34 Reasons Why Diving In Thailand Is a Must-Experience
While Thailand has countless attractions on land, scuba divers still flock to this tropical country for its amazing dive sites.
We reached out to divers all over Thailand and based on the information they have provided to us, we came up with 34 reasons why divers needs to go diving in Thailand.
Here we go:
#1: Take a plunge into Phuket’s diverse marine life
Phuket’s dive sites range from fringing reefs, giant boulders, pinnacles, walls, artificial reefs to grat wrecks, says Phil Phelan, course director and technical instructor at Crystal Waves.
Marine life is in abundance; there is usually one or two marine species that are more common at certain dive sites. If you have a good dive guide, you’ll be pointed out to the little creatures like seahorses and cleaner shrimps that like to hide away.
Turtles, blacktip reef sharks, giant barracuda, leopard sharks, octopus, cuttlefish, stingrays, schools of barracuda, snapper and moray eels are quite common.
#2: Diving is possible all year round
Phuket’s calmest waters and best visibility can be enjoyed from December until May, shares Niclas Andersson, CEO and technical and sidemount instructor at Kon-tiki Diving. However, diving is possible all year round. During the summer months (May until mid-September), there are less people on the dive sites and the diving can be just as good.
#3: Most likely you’ll find a diving instructor who speaks your language
Phuket has attracted a number of dive instructors from different countries to stay and work on the island. If you decide to get your diving certifications here, you’ll most likely find someone who speaks your native language, adds Torben Lonne, co-founder of Divein.com.
#4: Get the chance to spot different sharks
At Phuket’s dive sites, you may encounter black tip reef sharks and leopard sharks. Sometimes you get to spot bamboo sharks, whitetip reef sharks and whale sharks.
Steven Cazenave, from SSS Phuket considers his whale shark experience his most memorable dive. The whale looked so peaceful and it majestically moved in the blue water. Seeing the gigantic animal humbled him. It also encouraged him to take care of the ocean.
If people don’t take responsibility of the mother earth, underwater life will lose its stunning beauty.
#5: Or swim with graceful manta rays
While Richelieu Rock’s marine life is always mentioned every time people talk about diving in the North Andaman Sea, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai are also not to be missed. Manta rays regularly visit these dive sites from February to April, and their fish life, pelagic hunting, and incredible topography make for quite stunning dives, says Michael Rhys Thomas, dive guide and instructor at White Manta.
#6: Play hide and seek with small creatures
Koh Doc Mai, a mesmerizing limestone island, offers a wall dive littered with macro marine life, shares Darren Gaspari, owner and PADI course director at Aussie Divers Phuket. At this spot, you’ll most likely run into shrimps, eels, and nudibranchs lurking in cracks and crevices. Healthy marine life will greet you as soon as you enter the water until you go all the way to the bottom.
#7: There are diving spots for both beginner and experienced divers
Phuket is an ideal place for both beginner and advanced level divers. Many parts of the Andaman Sea are shallow and diveable by beginners. Riku Raunio, the operational manager of Raya Divers suggests South Pinnacle in Raya Noi, Koh Bida Nok in Phi Phi, and King Cruiser wreck as the perfect dive spots for experienced divers.
#8: Take the liveaboard cruise or ride traditional long-tail boats
Daytrip diving tours around Phuket are great all year round, says Kevan Thompson, managing director of Phuket Scuba Club. However, during the high season months between mid October to end April, divers have more options including liveaboard cruises to the world famous Similan islands and southern Andaman Sea islands (HinDaeng / HinMuang), and half-day long-tail boat dive trips off the west coast of Phuket.
#9: There are plenty of dive spots to choose from
Daniel Schwerin, managing director and owner of Santana Dive Center recommends three must-visit dive sites in Phuket.
First, the Anemone Reef for its wide variety of soft and hard corals, colorful clownfish, and huge carpet anemones.
Second, the twin islands Koh Racha Yai and Koh Racha Noi. The former houses not only nudibranchs, shrimps, and other critters, but also MV Harruby wreck, huge schools of barracudas, rays, cuttlefish and occasionally leopard sharks. The latter offers more attractions for experienced divers. It has huge boulder fields, great drift dive sites, and regular manta sightings.
Third, the fantastic “King Cruiser” wreck. It has become an artificial reef and home to large schools of fish like barracudas and snappers.
