Thailand: From Siam to Smiles, World Class Travel

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This Southeast Asian is called the “Land of a Thousand Smiles” and is known for reasonable prices, warm and welcoming people, miles of tropical beaches, rainforests, cultural attractions, and of course — spectacular scuba diving.

East or West?

Along the southern peninsula is where you will find access to most of Thailand diving, which offers two very distinct experiences, depending on whether you choose to dive in the Gulf of Thailand on the east or the Andaman Sea on the west. Most divers visit the Andaman Sea, home to the famous tourist destination, Phuket, but the Gulf of Thailand has a lot to offer too.

The island or town you choose to dive from can change your experience as well, as some areas are known for parties, while others are sleepy dive towns that are focused mostly on underwater tourism. Liveaboard diving is very popular here too.

The Diving – Andaman Sea

Similan Islands

Not only are these islands believed to have the best diving in Thailand, they are considered one of the top two or three locations in the world.

Regardless of where you go, boat excursions and liveaboards still dive at similar locations, and there are dozens of world-class sites to choose from, so they rarely feel crowded.

Large sea corals and old, developed reef life mixes with unique rock formations that form fun and unique underwater structures. Parrotfish, batfish, lionfish, octopus, barracuda and reef sharks abound. Whale sharks, mantas and turtles are fun and semi-regular encounters.

Hin Daeng / Him Muang

This pair of pinnacles is a great short-term liveaboard locale within the Muh Kao Lanta National Marine Reserve. Hin Daeng is a rounded boulder pinnacle with a mix of soft and hard corals, and lots of associated reef life. Him Muang is Thailand’s deepest vertical wall dive, and offers a mix of jeweled corals and anemones and endless ocean abyss views.

This pair of dives can be done as a part of a shorter liveaboard trip, or in conjunction with the Similan Islands. It is a popular day or overnight excursion from Koh Samui, if you’re looking for a short changeup from local dive sites.

Richelieu Rock

This steep pinnacle dive is another worldwide favorite that lies between the Similan and Surin Islands, just below the Myanmar border. It is so large it can be dived multiple times without covering the same area, and is the premier whale shark location for all of Thailand. Additionally, the pinnacle is a rich reef of anemones and coral, and offers great reef life similar to that found in the Similans. Pelagic fish like barracuda and snappers can be seen in large numbers off the edge.

This is a favorite liveaboard site, and will also be combined with a few days of diving in Myanmar or the nearby Similan islands.

The Diving – Gulf of Thailand

Koh Tao

This famous island near Koh Sumai is known to backpackers and divers for its bargain prices and ease of diving.

A few noteworthy dive sites include:

Green Rock: Swim-throughs, pinnacles and small caves formed by huge granite boulders make this a beautiful dive. Expect to see an abundance of sea life sheltering here, including sea snakes, batfish, morays, grouper, pufferfish, damselfish and titan triggerfish.

Chumphon Pinnacle:  This large, granite pinnacle starting at about 35’ and descending to more than 100’ is covered in anemones filled with clownfish. Watch for groupers, schools of trevally and batfish. Whale sharks and leopard sharks are often spotted here too.

Getting There and Getting Around

Most visitors fly into either Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and Phuket International Airport.

If you’re diving Koh Tao, there is an airport in nearby Koh Samui and then a ferry to Koh Tah.

A train will also take you from Bangkok to several ferry ports on both sides of the peninsula. It takes about several hours to reach ferry ports but offers seats that convert into bunk beds.

Quick Facts

When to Go: Thailand’s tropical climate means you can dive year-round. October to April offers the best diving in the Andaman Sea and May through September offers the best conditions in the Gulf of Thailand. Air temps range 79-85°F.

Average Surface Water Temps:  80-85°F.

Visibility: Averages 100’ year-round.  

Image attribution: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30967075@N08/


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