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Your Guide to Diving in Thailand

Dive in the Land of Smiles

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...Highlights: whale sharks, manta rays, turtles, great macro life/ marine diversity, non diving activities...
...Diving environment: beginner divers, very popular...

For many years Thailand has been a firm favourite, both with hard-core divers who come to dive some of Asia's best sites and also with holiday-makers, and backpackers who know that a few days of diving here will add hugely to their experience of the country. A dive vacation in Thailand, affectionately known by many as The Land of Smiles, means enjoying the gorgeous warm weather, the great hospitality of the local people, the beauty of the land and the rich bounty of the warm Andaman Sea that laps against its shores.

Diving in Thailand - red soft corals and fairy basslets

Scuba diving in Thailand is not limited to one particular area but most of the top spots are on the west coast, which runs down from Myanmar to Malaysia, with dive sites of world-renown such as those of the Similan Islands, as well as Richelieu Rock, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, most of which now enjoy national marine park status.

You can cruise the seas on fantastic well-run Thai dive liveaboards or stay in one of the fantastic beach resorts in the top tourist coastal regions, such as Phuket, Khao Lak, the Phi Phi Islands, Krabi or Koh Samui, to enjoy some great day trip diving. It's also a very popular choice with students who come to get certified with a scuba license without compromising on safety, comfort or quality.

The Andaman Sea is crammed with colourful coral and tropical marine life, set around some stunning tropical islands, and is characterised by sites such as the huge submerged boulders of the Similans, and the chance to swim with whale sharks, leopard sharks and manta rays at sites such as Richelieu Rock, Hin Daeng, Koh Tachai and Koh Bon. However, the diving is so diverse in Thailand that there is really something for everyone and a trip to suit every budget.

The Highlights

So where do you want to dive in Thailand? Read more on all these great spots:

• Similan Islands

Ask anyone who knows about the region and the first place they will mention is the Similan Islands. This small collection of islands set in the beautiful Andaman Sea are the jewel in the Thailand diving crown. Topography ranges from stunning rock formations and beautiful age-old gorgonian sea fans to colourful corals brimming with exotic marine life.
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World class dive sites pepper the area such as West of Six and Elephant Head Rock which are among the finest in the country and as good as anywhere in the Andaman Sea. One of the best features of diving in the Similan Islands is its 2 distinct types of dive site - deep water boulder formations and pretty coral gardens. Creatures often sighted in the Similans region include leopard sharks, blacktips, whitetips, barracuda, turtles, batfish and triggerfish. Smaller critters also abound such as frogfish, ribbon eels and razorfish.

• Hin Daeng / Hin Muang

These 2 pinnacles away from the Thai mainland are perhaps the best Thailand dive sites outside of the Similans. Manta rays, whale sharks and a variety of other sharks make frequent visits to these 2 spots where the diversity and sheer numbers of fish can be breathtaking. Short liveaboards trips that go here can give you a glimpse into some of Thailand's finest underwater treasures. It is also possible to find Similan itineraries that include these sites in their route. These sites are famed for the large pelagics attracted by the current which can be quite strong especially around Hin Muang, so diving here can be a fun ride.

• Richelieu Rock

This pinnacle is one of Thailand's premier and most popular dive sites and attracts scuba divers from all around the world. This large pinnacle rises steeply from a depth of 35m and is visited by liveaboards from Phuket and Khao Lak that usually dive it several times per trip. Here you can expect to see schools of trevally, grouper and snappers as well as barracuda. If you are in luck you may even spot a manta ray or whale shark. The colourful soft corals, sea fans, small caves and vast array of fish and macro critters all add to the attraction.

