DIVEIN.com’s team of PADI Scuba Instructors presents:
A Complete Guide to Diving in Thailand
With more than 349 named dive sites, great visibility, perfect warm water all year round, beautiful reefs full of corals and some of the best marine life in the world, Thailand is THE perfect dive destination.
Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles, and once you go diving here you’ll see why!
So, if you’re ready we can start planning your dive trip to Thailand.
There’s much you need to know beforehand, but in this guide, we’ve tried to make it easily accessible.
Best Diving Sites in Thailand
- Richelieu Rock – Dived from Kao Lak
- Hin Daeng and Hin Muang – Dived from Koh Lanta or Krabi
- Koh Dok Mai – Dived from Phuket.
- Koh Bon – Dived from Kao Lak
- Similan Islands – Dived from Kao Lak
- Chumphon Pinnacle – Dived from Koh Tao.
- Koh Tachai – Dived from Kao Lak
- HTMS Sattakut Wreck.
- Sail Rock – Dived from Koh Tao or Koh Samui
- Koh Haa – Dived from Koh Lanta or Krabi
The main diving areas of Thailand
Diving in Thailand is sorted in two main areas:
The Andaman Sea, stretching all down the west coast of Thailand
Tropical islands set in the Andaman Sea provide a variety of diving to suit just about everyone.
Tropical and coral marine life creates a breathtaking underwater vista that is quite unlike any other.
These waters also afford you the opportunity to dive with leopard sharks, whale sharks, and manta rays, amongst other fascinating creatures.
The Gulf of Thailand
Diving the Gulf of Thailand is great for a beginner doing advanced courses or for travelers looking for their first dive course.
The gulf also offers amazing spots for experienced divers to enjoy a calm, nice and relaxing dive with the chances to see a whale shark.
There’s many reasons to go diving in Thailand:
The conditions in Thailand’s water seem made for divers.
With warm, clear waters year round and a few hundred dive sites from which to choose, it’s no wonder that divers flock here.
The many dive sites offer options for all levels of divers, from novices to the most experienced.
Just about anyone can enjoy this underwater wonderland. This guide will provide you with detailed information about scuba diving in Thailand.
Types of diving in Thailand
Reef Diving in Thailand
There are many beautiful coral reefs to see in Thailand. Fortunately, these reefs are protected by the goverments, preserving them for the benefit of the marine ecosystem – not to mention the pleasure of us.
More than half of the coral reefs are found in Thailand’s 26 National Marine Parks.
Three of these parks have been put forward as possible World Heritage Sites: Similan islands, Koh Surin, and Koh Tarutao.
Wreck Diving in Thailand
Several large wrecks have become fascinating artificial reefs teeming with marine life.
Some of the more popular wrecks include the HTMS Sattakut, HTMS Khram, and HTMS Chang.
Drift Diving in Thailand
Gentle currents allow for scenic drift dives through the underwater splendor on offer in Thailand.
A few of the popular options include Koh Rok Nai, Koh Similan, East of Eden, and Turtle Rock.
How to dive Thailand?
Liveaboard diving in Thailand
Choosing to invest in a liveaboard diving trip is a fantastic way to expeience some of the best dive sites, that are a further away from the shores and resorts on land.
And Thailand do have great liveaboard options that’ll most likely suit your needs and preferences.
No matter your budget, intended duration of the cruise, the number of divers, or level of expertise, you will find a liveaboard option in Thailand.
See the selection of Liveaboards in Thailand Tips for liveaboard diving:
- Remember to pack proof of your diver certification as well as your log book.
- You can expect an average of four dives per day on most liveaboards.
- Limit the valuables you pack – onboard safes can be quite small.
- Bring your dive light, as night dives are frequently offered.
Day trip diving in Thailand
The really good thing about diving in Thailand is that every dive site can be reached on a day trip.
Day trips do take a whole day when going to spots like Similan Islands or Hin Daeng or Hin Muang, but you’ll get there, do great diving, and get back in time for dinner.
