizontally until a vertical column appears wide enough for one diver. The exit of the chimney is at 7m on a ship of a reef area.
Koh Phi Phi Area
The highlights of the many dives in the Phi Phi area are the Bidas south of Phi Phi Ley. The Bidas mean brothers as they are two sheer rock islands called Bida Nok and Bida Nai.
Both islands have a mix of hard coral reefs, barrel sponges and sheer rock wall faces and as they are so close together share the same marine life.
Bida Nok has a finger reef coming out from the bay area with a sandy slope on one side and the other a wall. Stingrays, leopard sharks and turtles are common sighting here. The reef is covered in anemones with many varieties of clownfish and shrimps living in them. Seahorses can be found on the walls along with pipefish and nudibranchs. Barracuda often circle around and are seen together with crocodile needlefish on the safety stops.
On both dive sites, the safety stops are an ideal place to see the many black tip reef sharks that are hunting on the 5m ledge, sometimes up to 20 at a time.
Dive Sites Between Phi Phi and Phuket
King Cruiser is a car ferry that sank after it hit Anemone Reef in 1997 about 500m away. The wreck is massive but collapsing so the shallowest part is now at 18m. She is in 32m of water sat on the sand. It is home to a hawksbill turtle, schools of barracuda, snappers and fusiliers, often blocking the view of the metal structure by their sheer numbers.
Shark Point is a series of pinnacles running north to south with one being visible from the surface only. They are home to leopard sharks, sweepers, morays, seahorses, ghost pipefish and cuttlefish.
Anemone reef is blanketed by many varieties of its namesake and all the corresponding anemone fish and shrimps. The sheer volume of snappers and fusileers here are incredible. A large variety of moray eels are here, white-eyed, fimbriated, giant, zebra and honeycomb to name a few.
Koh Doc Mai
Koh Doc Mai or Flower Island as its literal translation is a large rock island with sheer rock faces that carry on down below the surface offering a fantastic wall dive. Macro life here is the best you find in the area. Nudibranchs, shrimps, ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, to name only a few.
The South Andaman area includes the island of Phi Phi and the famous Maya Bay on Phi Phi Ley.
Most liveaboards who visit this area spend a night moored next to Phi Phi to allow for an island visit to Phi Phi Don to see the island and fire shows.
Marine Park and Conservation in the South Andaman
Koh Haa is a marine park under Koh Lanta Management established in 1990, and as such, there is an entry and user fee to dive these islands.
Maya Beach is a marine and terrestrial park and there is a fee to go onto the area.