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!
The authors behind the guide:
Dive instructor and Author
Torben spend most of his youth diving and teaching diving. Along his way, he passed Thailand where he worked as a PADI scuba instructor on dive centers and liveabords.
Thailand Expert and Co-author
Boby has a passion for diving and a love for Thailand. She came here for the first time when she was 12 and been back multible times since.
Table of content
Diving in Thailand is sorted in two main areas:
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. Diving areas of the Andaman Sea: Phi Phi islands, Koh Lanta, Koh Lipe, Krabi, Phuket, Similan Island/Khao Lak area.
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. Diving areas in the Gulf of Thailand: Koh Tao Island and Koh Samui.
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.
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 divers. 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.
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.
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.
There are two ways to dive Thailand:
Choosing to invest in a liveaboard diving trip is a fantastic way to gain access to the many fabulous dive sites that are a significant distance from the shore. The good news is that there are liveaboard options to suit all 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 solution in Thailand.
See the selection of Liveaboards in Thailand
Tips for liveaboard diving:
Does the idea of staying a full week on a liveaboard give you seasickness? Luckily, there are a wealth of dive centers from which to choose. When it comes to diving in Thailand, the most popular choices are Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Phuket, Khao Lak, and the Phi Phi Islands. Here you can enjoy all the comfort and convenience of day trip diving and experience the beauty of these majestic islands. Tips for diving here:
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 to 30˚C all year round.
Most divers make their way to Thailand between November and April, with the peak tourist season being December and January.
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.
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 gorgonian sea fans. In fact, the beautiful coral gardens and deep rocky gorges are a photographer’s dream.
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
Koh Lanta continues to be a popular tourist and diving destination after massive restoration efforts following a devastating 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. You can go drift diving over a series of ledges while cruising along strong currents. Underwater photography is popular in Koh Lanta where you can always find huge fishes like manta rays and sharks.
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.
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. The Phi Phi Islands are a quick boat trip from Phuket, with many visitors opting for a day trip to this slice of idyllic (but bit crowded) paradise. This is 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.
Aside from being a popular tourist destination, Krabi host to most of Thailand’s National Parks. Most of the underwater landscapes in Krabi are pristine coral reefs and pinnacles with sheer drop-offs. Among the long list of diving sites, Koh Yamasan, Koh See and Koh Yung are the most popular sites. These sites are similar to each to where you can explore healthy coral reefs filled with various marine life.
Despite being hit by a tsunami, the variety of underwater landscape of Phuket is still 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
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.
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.
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.