The tropical waters of the Andaman Sea are ideal for snorkeling – clear, calm, balmy and bursting with brilliant marine life. Snorkeling can be done year-round in Phuket, but the best time of year is November-April, when the sea’s at its most placid.
Take care through the May-October low season, when the undertow can become dangerously strong along the west coast. The warm water temperature (27-28°C) means that snorkellers don’t need to wear wetsuits, though wearing a t-shirt is advised to prevent sunburn.
At some beaches it is possible to rent snorkeling gear for the day, though it may not be of great quality. Many shops around the island sell a range of masks, snorkels and fins.
The Phi Phi Islands are an outstanding snorkel destination, with an incredible variety of tropical fish and bright coral. Join a day tour or arrange a private boat charter – trips run every day, year round. Closer to Phuket are the Coral, Racha, and Khai Nok islands, each featuring clear waters and abundant marine life just offshore. A bit further away are the spectacular Similan Islands. The Similans are world-famous for diving but snorkelling in this pristine marine wonderland is a fine experience too.
If you do go on a snorkeling excursion, make sure to use the services of an operator with good safety standards. Also, be advised that many of the cut-rate tours take people to the most crowded bays at peak periods – not so enjoyable when all you see in the water are other snorkellers! Chartering a boat is a great way to avoid the crowds.