When it comes to global diving destinations, there are about 4 or 5 places that are the in a league of their own. Along with the Red Sea and the Barrier Reef, Thailand is probably the world’s top diving destination. This is not only due to the great weather, culture and welcoming attitude of the Thai people, but also because Thailand offers some great marine life and beautiful warm seas to plunge into. Even though it’s a tropical country with a dry and wet season, Southern Thailand – which is the main diving hub – has a unique geographical quirk that makes it suitable for diving year-around. The southern peninsula of Thailand has a distinct East coast-West coast split, whereby when it’s the rainy season on one side it’s the dry season on the other and vice versa. This means Thailand is perfect for diving year-round.
When it comes to diving, the west coast of Thailand comes into its own; with its shore facing the Andaman Sea, the west coast is home to some of the best diving in Thailand, and to an incredibly rich and diverse marine life. Like the rest of Thailand, the weather here is seasonal, and the rainy season lasts from May till October. The other six months of the year are a great time to visit, with the warmest weather being between February and May. For the best chances to see whale sharks and manta rays, March till May is your time, although bear in mind that the manta ray sightings do vary considerably from year to year.
The list of great destinations on the west coast is almost endless, from Khao Lak in the north, Koh Lanta in the south all the way the near Malaysian border with the Taruato national park (Koh Lipe).
The jewel in the crown of the west coast Thai diving is without a doubt the Similan Islands, which can be reached from either Khao Lak or Phuket by speed boat, although they are best visited with a liveaboard.
The Similans dive sites being far out at sea, they have the best visibility of Thailand (around 20 to 40 m) and most divers marine life with frequent pelagic species sighting.
The Southern section of the west coast – with destinations such as Krabi, Koh Lanta, and Koh Phi Phi, also offer some great diving. Whilst they do not offer access to the Similan Islands, they do host a rich marine life and biodiversity. They are great locations to explore reefs, and find some amazing small critters. They are definitely the place to go if you like a healthy dose of Macro. Not only is the diving great but most of these destinations also have a great night life and some amazing beaches and nature.
Also the Tarutao national park located near Malaysia’s border also have some amazing dive sites, the islands are not easy to access to worth it.
The east coast of Thailand is dominated by the Gulf of Thailand. It has some world famous travel destination stretching from Pattaya in the north to the legendary party island of Koh Phangan in the south. When it comes to visiting the east coast, the best time is between the months of March and September. The weather is at its best between July and September with great visibility and idyllic sunny days. However, as a diver if you want to have a good chance of seeing whale sharks, then the best time to visit is between March and May, where the plankton bloom reduces the visibility but attracts the fish.
The east cost is not as great as the west coast for diving, visibility in the gold is between 10 to 20 m, and the biodiversity is less compared to the west site.
Of all the destinations on the east coast, Koh Tao is the most renowned for scuba diving. This relatively small island lying relatively isolated in the Gulf of Thailand offers some of the best diving opportunities. Although Koh Samui is not known as one of the greatest dive destinations in Thailand, it is home to a couple of great dive sites and is well be worth a visit.
For those who have more specialized diving tastes, there are some great cave dives, as well as a ton of wrecks. Although most of the wrecks lie in recreational dive depths, there are some impressive wrecks accessible at more technical depths – Thailand has something for every diver. Finally, if you are a diver, then at some point you must visit Thailand, not only is the country beautiful on land, the diving in many locations across the country is simply spectacular. It should be on every divers bucket list.
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