Thailand

4.1875
(4 REVIEWS)

 

Thailand in a Nutshell 


Hosting divers in both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand from over 1200 miles of coastline, this scuba destination is a great fit for divers of any level.

 

 

Marine Highlights from Thailand's Andaman Sea

 

 

 

Dive Conditions 

 

Dive conditions vary depending on what area of Thailand you chose to go.  Within the Gulf of Thailand, diving is available almost year round.  November is the beginning of the monsoon season in which visibility drops and heavy rain storms can occur but by the mid/end of December things typically have gone back to normal.  On the Andaman side, dive times are more limited.  Some areas are only available to dive parts of the year (like the Similians and Koh Lanta).  In general October - April is the best time to dive the Andaman Sea.

 

Marine Life 

 

In general the Andaman Sea boasts a larger variety of fish species and coral.  As to what you can expect to see - the coastline and islands stretch over a large distance so it greatly depends on where you choose to dive.  Manta rays, whale sharks, black/white tips, and turtles are just a few of the "big things" to expect.  As tourism in Thailand is becoming more and more popular, I would highly advise a trip sooner rather than later - as some dive destinations are already becoming a little overcrowded.

 

Topside Activities 

 

Liveaboards are available to explore the Andaman Sea and reach dive sites you otherwise can't reach, but they limit your freedom in exploring what else Thailand has to offer.  An alternative is to "island-hop" to different destinations comparing the local reefs and their offerings.  Every island has its own personality, so depending on what you are looking for... certain islands would fit best.  Looking for a night on the town?  Koh Phi Phi on the Andaman side, or Koh Tao in the gulf would be a good start.  Prefer a relaxing evening instead?  The Andamans, Koh Lanta, or Koh Samui in the gulf could be better alternatives.

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Hin Daeng and Hin Muang

Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are widely considered the best dive sites in Thailand outside of the Similans. Hin Daeng and Hin Muang are two dive sites on the west coast of Thailand that can be accessed by either live aboard or by day trips out of Ko Phi Phi or Ko Lanta. These two sites are best known for their frequency in Manta Ray and Whale shark sightings. Both sites are remote deep water pinnacles. Hin Deang just barely breaks the surface, where as Hin Muang is a submerged pinnacle with its base on one side leveling out around 60 meters, and the other side is a vertical wall that plunges into a deep abyss. Both sites are more advanced sites, and Hin Muang often has relatively strong currents. Both sites are right next to each and always dived together in one trip. At both sites you will see huge schools of fish, pelagics, lion fish, nudibranchs, Manta Rays, whale sharks, and reef sharks. Both sites are within the boundaries of a marine park and attract a massive amount of life. The ride out to the dive sites can be rough, and if you are doing a day trip out of Ko Lanta/ Ko Phi Phi it will take about 2 1/2 hours to make it out to the site. Diving these two sites on a day trip will take up an entire day. Due to the remoteness of these two sites, crowds are not something you have to worry about when diving here. Anyone diving on the West coast of Thailand should not miss these two sites.

Visited on 02/2012 - Submitted on 06/06/2015
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Koh Tao, Thailand

I lived and worked on Koh Tao as a Dive Master for a year. Getting your open water certification is on the list of things to do for most young people back packing through Thailand. More open water certs are completed on Koh Tao than any other location in the world. Koh Tao is a small vibrant island in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao has good diving, great night life, and plenty of topside activities to do.

