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Why Thailand is the ideal place to scuba dive

  • Sport
  • By Ellena Rowlin
  • Published 19 February 2019
  • Published 19 February 2019

Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or complete newbie, let this beautiful country tempt you into diving some of the most renowned sites in the world. 

Thailand is undoubtedly a joy to immerse yourself in: the intense spice of local cuisine; the leaning palm trees casting shadows upon the crisp white sand and the vibrant fuchsia of blooming flowers placed lovingly everywhere. But it’s the world underwater that draws scuba divers, both novice and professional, below the surface, in the cluster of diving locations and islands across this beautiful country. A rainbow of inviting coral lies below the surface (although don’t step on this stuff because it hurts a lot, trust us), inhabited by more species of fish than you can think of, luring you to come along on their day’s activities and transporting you to real-life Finding Nemo. Turtles and Whale Sharks are on the top of everyone’s bucket list, but don’t disregard the beauty of a royal blue tang school (or Dory’s for short) circling around you, moulding to the shape of your excited arms and legs. But first, you need to know how to dive right?

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To be able to start diving you need to either take a singular lesson or enroll on a PADI course which will teach you how to dive safely. There’re different levels of PADI certification but the Open Water PADI is the best place to start for complete beginners; if you’re of a higher level there are a range of advanced courses including how to become a teacher and how to help people with disabilities. The programmes are typically three days long, with book chapters to read, tests to take but not forgetting the actual diving, of course! Once passed, your certification will allow you to dive with a buddy at sites anywhere in the world, independent of a professional, to a depth of 18 metres – it’s your passport to an underwater adventure.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao

The luscious beaches fringing this reinvented island are not only the ideal place to rejuvenate and recharge but are also the gateway to the incredible diversity of soft corals, black corals, barrel sponges, sea fans and anemones. Dive sites like Sail Rock, Southwest and Chumphon Pinnacle are frequented by whale sharks and you can expect to be swimming alongside jackfish, barracuda and parrotfish too. The literal translation of Koh Tao is Turtle Island, so fingers crossed you’ll find these inquisitive sea creatures. The Ang Thong Marine Park is also easily accessible by boat for day trips from the island, where an abundance of caves and swim-throughs lay ahead on your diving adventure. Koh Tao also offers a year-round diving calendar, with the ideal spots moving from the east to the west depending on the season. From February-May, visibility can reach up to 30 metres. Oh, and Koh Tao is second in the world for how many people gain their diving certification, sitting behind Cairns, Australia so trust us, this is a safe and easy-going environment to ‘dive’ into a new skill. 

Best for: Absolute beginners  

Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta

Fairly under the radar, Koh Lanta is a subtle and unboastful island, still chipping away at the tourist industry trying to sell itself. But it doesn’t need to – the modest villages and winding roads threading themselves through sweeping jungle speak for themselves, as well as making a great motorbike round trip, and if you fancy experiencing the true meaning of ‘island-life’ then this is the place for you. While there are no dive sites directly off Koh Lanta, it’s a central location for easy travel to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, which are two of Thailand’s best-kept secrets when it comes to diving sites, and occasional host of leopard sharks and manta rays. Hin Daeng is famous for its fantastic marine life on a steep underwater wall while Hin Muang is renowned for the vibrant violet coral. Both sites are also among the best places in the world for whale shark encounters. Visibility varies with the seasons, but you can expect between 15 and 40 metres. 

Best for: Certified divers

The Similan Islands

The Similan Islands

And onto the star of the show… The Similan Islands. Ranked by National Geographic Society as “One of the top 10 dive destinations to visit in the world”, this petite group of picturesque islands in the vibrant Andaman Sea are the renowned diving gem of Thailand. The word ‘Similan’ means ‘nine’ in Yawi – the local dialect - and each island in the group has a number up to nine, however the number of incredible diving experiences to be had off the edges of this national park are endless. These islands are incredibly well-protected and are only officially open to the public from 15th October until 15th May. However, you can’t stay on the actual islands with accommodation closest in Khao Lak on the mainland. Aside from the Jenga block of gargantuan boulders sitting on the shores, the world beneath the surface is why you come here. What makes these islands famed is the sheer number of wonders - more than 200 species of coral alone have so far been identified in this area and the Similan Islands have the greatest abundance of reef fish in Thai waters. Spotting Manta Rays and Whale Sharks is also a regular occurrence, while the beautiful conditions of the 25-degree waters makes it possible to dive without a wetsuit. Beacon Point is one for the advanced divers with dropping levels of 40 metres below the surface where you can explore stunning rock formations.

Best for: Advanced certified divers 

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe

This is the getaway for lovers of secluded paradise. Koh Lipe sits undisturbed on the border of the Tarutao National Marine Park where warm aquamarine waters and a school of sealife make this a diver’s fantasy. The waters around Koh Lipe house an estimated 25 percent of the world’s tropical fish species along with the adorable dugongs, dolphins, turtles, minke and sperm whales. There’s also a few shore options for diving for those who prefer late rises, breakfast on the tranquil sands and hassle-free exploration – you can even night dive at these sites! Adventure into Stone Henge… no, you’re still in your idyllic island bliss, it’s a site featuring several large pinnacles rising from the reef, giving it the resemblance of Stonehenge in the UK. The diving here is suitable for all levels, but if you’re a more advanced diver the experiences you can have are truly mesmerising. There are also fewer divers here compared to other sites we’ve mentioned, so your time underwater is much less crowded and much more unforgettable.

Best for: Divers who want to get away from everything 

Your certification will allow you to dive with a buddy at sites anywhere in the world to a depth of 18 metres – it’s your passport to an underwater adventure. 

What If I Don't Want To Dive?

Of course, not everyone is comfortable with throwing themselves more than a few metres underwater with an oxygen tank on their back and a brain pumped with knowledge they’ve only just learnt. The answer? Snorkelling! All of these locations offer either designated snorkelling trips or you can usually hop along for the ride with learner divers and spend your time gazing at the wonders below from a little nearer the surface. Or if that seems still a little too strenuous then you can't go wrong with the simply stunning beaches these islands offer. Lying in the radiant sun, cocktail in one hand and book in the other, is the perfect way to relax the time away.

Transport yourself to an underwater haven of striking sea plants, fascinating creatures and temperatures so comforting you’ll find yourself wishing you could magic more oxygen in your tank, when you book a bespoke diving getaway with us. Call one of our personal travel managers on 0203 816 0985 or enquire here and choose the mainland for access to other must-see spots or some of the most picturesque islands in the world for a peaceful escape from everyday life.

Tagged: Thailand
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