Are you ready for your biggest adventure yet? Imagine swimming alongside sea turtles in the crystal clear waters of Phuket.
In this post, I’ll tell you all of the best spots to see turtles in Phuket, Thailand and I’ll give you all the details that you’ll need to plan your own turtle-watching excursion, including the best time of year to visit.
So grab your snorkel gear and let’s dive in!
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Can You Swim With Turtles In Phuket?
Yes, it is absolutely possible to swim with turtles in Phuket.
The most common types of turtles that you’ll see in Phuket are green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles.
Turtles have been living in and around the waters of Phuket for centuries and they continue to do so. This means that it’s possible that you might bump into one whilst swimming in the ocean.
Having said that, sea turtle numbers in Phuket are dropping and it’s becoming less and less likely that you’ll see them at Phuket’s many beaches.
The good news is that there are plenty of places close to Phuket where you have a much higher chance of seeing and swimming with turtles.
And I’m about to reveal them all…
Best Places To See Turtles In Phuket
So let’s get to it! Where exactly can you see turtles in Phuket?
In a hurry? Here’s a quick summary:
- The absolute best place to swim with turtles near Phuket is the Similan Islands (aka Thailand’s answer to the Maldives).
- The easiest way to visit these islands is by booking onto a snorkeling excursion from Phuket which will give you that once-in-a-lifetime chance to swim with turtles.
Below I’ll go into more depth on the Similan Islands and I’ll cover all of the other places in and around Phuket where you can see and swim with turtles.
So as I mentioned, the best place to see sea turtles near Phuket is on the Similan Islands.
It’s made up of 11 islands that lie in the Andaman Sea just off the coast of Thailand.
To be honest, these islands are the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen in my whole life (and I’m not joking, Google them!!)
You can also take a look at the video below to see what the Similan Islands look like:
The sand is whiter than snow and the sea is crystal clear and a vibrant shade of blue. It kinda looks completely unreal but I promise you it’s real.
The Similan Islands are actually one of Thailand’s best snorkeling sites due to the abundance of marine life that can be found there.
Some people even say it’s one of the best snorkeling spots in the whole world so you’d be missing out by not visiting.
Whilst snorkeling at the Similan Islands, you’ll be able to see way more than just turtles. Vibrant coral heads and a range of tropical fish can also be commonly spotted here.
I’m not gonna lie. Getting to the Similan Islands on your own is kind of a nightmare. I mean, it’s a set of islands 84 km off the coast of Phuket so…
The easiest way to get to the Similan Islands and swim with turtles is by joining a snorkeling excursion from Phuket.
This full-day tour includes pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, the chance to snorkel with marine life (including turtles & dolphins) and you’ll see some of the best beaches Thailand has to offer.
Whilst you can technically get to the Similan Islands by yourself. It’s pretty long and isn’t much cheaper than booking a tour.
When you factor in all the extras you get with the tour (like lunch & the snorkeling equipment), you’ll end up paying around the same price anyway so make it easy for yourself and book the tour.
- Snorkeling Excursion To Similan Islands (from Phuket)
Another place near Phuket where you can find sea turtles is on the Surin Islands.
This group is made up of 5 islands that lie around 60 km from the Thai mainland.
The Surin Islands are absolutely stunning with unbelievably blue waters, picture-perfect beaches and lush vegetation.
Here’s the sorts of sights you can expect at the Surin Islands:
They are also another one of Thailand’s best snorkeling locations where coming face-to-face with turtles is virtually guaranteed.
As well as turtles, you’ll be able to see friendly reef sharks, eagle rays and maybe, if you’re lucky, a whale shark, manta ray or even a dolphin.
Turtle Rock is the best place in the Surin Islands to find turtles (if you couldn’t tell by the name).
Although the name actually came from the shape of the rocks here (which look like a turtle), sea turtles are ridiculously common, I guess they feel like they’re looking into the mirror.
My favorite thing about this snorkel spot (aside from the turtles) is the vibrant coral that comes in every color of the rainbow.
The easiest and best way to visit the Surin Islands is by joining a snorkeling tour from Phuket.
This tour includes roundtrip transportation, the chance to snorkel at some of Thailand’s best coral reefs, lunch and all your snorkeling gear.
Taking a tour is actually the most cost-effective way to visit the Surin Islands. Otherwise you’ll have to charter a private boat which is super pricey (more than I’m willing to spend anyway!).
You’ll find that the islands here are quite undeveloped and untouched which makes it feel like you’re on a secluded, private island. It’s pretty unique.
The Surin Islands are also home to the nomadic sea people known as the Moken. A visit to the islands gives you the chance to learn more about this alternate way of living.
- Surin Islands Snorkeling Tour (from Phuket)
Phi Phi Islands
Another place near Phuket where you can see and swim with turtles is at the Phi Phi Islands.
If you’ve not heard of these islands then you must live under a rock because they’re pretty famous.
In a nutshell, it’s a tropical paradise. They’re unbelievably beautiful – you’ll find white sandy beaches and ridiculously blue waters surrounded by colossal rocks that look like something out of Jurassic Park.
If you’re visiting Phuket then you may already be planning on visiting these islands so it may interest you to know that you can actually swim with turtles here.
And it’s not just turtles that you’ll see, baby sharks (the friendly kind), colorful fishies, coral gardens and rays also call this place home.
Here’s the sorts of sights you can expect if you choose to snorkel at the Phi Phi Islands:
The easiest way to visit the Phi Phi Islands is by joining a snorkeling tour from Phuket.
Not only will you get the chance to see some of Thailand’s most famous sights, including Maya Bay, you’ll get the chance to swim and snorkel right alongside turtles.
The tour includes roundtrip transport, all your snorkeling gear, a knowledgeable guide and even lunch.
