Best Diving sites in Thailand

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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.

Photos Thailand

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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.

Krabi Beach Transportation Boat

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebehnken/5885152699/

Where to stay?

I usually use this website to book in advance my hotels in Thailand as they usually have the lowest rates I find. I like it because it's free to cancel and change the dates.

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.

Hot tips

  • 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.

Whale Shark Diving Koh Tao Thailand

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 Safety

If 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.

Macro Diving

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!

Wreck Diving

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.

Travel Guide

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.

Diving Reviews for this region

Khao Lak

Starting point of many liveaboards to dive the Similan and Surin Islands. Khao Lak has also good local diving sites.

Khao Lak Diving Review

Surin Islands

Large Pelagics, Manta rays and Whale Shark if you are lucky all in a superb remote area!

Surin Islands Diving Review

Similan Islands

Great Biodiversity and fauna. Excellent chances to spot the giants Manta rays and Whale Sharks. Superb Scenery of tropical islands! Good spot for underwater photography.

Similan Islands Diving Review

Phuket

Access to the best diving areas of the Andaman Sea and starting point of many liveaboards to Similans and Surin Islands! Good place for cheap diving courses.

Phuket Diving Review

Koh Phi Phi

Amazing Marine life in a very scenic surrounding. Perfect starting point to explore the world class dive sites of the Andaman Sea!

Koh Phi Phi Diving Review

Koh Lanta

Excellent Marine life with good chances to spot Leopard sharks, Manta Rays and even a Whale Shark!

Koh Lanta Diving Review

Koh Tao

Diving hub of Thailand to learn how to dive. Cheap and easy diving on a beautiful island.

Koh Tao Diving Review

Liveaboard Cruises in this region

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26 dive logs in “Thailand

  1. Last month I dived with my friends with bb divers Koh Kood. We could choose to dive around Koh kood, Koh Maak, Koh Rang and Koh Chang. We went to Koh Kood. 2 of my friends don’t dive, so they went with us for snorkeling. We went to 2 different divespots, where we were the only dive school. So it was very quite and relaxing. We had 15m viz. We dived with Pui, a dive master who works already for years in this area. We saw a lot of beautiful fish, like parotfish, lionfish, big group of baracuda and fusilier, nudibranches and so in. The the corals are still so alive… Great. In between we went to a totally white small beach.. again nobody :-) it was a great day.. Staff professional and friendly, give us a lot of info about koh kood. For sure i go again to dive with them and enjoy the relaxing area of Koh kood.

  2. Hi, Planning a trip with some friends to Thailand. We would love to dive there, but don’t really want to do a live-aboard type trip.

    We have been given many conflicting opinions as to whether the east coast (Gulf) and west coast (Andaman) is better for diving.

    Was hoping you could shed some light on the best places to go, where we can dive the best spots without having to base our whole trip around the dives.

    Thanks
    Bruce

  3. Hi There,
    My name is Natalia and I am planning to go to Thailand from the 22nd of November to the 9th of December 2012.

    I would like to do some diving there and I am wondering where are the best places to go?

    I have the AUSI: International Open Water (Level II), My partner doesn’t have any certification, so firstly we have to go to a place where we can get the open water diving certificate.

    Afterwards, I would like to do with him the advance open water certificate aiming to see a wreck. I saw in your site that you mentioned two: Boonsung wreck and King cruiser Wreck, which one is better?

    A friend of mine told me that she did her advance course in Koh Tao and she saw a submarine.

    I would like to go to both sides of Thailand: Andaman sea and the golf of Thailand. Where would you go first?

    The last question, I saw that in Thailand all diving clubs are PADI, Can I do my advance course with them since I do not have the PADI certificate but the AUSI?

    Thanks very much in advance,

    Natalia

  4. I dived this July (2012) in the Gulf of Thailand at Sail Rock, at South West Pinnacle, Shark Island and off Koh Tao. In most of Thailand one has to take a couple of hours of boat ride to get to good diving spots. The visibility was upto 15 meters though didn’t spot any large size sharks.

    The dive companies are well organized and are economical. The company I dived with were friendly, well equipped and conscious about safety.

    There are plenty of dive companies and one can get space on short notice.

    Water temperature and dive conditions were ideal; I spotted plenty of Titan Tiger fish, Anglefish of lots of varieties, Butterfly, Grouper, Scorpian fish, Lion fish, Cuttlefish, Reef squid, Eel, variety of Stingrays, Urchins, Sponges, Plenty of Black-fin Barracudas and many many more.

    The dive sites were seldom crowded.

    Overall it was a rewarding experience.

  5. hi
    i am planning to visit thailand in november.
    I don’t know swimming. but i wanna to experience scuba diving/ snorkelling .is it possible ?

    Regards,
    Kamana

  6. we are going up the coast of thailanl diving and just wondering if any one us been diving up there on a budget will spent on diving but accommodtion i will spend a little less any ideas please

  7. Hi,

    For those who are planning to dive at Southern Thailand (North/South Andaman/Similan Islands).
    Some basic general info. below and hope it helps you to decide better:

    Depth: 0 – 40m

    Visibility: Good to Excellent (some up to 30m)

    Currents: Please read through below “Best Time to Dive”.

