Because it's world renowned for its access to nearby Surin and Similan Islands, scuba diving is a huge draw to the island of Phuket. Thailand is one of the most affordable places to get into this hugely rewarding sport, yet it is not without its risks -- safety is paramount when choosing your operator. When you are selecting a company, always check that it is PADI certified. Many of the storefront operations are just consolidators for other companies (meaning you get less quality care and pay a fee to a middle man), so ask if they have their own boats and make sure you'll be diving with the folks you meet behind the counter. Also check about the ratio of divers to instructor or dive master; anything more than five-to-one is not acceptable, and it should be more like two-to-one for beginner courses.
Below are a few of the best choices in Phuket. All these companies can arrange day trips to the nearby coral wall and wrecks, as well as overnight or long-term excursions to the Similan Islands (also PADI courses, Dive Master courses, or 1-day introductory lessons and Open Water certification). Multiday Open Water courses can begin at around 11,900B.
- Dive Asia is a highly reputable firm on Phuket that appeals to serious divers. Their main office is at 24 Karon Rd., Kata Beach (tel. 07633-0598; fax 07628-4117; www.diveasia.com). Dive packages include 4-day PADI certification courses, while full-day trips around Phuket run around 3,500B (for experienced divers only), including 2 or 3 dives.
- The folks at Scuba Cat (94 Thaweewong Rd., Patong; tel. 07629-3120; www.scubacat.com) have one of the best things going in Patong. With some 10 years of experience, a large, friendly expatriate staff, and their own fleet of boats, Scuba Cat is very much a professional outfit, offering the full range of trips for anyone from beginner to expert (and at competitive prices). You can't miss the small practice pool in front of their beachside Patong office.
- Sea Bees Diving (1/3 Moo 9, Viset Rd., Chalong Bay; tel./fax 07638-1765; www.sea-bees.com) is another good outfit offering day trips.
- Thailand Divers (198/12 Rat-U-Thit, 200 Pee Road, Patong Beach; tel. 07629-2052; www.thailand-divers.com) provides competitive services; they also have their own boats.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.