An Ultimate Guide to Diving in Thailand in 2023

Millions of people visit Thailand yearly, a tropical island in Southeast Asia situated at the center of the Indo-Chinese Peninsula in the Earth’s Northern and eastern hemispheres. Bordered by five countries, to the west, you will find the Andaman Sea, and the Gulf Of Thailand lies southeast of Burma.

whale shark Similan islands thailand
Vibrant Coral Reefs Similan Islands

Many arrive searching for their image of paradise; crystal clear waters, white sands, palm trees, and glorious sunshine, and they will not be disappointed. However, Thailand has much more to offer than a relaxing beach destination. It is a sought-after location that is visited time after time and loved by divers from around the world. 

The awe-inspiring natural wonders of the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand attract thousands annually, such to the extent that it is said that the area of Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, certifies more divers than anywhere else worldwide. 

Stunning Similans thailand
Underwater Bliss similan islands

Scuba Diving in Thailand 

Scuba diving in Thailand is like no other, offering more than 349 named dive sites, constantly warm water temperatures throughout the year, and incredible Visibility; the conditions are perfect for all levels of experience, even those new to diving. Not only are the conditions ideal but the treasures you find, the nature you observe, and the marine life you witness in these seas are breathtaking. 

Memories created here will last a lifetime. Thailand’s waters host the most spectacular reefs, corals, and tropical marine life you will find anywhere in the world. 

When planning your scuba diving adventure in Thailand, one of the first decisions to make is if you want to explore the Andaman Sea or the Gulf of Thailand. 

Spectacular Similan Snorkeling
Snorkeling Paradise similan islands

1. Scuba Diving in Andaman Sea

The Andaman Sea is the most popular for most, particularly international travelers. Located on the west coast, the Andaman Sea offers picture postcard beaches, palm trees, and diverse dive opportunities with a range of topography to explore. 

Whilst diving here, you can discover locations that go primarily untouched and rich in nearby surrounding greenery that host a range of wildlife and outstanding views. 

The most popular islands along the Andaman Coast are Phuket and Koh Phi Phi, from which you can access organized and professional dive trips that can last from a day to several, depending on your requirements

Similan's Underwater Delights
Similans' Coral Reef Beauty

2. Gulf of Thailand

The Gulf of Thailand also offers good dive opportunities as you explore the east coast islands in a less crowded environment. Many are attracted to Koh Samui, whilst others head to Koh Tao. This small island offers outstanding diving experiences with various marine life and impressive rock and coral formations. 

The water is considered shallow within the Gulf, resulting in a slow water exchange, which, along with warm water temperatures, coral reefs are vast. The bays are generally sandy and, with the shallow waters, are attractive for novice divers. 

It is believed to be cheaper to dive the Gulf of Thailand, although there is no doubt that many of the top dive spots are found on the West coast in the Andaman Sea.

Similan Snorkeling Adventure
Secluded Snorkeling Spots similan islands thailand

Best Time to Dive in Thailand 

One of the most repeatedly asked questions is when, in the year, it is best to go diving in Thailand. Fortunately, Thailand’s tropical climate, with air temperatures from 30 – 35°C/85-95°F and water temperatures at around 29°C/84°F means diving can be an all-year-round activity. 

However, where you dive in Thailand may be affected by the time of year you visit, as the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea have opposing diving seasons.

From May to September, scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand is considered the ideal time when Visibility is at its best. At other times of the year, the weather conditions can be poor, particularly in November when places such as Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui experience their worst monsoon weather. 

You could be fortunate in December through February to get good diving conditions, but they are unlikely to be consistent as rough seas, and poor Visibility is more likely. However, Thailand’s weather can be complex, and Koh Chang, which is in the Gulf Of Thailand, tends to follow the weather pattern of the West coast, so make sure you plan your visit according to your requirements. 

The best time for diving in Thailand on the West coast is from October to May, with the high season from December to April. Outside these months, you will likely experience rainfall and storms, which can hinder or limit diving opportunities. From October through May, you can comfortably travel on liveaboard boats from dive site to dive site, enhancing your experience and adding to the fun.

If the Similan and Surin Islands are on your visit list, be aware that they are sometimes off-limits due to the weather around the beginning or end of the season. December through February are the most popular times to dive here, and you can expect to be amazed!

Marine Wonders similan islands thailand
Majestic whale shark in the similan islands thailand

4 Reasons to Dive in Thailand

1. Outstanding Beauty: 

Diving in Thailand is a tropical paradise above and below the water’s surface. Full of outstanding beauty and breathtaking sights, the underwater world is full of energy, allowing you to observe and immerse yourself in the environment of some of the world’s most spectacular marine life.

Exploring Similan's Waters
Coral Reef Haven similan islands thailand

2. Amazing coral reefs:

From the relative calm of the Gulf to the changing currents of the Andaman Sea, there is extraordinary life to discover with 153 Km2 of coral reef and approximately 2125 different species of fish, and numerous scuba diving sites to do so from. Such is Thailand’s diversity; these tropical waters offer diving experiences that suit everyone from the novice to the experienced. 

Phuket coral reefs with soft corals
pink and orange corals phuket

3. Excellent Visibility:

With its warm waters and excellent visibility, Thailand is the perfect place to dive and hosts some first-class diving sites, such as the Similan islands, which have been ranked one of the top sites in the world. Of course, it is what you may discover in the tropical waters that are the attraction, and Thailand has a vast, plentiful list of marine life. 