Facts about diving in Thailand
- More reef diving that you can imagine: Thailand as an astonishing 153 km2 of coral reef
- Great spots to see Whale Sharks & Manta Rays
- 2125 different species of fish
- 24 different Liveaboards in Thailand that are possible to embark on
- Koh Tao is the place that issues 2. most dive certificates in the world
- Similan Islands has often been ranked as one of the top diving sites in the world
- The best time to dive in the Andaman Sea is from November to April
- And the Gulf of Thailand from May to September
- Thailand can be dived all year round
Best time to dive in Thailand
Each area also has a different season that is perfect for divers. This also makes diving in Thailand possible all year round.
One of the advantages of Thailand’s geographical location is that the water temperature is constant throughout the year.
The water temperature is 26˚C to 30˚C all year round.
Best diving season for Andaman Sea:
Most divers make their way to Thailand between November and April, with the peak tourist season being December and January.
- Peak diving season: From November to April.
- Krabi, Phi Phi and Phuket can be dives all year round
- Koh Libe and Koh Lanta are closed(or mostly closed) from June to October
- Similands islands National park is open from November 16 to May 15
Best diving season for the Gulf of Thailand:
Thailand offers superb diving conditions for divers of all levels of experience. Warm waters, great visibility, manageable currents, and loads of dive sites at depths from 5 to 40+ meters. The best time to dive in Thailand depends on where you are planning on diving and what you would like to see.
- Peak diving season: October to April.
- Best time for whale shark sightings: February to May.
- Best time of year for manta ray sightings: February to May.
- Best time to dive the Gulf of Thailand: May to October (off season for the west coast).
Diving in the Similan Island
This small collection of islands is regarded by many as being the prime dive destination that Thailand has to offer. In fact, it is frequently hailed as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world.
Here the landscape consists of everything from rock formations to bright corals and huge gorgonian sea fans. The beautiful coral gardens and deep rocky gorges are a dream come true for most divers.
The Similan islands offer a great variety of diving across several sites. You can either explore sloping coral reefs or intricate rock formation. Similan Island’s reef system is composed bommies where you will be diving in between mounds filled with vibrant-colored corals. The Similan Islands are dived either on a day trip from Khao Lak or via one of the many Liveaboards in the Similan area.
The last option is recommended because you skip the 1,5-2 hour trip each way, and have the option of morning and afternoon dive when the area is less crowded.
Read more about diving in Similan Islands
Diving in Koh Lanta
Koh Lanta continues to be a popular tourist and diving destination after massive restoration efforts following the tsunami. You will enjoy stunning white beaches and amazing dive sites scattered over 70 islands surrounding Koh Lanta. Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are the 2 most popular sites in Koh Lanta. As well as Koh Haa, also know as the 5 islands. You can go drift diving over a series of ledges while cruising along strong currents.
Phi Phi islands are also done on a day trip from Koh Lanta, so you’ll really get a great chance to experience a great variety of Thailand’s diving.
Hin Daeng means ‘red rock’. This submerged pinnacle is home to a variety of soft corals in every imaginable shade of red.
Although there is plenty of small marine life to attract divers here, it is the lure of manta ray and whale shark sightings for which Hin Daeng is most popular.
Hin Muang means ‘purple rock’ and, like Hin Daeng is named for the colorful soft corals that cover this rock formation.
Divers will discover the highest vertical wall in Thailand at this site – and what a sight it is! Here you will hopefully see big fish, manta rays, leopard sharks, and grey reef sharks.
Diving in Phi Phi Island
Previously devastated by the 2004 tsunami, Phi Phi Island has stood back and slowly regaining back its crown as a world-famous diving destination.
You will surely enjoy warm water diving in protected reefs, pinnacles, vertical drop-offs and miniature underwater caves.
Marine life around the Phi Phi area is great and full on thriving. Which makes this a very popular dive destination in the Andaman Sea, with loads of easily accessible dives sites for divers of all levels to explore the incredibly beautiful coral reefs.
