Water sports in Phuket

By Derek Kirk

Plenty of excitement on offer at the beach

Phuket has mastered the Thai tourism trade, and there are more water-based activities on tap here than just about anywhere else in the country. This isn’t a quiet beach escape; rather it’s a high-octane destination with ample facilities and exciting activities around the clock.

Visitors with adrenaline to spare will be right at home on Phuket’s beaches. There are more water-based ways to raise your heart rate than seems possible. Jet-skiers leap over waves, windsurfers skim the breakers, banana boaters get tossed into open water and parasailers soar over it all.

The best selection of water sports can be booked right on the beach. Patong Beach is the most raucous, teeming with swimmers, banana-boaters, jet-skiers and parasailers. It’s not hard to get started as most operators on Patong don’t have offices. Instead, they post up under beach umbrellas, advertising with hand-painted signs and a maybe a tout or two.

Kata Yai is the other major water sport beach. Mid-sized waves roll in during the summer, and with them come all manner of surfers (think board, wind and body). This is an ideal place for beginners to try out these sports, and there are enough mid-level waves to keep things challenging.

The best water sports in Phuket

The following are the most popular water sports in Phuket. All are widely available and can be easily arranged from any of the major resort areas. It pays to ask around before buying a package, and don’t hesitate to bargain the price down. It’s expected.

Scuba diving
Phuket is one of Thailand’s busiest dive centres, especially when you consider the number of tours that are chartered here for far-off Andaman destinations. A popular local dive site is Racha Yai, but the most famous diving sites within striking distance of Phuket are the Similan and Surin islands. PADI certification courses are rarely this affordable, with even multi-day open-water courses starting below 10,000 baht. More on diving.

Diving is a popular activity in these waters

Sea kayaking
For a memorable experience, book a tour of Phang Nga Bay National Park. Agencies in Phuket regularly shuttle tourists and kayaks to the bay, which is less than an hour’s drive from the resorts. While paddling through turquoise waters, you’ll pass magnificent karst towers, secluded lagoons, stands of mangroves and more than 100 islets. Chartered all-day trips start at 3,500 baht, or you could just rent a kayak from Kata Beach for 200 baht per hour.

Jet-skiing
You wouldn’t know that jet -skis are illegal by the look of Patong Beach. Local officials ‘outlawed’ them because of all the accidents that happen between jet-skiers, snorkellers and swimmers. Some of these accidents are quite serious so respect boundaries and steer clear of the roped-off areas if you choose to hire a jet-ski.

Snorkelling
There are a few excellent snorkelling spots on Phuket. Relax Bay and Nai Harn Beach both boast coral gardens and clear waters that are accessible from the coastline. Otherwise, you might have to charter a boat and head out to outlying islands for optimal snorkelling conditions.

Surfing
Phuket is Thailand’s best surfing destination, and decent-sized waves roll in between May and October. The surf gets stirred up by storms in the Indian Ocean, and Quicksilver hosts an amateur surfing competition at the end of the wave season (usually October). The best beach for surfers is Kata Yai.

Parasailing
Parasailing is its own form of advertisement. Who wouldn’t want to try it out after watching one after another rider fly by? It’s a relatively new sport on the island, and while the number of outfitters who have the equipment continue to rise, there’s still a premium price attached. Expect to pay at least 600 baht per 10-minute ride.

Windsurfing
Windsurfers have the best luck in the same season as regular surfers. The waves are best during the summer, and outfitters up and down Kata and Patong beaches hire out boards. Expect to pay around 200 baht an hour for a board and sail.

Banana boating
This is a fun activity for groups, and families with children (the more the better) are sure to get a kick out of it. A banana boat is an enormous, inflatable banana that gets pulled by a speed boat. Passengers hang on for dear life while the speedboat driver does his best to rattle them loose. Of course, everyone wears a life vest.

Yachting
The King’s Cup Regatta is held every December and brings 100 international yachts to these Andaman waters. Phuket is becoming increasingly popular with yachters in any season, and there are ample facilities (including beginner’s lessons or crews-for-hire) for anyone yearning for a day at sea. More on sailing.

Fishing
It hardly seems fitting to spend a day at sea without casting a line. The Andaman Sea hosts a range of big game, and visitors can hire a boat with crew and tackle in hopes of hooking tuna, marlin, swordfish or sailfish. Some of the fishing companies have offices on the beach, with others based out of Phuket Town.

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