Trip Report Kata Beach, Phuket, Shore Diving Kata Reef, Part 2

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JonnieB

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Location
Pattaya, Thailand
# of dives
200 - 499
Dive Report :Kata Bay

Dive Date: Supplemental

Introduction

After multiple dives in Kata Bay, I'm adding this supplement to my earlier report on the marine life and logistics of shore diving from Kata Beach. The diving in Kata Bay is found just offshore from the main Kata Beach (not Kata Noi Beach) on the south western side of Phuket. It comprises three distinct areas (there are more but these are the main ones): (1) Kata Reef (2) The Sands and (3) The Cubes. Kata Reef is on the right side of the bay, 100-150m from shore, and is clearly visible in Google Maps satellite view. The Sands is the white sandy bottom area to the left of the reef, and running between Kata Reef and The Cubes. The Cubes are a series of hollow concrete blocks stacked on top of each to create artificial reefs and pinnacles, which are on the far side of the sandy bottom on the left. These are quite large structures - big enough to swim through - and have a lot of marine life in and around them. On a good day, visibility on the reef is 8-12m (I dived in April/May...the diving season generally runs from November thru April), while on the sand and at the cubes it drops off to 6-8m. Some dives can be in "pea soup" conditions of 0-2 meter visibility. The depth in the bay, during high tide, is from 3-10m on the reef, 7-10m on the sand, and 10-11m around The Cubes. Due to the shallow depths and absence of nearby deep water, the water temperature is a quite balmy 28-31° and a 3mm shorty or shorts/rashguard is all that's needed for a dive.

There is limited parking along the beach front road, with additional parking in a lot about 50m back from the beach on Pakbang Road (next to the Marine Safety Center). Across from the parking lot are some open-air Thai restaurants, and on the left, pay toilets and shower facilities. This is a good place to clean-up and shower after diving if you are not going directly back to your hotel (doing multiple dives). The cost is 20 baht. You can also bring bottles of rinse/drinking water and leave them on the beach walkway area for after your dives. There are also vendors with water, coffee, and snacks for before and after your dives. The shore entry is an easy sandy beach walk-in, with little to no waves (during diving season). The swim out to the reef drop point is 10-15 surface swim (or you can drop down on the reef in the shallows and swim underwater to the reef. Many of the local dive shops in the Karon and Kata area regularly schedule dives in Kata Bay during the season and the cost is very reasonable. With a guide, a single tank dive runs B1000-B1500; and dives times of 60-90 minutes are easily done. There is a regular community of local resident divers who regularly dive the Bay and you will often see them gearing up on the beach. They are a good resource about diving here.

Marine Life

After 10 dives in Kata Bay, eight during the day and two at nite, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite divesites in Phuket. The easy access combined with the variety and numbers of marine life is amazing. The only thing missing are the "wide-angle" open water vistas and pelagic sightings like sharks and Mantas, which are only seen at the deep water sites accessible in Phuket Bay by boat. It is nice to dive a site often enough and get to know all the regular local inhabitants. There is "Honey," the massive Honeycomb moray eel at the Cubes, along with the resident school of batfish. On the sandy bottom between the Cubes and the reef, there's "Stingray Alley," where I've seen so up to 8-10 rays in a small area...so many they're piled on top of each other. Along the reef itself are always a resident school of barracuda and Yellow-Striped Fusilers, while hovering above in the water column are up to a dozen Map Pufferfish.

The Reef

On a typical dive, after donning fins in the surf and a 10-15 minute paddle out you drop down 5-7 meters to the edge of the reef and the sand. (All depths are for high tide...if the dive is during low tide, subtract 2-3 meters.) This is a great line to follow because there is a lot to see at the interface of the sandy bottom and the coral reef. You can see the benthic creatures on the sand and and schools of fish on the reef. There is no deep water or drop-off anywhere near Kata Bay, and one could, if time permitted, dive on out to Ko Poo (Crab Island) just outside the bay, where depths reach 18-20 meters. As you explore the sand-reef interface, pufferfish and boxfish of many varieties are always about, including large Map and Porcupine puffers and their smaller cousin the Black-spotted Pufferfish. Don't forget to look in the reef crevices for Yellow-spot Boxfish and Tobys. In some of the large coral overhangs, there are sometimes spiny lobsters. There is a large resident school of Big-Eye Baraccuda on the reef, who escort divers to and from the reef, and it's common to be surrounded by them in a "fish ball." The reef has a plethora of typical SE Asian reef species, including anthias, angelfish (including Emperor Angelfish), Parrot fish, Morish Idols, Bannerfish, Butterfly fish, boxfish, and fusilers about, along with patches of large anemones with their attendant Damsel and Clown fish. The reef contains many different varieties of hard corals, Barrel sponges, and sea fans, as well as small to medium size Giant Clams which are scattered about as well. Rockcods and smaller groupers abound, and Giant Groupers (1-1.5m) have been seen in the coral tunnels on top of the reef. Camouflaged on the sand or the reef itself are juvenile Devil Scorpionfish (False Stonefish), while juvenile lionfish hover about. There are many moray eels in the bay, with Giant, Spotted, and Brown-face (White Eye) moray eels seen often on the reef. There are juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips swirling around, and if you're lucky, large cuttlefish. (I've seen up to 3 on one dive.)

The Sands and Cubes

During the swim from the reef to the Cubes, the sandy bottom at 7-9m is where you find "Stingray Alley." There are patches with many Blue-spot rays resting together, partially buried in the sand...sometimes 8-10 within eyesight. This is also the area to look for Cone sea snails. The Cubes artificial reef structures is where to see resident batfish, porcupine, and box fish. The friendly batfish often accompany divers around the cubes. There are often nudibranchs here (and on the reef) and lots of morays. (I've counted up to 6 on a single dive.) There is "Honey," already mentioned, and also small resident juvenile Honeycomb morays sharing a ledge with a pair of small Brown-face morays. Another rarer species is a resident pair of Dwarf Lionfish. Several varieties of cleaner shrimps are found here too including Banded Coral and Camel-back shrimp.

Night Dives

Night dives are the time to see Decorator crabs, with sponges and anemones on their backs, small and large hermit crabs scampering about on the sand, and a variety of beautiful cone shell snails out on the hunt. Of course there are also nocturnal fish on the prowl and morays about. The lights of divers also attract small cuttlefish, which are fun to cup in the hand.

Final Note

Kata Bay is an active sports and recreational beach so be prepared to share the water with surfers, swimmers, vollyball players, jetskiers, paddleboarders, and sunbathers. There is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy. It is also home to people fishing, both personally from shore and commercially from nets and small,boats in the bay. Please respect the right ofmthe local people to make a living from their fishing resources, despite the feelings most scuba divers feel about all the reef's inhabitants. The reef itself is a no fishing zone and the nets are normally only put out in the evening near shore or out in the middle of the bay. Therefore, are of concern primarily to night divers.
 
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