The Diving: There are good things and bad things about diving on Koh Tao. First we will start off with some of the negative aspects of diving Koh Tao. Koh Tao dive sites can be very crowded. Some of the larger resort boats hold close to 50 divers. Dive sites like White Rock, Twins, Japanese Gardens can have a dozen boats onsite all at once. Sometimes dive sites look like parking lots. Also due to the fact that most people are on Koh Tao to learn to dive, there is a huge number of beginner divers everywhere. Now for the good things. Due to the fact there is a huge number of dive ops, all of which are very different, it's easy to find one that offers what you are looking for. There are small shops with small boats, big shops with big boats, etc. Also the diving is cheap, really cheap. Due to all the competition on the island, courses and diving prices are extremely low and affordable. There is also a variety of dive sites for both beginners and more experienced divers. Notable sites are Laem Thian with great swim throughs, and geographical features, frequented by black tips. Chumpon Pinnacle was my favorite site, which is frequented by bull sharks, whale sharks, huge schools of fish, tornadoes of barracuda, and giant groupers. White rock, which can be crowded at certain times, is a nice reef with lots of life, no shortage of morays and blue spotted sting rays. Sail Rock is also easily accessible from Koh Tao, and Sail Rock is without a doubt the best site in the Gulf of Thailand. Sail Rock is frequented by whale sharks, bull sharks, huge schools of fish, big schools of barracuda and Trevally, as well as a few resident giant morays. Turtles can be seen on the island but are surprisingly scarce, and also you WILL NOT see a manta ray in the gulf of Thailand. There are also a couple of wrecks on the island that were sunk to make artificial reefs. The diving on Koh Tao is good, but it is not world class, and is even not as good as the diving on the West Coast of Thailand. But it is a great island that is lots of fun and definitely worth visiting.

Topside: Koh Tao has a large variety of restaurants and resorts. Everything from 5 start luxury resorts, to dirt cheap hostels. Koh Tao also has a great night life and huge party scene. Lots of bars, and drinks are very cheap. Choppers is an Aussie owned sports bar on the island that opens early and they show NFL games, Soccer, Baseball, Cricket, everything, so you can still watch your favorite sports games while on the island. Rock Climbing is another popular topside activity on the island, companies like Good Times Adventures offers a variety of activities other than diving. Koh Tao is also a great place to learn free diving. There are a few free diving schools on the island with great instructors.

Getting to the island is also relatively easy. From Bangkok you can book transport down from a few different companies, such as SongSerm, and Lompraya. Buses run from Bangkok to Chumpon, where you board a ferry that takes you to either Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, or Koh Samui. You can also fly from Bangkok to Koh Samui, and then jump on a ferry or speed boat over to Koh Tao.

Visited on 10/2010 - Submitted on 06/06/2015
  • Top Reviewer
Brisbane, QLD
Australia
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Similan Islands, Thailand.

The Similan Island National Park ( Named for ‘Sembilan’, meaning nine in a local dialect of Malay) is made up of 9 islands arranged roughly 80kms North of the heaving holiday mecca of Phuket on the Eastern seaboard of the Isthmus of Thailand. The Islands of the main group are generally referred to as numbers 1-9 – though also have Thai names – with numbers 1,2 & 3 in the South closed for diving to allow for turtle hatching. Diving in the group is characterised by two distinct environments:

The East coast with slopes down to 30 metres, plenty of hard coral and gentle-to-no currents. Large bommies covered in soft coral and schools of small fish dot the sandy sea floor with some such as ‘Hin Muan Daew (Roll of film) on Anita’s Reef attracting celebrity status for exhausting diver’s entire roll of exposures back in the days of shooting film. It really was that good, too.

The West coast is exposed to the Indian Ocean and features dramatic piles of enormous granite boulders covered in healthy soft corals and giant fans tumbling down to the sea bed at 30-45 metres. These exposed sites experience regular currents and offer a more adventurous dive. The currents feed the oversized corals and bring in larger and more numerous schools of fish. In addition to huge schools of smaller fish expect pelagics from Tuna to Sharks.

Visibility is superb on both sides of the islands with up to 30-45 metre on my trip, and though you will be regularly gazing out into the blue do not forget to look closer at the reef: the macro life here is fantastic with Frogfish, Harlequin Shrimp & a stunning array of Nudibranchs to found amongst a host of other critters, particularly on the Eastern sites.

No review of the Similans would be fair without mentioning the topside experience, which is what really sets off the whole trip. The weather in the diving season is generally warm, calm & sunny. My entire trip was bathed in sun with just the right amount of breeze for cooling down in the afternoon. And the beaches. It’d be fair to say these are some of the finest beaches I’ve seen in my time; go and sit at your computer and enter ‘Similans beaches’ into a search engine. Yep. Stunning.

