At the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand, the “Land of a Thousand Smiles,” is a country proud of its unique culture and famous worldwide for its cuisine. Thailand also offers miles of tropical beaches, lush rainforests, exhilarating cultural attractions and excellent scuba diving. With the Gulf of Thailand on the east and the Andaman Sea on the west, diving opportunities include fringing reefs, deep drop-offs, wrecks, walls, caverns, tunnels, pinnacles or open ocean seamounts. The Gulf of Thailand offers divers an amazing range of diving destinations. The beautiful island of Koh Tao, along with the pristine islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, are must-visit dive destinations. Located in the north of the gulf region are the popular destinations of Pattaya and the unspoiled island of Koh Chang. These locations are world famous dive destinations with access to a range of different sites to suit divers of all levels. Many divers begin their adventures in Phuket, as some of the top Andaman Sea dive sites are within easy reach on a day trip or live-aboard. Khao Lak is fast becoming a favorite for many divers and Phi Phi Island is also a popular destination in this region with easily accessible dive sites to explore. The south-western coastal town of Krabi is the jumping off point for the enchanting Koh Lanta archipelago, as well as stunning Koh Lipe. Thailand is an amazing dive destination and there’s a lot to explore underwater in this tropical paradise.
- Racha Noi & Racha Yai – Located near Phuket, these sites are full of beauty including mantas and whale sharks when in season, blue spotted lagoon rays, chevron barracuda and large schools of tuna and jacks.
- Koh Dok Mai – This is a superb wall and drift dive, with hidden caves and crevices lurking in its limestone rock face. Glide by gardens of yellow tube corals and look for moray eels peeking out of the reef. The beauty of this site becomes illuminated with the sun’s beam above, and it is home, in season, to baby nurse sharks and whale sharks out in the big blue.
- Richelieu Rock – About 200 km/120 miles north of Phuket, this horseshoe-shaped rock in the Andaman Sea might just be Thailand’s most famous dive site. Look for big stuff – giant, lumbering whale sharks, barracuda tornadoes, and clouds of tropical fish. You’ll also find shovelnose rays, seahorses, pipefish and cuttlefish. For underwater photographers, the hardest thing about diving this site is deciding whether to go wide angle or macro.
- Bida Nok – Breathtaking both above and below the water, this site near Phi Phi Island crawls with sea snakes and hawksbill sea turtles. Moray eels, piles of wrasses and leopard sharks keep the action humming, while soft corals, parrotfish, and giant clams remind you that Mother Nature’s creativity knows no bounds.
- Koh Haa – Accessible via Koh Lanta and Krabi, this collection of five big rocks has several dive sites that include swim-throughs, drop offs, and caverns. Marine life varies from little critters like the elusive ghost pipefish to the occasional hawksbill turtles. If you’re lucky, you’ll see manta rays gathering at a cleaning station.
- Tarutao National Marine Park – This region near Koh Lipe comprises more than 30 islands, countless reefs, and access to vibrant seas full of marine life.
- Chumphon Pinnacle – Located near Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui, this well-known dive site is a huge anemone-studded granite pinnacle that is ringed by a series of smaller ones. You’ll swim past batfish, trevally and giant schools of both barracuda and snapper. The occasional whale shark and manta ray also visit. Look for plateaus rich in branch corals, sea whips and barrel sponges.
- HTMS Sattakut – One of Thailand’s premier wrecks, the 48 metre/158 foot HTMS Sattakut, which started out as the USS LCI -739, was sunk on 18 June 2011 in about 30 metres/100 feet of water near Koh Tao. The Landing Craft, Infantry (or LCI) was one of several amphibious assault ships deployed during WWII. The artificial reef is home to thick schools of fusiliers, yellowtail, barracuda, groupers, trevally, moray eels and blennies.
- Sail Rock – North of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui is Hin Bai, otherwise known as Sail Rock, one of Thailand’s best wall dives. Critters here include bearded scorpion fish, sea anemones and pink anemone fish while yellow margined morays, reef crabs and painted shrimp also abound.
- HTMS Khram – Located off Pattaya, this Thai Navy landing craft was purpose-sunk as an artificial reef in 2003. It lies upright in about 30 metres/100 feet with the top of it at about 15 metres/50 feet. It’s easy to see into the bridge and radio room, and peak into the rest of the hull through large holes.
- HTMS Chang – Formally known as the USS Lincoln County, HTMS Chang is Thailand’s longest wreck at 117 metres/384 feet and sits at 30 metres/100 feet. After more than 50 years’ service in the Royal Thai Navy, it was sunk in 2012. It’s a great site with lots to explore including cabins, briefing rooms and the main holding area. The wreck is also home to a wide variety of marine life.
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Locate a PADI Dive Shop in Thailand
Visibility – Visibility is generally good throughout the country and averages around 30 metres/100 feet.
Water Temperature – A pleasant 28-30° C/82-86° F year-round.
Weather – Its tropical location ensures that Thailand has a hot and humid climate year-round. The country is warm and wet during the May to September monsoon, then dries out from November to mid-March. Air temperatures range from 30–35°C/85-95°F. The diving is typically good all year, but the Gulf of Thailand is at its peak from May through September while the best diving is from October through April in the Andaman Sea.
Featured Creatures – Typical Indo-Pacific reef fish and critters are well represented and there’s a good chance you will see morays, puffers, triggers and Moorish idols, as well as mantas, leopard sharks and possibly whale sharks.
Recommended Training – Thailand is a great destination to learn to dive with the PADI Open Water Diver course. If you are already PADI certified, look to take the PADI Enriched Air, PADI Deep Diver and PADI Drift Diver courses so you’re prepared for diving the many pinnacles and walls across this destination. The PADI Wreck Diver course is a natural if you plan to dive any of Thailand’s amazing wrecks. Thailand is also an excellent location to become a PADI Pro by taking the PADI Divemaster course or the PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor course.
Note – Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.
Language – Thai. English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
Currency – Thai Baht. Credit cards are accepted in most areas.
Major Airports – Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and Phuket International Airport are the two main international airports
Electricity – 22O volts, 50Hz. Internet is common in cities and resort areas.
Topside Attractions – You are spoiled for choice for topside attractions in Thailand. Popular choices include pampering yourself with a traditional massage, visiting cultural centers or marveling at the many temples across the country. The cuisine and restaurants throughout Thailand are also a highlight of any trip.
Locate a PADI Dive Shop in Thailand