The Phi Phi Islands are reached from the Phi Phi island on a 5-minute boat ride, or on a day trip from Phuket, Koh Lanta or Krabi. There are many visitors opting for a day trip to this slice of idyllic (but bit crowded) paradise.
Diving in Krabi
Krabi (ao nang) is a great destination if you’re looking for a good holiday with easy access to good diving.
Around Ao Nang, there’s a great option of doing a few local spots which are rich in marine life, but visibility can be variable. It’s short distances and done via the traditional long tail boat.
Koh Phi Phi is also here a premier dive destination, that’s done as a day trip. Phi Phi offers a great many different dive sites all the way around the islands and plenty of marine life.
Other dive spots you can do from Ao Nang are: Koh Haa Yai, Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, Shark Point, Anemone Reef, and last but not least King Cruiser Wreck.
Diving in Phuket
Phuket is a popular diving destination in Thailand, if not in the world.
Exploring Phuket’s underwater realm will take you to go reef, night, drift and deep diving where you can see barrel sponges, sea whips, gorgonians, groupers, jacks, and barracudas.
You can also have a great wreck diving experience by descending down along a limestone cliff where a former car ferry is resting. You can also plan and explore an artificial structure made up of stone elephants which is a popular icon in Thailand.
Dive trips from Krabi and Phuket, will often also include Hin Daeng, Hin Muang and Phi Phi islands. Or you’ll have the option of going on a liveaboard to the Similan Islands
Diving in Koh Lipe
This small island located near Malaysia is not yet among Thailand’s most traveled destinations.
Being part of a marine park, Koh Lipe has a long list of dive site offering great scuba diving experience.
Advanced divers can go drift diving in an inter-connected plateau formed from various pinnacles. Novice divers can also enjoy a similar site but with the protection of shallow coral reefs.
Diving along moderate currents in a narrow channel filled with soft corals and large coral bommies is also popular in Koh Lipe.
Diving in Koh Tao Island
Underwater rock formations, tunnels, and swim throughs are the major attraction when you visit Koh Tao Island.
The Koh Tao underwater landscape is a very popular destination to learn scuba diving.
Many of Thailand’s young traveling tourists pass by and most of them end up doing an open water certification here. Due to the many students, courses in Koh Tao are often done in big groups of 8 students at a time.
The massive granite protrusions of Koh Tao are the most visited sites.
Here you see a lot of tropical reef fishes while having an amazing wall, deep and drift diving experience. You can also consider diving with sharks wherein Koh Tao’s southwest coast has a good shark population.
Diving in Koh Samui
Dive trips from Koh Samui will often go to Sail Rock or to Koh Tao, as diving around Koh Samui isn’t the best.
Sail Rock is located some 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Koh Samui, so it’s prefect for a day dive trip. Another similar site is the Southwest Pinnacles.
This is broken granite protrusion covered with soft and hard corals. The natural ledge creates a stunning site for wall diving where you can find jacks, barracudas and leopard sharks.
Facts and info about diving in Thailand
Current in Thailand
Depending on the location of your dive and the weather conditions, you might encounter strong currents. This is particularly the case with dive sites such as some of those in the Similan Islands where strong currents swirl around rock formations. However, Thai waters offer many sites that tend to have gentle and manageable currents – often allowing for enjoyable drift dives.
Visibility in Thailand
No matter where you dive in Thailand, you can generally be assured of good visibility. On average, visibility in the waters surrounding Thailand measures an impressive 30 meters (100 feet).
There are dive sites worth seeing at all depths. For recreational divers, there are plenty of beautiful dive spots that range from 5 to 40 meters. For more experienced divers with the relevant qualifications, there are also sites to explore beyond 40 meters.
Snorkeling in Thailand
If you fancy some time on the surface or are going on holiday with non-divers, there are plenty of options for fantastic snorkeling in Thailand. The warm climate and clear blue waters allow for incredible sights from the surface. From turtles to corals and schools of tropical fish, there is a never-ending array of delights in Thailand’s best snorkeling sites.