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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; 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.
  • Sea Fun Divers (www.seafundivers.com; tel. 07634-0480) are staffed with total pros who making learning to dive, and discovering the underwater life in Phuket, a blast. They offer trips Tuesday to Sunday that cover a variety of must-see spots sights like wrecks, walls, and reefs. 3,900B will get you two days of dives and equipment rentals are 650B. Those interested in an Open Water Diver certification should plan to pay 18,400B. This outfit has an office at the Le Meridien in Patong and another in Kata Noi.
  • Thailand Divers (www.thailand-divers.com; tel. 07662-6067) provides competitive services and they have their own boats. This outfitter is a good choice for those looking to add to their list of specializations, like wreck divers, rescue divers, and more. Private lessons for PADI certifications start at 15,000B; live aboard trip in the crystal clear waters around Similan are also available.

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.