Thailand offers some of the best diving in the world. Its numerous islands are among the finest in the world and run all along the coastline.
- Most of the scuba diving destinations are on the Andaman Sea on the South East coast of Thailand. The most famous ones are the outstanding Similan Islands with truly excellent diving. A bit further North, there are the Surin Islands, less known than the Similans but also excellent with the world famous Richelieu Rock dive site with good chances to spot a Whale Shark! These two destinations are better explored by Liveaboard, however it is also possible to dive there on a day tour. Closer to the mainland you have very good diving opportunities around the Koh Lanta(Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are two world class dive sites), Koh Phi Phi and Phuket Islands. These destinations offer good chances to dive with a Manta Ray or even a Whale Shark.
- On the East coast, in the gulf of Thailand, the best diving location is undoubtedly Ko Tao. In the last decade it has become THE place to learn Scuba diving and for divers to pass their Padi Open water course. Many experienced divers also come here to go pro and actually become divemasters, attracted by easy dive sites perfect for lessons and cheaper prices. It is also possible to dive in Koh Samui but it is not anything special and actually most of the dive centres in Koh Samui will take you diving around Ko Tao instead on a day trip.
All over Thailand, you can find an incredible range of marine life. Reef Sharks, Leopard Sharks and turtles are common encounters.
Diving in Thailand is more about big fishes but there are also very good spots for macro diving like the Richelieu Rock, making it an excellent spot for underwater macro photographers. The best coral can be found in the Andaman Sea around the Similans Islands.
In this page you will find more detailed information about scuba diving in Thailand.
Table of contents
ThresherPhoto by Jihye Lee
Frog Fish YellowPhoto by Rich Guest
Turtle Checking Us OutPhoto by Rich Guest
StonefishPhoto by Rich Guest
Batfish Blue SeaPhoto by Rich Guest
Nudibranch And StarfishPhoto by Rich Guest
Yellow Eel Wide AwakePhoto by Rich Guest
PipefishPhoto by Jihye Lee
Creatures Crawling SeaPhoto by Rich Guest
Sea Floor RayPhoto by Rich Guest
How to dive Thailand?
If you plan to dive the Similan Islands and Surin Islands, the best way is to take a Liveaboard. The cruise lasts from 4 days to 2 weeks if you want to dive the two archipelagos. Most of the liveaboards are starting in Phuket or in Khao Lak. You can also make a day trip to the islands but you will just have a small taste of what there is on offer.
Other destinations like Krabi, Ko Tao, Kho Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Phuket can be dived on a shore base with local dive centres. You will also find many diving resorts providing all inclusive packages.
Some dive centres have questionable safety standards and you should always choose carefully your dive operator. The best is to walk around and ask questions to several dive centres to see which one you feel most comfortable with. It is better to pay a little bit extra but to dive on the safe side especially if you are there for diving courses.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebehnken/5885152699/
Where to stay?
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Best time to dive in Thailand
Thailand has two main diving zones, the Andaman Sea on the West coast and the Gulf of Thailand on the East Coast with different diving season.
Andaman Sea (Similan Islands, Surin Islands, Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi)
The climate is tropical and the weather is mostly hot and humid all year round with the air temperature ranging from 25°C to 32°C and water temperature around 29°C.
- The rainy season runs from May to December. There is heavy rainfall from June to October but it is mostly a cooling 2 hours storm at the end of the day.
- The dry and hot season runs from January to April which is the best time to visit this part of Thailand.
- High tourist season runs from November to April with a peak in December and January.
It is possible to dive all year round in Phuket, Ko Lanta and Koh Phi Phi. The best diving period is from November to April when the visibility is very good. However if you want it to be quieter, consider coming after January to avoid the tourist crowds. From April to October, the sea can be choppy and visibility is often reduced.
Liveaboards are running all year round but if you want to go dive the magnificent archipelagos of Similans and Surin it is possible only between October and May. The national park is open from November 16 to May 15 but most of the Liveaboard trips operate from October to May. Moreover, the best diving conditions occur in March with the best visibility and almost no wind.
- It is best to avoid the high tourist season as accommodation is often full and prices tend to increase sharply! Moreover, the main dive sites can be crowded at this season and it can even get crowded underwater! So better to book in advance if you are travelling during this period. Liveaboards are also often fully booked.
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/darcym/53955573/
Gulf of Thailand (Ko Tao, Koh Samui)
The climate is also tropical with hot and humid weather throughout the year. The air temperature ranges between 28 °C to 32°C and water temperature about 29 °C all year round.
- The Rainy Season runs from September to November. The water visibility can be reduced by 30% after heavy rains during this time. Monsoon is mostly 2 hours late afternoon short downpours but there are also rainy days.
- The Peak Tourist season runs from December to March and July, August. During these periods, it is better to book in advance. Especially during Christmas holidays, hotels and resorts are often fully booked.
- The Best time to visit the gulf of Thailand is in May and June when the weather is not too hot and there are fewer tourists.
It is possible to dive in Ko Tao and Koh Samui all year round. The best diving time runs from May to August with excellent conditions.
When it is the low season on the West Coast, it is the high season on the East coast so you can dive all year round in Thailand. The best time to spot Whale Sharks runs between February and May. If you want more information about the local weather, visit the dedicated destinations pages.
Scuba Diving conditions
Air temperature: 25°C to 35 °C depending on the location and the season
Average Water temperature: ranges from 27°C to 32°C year round .
Average Visibility: You can expect from 10m to 40m depending on the season and location.
Current: Depends a lot on tide and location, ranges from none to very strong.
Depth: From 5m to 40m. The coral reef is shallow and most of the dive sites are between 10 and 20 meters deep.
The Andaman Sea Islands have been severely affected by the 2004 Tsunami but all infrastructure has now been reconstructed and the coral has recovered.
Snorkelling in Thailand
Thailand has terrific snorkelling possibilities! On most of the islands it is possible to arrange a snorkelling day trip with local people. The Andaman sea features the best snorkelling spots. A great snorkelling destination is Koh Lanta where the reef is easily accessible. You can also do overnight boat trips to snorkel in the excellent Surin Islands.
Diving SafetyIf you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to Thailand, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this travel insurance as they offer worldwide coverage as they offer worldwide coverage and cover scuba diving up to 50 metres deep, as well as snorkelling and many more water activities.
Thailand doesn’t have as many opportunities for muck diving. However, macro lovers will always find interesting stuff to look at. Similan Islands are really good for underwater photography and you can find many critters like Ghost Pipefish, Frog fishes and numerous rare species of Nudibranch!
Thailand offers some interesting wrecks to dive. Two good ones are in the Andaman Sea:
- The Boonsung wreck, a 60m long former marine tin ore in 20m of water located near Khao Lak. Penetration is not possible.
- The King cruiser Wreck, a former car and passengers ferry sunken in 1997 after striking the Anemone reef. It lays in 32m of water but the top of the wreck is only at 9m! 2250 tons, 85m long, this is a big and nice wreck to dive! Penetration is possible in the car deck.
Thank you very much to Philippe Fleury from Koh Chang Dive Centre for this great review and pictures.
Now that you know all about the underwater world, you might want to start planning your scuba holiday! Check out our Thailand Travel Review for information about how to get there, activities and excursions, where to stay, and more.