The best place to see turtles here is at Turtle Rock in Maya Bay (you’ve not got déjà vu, it’s a different Turtle Rock to the one in the Surin Islands).
Turtle sightings are ridiculously common here so if you don’t see one then did you offend a witch or something? (that’s the only possible explanation I can think of).
- Phi Phi Islands Snorkeling Tour (from Phuket)
The Racha Islands
Another place where you can see turtles from Phuket is on the islands of Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi aka the Racha Islands.
Take a look at these stunning islands in the video below (I’ve never seen such blue water!!!):
These islands are some of the best places to see turtles in Thailand and the best bit is that it’s never crowded as few people know about them so you’ll get more 1-on-1 time with the turtles.
They’re also much closer to Phuket than the other islands on this list as they’re just 20 km south which takes just 30 minutes by boat.
You’ll get the chance to swim with turtles, meet giant moray eels and a range of tropical fish. It’s also an excellent scuba diving spot if that’s your thing.
The water is super calm here as the bays are crescent-shaped meaning it’s protected from large waves.
Additionally, the visibility is excellent meaning spotting turtles is as easy as brushing your teeth.
The easiest way to visit these secluded islands is by joining a snorkeling excursion from Phuket.
The experienced guides will know where to find turtles without fail and you’ll get the chance to explore some of Thailand’s least explored islands.
It’s kinda impossible-ish to get to these remote islands on your own and how cool would it be to say that you went there (very few people can say this).
- Koh Racha Yai & Noi Snorkeling Excursion (from Phuket)
Mai Khao Beach
Mai Khao Beach in Phuket is one of the best places to see nesting turtles in Thailand.
Although it’s lined with luxurious resorts, the beach itself never feels too busy as the resorts are fairly spaced out. I mean the beach is literally 11km long so there’s plenty of space for everyone.
Every single year during turtle nesting season, mother turtles return to the shores of Mai Khao Beach to lay their eggs and after a few months the baby turtles hatch.
Unfortunately only 1 in 1,000 of the baby turtles will make it to adulthood. There’s so many things going against these baby turtles including predators, pollution, hotel development and beach activities.
To help their chances of survival, volunteers from the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation will scoop up the eggs before they’ve hatched to take care of them.
Then once the baby turtles have hatched, the volunteers release them into the ocean. It’s actually possible to take part in this turtle release program yourself.
The release program set up by the Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation takes place in mid-April however nearby hotels including the JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa have also started holding turtle release events too.
There are actually very few beaches in Phuket where the turtles still come to nest, making Mai Khao very unique and special.
If you’re not visiting Phuket during April then don’t worry. You can still visit the turtle sanctuary in Phuket to meet the turtles.
The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation aka the turtle sanctuary is open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 3PM.
Here’s what it’s like to visit Phuket’s turtle sanctuary:
The best part is that they even have a turtle feeding session each day at 11AM. It’s ideal for everyone but kids in particular love it.
Whilst turtles aren’t super common in the waters around Phuket anymore, they can still sometimes be spotted at Karon Beach.
This picturesque beach looks out onto the super blue Andaman Sea and stretches on for miles and miles (so there’s plenty of room for everyone and it never feels crowded).
I’m not making any promises. You might not see turtles here but if you’re very lucky, you might.
Check out the beautiful sea turtle spotted at Karon Beach in the video below:
To up your chances of spotting a turtle, I suggest you go snorkeling at the Karon Beach House Reef. It’s located at the north end of the beach and looks kinda rocky.
You’ll be guaranteed to see a range of tropical fish, stingrays and maybe even a turtle. Turtles or no turtles, this reef is super beautiful so it’s worth a snorkel either way.
And if you’re a scuba diver then even better (this reef is an amazing diving spot)!
Best Time Of Year To See Turtles In Thailand
Although sea turtles can be spotted at any time of year in Thailand, the best time to see them is between October and May.
This also corresponds with Thailand’s high season as the weather is more dry.
In fact, some of the locations on this post, like the Similan and Surin Islands, actually close off to tourists outside of these months.
For example, if you tried to visit in August, you’d be out of luck as tours just don’t operate during this time.
Even if they did, I wouldn’t recommend them as it rains a lot making snorkeling difficult and there aren’t as many turtles around.
They’re also closed to give the nature and ecosystems present on the islands some time to rest and recover from the tourism.
Phuket isn’t the only place where you can see turtles in Thailand. Did you know that you can see turtles in Koh Tao too? (hint: it’s actually one of the best places!)
Best Time of Day to See Turtles in Thailand
Turtles tend to be most active in the morning and early afternoon so this is usually the best time to see turtles in Thailand.
Having said that, it is still possible to see turtles at any time of day.
Tips For Swimming With Turtles In Phuket
If you want to swim with turtles in Phuket then there’s a few things you need to know first.
All of the different turtle species that live in the waters around Thailand are endangered so it’s really important that we do all we can to keep them safe.
Here’s some tips for you:
- Don’t be too loud. Try to be quiet when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises may scare them away.
- Do not touch the turtle, ever. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen actually damages coral reefs which negatively impacts turtles. Wear a reef-safe sunscreen to protect them.
- Don’t get too close to the turtle. This might scare them and they may even bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry, this is very rare!).
- Don’t feed them. The turtles don’t need any help finding food.
- Always approach the turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them if they want to swim onwards.
- Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.
These important tips aim to keep both you and the turtles safe.
So there you have it, that’s all the best places to see turtles in Phuket, Thailand!
Whether you’re looking to swim and snorkel with the turtles or just catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat, you’re sure to have a pretty amazing time.
And don’t forget to bring your underwater camera to snap some amazing turtle selfies!
Thanks for reading and happy turtle-spotting!