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.
Located in Pha-nga province, 90km north-west of Phuket, the Similan Islands boast one of Thailand’s most famous diving sites and can lay claim to having one of the best diving sites in Asia. The Similans consist of 9 islands (Similan means 9 in Malay language) Ko Bon, Ko Bayu, Ko Similan, Ko Payu, Ko Miang (two adjoining islands), Ko Payan, Ko Payang, and Ko Huyong. The islands are famed for their thriving reefs and abundance of delicate coral and superb variety of exciting marine life. It is possible to see chevron barracuda, giant trevally, manta rays, leopard sharks and rainbow runners. Of all the islands, one of the most popular with divers is Ko Bo. This island has a sheer wall 35 meters deep which is followed by a stepped ridge descending to 45 meters. Located roughly 25km north of here, but not actually part of the Similans, is Ko Tachai with its lush tropical foliage and underwater ridge which juts out at 90 degrees. Divers may experience the opportunity to encounter leopard sharks, nurse sharks or whale sharks.
Other popular diving sites in Similans include:
Stonehenge: Thia is a large towering rock formation with a variety of marine life. Divers can spot barrel sponges, lionfish, gorgonian sea fans, barracuda, wrasse, ghost pipefish and long nose butterfly fish.
Snapper Alley: This site is extremely popular for night dives its solid healthy table and sheet provides marine life places to hide and sleep.
Shark-fin Reef: This is a great dive site for experienced divers. It is possible to spot clown trigger fish, half-moon trigger fish, bat fish and surgeon fish.
Elephant Head Rock: This rock is simply a massive boulder and is ideal for experienced and daring divers. Silver trevally, jet black trevally, small reef sharks, hawksbill turtle, lionfish, grouper and snapopers can all be seen.
East of Eden: Here boasts the most spectacular bommie in the Similans and the violet and blue corals are just breath-taking.
Donald Duck Bay: This rock was named after the cartoon character it resembles and it is another great site for marine life where one can also see crabs, octopus and cuttlefish running across the sea bed.
The Surin Islands are virtually untouched with pristine virgin reefs that meticulously slope to the seabed. The islands are situated 80km west of Ranong province along the west cost of Thailand.
Located near the Surin islands is the horseshoe shaped Richelieu Rock which is considered by hoards of divers to be the most fantastic dive site in the whole of Thailand. The sheer diversity of marine life is amazing. Divers may see schooling chevron barracuda, numerous types of moray eels, abundant lionfish and scorpion fish and 5 types of anemone fish, juvenile emperor angel fish, sea horses, ornate ghost pipefish, harlequin shrimps and even whale sharks, manta rays and shovelnose rays. Richelieu Rock is a must-see for every diver in the south of Thailand.
Khao Lak Marine National Park a palm fringed coastline with newly discovered reefs. The area is home to a plentitude of marine life and even a couple of wrecks.
This brand new diving area just south of Burma has only been opened to the public since 1997. The area is still relatively unknown and unexploded and offers the opportunity for divers to visit exciting new dive sites. The representation of coral however is sporadic and the underwater terrain is rather rugged, so making it all not quite and spectacular as the nearby Similan Islands. Parts of the area attract a diversity of sharks, manta eagle and marbled rays.
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