Scuba Diving Thailand
Are you planning a diving holiday in Thailand? Congratulations, that’s a great decision! Because Thailand is quite rightly a very popular holiday destination. Besides excellent diving the country offers so much more! Although some regions are very touristy, the Asian way of life is still very much present. The mentality of the people in the Land of Smiles is extremely pleasant and unobtrusive. You really don’t have to worry being constantly ripped off. The infrastructure is very high developed in the tourist areas. “Modern” amenities such as free WIFI, good roads, electricity, hot water, air conditioning and 24 hour shops on every corner are not everywhere standard in Asia. This also applies to the good medical care. Traveling around the country is cheap and without any problems. Whether by plane, train, bus or ferry; get easily to your destination. There are countless accommodations from simple but charming Guest Houses to luxury Resorts right on the beach. The standard in Thailand compared to other countries, such as Egypt, is very high. You do not have to book at least a 4-star hotel. And what about the delicious food! Whether in restaurants, in markets or along the road, the meals are fresh, wholesome and simply delicious. There is around the clock a large selection of local and international food as well. Of course there are also plenty of very diverse recreational activities. Besides diving, there are snorkeling and sightseeing trips, temples, Buddha statues, shopping, adventure parks, quads, elephant trekking, museums, etc. available. The prices are still moderate for tourists from like Europe, Australia, United States of America.
Since there are quite various destinations in Thailand, it is not always easy to do the right decision. Especially if you are a diver or want to become one. Perhaps you are traveling with family members or friends who are not interested in diving. One looks for a party place or another one preferably take a vacation in an “all inclusive” resort on a beach in the middle of nowhere. And the next one is rather an individual-tourist and a proactive adventurer. Then the question about the best traveling time arises. Let’s assume that diving is the main motivation of a holiday. Find following a guide about the different diving destinations:
Liveaboard – Andaman Sea
Move your Accommodation to the dive site
If the budget allows it and you are seaworthy, you should definitely make a multi-day liveaboard trip to Similan Islands, Myanmar ore Andaman Islands. These diving safaris are always advertised as the Similan Islands. The Similan Islands are 9 Islands which are located off the coast of Khao Lak, Phang Nga. The diving there is ok but not world class. Therefore, you should definitely double check if liveaboard trip “only” goes to the Similan Islands or also up to the northern dive sites. Because Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock are a must of every successful liveaboard which takes between 3-5 days. Chances there to discover whale sharks and manta rays are quite realistic. Some liveaboard boats also go to Myanmar (Burma Banks) or Andaman Islands to the secluded and very pristine dive sites. Also liveaboards to the south Andaman Sea to Hin Daeng / Hin Muang, Koh Haa and the Phi Phi Islands are always exciting. These liveaboards usually have a duration of 2 -3 days. There are itineraries cover both destinations combined in a liveaboard (Total 7 days). The liveaboards either start or end in Tablamu (between Phuket and Khao Lak) or in Chalong (Phuket). It does not matter where you are staying because the transfer from Phuket and Khao Lak is usually included in the price. Khao Lak is located about 80 km north from the Phuket Airport. The Similan Islands National Park is only open from October to May due to the prevailing weather conditions. In the remaining time the marine parks are closed. Because during this season there are often strong winds and storms. Due to high waves the liveaboards can not go out.
