Of all my adventures around the world, scuba diving in Thailand was, without a doubt, one of the most challenging.
After flying hang gliding in Rio de Janeiro, navigating rough seas over crumbling little boats, crossing the ocean alone to discover new countries, living in different countries without knowing anything about their local culture and language, I chose scuba diving in Thailand to the top of the craziness I’ve done.
I’ll try to describe in words what doing this dive in Thailand made me feel, but I don’t think anything can explain exactly the mix of emotions at that moment. It’s a combination of joy and disbelief at seeing a whole new world so close up that we only see it in movies.
Do you know all those scenes from the movie “Finding Nemo“? It’s all that. All animals, all little plants, all colors. Everything I saw on that dive seemed to come straight out of that movie production. Huge shells opening and closing, dozens of shoals of various colors, animals I had never seen, and the highlight of this dive: seeing a sea turtle up close!
Now that I’ve done my poetic description of what scuba diving is, I will tell you everything you need to know about scuba diving in Thailand. Read on!
I did 30 days in Thailand, but I dived in Phi Phi most days, and it was great. Not too crowded, and 29 Celsius in the water (this was in April).
Kho Phi Phi is a place to explore white sand beaches, beautiful coves, and bays, as well as a range of dive sites. The island is surrounded by a national Marine Park, and dive sites are characterized by rugged, coral-adorned limestone walls.
To be honest, this was my first time diving, and I almost gave up as soon as I jumped into the water. But with a little push from the instructor, I went ahead and was firm and strong. The thing is, when I was on top of the boat listening to the guide’s explanations, I had no idea what it was really going to be like when I got on the water. My fear started little by little with the diving suit, the cylinder, and the jump into the water.
However, the session was breathtaking. I saw many colorful corals, blacktip sharks, sea turtles, rays, and an incredible variety of coral reef fish like ringfish, butterflyfish, harlequin jam, and so on. I found it amazing to see huge shells opening and closing as if they were talking to me, some round fish that I didn’t even know existed, jellyfish that scared me even more, and of course, the biggest highlight: swimming with a sea turtle. I almost fainted!
Remember never to touch any coral, rock, or aquatic animal at any time during the dive. Stretch your little arms just to pick up the trash and keep it in your clothes for later disposal.
My top spots for scuba diving in Phi Phi
- Bida Nok and Bida Nai – two limestone islands that have underwater rock formations and corals that serve as an ideal habitat for sea snakes and sea turtles
- Hen Muang – a good location for chancing whale sharks, reef sharks, leopard sharks, and manta rays
- Hin Dot – has good underwater scenery featuring soft corals, caves, and crevices that attract manta rays, leopard sharks, moray eels, and lobsters.
2. Scuba diving in Koh Tao
The experience of learning to dive is an unforgettable experience. Is it worth it? The answer is YES. Although at first, I was nervous because of the depth at Phi Phi Island, I enjoyed the underwater beauty that is different from snorkeling. So I decided to look for another spot for scuba diving, and after long research, I settled on Koh Tao.
Note that there are more than 25 dive sites, enabling divers of all levels to enjoy the region well. In general, visibility there is very good most of the year. The island is amazing (I’d say it’s my favorite island in the country), and there are several things that make Koh Tao a perfect place for scuba diving, especially if you’re new to the adventures.
What I loved about Koh Tao is that immediately we started to descend (with my guide), we could already see the water changing color and several new strong hues appearing. Corals appear nailed to rocks in such a magical way that it looks like they were hand-drawn and nailed there. And we descend (always holding the guide’s hand, by the way), thousands of fish pass by you and light your way.
In addition, Koh Tao is one of the places with the greatest possibility to see the incredible whale shark. Imagine being able to see these giants in a dive? Unfortunately, I didn’t see any during my session, but now that I know, I’ll try to dive again into Koh Tao for the odds to increase.
My top spots for scuba diving in Kho Tao:
- Chumphon: a diving location on the north of Kho Tao and a famous spot for seeing fishes that interact with sea anemones
- White rock: a diving location that’s near the Kho Tai mainland and home for wrasses, turtles, angelfish, triggerfish, etc.
