Thailand is a firm favourite amongst scuba divers of every experience level, and it’s easy to see why. Thailand’s coastline offers unparalleled beauty, warm waters and as many variations in interesting marine life as there are temples in this cultural mecca. There are two main areas where scuba diving is concentrated: the Gulf of Thailand to the east and the Andaman Sea to the west. Each is unique in terms of its diving, rainy and peak tourist season, but both areas offer superb diving and are well worth a visit.
Best Diving Destinations in Thailand
Thailand’s magnificent gulf on the east includes the islands of Ko Tao and Koh Samui, which offer impeccable diving throughout the year at dive sites that are fairly protected from heavy weather conditions. Divers can enjoy calm, gentle currents over the reefs and are often spoilt with sightings of majestic rays and whale sharks at certain times of the year. Notable dive sites include Sail Rock, a phenomenal rocky outcrop that sits 15 meters above the surface of the water, and the underwater walls of Chumphon Pinnacle.
For many, the best dive sites can be found on the west coast, specifically in the area of the Andaman Sea that stretches between the ever-popular Phuket and further south down to Krabi. Popular with novice and experienced divers alike, there are a number of shore dives and wreck dives available, but many of the reef dive sites are reached by boat.
Phuket is an island ideally suited for scuba diving enthusiasts with plenty of dive operators along its coast and an array of exotic marine life in its waters. It is also fairly protected and is suitable for diving at almost any time of the year. There are rocky and colourful coral reefs, wreck dives and even a marine sanctuary called Shark Point, known for its concentration of Leopard Sharks. For those looking to experience a little more of a challenge, there are a number of sites surrounding the Similan islands that are well-worth hopping on a liveaboard to visit. In contrast to the relatively calm conditions around Phuket, Richelieu Rock is an exhilarating wall dive that will not leave you disappointed.
Thailand boasts a whopping 26 National Marine Parks which means that all of the dive sites are well-protected. There are even a number of eco dive sites and companies focusing specifically on preservation of the most-dived areas, which is great news for preserving these underwater paradises for years to come. The world-class diving here takes many forms including cave dives, drift dives, pinnacles, walls and of course vibrant reef dives.
Getting to Thailand
Thailand’s main transportation hub has always been Bangkok, however there is now an entire network of domestic and international travel options including airports in Krabi, Phuket and Ko Samui, which makes things much simpler for divers to get straight into experiencing all that the waters of Thailand have to offer.
When to Visit Thailand
Holiday-makers flock to Thailand at all times of the year to experience this exotic and magical wonder, however there is a monsoon season to be aware of and this differs depending on your location.
The Gulf of Thailand experiences typical tropical weather throughout the year, with the rainy season running between September and November and the most popular time for tourists being in December, January, February and March. Tourists gather in the Gulf of Thailand again in July and August, so a diving holiday is best between the months of May and June to avoid the crowds. Air temperatures remain fairly constant at 28-32°C and the water remains in the region of 29°C, which makes for pleasant diving whenever you choose to visit.
The west coast also experiences a tropical climate with a longer rainy season that runs between the months of May and December. The rain falls especially hard between June and October, making the best time to visit this region in the drier months of January to April, however many divers still choose to visit during the rainy season as the rainfall tends to appear in quick, refreshing bursts at the end of each day rather than a full day of rain. Water temperature is still pleasant at 29°C and the air temperature can vary between 25-32°C.
Where to Stay in Thailand
With over 2000km of coastline, choosing where to stay in Thailand can be difficult. Many divers choose to make the most of their diving holiday by opting for a liveaboard trip which is especially worthwhile if you plan to dive at some of the more remote locations.
If you’re looking to experience more than just the magical underwater world during your stay, a dive resort on the popular island of Phuket might be the right choice. With Phuket being such a popular destination for all types of visitors, some divers choose to stay in regular non-diving lodgings and make use of the many diving operations to arrange their dives. Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand is hugely popular with diving holiday-makers due to its easily accessible location nearby Koh Samui airport.
Feeling inspired and raring to go? Check out our Thailand travel guide and start planning your next diving trip!