Diving + Snorkeling, Andaman Sea
Concierge.com's insider take:
Some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world is in the Andaman Sea 60 miles north of Phuket, with a superb diversity of marine life and visibility of up to 100 feet. Two sets of islands, the Similans and Surins, are destination spots because of their plentiful and mostly intact coral formations. The Similans are nine islets rife with hard and soft coral, and divers can expect to see rays, sharks, and sea turtles. The Surin chain is farther north, close to the Myanmar border; the coral sits in shallow water with bounties of colorful fishwhich makes it the better choice for snorkelers. There are plenty of dive shops on Phuket, but the mainland piers are a bit closer. Sea Dragon Dive Center in Khao Lak is one of the most reputable operators in the region; running since 1993, it was the only outfit to remain open immediately after the 2004 tsunami, and it helped extensively with reef and beach cleanup (66-76-420-420; www.seadragondivecenter.com). IQ Dive, also on the mainland, runs day trips as well as live-aboard options, including one on a Chinese junk and another on a 120-foot sailboat. IQ can bring you to the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar, which recently opened up its waters to Thailand-based outfitters (66-76-423-614; www.iq-dive.com).