#10: Swim through the a huge wreck
Shunsuke Hata, manager at Kata Diving Center agrees and says: "Exploring King Cruiser is another must-do-dive". The wreck is an 80-meter long, old car ferry, the biggest wreck in the country. In May 1997, it hit a submerged collection of rocky pinnacles and sank in between Phuket and the Phi Phiisland.
Fortunately, all 561 passengers were rescued. Currently, the vessel sits on a sandy bottom at about 30 meters deep.
#11: There’s more to Phi Phi Islands than the featured beaches on Leonardo’s movie
Phi Phi Islands shelter a large variety of marine animals. Divers can frequently spot clownfish, pufferfish, scorpion fish, parrot fish, box fish, angelfish, moray eels, lion fish, trumpet fish, bannerfish, barracudas, triggerfish, Kuhl's stingrays, schools of trevally, and schools of yellow snapper at the dive area, shares Georg Kereit, manager and PADI & SSI instructor at Phi Phi Scuba.
The more special creatures are the banded sea snake, turtles, blacktip reef shark, frogfish, ornate ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimp, leopard shark, seahorse, cuttlefish, and octopus. On lucky days, divers can swim with a whale shark or a manta ray.
#12: Find pleasure in not-so-crowded dive spots
Most popular dive spots at Phi Phi Islands are the Bida Islands, Bida Nok, and Bida Nai, identifies Lauren Jayne Everard, manager and instructor at Long Beach Divers. While all of them are heavenly beautiful, she doesn’t consider them the best that Phi Phi can offer.
There are a few sites that most divers don't visit. Dive sites such as Garen Heng or Mushroom rock are rich with marine life and colorful soft corals, and the best thing is not many people dive there.
#13: Expect surprises from the Andaman Sea
The Andaman Sea has plenty of surprises for divers, from macro to huge pelagic species. Benjamin Unal, managing director and OWSI at Blue Planet Divers suggests a minimum stay of 5 days to be able to have a good diving experience in the Andaman Sea. Divers going to Koh Lanta should stay on the island for about two days and check the other islands for additional dives.
#14: Enjoy the scenery above and under the water
Koh Ha Marine Park consists of six uninhabited islands that look stunning both above and under the water. According to Lisa Bier, PADI course director at Andaman Dive Adventure, divers visit there for a number of reasons.
First, there is a serene lagoon situated in the middle of three islands. The topography makes it protected from strong currents and waves.
Second, it’s quite famous for not only famous for macro life (ghost pipefish, sea horses, sea moths, pipefish, harlequin shrimp, and nudibranchs), but also for whale sharks in the main season.
Third, divers also visit Koh Ha for the Cathedral Cavern, a large cave where you can surface in (there is air and light coming in from a hole in the roof), take out your regulator & breath. The light makes the experience quite unique.
#15: Love the soft purple corals at a “mantastic” dive site
Divers should not miss Hin Daeng & Hin Muang, two huge, remote deep water rocks about 3 hours away from Koh Lanta and Krabi. Marjo Kaihari, customer happiness manager at Lazy Seal, calls it a “mantastic” site because you can encounter manta rays and whale sharks in the area. At Hin Muang, you’ll also find Thailand's highest vertical wall with amazing purple soft corals.
#16: Be proud of the government’s marine conservation efforts
Both Koh Haa and Hin Daeng & Hin Muang are located in Thai Marine Park. People who want to visit them are required to pay a reasonable fee for marine preservation initiatives. The marine park is only open for visitors between the 15th of October and the 15th of May. The government periodically closes the park to let the reef relax.
Here's more on How To Become An Environmentally Friendly Diver
#17: Explore reefs that look like a scene from Finding Nemo
The dive sites in Koh Lipe are teeming with life, guarantees Ed Bosworth, manager and PADI master instructor at Davy Jones Locker. Clown fish, surgeon fish and moorish idols are everywhere, making the reefs look like a scene from Finding Nemo. Most of the diving in the area are conducted from the beautiful hand-crafted teak long-tail boats of the indigenous Chow Lay people.
After your dive trip, you can relax in your resort. Divers don’t come to Koh Lipe expecting the blaring pop music and loud bars. The island is a haven for those looking for serenity and natural beauty.