Scuba Diving in Phuket Part 1
The island of a thousand possibilities
Attention, Phuket is not equal to Phuket! Unfortunately Phuket suffer from a bad reputation because tourism has boomed in recent years. But they are still there, the beautiful and peaceful regions, where gentle tourism prevails. All the luxury resorts and renowned hotel chains are located more north, at the long white sandy beaches and near the airport. Parties and all what the mass tourist desires exists in Patong. In Kamala, Karon and Kata is found more moderate tourism. Well the most original and quiet area is far south called Rawai / Nai Harn. You can still find secluded beaches, which are considered as an insider tip. Here individualists and adventurer feel comfortable and explore the area with a rental car or motorbike on their own. Diving around Phuket is excellent. The main destinations are the Phi Phi Islands, Racha Islands, Mai Thon, Koh Doc Mai, King Cruiser wreck, Shark Point and Anemone Reef with different dive sites. Even if a destination is repeatedly approached, you can dive at various dive sites. The dive sites are very different. From impressive wreck dives over cliffs to huge soft coral gardens and crystal clear waters, there is something for every taste and divers level. There are perfect conditions for try diving, Open Water Diver courses and continuing education courses (because of the depths up to 40 meters). At the same time the Fun Diver can discover the great biodiversity of the Andaman Sea. At some days the dives in the fish soup can be also challenging as a proper current is encountered. All Scuba Diving day trips from all Dive Centers, Dive Operators and Dive Schools are starting at Chalong harbor. The transfers from the hotels to the port and back are organized and free of charge from Kamala (40 min.), Patong (30 min.), Karon, Kata (about 20 min.), Chalong and Rawai (about 10 min .). It is therefore advisable to choose an accommodation in this regions to avoid long land transfers for day trips. You can also do your Scuba Diving day trips from resort more north of Phuket Island just be aware of the transfers and extra costs. Most trips are day trips, as the dive sites are located far away from the mainland. Depending on the dive destination you can choose between 2 or 3 dive (or 4 incl. 1 night dive) day trips. In Phuket there is a wide variety of very good diving schools. A few have a private dive boat, but it is also open to other diving centers in most cases. This means ultimately that various dive shops with their guests and their own staff use the same boats. There is a weekly program of various boats, which travel to the stunning dive sites on different days. This enables flexible scheduling and you can choose to go every day to all diving destinations. However, there are also dive operators send their customer simply on the boat without own staff and equipment. As long as you get informed and you agree, there is no problem. In Phuket are working mostly qualified dive guides and instructors. If you make your scuba vacation holiday in Phuket, you do not need necessarily go personally in a dive shop, dive center or dive school. It is also not a must that the resort has an own dive operator. Because a large proportion of bookings in Phukets diving industry is coming over the Internet. A comparison is worthwhile, especially if you read the fine print (eg, are in courses the training materials and certification fees included, there is no extra charge for the transfer, there are 2 or 3 dives, the rental equipment includes a diving computer etc.)! So it does not matter where the hotel is located. The diving center organizes the transfer or even come over to their guests at the hotel or resort.
Scuba Diving in Phuket Part 2
The island of a thousand possibilities
Phukets Diving industry is highly competitive, that’s why a few diving schools are specialized in individual and private service. It is also important always to compare the diving group size. Each diver knows that diving is much more relaxed in small groups. If you are planning several days of diving, you should look for diving packages. These are often cheaper than individual dive days. Also there are interesting and inexpensive package deals for accommodation and diving. Thus, not only diving but also the accommodation is cheaper than booking separate. Besides diving, there are countless other attractions in Phuket. Here are a few highlights:
- Big Buddha
- Wat Chalong
- Prompthep Cape Viewpoint for fabulous sunsets
- Weekend Market in Phuket Town, small regional weekly markets
- Shopping in Phuket Town
- Shopping Malls such as Jungceylon, Central Festival
- Phuket Trick Eye Museum
- Various white sandy beaches and lonely bays
- Jungle tours / Elephant Trekking / Flying Fox / Kathu waterfalls / Quad
- Thai Barbecue
- Snorkeling and sightseeing tours (Phi Phi Islands, Similan, Tachai, Surin, Koh Rok and Phang Nga – James Bond)
- Thai boxing
- Turtle Rescue and Research Center at Cape Panwa
Scuba Diving in Khao Lak
The popular region for the resort holidays
Khao Lak is located about 80 km north from Phuket Airport. Khao Lak is a tourist area, but it is not a town or village. It is a popular destination for “Resort tourists”. Because the beautiful resorts are mostly located directly at the beach. However, the various resorts are spread all over the coast line. In walking distance of the Resorts and Hotels are a few restaurants, bars and shops for tourists. Several diving schools are represented and offer day trips to the Similan Islands (possibly also to Koh Bon, but not to Tachai and Richeleu Rock). Not far from the coast of Khao Lak there are a few good ship wrecks for diving. The day trip tours are operated with the classic diving boats. There are occasional speedboat day trips to the more remote dive sites, but this is not the most comfortable way to travel as a scuba diver. Travelers from Europe can find good package deals (flight, accomodation and breackfast) to Khao Lak. The Thailand-feeling factor is lower, unless you get around on your own. The Khao Sok National Park is located about 2 hours away and offers plenty of adventure and fun like Jungle trekking, elephant trekking, canoeing, floating accommodations and much more. The diving season in Khao Lak lasts from mid October until end of May. As soon as the wind turns and the rainy season begins the marine parks will be closed. During this time, no boats go out because it’s too dangerous and also not allowed due to strong winds and high waves.
