Where is the best diving in Thailand?
Thailand is a very large country with coastline stretching from Burma (Myanmar) to Malaysia along the west side on the Andaman Sea. On the Eastern coast, the coast line stretches, un broken from Malaysia, all the way around the Gulf of Thailand to Cambodia. There are hundreds of islands, dozens of regions to dive and numerous dive centers to choose from. Here is a careful selection of the best dive sites in Thailand
The most famous dive site in Thailand is Richelieu Rock. Often cited as one of the 10 best dive sties in the world – Richelieu Rock is simply stunning. A solitary pinnacle rising from the depths of the Andaman sea to just below the surface – this site has so many elements to its majesty. The large pelagics – Manta Rays and Whale Sharks are not to be missed. But the macro as well – the tiny shrimps, nudibranchs, pipefish, seahorses and more also delight and enthrall.
Richelieu Rock can be reached by liveaboards and daytrips departing from Khao Lak. The liveaboards should be booked ahead due to the popularity. Daytrips can be arranged upon arrival in Khao Lak – however during the peak holidays it is advisable to book ahead.
The Similan Islands h
ave also been cited as one the best dive sites in the world. With more than 30 named dive sites, plus the nearby Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and of course – Richleieu Rock – it is paradise for the avid diver. It is too difficult to actually name just one site out of the dozens that makes the Similan Island Marine Park so special. There are the deep boulder drops on the Western side. The gentle sloping reefs of the Easter coast and the dynamic site where the two mix. Turtles, sharks and massive schools fo reef fish swirl around the divers. The reefs are home to hundreds of species of coral, sponges and are an explosion of colors.
The Similan Islands are only 50km from Khao Lak – so easily reached by speedboat each day. Again – plan ahead if visiting during the holiday season. Similan Liveaboards depart almost everyday, though with only one ecologically friendly boat – we see no need to choose!
Hin daeng/Hin Muang
Best visited from Phi phi islands. Like Richelieu rock, these rocks, rising from the deep were once home to many large pelagics. Sadly a couple of years ago Phuket fisherman went in with cyanide and killed of a large portion of the site. Marine life has been returning, but it has not returned to it’s once majestic splendor.
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang have the closest to real drop-offs that Thailand offers.. Together they are some very good dive sites and provide some of the most stunning diving in the area. The depths and currents make these sites suitable for advanced divers. The long distance from the nearest point of land (Phi Phi) makes these less commonly dived.
Hin Daeng (‘Red Rock’) and Hin Muang (‘Purple Rock’) are named after the beautiful red and purple soft corals that, until recently, covered the pinnacles.
Hin Daeng protrudes about 3 meters above the water, but below, it drops straight down to more than 70 meters on the southern side. It gets its name from the beautiful red corals that populate most of the dive site. Hin Muang is completely submerged and derives its name from the vast number of purple corals covering the pinnacle. Some giant morays can be seen amongst the cracks and crevices and large leopard sharks can sometimes be found on the deep ridges.
One of the last world class pinnacles left in the Andaman sea. 8 mile rock is a submerged pinnacle roughly 8 miles due south of Koh Lipe. Noted for the large pelagics that cruise past, devil, manta and eagle rays are common, along with leopard shark, giant barracuda and groupers. Sighting for whale sharks have actually been up over the whole of the Lipe group of islands, with most sightings coming at 8 mile rock.
The rock itself starts at roughly 15m and at its deepest is over 50m. Densely covered in purple, blue and red soft tree coral, all common reef species can be found here in great abundance and size. Visibility can be up to 45m vertically and over 30m horizontally. Caution must be applied when diving 8 mile rock due to very strong currents that can lead to thee dive being canceled. The site can be dived comfortably dependent on current patterns so consult the local dive operators for the best information.
The most popular place to learn to dive in all of Asia Pacific, after Cairns in Australia, Koh Tao has some good beginner dive sites and some great apres-dive action. If you want to dive and party, then this is the place to come. Many times it appears that it’s actually a place to party and dive. The short travel times from the shore to the dive sites – typically half an hour or less – make diving extremely convenient. While the diving is not as spectacular as the Similans, (no manta rays here, very little living coral, almost no turtles), there are occasionaly encounters with sharks to be had at Chumphon Pinnacle and also, if you’re very lucky, whale sharks too.
Because Koh Tao is in the Gulf Of Thailand, it’s possible to dive all year round. The weather gets crappy around October/November.