Longer trips to the area will usually focus on the islands of the Similans and then move North to 2 Islands, Koh Bon & Koh Tachai and then the area’s masterpiece, Richelieu Rock. The former are highly regarded for more dramatic boulder diving and the chance of Oceanic Manta Rays. Richelieu Rock, closer to the mainland, is a photographer’s lens choice nightmare. Though the proximity to land and current up-wellings reduces the visibility somewhat this horse-shoe shaped reef, draped in soft corals and packed with great macro subjects, is famous for its Whale Shark encounters.

The area is best explored by one of the numerous liveaboards operating out of Khao Lak, though can also be visited as a day trip on enormous, over-powered speedboats from the mainland. I have read reports of accidents with these boats due to overconfidence in rough weather and heard first hand reports of long and uncomfortable journeys, though I imagine it would be great fun in fine weather.

In season there is a glut of operators offering liveaboards from cheap & cheerful through to all expenses paid luxury, anywhere from overnight trips up to a whole week. I was on a 5 night, 4 day cruise and would definitely pick this length of trip again. Any shorter would rob you of time in either the Similans or the Islands further North, while I feel any longer would have resulted in spending too long for the variety on offer.

Finally, though probably not superior to some of the trips I have taken further south in the ‘Coral Triangle’, you cannot look past Thailand for relaxing and enjoyable topside experience. I travelled from Koh Tao, on the East Coast of Thailand, and thoroughly enjoyed every second of the journey; particularly as the last 60-100kms travel through the stunning hills of the Khao Sok National Park.

Visited on 12/2011 - Submitted on 02/20/2014
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My four F’s for choosing a holiday destination:
• Fun for all
• Friendly people
• Fantastic value
• Photographers dream
The last ones a stretch but I am taking it!
Where you ask? Thailand of course!
Boring! I hear you say. It has been done to death, but hear me out.
I myself was of the same opinion, having travelled from north to south and everywhere in between, that was until I found Koh Lanta.
Selfishly I was going there for the diving, but my wife (non diver) was of the same opinion. The mixture of cheap and expensive accommodation and super friendly staff gave the island a casual back packer feel but with the mod cons if you wanted them.
Getting there?

Fly via Bangkok into Krabi, mini bus transfer 2- 3 hours

Time to go?
Peak time is November to March where everything is in full swing and the weather is at its driest. Personally I prefer to go in the shoulder season of either April or October as the accommodation is usually cheaper and more available, and the towns a little more sedate. You might cop the occasional wet season down pour, but if your reading this I am sure getting wet is never a problem! Off season many places close down and the car ferry may not operate, check before booking.

Where to stay?

Ban Sala Dan is the main town with modern shops and restaurants but is probably not the best place to stay.
Ban Phra-Ae (Long Beach) is the most popular beach resort destination, still with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops to choose from, and only a short tuk-tuk ride into Ban Sala Dan.

What to expect?

Koh Lanta’s location in the Andaman Sea makes it the closest of all the islands to the world famous Koh Haa dive sites, home to everything from the smallest shrimp to the occasional whale shark.
Unfortunately I was only able to squeeze in 3 days of diving but the variety of reefs, marine life, caves and swim-throughs was unbelievable, and left me wanting more and more. There is a huge range of dive sites suitable for all levels of experience, with water temperatures of 28 C and average visibility of 20 – 30m, writing this makes me wish I was back there now.

Giant Moray, Sea moths, Common Lionfish, Spotted Lionfish, Scorpion fish, Cuttle fish, File fish, Squid, Cod, Banded Sea snake, Cleaner Shrimp, Mantis Shrimp, Yellow Snapper, Grouper, Rainbow runners, Trumpet fish, Barracuda, Peacock Flounder, Rock mover Wrasse, Porcupine fish, Trigger fish, Sand Lizard etc etc.
These are only some of the creatures listed in my log not to mention the ones I didn’t, as well as the outstanding reefs and swimming through the iconic ‘chimney’ and ‘cathedral’ sites.

Other Activities

There is almost as much to do and see above the water as below it, with great beaches, hikes, food, markets and people to experience.
Try your hand at the cooking school, or visit the local markets for a taste of Thai life.
There is a fantastic rescue shelter running for stray cats and dogs, which you are more than encouraged to volunteer your time to help walking, cleaning feeding and even adopting these beautiful animals.

Visited on 10/2012 - Submitted on 02/07/2014