Situated around 60 Km west off the coast of Khao Lak and originally a part of the Mu Ko Surin National Park, the Surin Islands is a group of five islands. These islands are namely Ko Surin Nuea, Ko Surin Tai, Ko Ri, Ko Kai and Ko Klang. Known for dense forests with beaches surrounded by corals, these islands are most visited by snorkelers, nature lovers, and wildlife photographers hoping to indulge in diving, snorkelling, fishing, and hiking. Lacking development, it is also a haven for people seeking a quiet refuge.
Known For : Diving and Snorkelling
Similan is an archipelago of 9 small islands which has Malay roots. The Similan Islands National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These are some of Thailand's most stunning places with beautiful marine life underwater and extraordinary birds in the air. There are splendidly picturesque white sand beaches with pristine blue waters. The islands also have many hiking trails for the adventurous soul.
Best Time: November to April
Located 200 kilometres northwest of Phuket, the Richelieu Rock is a popular dive site in the Andaman Sea. It is a part of the Surin National Park. It has a horseshoe-shaped reef with purple corals and abundant marine life in the form of small fishes and shrimps to large pelagics like whale sharks, grouper, barracuda and manta rays. In addition, it is very well known for housing varieties of rare marine creatures like sea horses, frogfishes, harlequin shrimps etc. It is one of Thailand's most iconic dive sites, accessible by dive boats during several day cruises.
Highlight: Purple coral, horseshoe reef, marine critters, small fishes, speedboats and liveaboards.
Location: Surin Islands, Near Phuket, Thailand
Fee: For a day trip dive at Richelieu Rock, the total cost is around 6000 THB, including the prices of guides and equipment. Food, taxi costs and dive guides are the basic inclusions in such packages.
Phi Phi islands are a group of islands off the coast of Thailand, spread over 12 square kilometres. There are many spots of shallow depth where the corals are easily visible, making the islands a perfect place for both scuba diving and snorkelling. The southern end of the islands is composed of 2 rocky islands, which are the best places for diving. There is a natural archway in the soft corals near Koh Bida Nai, usually full of baitfish. Loh Samah Bay is on the east coast of Phi Le, which is famous for nighttime scuba diving. Here, there is an extensive network of hard corals filled with small to medium-sized fishes. There is also a canyon here, which is a photographer's paradise.
Highlights: Night diving, Canyon, Photography, soft and hard corals perfect for underwater videography
Location: Near Phuket and Krabi, Thailand
Fee: The cost for a dive trip to Koh Phi Phi is 4000 THB.
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In contrast to the party ridden islands spread across all of Thailand, the Phang Nga Bay houses one of the quietest and most tranquil islands of Koh Lanta. The most famous diving sites here - Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are preserved and protected by a national park. The marine life here is said to be very rare. For starters, the soft corals found here are seen in shades of red. In addition to the stunning corals, the site is also home to whale sharks and manta rays. While Hin Daeng is known for its red corals, Hin Muang, the neighbour, is known for the purple corals. These two spots are frequented by professional divers as the depth ranges from 40 to 60 meters.
Highlights: Shorter liveaboard trips, colourful soft corals, vast schools of trevallies, barracuda, rainbow runners, and reef sharks are the striking features of both. However, Hin Daeng's most impressive sight is that of a silver wall of trevally cruising past. Hin Muang has the highest vertical wall in Thailand, with purple coral reefs and vast carpets of anemones.
Location: Ko Lanta District, Krabi, Thailand
Fee: The price for a day dive is 4300 THB which includes two dives a day. This includes lunch and refreshments.
With about 25 dive sites to explore, Koh Tao is a diver's paradise. All these sites lie around the island and can be accessed by boats. Visitors can avail of a two dive trip in the morning, which operates at all of these sites, to explore the plethora of colourful reef fish, coral encrusted rock pinnacles and shipwrecks. In addition, Koh Tao gives you a chance to spot passing pelagics like whale sharks and spotted eagle rays. The sites are home to hard and soft corals, calm shallow bays, limestone formations, coral gardens, reefs nursery, and more. The visibility drops during monsoon time; otherwise, diving is available year-round.
Highlights: Reef fishes, night diving, rock pinnacles, shipwrecks, coral gardens, whale sharks.
Location: Koh Tao, Thailand
Fee: 2500 THB at Crystal Dive. May vary for other operators.
