Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Thailand Scuba Diving - When And Where To Go

Thailand is famous for its scuba diving, where warm, calm waters and an abundance of incredible marine life makes for spectacular dives. Thailand's diving is also very cheap compared to diving in Europe and the Caribbean, although for safety's sake care must be taken to use a reputable dive operator.

To get the most out of diving in Thailand, you need to know when and where to go. Not all of Thailand's dive sites are available all year round, so it pays to do a bit of planning.

Similan Islands

The Similan Islands are widely regarded as one of the Top 10 Dive Destinations. They are a small group of uninhabited islands in the Andaman Sea, just off the western Thai coast. The Similans are usually visited by liveaboard boats from Phuket and Khao Lak, where divers eat sleep and dive on the boat for several days. Usually the liveaboard lasts 4 days / 4 nights and lets the divers get 14 dives.

The Similans are an ideal place to learn to dive, as taking a liveaboard trip will let a new diver be able to have lots of practice by doing so many dives. It's important to be taught by a reputable liveaboard operator with full PADI certification and experienced instructors. Be sure to ask your operator about the newness of their scuba equipment and their staff qualifications.

The Similan Islands are only open to divers from October to May each year. The monsoon season arrives during June to September and makes the seas too rough for safe diving.

Hin Daeng / Koh Bida / Phi Phi / Koh Ha

This is a group of dive sites further south in the Andaman Sea from the Similan Islands and accessible from Phuket, Krabi, Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. They are usually visited on daytrips from these destinations, although there a couple of liveaboards who visit them. Koh Lanta in particular is a beautiful Thai island that is not as busy or expensive as Koh Phi Phi.

Hin Daeng and Koh Ha are also only open from October to May each year. Koh Bida and Phi Phi have a few reefs that are open all year round if you are visiting Koh Phi Phi.

Koh Tao

Koh Tao is a tiny island on the other, eastern coast of Thailand, above Koh Phangan, home of the Full Moon Parties. Koh Tao is a four hour ferry ride from Surat Thani on the mainland. Koh Tao is a burgeoning island for divers and also for chilled out escape - while popular, Koh Tao remains quite uncrowded.

There are lots of dive shops here that offer diving daytrips - there are very few scheduled liveaboards, although they do occasionally happen. The diving around Koh Tao is not considered as good as the Similans or Hin Daeng, but on its day it can be fantastic.

Koh Tao is also the most popular place to learn to dive in all of Asia Pacific, except for Cairns in Australia. If you want to learn to dive but don't want to commit to doing a liveaboard, Koh Tao is a great place to learn and also enjoy the laid back party scene as well.

Koh Tao's monsoon season lasts from September to December - it's still possible to dive during this time but the weather can be pretty rough.

Best Times Of The Year To Dive Thailand
  • Similan Islands and Hin Daeng / Koh Ha -- October to May

  • Koh Tao - January to September

Planning Your Thailand Diving Trip

When choosing your Thailand diving trip, think about what time of year you can go and then decide if you want to do a liveaboard trip or if you'd prefer to do daytrips and return to a hotel each evening. Then ask Thailand dive operators about what trips and dive packages are available - sometimes you can get real bargains. The dive operator can also give you the best advice of how to get from Bangkok to your preferred dive destination.

Chris Mitchell is a scuba diving journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand. He manages the Thailand diving websites, and

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