    Experience Level: It’s mandatory for beginners are accompanied by a Divemaster. Even if you are a DiveMaster yourself somewhere else, it’s advisable to follow the allocated or local Divemaster because they know where to bring you to the right spots without you wasting your time searching around or worst “lost”. Well, of course unless you have dived there multiple times before and also a qualified Masterdiver. then you can request to go in single pair.

    Best time to dive: Some websites might claim that certain dive spots are good for all year round. That is not always true, traditionally some dive spots are closed by the local rangers during June – September. We are all happy to comply to it because this is the only time of the year those poor sea life are able to have a complete peaceful rest and also some privacy. You’ll be amaze to see the amount of divers underseas when dive season starts (October – May). Personally I always like to dive there between November – April, I found that October the currents is still quite rough (>3m) and visibility is just between average – good. Please don’t take my word for it, always check the weather forecasts before booking your trip. Here’s a local government’s website for weather forecasts: http://www.tmd.go.th/en/

    Answer to Kamana’s question is: Yes, you can. Like all others, you’ll have to sit for a theory and practical test. There are many Padi and Navi certified dive schools at Phuket island, Tao Island, Chang Island, Samui Island etc. and I guarantee that Thailand is one of the cheapest place to earn a recreational diving license. As long as you do it right in the water, you’ll be safe and alright. I know at least 50 names who had this similar issue (some even aqua-phobia) are happy regular divers now.

    Below taken from:
    http://www.diveguidethailand.com/scuba-diving-andaman-sea-thailand.htm

    “In general the Andaman Sea has more extensive coral reefs but similar visibility to the Gulf of Thailand, with most of the reefs around the offshore islands occurring on the east sides of the islands, due to the influence of the southwest monsoon; the west coasts tend to have rocky slopes descending to 10-30m in depth.

    Towards the northern end of the Thai coastline, a series of granitic outcrops lie in deep, clear water with reefs descending to 25-30m and beyond in depth. These are the Similan and Surin Islands, whose breathtaking underwater scenery and great diversity of marine life have gained them a considerable reputation in the diving community.

    Given their proximity to Phuket, it is not surprising that these two island groups are among the country’s most popular destinations for day trips and liveaboard excursions.”

    My personal choice of operators:

    1) http://www.thai-scubanet.com
    2) http://www.khaolakscubaadventures.com/
    Both serve very good food. excellent clean room, very friendly boat staff and excellent boat conditions. The only different between them is: http://www.khaolakscubaadventures.com divers are mainly foreigners. http://www.thai-scubanet.com divers are always almost local Thai divers.

    REMEMBER!!
    1) Always check from websites that belong to the local operators, because they know best and ask alot of questions.

    2) Compare prices, dive trips/spots and boat conditions. If time and $$ are not concerned. Pick the liveaboard.

    3) Check weather forecasts.

    LAST but NOT LEAST!! PLEASE HELP to preserve the sea life, corals and Happy Diving!!

    email me if you have questions and no I don’t own any of the webistes mentioned above. I’m a chopper builder. Cheers

  8. i just had my very first sea-walking dive last friday and i have been thinking to go back coral island for volunteer program next year :D (nikorn marine) the crew are helpful and very entertaining along the way! they placed sea urchin on our hand to see them move, provided us bread to feed hundreds of fishes to explored the water planet, it is awesome! i even got a kiss at the end of the trip from a dive instructor, so sweet :)

  9. STOP reading or writing your reviews for this website (dice zone.net), it’s prejudice and doesn’t allow fair reviews, comments and freedom of opinions. What’s the point of asking for readers’ review etc then??

    • Hello Scubajedi,

      I just saw your comment. Did you have any problem posting you review? Reviews are ALL posted automatically and instantaneously. There is only a spam filter if you put more than 2 links in your review. I don’t find any trace of your review, I think there was only a technical problem. Please try to post it again.

      Have a great day,

      Julien

      • I just checked, your review was in the spam box as you put more than 2 links in it. I approved it, it is now published above. By the way thank you very much for this great review ;-) .

        Julien

  10. Hi!
    Can anyone give me advice on where to do an open water diving course in Thailand? I am unfortunately going in the peak of peak season but would still prefer a more quiet place with small groups, to learn in a calm and confident environment. I am thinking of Koh Lipe – any comments? Or Koh Lanta, but I am afraid it might be very crowded.
    Thanks a million for any replies!
    Kiti :-)

  11. Hey there
    I am traveling Thailand by motorbike and don’t want to have to pay for to many ferrys to the Islands. Do you know of any good spots to dive off the mainland? If there was one island to go to for a week of diving that is easy to get to with my bike what one would it be?
    Thanks
    Kieran