• Phuket, • Phi Phi and • Krabi

This region among the most popular places on the Andaman coast for those diving in Thailand who wish to be land based. These are great locations if you wish to do diving daytrips or dive courses. You can dive some of the sites that lie between Phuket and Phi Phi from all 3 locations, such as Shark Point and Kingcruiser Wreck.
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If you are staying in Phuket the most likely dive sites you can visit include Racha Noi and Racha Yai nearby islands featuring hard coral reefs, good visibility and myriad tropical reef fish. Anemone Reef is another popular spot near Phuket. Fields of anemones cover large areas of this submerged rock, supporting a huge clownfish population and providing great photo opportunities.

Phi Phi is one of the most photogenic vacation destinations in Thailand. Beautiful bays, beaches and rock formations are matched by some wonderful dive sites. Local sites include Bida Nai and Bida Nok, twin sites covered in clams, gorgonian fans and sea whips. Enjoy the swimthroughs and channels and look out for leopard sharks, trevally, sweetlips, trumpetfish, cuttlefish and more.

Krabi is another much loved destination, especially for those seeking to avoid the more crowded areas. From Krabi you can dive local sites featuring beautiful soft corals, a variety of schools of fish, great macro life and larger creatures including leopard sharks and large groupers. For divers based in Ao Nang or Krabi, the Phi Phi dive sites are also within range of a comfortable daytrip.

The Gulf of Thailand

The area is home to 2 well known islands: Koh Samui, Koh Tao. The Gulf sites are a great option, particularly for diving in Thailand during March to September when it is low season on the west coast, and places like the Similan Islands are closed. From both islands you can visit one of the Gulf's best dive sites, namely Sail Rock, a lonely granite pinnacle where the marine life of the area congregates. This includes schools of trevally and reef sharks. However, the chances of encountering a whale shark here are what makes this site famous. Koh Tao also has a number of local dive sites to visit and from Koh Samui you can also dive Chumphon Pinnacle, another excellent site where whale sharks are commonly sighted.

How to Dive Thailand

To see the liveaboards and daytrip options, please take a look at our website's Thailand liveaboards or day trips sections.

The best diving that Thailand has to offer is found in the Similan Islands, which are accessed by a large number of liveaboards. We promote the highest quality boat options across the price spectrum - boats that we know provide good service and value for money: Hin Daeng-Hin Muang, Similan Islands.

If liveaboards are not what you are looking for, you can take daily dive trips to the best of the west coast and beyond from the comfort of your resort in one of the popular southern resort areas, such as: Krabi, Khao Lak, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Koh Samui - Koh Tao.

The Thai Diving Season

Although November through to April is the best time for optimum site conditions, the Thailand scuba diving season runs all year round. This is reflected in the period when liveaboards run to the Similan Islands (late-October to mid-May). The best time to see whale sharks is between February and May when there is a higher concentration of plankton. This time of year is also the best for manta ray sightings although the number of sightings varies from year to year.

The last few months of high season on the west coast, from February to May enjoy the warmest water temperatures with June to October being the coldest. However, the variation is not great and generally speaking water temperatures range throughout the season from 26 to 31°C. Visibility varies during the year but can often exceed 30m in peak season. Plankton blooms may reduce visibility but also bring in the biggest creatures.

May to October is off season on the west coast of Thailand. Visibility is down, surface conditions are more variable and there is a greater chance of rain. Few liveaboard trips operate and many of those that do are cancelled due to lack of numbers. The more remote dive sites like Hin Daeng and Richelieu Rock are sometimes inaccessible during this period. At this time of the year the Gulf of Thailand has its own high season for diving, making it a good alternative.

For more useful information on Thailand’s climate, visit the Climates To TravelOpens in a new window website.

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Where is Thailand and How Do I Get There?

Review our map below of Thailand and its location in the world. Here, you will find information on how to get to Thailand.

Map of Thailand (click to enlarge in a new window) Map of the world (click to enlarge in a new window)

Reef Summary

Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 5 - 30m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface conditions: Can be rough
Water temperature: 26 - 31°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: >250
Recommended length of stay: 1 - 3 weeks

Useful References

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