Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Diving: The short tale of longtails



PHUKET: The roar of a well-oiled second-hand car motor destroys any hope of silence, despite there not being a road or traversable land for kilometers around us. Originating in and still dominating the waterways of Southeast Asia, longtail boats are the most unique way to reach a dive site from Phuket and other Andaman areas.

However, diving from a traditional Thai longtail boat is sadly overlooked by many holiday divers.

Falling into familiar patterns, we book trips on big boats heading out to the better known dive sites off Phuket, such as Anemone Reef, Shark Point, The King Cruiser or one of the Koh Rachas. Those with the money and desire for a more boutique experience charter smaller modern craft.

There is nothing wrong with getting to a dive site by either of these methods, and in many ways they are preferable. Most boats are comfortable, provide a healthy array of food and offer plenty of deck space for bronzing up between underwater explorations.

However, these boats are missing something unique, something that can in many ways create a dive experience that is nearly impossible to re-create outside of Southeast Asia.

With a foot on the tiller, our boatman swings the boat around the northern tip of Phi Phi Don, slicing through the calm water.

Sitting near the back, not far from the massive motor, it is impossible to talk.

Our wooden-hulled boat zips between the ancient uplifted coral reefs that were once part of the world’s largest reef system, covering a great deal of central Thailand and stretching beyond the border of modern day China.

Well-worn through weathering and ocean erosion, what’s left of the ancient system is now the classic karst towers of Krabi, most topped with little dangling toupees of dense green jungle.

In the boat, with our gear packed into the wooden bow, there is a buzz of excitement coming from the divers.

From our vantage point in the low lying craft – the wooden plank seat – we see the colorfully wrapped stemhead and salt water spray kicking up as the bow slaps into a small wave, and feel very much like we are part of a long-ago adventure.

No doubt the Moken and other Sea Gypsy populations who settled the Andaman waters hundreds of years ago were paddling similarly hulled crafts as they fished, traded and freedived off Phi Phi, Phuket and the rest of the coastline.

Unlike most dive trips, where the adventure doesn’t begin until you splash in, ours is well underway.

The boat glides to a rocking stop not far from one of the limestone towers in Nui Bay. Masks pressed firmly against faces and regulators held in place, one by one members of the small dive team roll back off the wooden rail of the longtail and splash into the warm water.

A quick ‘okay’ sign to the boat boy and the team takes the plunge.

Although Barracuda and Shrimp Fish show up on the dive, as well as hundreds of mating Blue Dragon nudibranches – they are all icing on the cake.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand11 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Opposition to extending nightlife to 4am

Crime12 hours ago

Police officer who shot noodle vender sentenced to 25 years

Road deaths12 hours ago

Truck overturns in NE Thailand, driver dies, losing 1.5 million baht of beer

Sponsored2 days ago

British International School, Phuket: Reflecting on 25 years of world-class education

Transport12 hours ago

Thailand Transport Ministry seeks foreign loans for new bridges

Central Thailand12 hours ago

Elephant calf stamped to death in central Thailand

Chon Buri13 hours ago

Mountain B Pub’s real owner surrenders while police guard venue

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Road deaths13 hours ago

Motorcycle rider killed in multi-vehicle pile-up near Bangkok

Crime13 hours ago

Hong Kong man goes to Thailand to meet ‘lover,’ gets trafficked to Myanmar

Thailand14 hours ago

A monk dies in yet another day of Buddhist shame in Thailand

Economy14 hours ago

Electricity prices soar 18% to 4.72 baht per unit next month

Best of14 hours ago

Top 5 Boarding Schools in Thailand (2022)

Crime14 hours ago

Four national park officials indicted over Karen activist’s murder in western Thailand

Thailand14 hours ago

100 Consecutive Days of food handouts to the homeless of Bangkok

Protests15 hours ago

Nearly 1,000 locals protest over fatal road in central Thailand

Insurgency15 hours ago

Landmines kill 1, injure 10 in Deep South of Thailand

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11