I’ve written before about how accessible the diving is in Thailand. A previous gallery featured images taken while live-aboard diving in the Similan and Surin Islands, as well as at Richelieu Rock and a couple of other popular sites in the area. Most of this diving can be done by day boat from the island of Phuket, but these are long rides out and back, and the preferred platform would be to dive from a live-aboard boat and avoid the lengthy commutes.
On the other hand, the Phi Phi islands, and their surrounding sites, are totally accessible by day boats from land bases on Phi Phi Don (the main island in the group), as well as from several live-aboard boats offering itineraries in this area.
The Phi Phi islands are legendary – both for their magnificent beauty, and for the sad history of the tsunamis that ravaged them in 2004, causing numerous fatalities and almost total destruction of the main tourist town, Ton Sai. The town is located on a sandy isthmus between two steep formations, and the tidal waves hit from both sides and funneled through, with catastrophic results. Without warning, there was no time for people to get to higher elevation and escape the huge and forceful waves. It is estimated that about 4000 people perished, many of them tourists.
But Phi Phi has recovered, and the town has been totally rebuilt. There are many dive operators on Phi Phi Don, catering to a constant stream of tourists, many of them young backpackers. Shopping for a good dive operator is best done on arrival on the island – strolling the main street of the pedestrian town at Ton Sai offers up many options, for all levels of divers. There are also many accommodation options available, from basic backpacker digs to five star lux resorts.
There is no airport in the Phi Phi islands, so getting there entails a passenger ferry ride from Phuket, Krabi or Koh Lanta. The crossings are about an hour, and in some cases, the ferries make a circuit around some of the islands, to give passengers a chance to view the stunning topography and the gorgeous white sand beaches. Unlike the Similan Islands to the north, which are formed from granite, the Phi Phi islands are formed of vertiginous limestone karsts, worn by waves and weather.
On two trips diving around the Phi Phi islands, I have been amazed by the beauty and relative health of the reefs, despite heavy diver pressure, and by the impressive biodiversity. These islands offer up many attractions big and small – from macro critters like nudibranchs, to regular sightings of zebra zharks.
Born and raised on the west coast of Canada, Judy has always felt a strong connection to the ocean. As an avid underwater photographer and photo essayist, Judy has traveled extensively to pursue her passion. Her work has been featured in several dive publications and websites. To follow her photo and travel blog, visit her at: Awoosh.com