Phuket's most famous dive site is the King Cruiser wreck. It's no surprise that shipwrecks make up for the best diving exploration tours. There are coral-ridden washrooms and abundant marine life on this sunken passenger ferry. While many ships are purposely wrecked to make it into a dive site, the King Cruiser Wreck has a rich history attached to it. Over 500 passengers jumped out of the ship when it crashed in 1977. Everyone was rescued, except for the ship.
Highlights: Artificial reefs covered with scorpionfish, many species of sharks, and a rich array of marine life are some of the striking features of the King Cruiser Wreck. If you are lucky, you can have a look at the big red octopus and the large resident Hawksbill Turtle.
Location: East Phuket, about 9 miles west of Phi Phi Don
Fee: The 3 dive day trip at Phuket Dive Tours start from 4000 THB. The price is for certified divers, with food, water and beverages as inclusions.
One of the most famous dive sites around Koh Tao is Chumphon Pinnacle, situated in close proximity to the island and boasting excellent visibility throughout the year. One can expect a big granite pinnacle and a series of smaller pinnacles from the dive site. On top of the pinnacles are the pink anemones. In addition, there is a giant grouper on the northwest between two smaller pinnacles. The Baracuda rock is the resting place for the giant grouper. The Chumphon Pinnacle is recommended for experienced divers.
Highlights: Pinnacles with pink anemones, Giant grouper and abundant marine life. If you visit between March to May or August to October, you can spot Whalesharks, as well.
Location: Koh Tao, Thailand
Fee: Expect to pay 2000 THB for a 2 dive trip.
HTMS Chang is the biggest shipwreck in Thailand. It was originally commissioned during World War II by the US Navy and later handed to the Thailand Government. It has been supplying troops and vehicles to the Thai Navy since. The point of interest about this shipwreck is the artificial reef that was created on it after being sunk in 2012. This has been attracting a lot of scuba divers. There are three main decks and seven sub-decks. This is suitable for both usual and night diving. The captain's cabin and mast are a must explore, as is the marine life. Plenty of tropical fishes, octopuses and squids can be spotted while scuba diving.
Highlights: Night diving, Butterflyfish, batfish, groupers, shrimp fish and the 100-metre long ship are worth exploring. If you are lucky enough, you could get to see the whale shark.
Location: Ko Chang, Thailand
Fee: Two wreck dives at HTMS Chang with a speedboat for half a day costs approximately 3500 THB. A night dive including the use of a torch costs 1900 THB.
Located on the island of Koh Tao, Sail Rock is a perfect place to go diving in Thailand. The scuba diving cost here is lower, and the experience is just as good as anywhere else in Thailand. Also known as Hin Bai, this diving spot is a 90-minute boat ride away from the main island. Keep your eyes open as you will witness the Gulf of Thailand with rocks rising out of it as the rocks are eight meters above the waters. As the site is far from the mainland, the marine life here is distinctive and pure. Diving here goes down to 40 meters under the sea and is ideal for beginners and professionals alike. The cave-like structure of the rock (also called chimney) is famous amongst expert divers for the challenges it throws at them.
Highlights: Colourful cup corals, giant black coral, white-eyed morays, ragga scorpionfish, big schools of fishes, the pristine underwater scenery and the occasional Whale shark visitation.
Location: 15 Moo 7 Chaloklam Ko Pha-ngan, Suratthanee
Fee: Every Tuesday, Crystal organizes day trips to Sail Rock. This consists of two dives. The price is 2500 THB, inclusive of all equipment hired and scrumptious Thai lunch during the surface interval.
True to its name, Shark Point is where divers will come across deadly Leopard sharks. Located a 90-minute boat ride away from Phuket, this diving spot is for those who want thrills. Fret not, as the sharks here are not the ones you would have seen in a Speilberg film. These animals are submissive, and as the dives are done in groups, there's no danger. In addition to Leopard Sharks, this unique point also boasts Moray Eels, tropical fishes, and colourful corals all over the place. The site is a large one to explore, and if done professionally, a dive can take a few days to complete. But it's worth it. The depth ranges from 10 to 30 meters, the perfect location for amateurs and experts alike.
Highlights: Abundant and soft corals, habitats of thousands of fishes, leopard sharks resting on the sand, the colourful reefs exploding with life, suitable for wonderful underwater videography.
Location: 16 miles east of Phuket
Fee: The 3 dive day trip for Shark Point for certified divers is 4000 THB. The inclusions are food, water and beverages.
