There are a number of reasons why people come to Thailand and there is little doubt that diving is one of the main ones. Due to Thailand’s close proximity to the Tropics, it is pretty much possible to dive in Thailand 12 months of the year with this certainly possible in the destinations that are slightly further north and therefore less effected by the tropical weather changes. The warm, clear waters make the seas around Thailand the idyllic place to go scuba diving.
Thailand has two coastlines, to the west you have the Andaman Sea and to the east you have predominantly the Gulf of Thailand. Both locations have excellent dive spots and dives that are suitable for everyone from beginners’ right through to dive masters with some excellent diving schools available in almost all of these locations.
You will find most of the scuba diving destinations in the Andaman Sea are to the South East of Thailand. The best known are probably the Similan Islands, the Surin Islands – which include the World famous dive location at Richelieu Rock, Koh Phi and the Phuket Islands. It is also possible to take in some excellent dives at Koh Lanta and Hin Muang. This area really is a diver’s paradise and you can see why people come back year after year.
The Similan Islands are regarded amongst the top 10 diving sites on Earth and therefore not surprisingly it is the best dive region in Thailand. On the east you will find long coral reefs that have an abundance of marine life and to the west you will fine deep rocky drop offs that give a spectacular diving experience and being the Similan Islands – you will probably find every other experience that you could probably imagine!
The waters around the islands tend to remain pretty constant and range between 26 and 28 degrees with visibility between 20 and 30 metres. The currents are officially classed as mild except after a full moon when they are classed as strong at the more exposed sites such as the Elephant Head Rock or Koh Tachai. It should be noted that getting to the islands during monsoons should avoided due to dangerous waters and indeed many dive schools will cancel their trips.
The islands are divided into 4 sections:
Southern – These are deeper and more exposed and as a result often overlooked by day trips
Middle – This is where people first learn about the beauty of the Similan Islands as they are home to the most famous coral reefs.
North – These are home to the famous rocky sites that the area is renowned for and one of the best drift dives around.
Far North – Here you will find Koh Bon and Koh Tachai and are a place often frequented by visitors.
The Surin Islands are located to the north of the Similan Islands and are certainly less well known but they are still home to some great dive locations. The main islands are Koh Surin Nua and Koh Surin Tai with two satellite islands one of which in Koh Lak where you will find most of the diving schools.
Richelieu Rock Dive Site
Richelieu Rock is a rock located in open ocean that stands around 50 metres high and the diving around her is regarded as some of the best in Thailand – which is some compliment when you consider the dive locations off the Similan Islands. When you think about Richelieu Rock you usually think about the marine life that can be viewed. This includes the magnificent whale sharks but you will also find manta rays, barracuda and octopus.
As this is a deep water dive most of the reputable dive schools will only allow experienced divers to go on these trips with some even insisting on evidence of having experience in the last 12 months.
Gulf of Thailand
The Gulf of Thailand has gained a reputation as being as being a great place to learn how to scuba dive. The excellent diving conditions and the simple fact that it is actually quite cheap mean that this is a great place to learn in fact even many experiences divers actually come here to learn how to be dive masters.
The main location is without doubt Koh Tao although some may also include Koh Samui although most dive schools on the island actually go to Koh Tao because of its close proximity.
Koh Tao has some excellent waters surrounding her and it is no surprise that there are around 50 diving schools on Koh Tao. The schools generally offer 2 courses, PADI (the more recognised) and SSI. The main difference, where Thailand is concerned at least, is the cost with SSI is considerably cheap.
It is hard to suggest any particular sites as it most places around the island itself. The major benefit here is that the waters are almost always 29 degrees throughout the year although the waters are not as clear as what you would find in the Andaman Sea.