#18: Go with the flow in a drift dive
The laid back Koh Lipe is situated where the Indian Ocean, in the Andaman Sea, meets the waters of the Pacific, coming from the straits of Malacca. Being obviously tidal, best conditions occur in the days following neap tides, although spring tides offer good drift diving opportunities, adds Mr Bosworth.
#19: Get to know the underwater Stonehenge
Stonehenge is the most stunning dive site around Koh Lipe for many divers, including Eric Navet, SSS dive control specialist and PADI staff instructor at Koh Lipe Diving. It is an underwater fantasy land of mysteriously shaped granite pinnacles covered in white, pink, yellow, orange, red and purple soft corals.
In addition there are countless anemones, dozens of orange gorgonian sea fans and many massive barrel sponges.
And the best part?
It’s just about 5 to 10 minutes away by boat from Koh Lipe island.
#20: Big and small, Khao Lak has it all
Khao Lak has a wide variety of fish life, from the tiny pygmy pipehorses, nudibranchs, frogfish, to the massive oceanic manta rays and whale sharks. Fabian Teruel Gutierrez, marketing manager at Khao Lak Scuba Adventures adds that the dive sites vary from fringing reefs on the east side of the islands to large granite boulder sites.
Divers will enjoy the swim-throughs and amazing topography. There are sites suitable for all levels of divers, from the brave discover scuba divers, to professional Instructors who flock from all over Thailand (and elsewhere) to see what the west coast has to offer them.
#21: Visit the local wrecks at Khao Lak
Khao Lak is a must-dive area because of its diverse dive sites: from sloping coral reefs to giant boulder formations. Mr. Sunny, office manager at IQ Dive shares that apart from the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock, it’s good to pay a visit to three local wrecks as well.
Boonsung, an old tin mining boat which sank in 1984, rests in a depth of 20 meters. Premchai, which was sunk on purpose in 2011 for recreational diving, is getting more and more aquatic inhabitants. The Sea Chart Wreck is a bulk-carrier which sank in 2009 when the rough seas and severe weather caused multiple leaks in its hull.
Here are the Top 5 Of The World’s Best Wrecks
#22: Check out the famous rock associated with an elephant’s head
Great dive sites await divers in the protected Similan Islands, mentions Chevreton Sylvain, manager and OWSI at Khao Lak Explorer. One of the well-loved dive spots in the area is called Elephant Head Rock, named after the rock’s shape at the surface.
Divers will love exploring the small caves and swim-throughs as well as spotting whitetip, leopard and blacktip sharks. Since the sea bottom is deep and the current can be strong due to its exposed location, this dive spot is recommended more experienced divers.
#23: Even a small island has a lot to show off
Koh Tao is a small island in the Gulf of Thailand with lush vegetation, beautiful beaches, and many fascinating dive sites, all with abundant marine life, describes Elaine Brett, general manager of Master Scuba Divers.
It is surrounded by interesting reefs and pinnacles, giving divers a rich collection of beautiful dive sites to enjoy, each with its own unique character and marine life.
Koh Tao has perfect conditions for beginners as well as challenging dive sites for the experienced. It also has a few deeper wrecks for divers interested in tech diving.
#24: Be hopeful for rare encounters
At Koh Tao, divers can expect to swim with tropical fishes such as the blue ringed or banded angel fish, hongkong butterflyfish, wrasse, long fin banner fish, marbled groupers, barracudas (yellowtail, chevron, and great), gobies, shrimp and bluespotted ribbontail ray, shares Claude Kelly, manager of Asia Divers. His most most memorable dive was when he encountered two Bryde's whales, a mother and her calf, at Chumphon Pinnacle. It was a rare and special experience.
#25: Have a good time at ‘colorful’ dive sites
The dive sites around Koh Tao vary, so divers can expect different marine life in each spot, explains Pedro Gaudêncio, freelance divemaster at Golden Divers. Three of the dive sites are named after colors.
At Green Rock, you can expect several small swim throughs, caves and crevices that shelter marine life. The boulders range in depth from five metres down to around 32.
At Red Rock, the thrill starts at around two meters and drops to 22. From here, you can go drift diving to dive spot called Japanese Garden through a series of swim throughs.
At White Rock, you can find a wide coral garden teeming with schools of butterflyfish and angelfish. It is also a popular night dive spot where feather stars, and an array of crustaceans can been seen hunting for food.
#26: Still new to diving? Koh Tao has dive spots for you
Mr. Gaudencio also identifies three dive spots suitable for beginners.
