Only an hour or so boat ride away from the mainland is the famous Phi Phi islands. Stunning topography of high limestone cliffs jutting from the water and famous for the filming of the the film The Beach in 2000, and still living off the reputation. Sadly Phi Phi also hit the headlines in 2004 when the Tsunami tore through the island claiming many lives. It’s very much a party island and with an abundance of dive shops so be prepared to be asked if you want to go diving at least 3 or 4 times a day.
Accommodation, nightlife, restaurants and dive shops are all located on the main island of Phi Phi Don where you arrive at Tonsai Pier and have to pay a 20 thb arrival fee to help with the sum what dubious ecology clean up. Accommodation is relatively expensive compared to other parts of Thailand but there is accommodation to suit all budgets ranging from 500thb per night to 5,000 thb+.
The diving around Phi Phi is good as long as you get a good guide who are there to find you the critters and the best dive sites – Bida Nok, Bida Nai, Hin Bida, Palong Wall and Malong Wall and King Cruiser Wreck though sometimes the vis on the last few sites can be bad and often you get nothing. There is also a new wreck around Phi Phi – You Tube Video of HMS Lanta – the new Wreck on Phi Phi Phi Phi has an abundance of marine life form macro life (nudis, ornates) andbig schools of fish but one of the highlights has to be the Leopard Sharks on Hin Bida.
The Diving around Phi Phi can be done practically all year round, my favourite dive sites are as follows which are around a 30 mins boat ride from the main island –
1. Bida Nok
Ideal for experienced and beginner divers as the currents are not too strong and the depth ranges from 5m to 30m. On the west side of Bida Nok are numerous boulders with lots of swim throughs. Leopard Sharks, White Tips and rays can often be found hanging around in the blue or on the sandy floors. Out to the south is finger reef where you are most likely to see Black or White tips and have some impressive walls to swim along with some great big schools of fish and hunting trevellies.
2. Bida Nai
A great place to spot ornate ghost pipefish when in season, anemone crabs and other small critters like Nudis, some impressive stag horn coral stretches out over Fantasy reef with lots of schools of snappers, barracudas and the occasional Leopard Shark. There are a few swim throughs here but most of the diving is along slopping reefs and walls.
3. Hin Bida
One of my favourite places to dive with the Leopard Sharks, having dived the site over a 60 or 70 times I must have had a 90% success rate seeing them there, wither playing with each other or chilling out sleeping on the sandy floor. As the site is not deep (max 18m) snorkelers often enjoy the pleasure of seeing them too. A reef that almost resembles a 3 fingered hand, easy to navigate and teeming with schools of snappers, the odd cuttlefish, nudis, clownfish and macro life.
4. King Cruiser
Sank by running aground in May 1997 the wreck is disintegrating fast now and penetration almost impossible but is a great dive site all the same.. The deepest part is the the propellers at 30 metres deep but the passenger decks between 18 and 24 metres is where the action is. Tons of marine life there including schools of snappers, small barracuda, lion fish and scorpionfish.