Diving in Thailand
Diving in Thailand
Without a doubt Thailand is home to some of the finest and most beautiful beaches and islands in the world, surrounded by crystal clear water and stunning coral. And that is the main reason why the number of divers coming to Thailand has escalated over the past decade or so.
Even though the best time of the year to dive in Thailand is between October and June, it is still perfectly possible to dive virtually any day of the year. As diving in Thailand is considered one of the safest destinations for diving and snorkeling in the world, it is perfect for first-timers wanting to try these pastimes out.
The sea visibility in some places of Thailand is almost unbelievable; which means talking about distances of up to 30 meters - unheard of in most parts of the world. One can enjoy splendid sights of underwater mountains, coral gardens, undersea rock formations, hard and soft coral, whale sharks, silver tip sharks, manta rays and even sunken battleships.
History of Diving in Thailand
Diving in Thailand is a recently new phenomenon beginning with the American Navy SEALs during the Vietnam War. Thailand's first ever diving store was opened in Pattaya in just 1977 and shortly after that very year, the popularity of diving for both Thais and foreigners in Thailand exploded.
After Pattaya, the next destination to see divers arriving by the busload was Phuket and they were soon heading out to dive in the gorgeous Similan Islands and the rest of the stunning Andaman Sea. In the fact, the Similan islands have been ranked as one of the top ten diving sites in the entire world. Today, diving is popular all over the Andaman Sea, including the virtually unseen Tarutao and Surin islands.
Over on the other side of Thailand in the Gulf of China, Ko Tao (Turtle Island) has recently emerged as the biggest diving destination in Thailand with over 20 major centers located on the island.
It is believed that Thailand is now the most popular destination for diving in the whole of Asia.
Why Dive in Thailand?
So, how come diving in Thailand has turned into a phenomenal success?
- Superb locations for every diver of every skill
- High standard of diving centers
- Diving is possible all year round
- Reasonable cost of diving
- Main centers are affiliated with PADI or other recognizable dive bodies
- Courses are held in a variety of different languages
- Latest amenities and excellent boats
- Huge range of sites - something for everyone
- Thailand has two unique distinct oceanic zones
The Similan Islands are a prime example of encouraging divers, while at the same time maintaining ecological stability and preserving biological diversity of flora and fauna. From 1999 to 2003 the Similans attained a five fold increase in the amount of visitors, which was just 10,000 increased to 50,000 and most of them were divers. The income grew in that time from 22,000USD to a staggering 460,000USD with foreign divers each spending an average of roughly 1,200USD.
Diving Destinations and Diving Sites in Thailand
Thailand has 2 uniquely different diving zones consisting of The Andaman Sea on the west and The Gulf of Thailand on the east.
The Andaman Sea
Introduction: The best time of the year to dive in the Andaman is from October to April. The visibility in the Andaman is similar to that of the Gulf of Thailand but the area has more extensive coral reefs. Due to the influence of the southwest monsoon, most of the reefs surrounding the offshore islands occur on the east side of the islands.
List of Destinations
Phuket Island has some decent dive sites and the largest diving center in Thailand. The reefs around the area are in a healthy condition with both solid and colorfully soft corals. There is also an abundance of marine life. Most of the dive locations are suitable for all levels of divers but there are also some that are quite deep.
The most well-known dive site in the Phuket area is Racha Yai with its sloping rocky reefs and its plentitude of solid coral forests. There is also Ter Bay where there is an exciting wreck in the depths of 25-35 meters. The area south Racha Yai, Racha Noi, is a haven for experienced divers as the depths are greater and the currents stronger. The overall topography is strikingly different from Racha Yai with huge granite boulders and the chance to see Manta Rays and Whale Sharks. The diving in Racha Noi compared to Racha Yai is definitely more challenging but the rewards are far greater.
Just off Phuket, is the limestone island of Koh Doc Mai which soars vertically from the sea-bed. It is home to a diversity of fish and offers the opportunity to view leopard sharks, moray eels, octopus and turtles.
This stunning part of Thailand offers some terrific diving and snorkeling sites with plenty of succulent soft coral, limestone crops and diversity of marine life. One can go diving for example off the nearby islands of Podah Nai and Nok.
The most popular destination however, in Krabi, is the beautiful island of Ko Phi Phi. Even though the island was struck badly by the Tsunami disaster in 2004, the area has recovered impressively and divers are coming back in flocks. The island has two remarkable limestone crops divided by a narrow flat isthmus and it is there where most of the visitors stay. Ko Phi Phi has an abundance of succulent coral and colorful schools of fish.
A popular and perhaps the best dive site off Ko Phi Phi is King Cruiser which claim remnants of a passenger ship which sunk in 1997 after it hit the Anemone reef. The Anemone reef is in itself a unique dive site with a massive limestone pinnacle which soars 30 meters from the seabed to just 4 meters beneath the surface. The site is well-known for its abundance of sea anemones that cling to every surface while attracting enormous schools of fish. Different types of fish to be seen include: tropicals, snappers, groupers and colorful clown fish, along with larger game-fish like tuna and barracuda as well as the occasional leopard shark.
There is also Shark Point which is a marine sanctuary with a reef that comprises of three pinnacles. The largest of which actually breaks the surface appearing as a barren rock outcropping. The reef is home to a delightful abundance of tropicals, colorful soft corals and vibrant sea fans that decorate the limestone pinnacles.
Along the sea from Krabi Town is quiet Ko Lanta, in fact the island is not just one but fifteen. The major island of Ko Lanta Yai is approximately 25km long with a string of white sandy beaches. The diving sites surrounding Ko Lanta are considered by many to be among some of the best the country has to offer. There is an enormous variety of fringing reefs, marine life, caves, rocks and islets.
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang near Ko Lanta are definitely two of the most favored dive sites in Thailand. Hin Daeng has the steepest and deepest in the whole of the country with fantastic marine life. Hin Muang next door is completely underwater and it is covered with delicate violet coral.
Other dive spots in Krabi province include Gareng Heng rock outcrop and the 5 islands of Ko Ha.