First, the Japanese Garden, named after the ornate arrangement of coral boulders, has a depth that ranges from two to 12 meters. You can spot staghorn and plate corals in the shallow area.
Second, at Twin Peaks, you can find a couple of rocks embedded into white sand starting at around five meters below the surface. This area is alive with marine animals including large groupers and yellowtail barracuda.
Third, at Mango Bay you can find hard and soft coral formations as well as various sponges and clams.
For beginners, here's Start Diving: Open Water And Advanced – Diary Of A Divemistress
#27: Cross your fingers and look forward to diving with whales
You may spot whale sharks from April to May or from mid-October to mid-December at Koh Tao dive sites, says Rich Collin, divemaster and manager at Seashell Resort. However, he considers himself quite fortunate to see a pod of four pilot whales once in the three years he has been based on Koh Tao.
#28: Take an overnight trip to Ang Thong Marine Park
If you want to try other outdoor activities apart from diving, you may take an overnight trip to Ang Thong Marine Park. Victor Pass, IDC staff instructor and owner of Reefers Diving, says they don’t facilitate night diving in the area, but they let the divers take the plunge on the first morning of the trip. Other interesting activities in the trip include swimming in a secret lagoon, night fishing, barbecue, and three-hour cave trek.
#29: Get a thrill out of diving deeper
Koh Tao’s waters are calm and all dive sites around the island are suitable for beginners and experienced divers alike. Sandra Cacchione, manager and PADI master scuba diver trainer at Coral Grand Divers says that those who are looking for a bit more adventure can join dive trips to the deeper dive sites like Chumphon Pinnacle, Shark Island or the HTMS Sattakut wreck.
#30: Learn to go passive diving and respect marine life
The best time to dive at Koh Tao depends on what you want to see, opines Natalie Hunt, Manager and PADI Course Director at Sunshine Divers. In March and October, you can witness the nesting triggerfish season at Green Rock, so an abundance of yellow-margin and titan triggerfish are sighted. Divers who want to see whale sharks should visit in April or September.
However, she noted that as the climate changes around the world, the seasons have varied and so does the aquatic life and the underwater environment. She added April is also a good time for those who want to celebrate the famous water festival (Song Kran).
#31: Relax with your non-diving buddies in Koh Samui
There are no dive sites around Koh Samui itself. Peter Lekse, general manager and PADI staff instructor at Calypso Diving, shares all dive trips from the island go to Angthong Marine National Park, Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan.
However, what makes Koh Samui a recommended place to stay is that it offers many other activities apart from diving. If you’re going on a dive trip with your family or non-diving buddies, you can still spend quality time with them in between diving days. You can try safari tours, kayaking, watching sunsets, or beach bumming.
#32: Be part of a school of fish
At Sail Rock, one of the dive sites reachable from KohSamui, divers can encounter enormous schools of jack fishes, queen trevallies, young barracudas, giant barracudas, batfish and butterfly fish. There are also plenty of giant groupers around and frequent sightings of whale sharks, adds Marita Fassbender, PADI course director and branch manager at Easy Divers.
#33: Learn tech diving in fresh water
Thailand is a great place to learn tech diving because of its tropical weather, shares Simone Reymenants, advanced trimixand full cave diver and tech instructor at Blue Label Diving. There are a few fresh water caves you can visit from Phuket. One of which is called Song Hong, which has a diameter of 1.2 km at 60 meters and the cave goes down to 180 meters. Only 30% of this cave has been explored and since it’s located in the middle of a jungle, it’s rare to find tourists in the area.
Here's more on Technical Diving: What Is It All About?
#34: Make the most of your time while on a liveaboard trip
While some sites in the Similans can be reached by day trip, these are done with speed boat transfers and offer far less variety.Mik Jennings, sales and marketing manager and PADI OWSI at Worldwide Dive and Sail, explains that if you opt for liveaboard diving in the world-known area, you can maximize your diving time and you can visit some the more remote and less dived sites. Liveaboard diving also gives the flexibility of staying for that extra dive when the big boys are around. All of these activities are done in a very relaxed fashion, with up to four dives each day and long lazy surface intervals broken by the wonderful Thai cuisine on offer on board.
Here's one scuba diver's account on Liveaboard Diving: Scuba Diving The Liveaboard Way
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