Koh Samui is Thailand's second largest island located in the gulf. It is popular for its dense rainforest, coconut beaches and palm trees, but is also a popular diving spot. Chumphon Pinnacles is one of the more challenging diving spots which is known for powerful currents. Green Rock is popular for its undersea structures such as archways, caves and caverns. Hin Wong is another beautiful diving spot, where you might get to see turtles. White Rock is a spot where you'd go if you want to be engulfed by a swarm of butterfly fish.
Highlights: Undersea structures like archways, caves and caverns, sea turtles and butterfly fishes.
Location: Koh Samui, Thailand
Fee: The diving price starts at 3000 THB and can go higher as per varying packages.
New to scuba diving? The Island of Koh Ma is just the place for you. Rookie divers from all over the world are seen here wanting to get certified in diving, or those drivers who want more practice before they face more significant challenges. The lively islands are home to a plethora of marine species, the most common one being the vibrant and colourful parrotfish and the one of a kind barracudas. Getting to Koh Ma is as plain sailing as it can get. You can catch a boat from Koh Phangan from a boat or even a car. In addition to the unmatchable diving experience Koh Ma provides, it is also famous for tourist spots. There are a lot of accommodation options on the island, making your trip quite a getaway from the hustle bustle of other widely popular and crowded islands of Thailand.
Highlights: Marine life such as butterflyfish, grouper and shrimps, some unusual critters are some of the sights one can experience on an easy dive. The crazy clownfish, juvenile stingrays hiding just under the surfaces, schools of Razorfish are the common sightings. If you are lucky enough, you can encounter some cuttlefish. There are seahorses galloping across the sands, in search of a mate.
Location: Koh Phangan, Suratthanee 84280 Thailand
Fee: The dive trips for certified divers start from 2300 THB, with two dives.
Koh Chang, also called the Elephant Island, offers some good diving opportunities. This includes wreck dives as well as rock pinnacles. There are beautiful reefs and an abundance in marine life to keep you enthralled with every dive. The diving can start from the beach, with a calm and shallow start. While on Koh Chang island, don't miss out on the rainforests and the pristine beaches. Some of the popular dive sites in Koh Chang are HTMS Chang wreck, T11 wreck, Thonburi Wreck etc.
Highlights: Wreck dives, diverse marine life, sharks if you are lucky enough, beaches and rainforests.
Location: Ko Chang, Thailand
Fee: The prices for dives vary for the various wrecks and rock pinnacles. The usual day trip dive pricing is 3000 - 3500 THB for a wreck dive. The inclusions can vary.
Looking for a unique scuba diving spot? Koh Tachai is the place to go. Also known as 'The Dome', this dive spot is situated just off the Koh Tachai island. It is a dome-shaped submerged pinnacle made of gigantic granite boulders. The two interesting dive spots are the Pinnacle and the Tachai Reef. The divers can enjoy the swim-throughs on the west, hard corals and sea whips on the east, soft corals and sea fans on the north and various glass fishes, barracuda, leopard sharks etc on the smaller pinnacle. While Tachai Reef is for beginners, Tachai pinnacle should be explored only by advanced divers only.
Highlight: Dome shaped, Boulder, Sunset and Night dive Bush and mountain coral, Whaleshark and Leopard Shark.
Location: Similan Islands, Thailand
Fee: The price for a day trip dive is 6000 THB inclusive of speed boat to Tachai.
Towards North East of the Similan Islands are the Koh Bon dive sites, which is on the route to most of the Thailand liveaboard trips. There are two major dive sites in Koh Bon - the ridge sticking out from the western side of the island and the deep pinnacle on the northern side. The Koh Bon Ridge is the best place in the area to spot manta rays. There are soft, pastel coloured corals, leopard sharks in the deeper water and elusive purple fire goby. The pinnacle is a great dive for the experienced divers.
Highlights: Manta rays, purple fire goby, leopard sharks, sweetlips and snappers.
Location: Similan Islands, Thailand
Fee: A day trip dive to Koh Bon costs 5800 THB.
Whether it's swimming with radiant and vivid fishes, admiring the bright coloured corals or exploring shipwrecks, one can't get enough out of the deep and mysterious sea. Every dive you take here in the Land of Smiles is bound to be better than before. So plan a diving trip on your next holiday to Thailand, and I am sure you'll take back a bucket full of memories.