A country of great diversity, Thailand is the travel hub for Southeast Asia. Mountains, hills, plains, lush jungles, a long coastline, and over 1,400 islands ensure there’s something for everyone visiting the Land of Smiles. The economy of the country is greatly dependent on tourism. Thailand is a renowned beach destination with a vibrant cultural heritage. It’s also a hotspot for scuba diving!
Scuba diving in Thailand means great visibility, warm water year-round, beautiful reefs, and abundant marine life. With over 300 dive sites spread around the mainland and its numerous islands, it’s also one of the cheapest places to learn to scuba dive. Most of the best spots are on the Andaman Sea, with the Similan Islands standing out as an excellent diving location, but great dive sites can also be found in the Gulf of Thailand.
Teeming marine life in Koh Phi Phi. Photo by Ilse and Jan-Noud
Diving in Thailand is usually possible all year, but the best time to dive the Andaman Sea is October through April, while the best conditions for diving the Gulf of Thailand are found May through September. Consequently, when it’s the low season on one of the coasts, it’s peak season on the other, so you can find a location to dive regardless of when you’re visiting the country.
The average water temperature ranges from 27°C/80° F to 32°C/90° F throughout the year.
You can expect low to strong water currents anywhere around the country; it all depends on the dive site and region.
The water visibility in Thailand is usually excellent, but it ranges between 10 to 40 meters (33 – 131 feet) depending on the location and season.
The Similan Islands is an archipelago in the Andaman Sea consisting of 9 islands that have no individual names but they’re referred to by their numbers. The dive sites in this region are known for their boulder formations, channels, swim-throughs, walls, and reef slopes.
The mixture of vibrant reefs, colorful fish, and deep rock formations are a magnet for divers of all levels. Some of the best dive sites in the Similan Islands include Elephant Head with its giant granite boulders, East Of Eden with the best reefs in the area, and Anita’s Reef with its teeming marine life.
The Surin archipelago, with its Koh Surin Nua and Koh Surin Tai islands and Richelieu Rock, offers some of the most spectacular scuba diving in the country. The destination offers the advantage of being less frequented than the Similan Islands and receiving more pelagic action. The presence of excellent dive sites where manta rays and whale sharks can be seen have made the Surin Islands a popular destination among divers. There are also plenty of sites where macro life like pipefish, seahorses, and frogfish can be observed.
Coral reef in Koh Phi Phi. Photo by Ilse and Jan-Noud
Koh Phi Phi lie on the famous Coral Triangle and it’s a biodiversity hotspot. Thousands of species of marine fish and coral, ranging from the tiny nudibranchs to whale sharks inhabit the waters surrounding the islands. The region has about 20 dive sites characterized by rugged limestone walls covered in coral. There’s a dive site for everyone here, regardless of the level of experience. Some of the most popular include Mushroom Rock, Bida Nok, and Phi Phi Leh.
Koh Tao is an island in the Chumphon Archipelago that’s renowned for the number of annual dive certifications issued. It’s among the best places to dive if you’re a beginner, with calm conditions and plenty of dive sites to choose from. Bull sharks, grey sharks, leopard sharks, barracudas, and sea turtles are common encounters, along with all the usual reef fauna of South East Asia. Sail Rock, Chumphon Pinnacles, and Shark Bay stand out as some of the best dive sites in the region.