- Green Rock: a diving location that’s famous for its underwater tunnels and caves
Best months for scuba diving: January to August
Best scuba operators: Roctopus, Mojo divers, Phoenix Divers
3. Scuba diving in Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are probably the best place to do scuba diving in Thailand. The set of islands are preserved and quite isolated, different from the crowd of tourists from phi phi or Koh Phangan during the Full Moon Party.
It is possible to go to the islands and hire diving agencies, but the best option is liveaboard trips (which I did). And I know you might be wondering what that is exactly? As the name implies, you live aboard a boat for a few days. There are multi-day tours on the Andaman Sea, and I chose the 4-day and 4-night tours.
Most liveaboards are for scuba divers, but non-divers can also travel if they are interested and can snorkel at the same spots where the dives take place. But, it is important to mention that there are few beach stops.
Generally, on the liveaboard, you will spend most of your time diving. There were four dives per day (with the exception of the last day, which are only two, and then we sail to the port). All meals and non-alcoholic beverages are generally included. Some liveaboards do not include the price of the dive gear (and you need to rent the part), and there are usually a few cabin options to choose from.
Now that I had had already dived in Thailand on Koh Phi Phi and Koh Tao, I found out that nothing compares to diving in the Similan Islands. The visibility of almost 30 meters, the water was extremely clear, and marine life was so rich that there were times that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
What amazed me were the gigantic fan corals. Some are so big that they reach a few meters in length and width. Their colors range from dirty white, orange, brown, pink, purple, and yellow. I was also able to explore numerous underwater caves and tunnels. In we found rare species of aquamarine organisms, such as lionfish and cuttlefish, that you can’t find on the coral reefs nearby.
My top spots for scuba diving in Similan Islands
- West of Eden and Deep-six: These are diving locations in the Similan that are near to each other. They feature large underwater granite boulders, fan corals, and crevices. Turtles, moray eels, and micro-aquatic life are frequent here.
- Elephant Head:a great location for grouped scuba diving and features multiple rock formations such as mini-cliffs, valleys, tunnels, and crevices
- Koh Bon:a diving location that’s a hotspot for manta-ray fans
Best months for scuba diving: December to April
Best scuba operators: Similan Diving Safaris, Khao Lak Explorers Diving Centre, Wetzone Divers Khao Lak.
FAQs About Scuba Diving in Thailand
1. How Much Does Scuba Diving Cost In Thailand?
Scuba diving in Thailand costs about 2000 to 4000 THB for every dive (that is about $70 to $130). You can opt to bring your own diving equipment if you’re not willing to spend a lot. Know that Thai authorities recommend that tourists dive with guides. Therefore, you might be required to hire one before diving.
It’s another story if you have a diving license. With a diving license, you can opt to ditch tour guides and explore by yourself.
Boat rentals in Thailand might range from 1000 to 3000 THB per day ($30 to $90). This isn’t very expensive because your payment already covers the fuel and driver. Understand that you might have to spend more on renting luxurious boats.
To be safe, allocate a 15000 THB budget (approximately $500) for scuba diving in Thailand no matter which location you wish to go to.
2. When Is The Best Time To Visit Thailand For Scuba Diving?
If you want to dive without tourists around, then you can opt to scuba dive during the months of January and March. However, you’re less likely to see whale sharks, manta rays, and other rare species.
May to September is the peak period for Scuba diving in Thailand. It’s on these months where you’re more likely to avail scuba diving promos and packages. Seeing rare species of aquatic life is also higher. However, I suggest that you head to secluded diving locations because common ones get infested with tourists.
Know that with more tourists underwater, fish are less likely to swim around. That’s why you should head for locations where others don’t frequent.
My scuba diving experience in Thailand was amazing. But I have to point out that the dive experience depends largely on the diving operator you choose. So, make sure you do thorough research about the dive operator before making a decision. Bye!