Scuba Diving Gulf of Thailand (Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan)
The Gulf of Thailand
In the Gulf of Thailand is an archipelago of three islands named Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. The diving season in this region lasts throughout the year. Koh Samui is known for beautiful beaches and luxury spa resorts. In addition, there is an airport. With each full moon thousands of travelers flock to Koh Phangan to attend the world famous Full Moon Party. Koh Tao is the smallest island in the archipelago. Koh means island and Tao turtle. Koh Tao is a magnet for mostly young backpackers, party animals and yoga lovers. The most tourists stay only a few days (they are called Island Hopper). They often stay in the very cheap Dorms. The prices for diving courses are probably unbeatable throughout Thailand. Often you get a package price for diving with accommodation. No wonder that there are many diving schools and, accordingly, always a lot of diving students in relation to the size of the island. During the Open Water Diver course you do the ocean dives with big dive boats to the coastal dive sites. Often there are up to eight boats at one divesite! Nevertheless, the spots are ideal for training purposes. Certified divers will be not happy, because the whole planning and implementation is aligned with diving courses. Surely it is worth it to see the dive sites like Shark Island, Sail Rock and Chumpon Pinnacle. There is a quite goot opportunity to encounter whale sharks. You should also visit other destinations for a more varied diving vacation. The three top diving spots can be reached also from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Scuba Diving Phi Phi Islands
The Popular Party Island
The Phi Phi Islands exert an indescribable fascination. Dragging every year en masse tourists – for good reason – it is a beautiful piece of earth in the ocean. It is an archipelago of six islands, only Phi Phi Don is inhabited and developed for tourism. The best dive sites are right on the doorstep and can be easily reached by boat. And of course there is no lack of diving schools. The island is located about 54 km away from the mainland. Big ferries are connecting Phi Phi Islands between Phuket and Krabi. The offer for other recreational activities is therefore limited. Tonsai Bay is often seen on souvenir photographies of Thailand (two beaches, crescent-shaped almost touch each other). The island feeling is more jubilation, excitement and joy. Especially young hipsters enjoying this. The countless bars, pubs, shops and diving schools can be found in the narrow streets. If you like it more quiet, you can also find a couple of very nice resorts at the hidden beaches. The world famous Maya Bay known from the Hollywood blockbuster “The Beach” is located on the neighboring island Phi Phi Leh. A visit is possible only by boat (mostly by a Longtailboat). Diving from the Phi Phi Islands are also offered throughout the year.
Scuba Diving Krabi
The remote area
Krabi is also located at the west coast with the Andaman Sea and is a popular starting point for diving tours throughout the year. Although it may sometimes happen that dive day trips must be cancelled due to an insufficient number of participants. Beside there are a few local dive sites you will visit the same dive spots as from Phuket. A special feature of the Krabi area is the impressive and breathtaking landscape, the many limestone cliffs are everywhere rising from the turquoise sea. These places are very popular for climbers. The long white sandy beaches are amazing and not crowded at all. Dense jungle fringes the few roads to the main town – Krabi Town. Since there is good infrastructure for tourists, including an airport, the big hotel chains and luxury resorts are also represented in Krabi. They are mostly located in a remote area, but right at the pristine beaches.
Scuba Diving Koh Lanta
A remote island
Koh Lanta is a small island south of Phuket in the Andaman Sea. With a lot of Thai flair and great bungalow resorts usually right on the beach. You can enjoy pure relaxation and you will be rewarded with spectacular sunsets. The diving season lasts from October to May. There are several diving schools and good local dive sites. From Koh Lanta you can make day trips to world class dive sites Hin Daeng / Hin Muang and the Koh Haa islands. These dive sites are among the best in Thailand. Manta rays are using the reefs there as a cleaning station and can be seen quite often. You reach Koh Lanta by ferry from Krabi.
Scuba Diving Koh Lipe
A second remote island
Koh Lipe is one of the most southern islands in Thailand and for backpackers and island hoppers extremely popular. The pretty tropical island is close to the Tarutao National Park. A large part of nature could be obtained despite some resorts, bars and restaurants. Here you can dive between October to May. The very beautiful coral reefs and marine life at the dive sites can be visitied with the various dive shops on Koh Lipe.