  12. Hi, I’ve done 2 dives in Koh Tao. It is Feb 2013 and what I’ve heard about the place made me come all the way from the Middle East. Here I’m in Koh Tao and after the 2nd dive is over, I’ll never make it to this place for diving again.
    But why did I reach to this point. Here we go, started searching a dive trip and found the offers around 4500 Bhat. That’s a freaking $150, and trusts me when I say 4 dives back home wouldn’t cost me that amount.
    Here is the trip schedule:
    1. 7am Buss pickup from hotel in Koh Samui
    2. 8am moving to Koh Tao with a speed boat.
    3. Reaching at 9:30
    4. Now let’s talk about the diving spots. My 1st dive briefing stated that the dive site name is Japanese Garden. It was 16 meter deep dive. Now, when it comes to life in there it’s rich yet tiny. And I was like this is nice but there is nothing so special about it! I mean I’ve seen almost the same home back home “UAE, east cost”
    5. After an hour break the second dive briefing stated that the dive site name is Japanese Garden. And I was like wait that was our first dive site, aren’t we going to move to another dive spot. And guess what, Here is the instructor “ well, not really the other dive spots is not really good in this season since the currents are very strong” so we ended up diving in the same spot yet 30 meter away from our first spot.
    6. The 2nd dive is over and you head to the boat for the lunch and you find your food in your plate served randomly!
    7. You have just enjoyed your lunch and the crew calls for seat taking since they want to head back!!!
    8. At 3 pm you are in Koh Samui!!!!
    That was my worst diving trip ever. I should have don’t it back home or in the red sea.

  13. I have been to Thailand once, 2 years ago and have dived on Phi Phi and it was amazing. One year before Thailand I have dived in Egipt and I think Thailand was definitely better place to dive :)

  14. It’s awesome diving in fresh waters of Thailand. I’ve had a great experience and recommend diving classes in Thailand. It’s cold and crowded down under. Yes there are some lovely harmless fish. Be sure to take your underwater camera.

    • Hi Ria! Wow! I haven’t tried freshwater diving yet! Would you mind sharing your freshwater diving on Thailand here on Divezone? We would be delighted to have it here on our site. Happy Diving! :)

  15. Hello, Im planning to go to Thailand for my dive master and instructor license with Padi. What areas would be recommended for diving during october, november, december?
    Thanks!

  16. Mike, you say you have dove in Egypt. Was it the Red Sea? We have yet to finx a place that was as clear, beautiful, and full of life as the Red Sea. Haven’t dove in Thailand yet. Would love to go on a liveaboard but get seasick. Yuck!

  17. Hello Julien, my husband are first time divers and would like to stay in/around Phuket for three days early November. Where would be the best place to stay (easy transport from Phuket airport) to do amazing scuba diiving day trips and snorkeling? We are interested in the Similan islands but are afraid that it will be too far and waste precious time. The reason we want to be close to the airport is because we will be flying to Chiangmai and hope to arrive there early afternoon. Thank you! Grace

  18. I’ve been lucky enough to dive both the Andaman sea and the Gulf of Thailand. In the Gulf I’ve dived the lower islands of Tao and Samui and the Eastern Seaboard of Pattaya and Samesan. All of these places add towards Thailand being an incredible place to dive in it’s different way.

    On Phuket I took no dives but headed directly to the Simnilans with a company called Seaking Divers. Alistair the owner of Seaking overlooks each trip individually and they are very well run. I took two trips back to back with one to Phi Phi which was outstanding. I recommend driving Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.

    In Pattaya I took my dive master training with Mermaids (http://www.learn-in-asia.com) and that was an eye opener. The training was hardy which was why I took it at Mermaids for the reputation but the diving was superb. I had never dived wrecks before but I managed to rack up 68 dives on the Hardeep, Kram and the Kut. The Hardeep has been sunk since world war two and is a great dive – massively recommended.

    From what I saw in Thailand you’re pretty much guaranteed a great dive experience in all areas.

  19. Just came back recently from a liveaboard in Similan Islands, and I must admit it’s as amazing as everyone says! :) I Recommend every diver to go there, whenever they get a chance :) Koh Tao can’t compete with the Similan, even though it’s wonderful ther too :)

  20. I did a liveaboard in Similans (North) last Feb 2014 with Seadragon. The dives were good, visibility was amazing especially at Richelieu Rock. The water was crystal clear, from the deck before going into the water. Saw lotsa small critters & moray eels.. too bad i didnt get to see manta ray & sperm whale during my trip

    The liveaboard trip with Seadragon was good. The DMs were friendly & knowledgeable about the dive area. The boat crews were awesome too, very helpful & friendly as well. We were well taken care of on the boat, food, drinks & snacks available all time. It cost about 16000 Baht for a 4d/4n trip, discount available if you are bringing your own dive gear. Would recommend to dive with them

  21. Hi,

    I am planning a trip to come to Thailand beginning of August until End of October/beg of November. The more I am reading about times to go, the more websites/books are saying visibility will be low and water maybe rough. What is your opinion about this. Also, if I went during this time where would you recommend to go? If the water and visibility gets bad, then I might try to move my trip to another time, but also want to go in the off season to avoid crowds and stay at places for cheap.

    Thanks!

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