King Cruiser Wreck – Dive Site Review

Dive Site Review of the King Cruiser Wreck

Wreck - Yellow Snapper

a dense layer of yellow snapper above the wreck

As I descended down the line towards the King Cruiser Wreck, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d heard the stories of eerie currents sweeping over the ruins of a huge steel catamaran wreck and I was a little worried about the poor visibility I’d heard so much about.

I certainly wasn’t prepared for the sheer numbers of schooling fish that engulfed the steel hulk.

Going down the buoy line, it felt as though I was descending into a swirling mass of yellow snappers and trevally. It was almost impossible to guess at what lay beneath this impenetrable layer of excited fish.

As I drifted downwards, the imposing outline of the huge sunken boat started to take shape, appearing gradually out of the gloom. I could make out a walkway with railings along the side, the remains of the wheelhouse and a turret on the side of the wreck loomed out of the side closest to me.

King Cruiser Wreck through schooling fish

the wreck emerges through the swirling schools of fish

A large school of big-eye trevally swam busily past as I checked my bearings on my compass. The wreck lies on a north-south trajectory and I had descended at the southern end.

My buddy signalled that we should continue down to explore a little deeper. At around 24m the visibility dropped to around 6m but I could make out the large, dark opening to the car deck. The ramp sloped down towards the murky depths and some extremely large lionfish hovered around the imposing entrance.

A few jacks circled the opening hopefully, being swallowed up by the vast darkness of the interior, before emerging again on their hunting circuit.

Although it seemed tempting to follow them inside, I’d been cautioned during the dive briefing that penetration was out of the question, due to the unstable nature of the wreck’s structure. Steel that’s been lying in 30 degree salt water for the best part of 14 years is not to be trusted. The odd groaning and creaking sounds I could hear emanating from the wreck gave more than a little credence to this advise.

Images of the King Cruiser Wreck

Swimming along the starboard side, I peered into one of the large openings that had been cut out of the side of the car deck. A huge mappa pufferfish stared back at me, its distended belly glowing in the greenish, murky light. I tried to imagine cars lined up inside, but it felt impossible – almost as though the fish had claimed this sunken mass of metal as their own kingdom, its former life lost in the passage of time.

white-eye moray sheltering in a tiny crack in the wreck

As we rounded the northern end of the wreck, it seemed as though there was almost no end to the variety of marine life to be found on this site.

I wished I’d brought a torch after my guide (who had brought one) picked out more and more tiny delights hiding in the most unusual places. With a torch, all the colours became so much more vivid and I could really see all the corals that had started growing on the wreck’s structure.

Disregarding the vast numbers of schooling and hunting fish that surround the wreck, every little crack and crevice seemed to have become an established home for a different species of fish or crustacean. Even the railings and ironwork concealed cleverly camouflaged scorpionfish or tiny nudibranches, clinging on in the brisk current.

Big, bold white cowfish nosed around on the main deck, while rainbow runners darted through ever-present schools of snappers. I was intrigued to find three toilets lying in blithe disarray, presumably tossed there by the stronger currents that sweep through these areas during the monsoon seasons.

King Cruiser Wreck - Walkways

the walkways give a true sense of the size of the wreck

The moment it most felt like I was truly diving on a shipwreck was when we swam along the main walkway down the side of the top deck. It was at this point in the dive that the sense of perspective seemed more real and the true size of the boat become most apparent, filling me with a sense of awe at the remarkable beauty in the juxtaposition of nature, rusting metal and such an abundant array of colourful tropical fish.

The walkway is wide enough for 1 person to swim fairly comfortably along it. There are windows that look into the inside seating area.

Some fairly significant sections of the upper deck have collapsed in towards the middle of the boat, and some of the huge metal sheets that make up the main structure of this deck, are torn and twisted in spectacular disarray, adding to the eerie atmosphere and giving many more sheltered areas for the fish to inhabit.

Looking in through the top-deck windows, quite a few of the passenger seats were still in place and I was delighted to discover a huge Hawksbill Turtle sleeping in the main cabin. It was almost as if the turtle had picked out the most comfortable spot to take a nap.

Marine Life on the Wreck

The King Cruiser Wreck is a remarkable dive that’s completely different to any of the other dive sites I’ve dived around Ko Lanta. On the day that I dived, there were some fairly strong currents, although once we were down exploring the wreck, the structure itself provided quite a bit of natural shelter from the current. The visibility seemed to be quite variable with deeper parts having much poorer visibility that the shallower areas of the wreck. For me, this added to the atmosphere of it being a wreck dive and it was exciting to piece together an overview of the entire boat from each new section that I discovered.

I dived on NITROX which meant that I had plenty of bottom time to really explore all the interesting areas of the King Cruiser. As quite a few sections have collapsed inwards, a fairly significant part of the wreck lies below 18m. For me, diving on NITROX was a great decision.

Banded Sea Snake

the colours appear so much more vibrant when using a torch or flash light

The King Cruiser Wreck is situated half way between Ko Phi Phi and Phuket, and is the area’s most popular wreck dive. The boat lies perfectly upright, resting on the sandy bottom, with the deepest point at 32m and the captain’s cabin at around 14m. The entire wreck is 85 meters long and 35 meters wide and lies north to south.

Since sinking, the King Cruiser’s steel frame has evolved into a fantastic, barnacle covered, natural reef – a wonder that has attracted countless marine species, including massive schools of snapper, trevallie and batfish.

The wreck’s resident turtle lives inside and makes a trip up to the surface to breathe approximately every half an hour, so you’ve got a fairly good chance to find him during any dive you make there. You’re also likely to find many types and sizes of pufferfish, moray eels, lionfish and scorpionfish hiding in cracks and openings. There can also be a few unexpected visitors such as octopus, reef sharks and maybe even a whale shark.

With such a vast number of fish calling the King Cruiser Wreck their home, it’s bound to attract ever-increasing numbers of larger fish, looking out for a quick snack. This makes for exciting diving with never a dull moment!


If you’d like to share a dive-site review of one of Ko Lanta’s dive sites, please submit your review via email to review [at] scuba-dive-lanta.com.

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