What better way is there to explore Phuket’s colourful aquatic scenery than to slip on a pair of flippers and don some snorkel gear? Snorkelling is one of the most popular things to do in Phuket, with the island’s superb beaches and clear tropical waters sheltering an abundance of marine life.
1. Ao Sane Beach
Located on Phuket’s southern tip, secluded Ao Sane Beach can seem a world away from the crowded stretch of coastline further north. It is, however, a superb place for snorkelling, with parrot and clown fish meandering by in the deep waters off the rocky coastline. A nearby coral reef offers a second vantage point at high tide, with Ao Sane’s calm year-round waters making it an ideal beach for snorkelling.
2. Ya Nui Beach
Just a short hop from Ao Sane in a quiet south-western corner of Phuket is the secluded Ya Nui Beach. The beach itself is popular, however Ya Nui’s best-kept secret is the exotic array of marine life which call its clear waters home. Grab your snorkelling gear and head out past the moored yachts, where you’ll be rewarded with schools of colourful tropical fish darting through the warm waters.
3. Kata Beach
Plenty of Phuket beaches provide ample opportunity to simply rent some snorkelling gear and hit the waves. That’s certainly the case at Kata Beach, and there are some noteworthy snorkelling spots at either end of this popular family beach, with nearby rocky outcrops sheltering a wide variety of marine species.
4. Nai Thon Beach
Perched out on the often overlooked west coast of Phuket, Naithon Beach has escaped the attention of the crowds which flock to the more popular beaches on the island. There’s no need to give this peaceful stretch of sand a miss, particularly when it comes to snorkelling, with the beach’s southern edge sheltering several species of marine life.
5. Merlin Beach
Lying some three kilometres south-west of the eternally popular Patong Beach, the far more placid Merlin Beach offers some of Phuket’s best snorkelling. Its clear tropical waters are positively teeming with colourful reef fish and coral, although it takes a hefty long-distance swim to reach them when the tide is out.
6. Karon Beach
Popular with visitors of all ages, Karon Beach is great fir beginners eager to experience their first taste of snorkelling. Its shallow waters are home to numerous schools of colourful fish, many of which flit close to shore. It’s the perfect place to take children, particularly as there are numerous amenities located close by.
7. Laem Singh Beach
Nestled between the better known Kamala and Surin beaches, Laem Singh Beach is a hidden tropical paradise. It’s still well-known enough to attract a crowd, and given its picturesque turquoise waters, it’s not hard to see why. The numerous rocky outcrops jutting out close to the shoreline provide Laem Singh beach-goers plenty of shallow-water snorkelling opportunities.
8. Laem Ka Beach
Far down in the deep south of Phuket, little known Laem Ka Beach leads an isolated existence. It’s far enough off the tourist trail to remain secluded even in the high season, however this sheltered, tree-lined patch of sand is well worth a visit. Lacking the large swells which sometimes make conditions dangerous elsewhere in Phuket, Laem Ka’s serene waters play host to a range of aquatic life.
9. Banana Beach
Perhaps the last remaining ‘secret’ beach on Phuket, Banana Beach is not just an excellent venue for snorkelling. A wide, largely untouched stretch of pristine sand, this well-hidden gem boasts some of the clearest waters on the island. That means it's ideal for spotting schools of colourful tropical fish, before kicking back and relaxing on your own secluded patch of sand.
10. Kata Noi Beach
A snorkelling destination for the high season only, Kata Noi is the epitome of a turquoise-coloured tropical paradise. Its cool blue waters crash dramatically against rocky promontories at either end, creating underwater alcoves for marine life to hide among. The colours are most vibrant around mid-afternoon when visibility is clearest, however the pounding surf makes Kata Noi a must for experienced swimmers only.
Words by Mike Tuckerman