You can explore vibrant, beautiful reefs of hard and soft corals and the life that macro enthusiasts love to find, such as seahorses, multi colored Nudibranch, Ghost pipefish, frogfish, Dancing shrimp and crabs the size of your fingernail, to name just a few. 

snappers in the blue
the coral reefs are home to many small fish

4. Abundant Marine Life: 

Diving in Thailand also offers an excellent opportunity to see marine life of the opposite scale. Sightings of Whale Sharks, Manta Rays, Blacktip Reef Shark, Whitetip Reef Shark and Leopard Sharks, amongst others, are possible; some are more common than others, but keep a look out into the deep blue, and you may be fortunate to witness one gliding by. 

Of course, keen photographers seek those vibrant, colorful fish that are beautiful and striking. Angelfish, Bannerfish and Butterflyfish are just a few abundant within the reefs. Scuba diving in Thailand is unbeatable, and you will not leave disappointed; quite the opposite, as the memories you create will be retold forever more. 

snappers in the blue
the amazing underwater world of Phuket

2 Types of Diving in Thailand

With so many regarding diving in Thailand as the mecca for scuba diving, it is not surprising to learn that there is a vast diversity of experiences on offer in diving in Thailand. Over two hundred kilometers of coastline and hundreds of islands offer various dive types. From fringing reefs, walls, pinnacles, nighttime, open ocean seamounts, wrecks, caves, swim-throughs, drifts and drop-offs, there is a dive for everyone and an excellent opportunity to take your dive training to the next level. 

hard coral reefs on discovering scuba diving
glassfish on Phuket's tropical coral reefs

1. Reef Diving in Thailand  

Exploring the beautiful coral reefs of diving in Thailand will astonish you. They are breathtaking and, thanks to the nutrient-rich waters, are teaming with life. Some like to be able to dive from the shoreline and explore fringing reefs in shallow waters but do not stop there. 

Catch a boat ride into the ocean and explore the magnificent artwork that mother nature created. They are an essential part of the marine ecosystem hosting spectacular life forms, so it is no surprise that more than half are protected within Thailand’s twenty-six National Marine Parks. 

Those in the Similan islands, Koh Tarutao and Koh Surin, have even been considered to be put forward as World Heritage Sites. The Thai authorities can close dive sites at any time to protect the reefs and set strict instructions such as no feeding of marine life, no littering and controlled dive depths. As you would expect, the underwater scenery is out of this world and well worth a visit. 

However, not all dive sites have flat surfaces or are an extension of a gently sloping reef. Some dive sites consist of coral-covered walls ranging in height and width. Whilst some are only a few meters high, others can stretch wide and descend for many meters deep. One of the joys of wall diving in Thailand is that you rarely get two the same, as they are usually full of crevices, ledges and overhangs and full of life to explore, each a unique discovery.  

There are also many pinnacles to dive in the Andaman Sea; some are huge granite boulders submerged beneath the ocean where many divers choose to circle or zig-zag their way up from the bottom, all dependent, of course, on the current. Some pinnacles stretch above the water’s surface and can act as a good reference point for starting your dive.

When the opportunity allows, many divers enjoy a drift dive, sometimes from one pinnacle to another, taking in the magnificence of the underwater world as they go. 

glide over the soft coral reefs phuket
open water divers on coral reefs phuket

2. Wreck Diving

Wreck Diving is another thrilling aspect of diving in Thailand, with wrecks of various difficulties, suitable for the beginner to those who are certified technical divers. You can find about sixteen shipwrecks around Thailand that allow you permission to dive. 

Many were sunk intentionally to create artificial reefs, whilst others, like The King Cruiser, were accidents. Located East of Phuket, nine miles West of Phi Phi Don Island, the King Cruiser hit the Anemone reef and sank within three hours. 

Thankfully, all passengers escaped with their lives, and this added structure has created another marine ecosystem and proved popular with scuba divers. 

wreck diving phuket thailand
scuba diving at Koh Racha Noi Islands - Phuket

3 Best Places for Scuba Diving in Thailand

1. Similan Islands

The Similan Islands must be on most destination wishlists as they are Thailand’s most beautiful dive sites and one of the best dive spots worldwide, as well as offering some of the best diving in Thailand. 

Surrounded by the crystal clear seas of the Andaman, The Similan Islands are nine granite islands, all with pristine beaches and intriguing sea life, situated approximately one hundred kilometers North-West of Phuket. 

These Islands offer two very different types of diving: deep water boulder formations and spectacular coral gardens with the added value of superb Visibility of around forty meters; you can expect to have a good chance of spotting Leopard Sharks, Barracuda, Turtles, Blacktips, Whitetips, Batfish and the smaller Frogfish and razorfish amongst others. 

Just North of the Similan Islands lies Mu Koh Surin National Park, five islands that are quieter than the Similan Islands but carry similar traits. Plankton, however, can affect Visibility here but also attracts feeding Mantas and Whale Sharks, an incredible sight if fortunate to witness them emerging from the deep whilst diving in Thailand.

Day trip Similan Islands snorkeling
manta rays thailand

2. Andaman Sea

Located in the Andaman Sea, approximately forty kilometers Southeast of Phuket, the Phi Phi Islands is one of Thailand’s most photogenic locations. 

It is also considered one of the best diving spots diving in Thailand. Phi Phi Leh and Phi Phi Don are said to be the two main islands, there are six altogether, and you can expect to discover the most beautiful hard and soft corals, sea fans, and barrel sponges. 

It is a prime location to spot Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Tiger Tail Seahorses, and vast schools of Barracuda feeding on Glassfish.

Gliding over coral reefs Koh racha Yai
New growth - staghorn coral - Koh racha yai

3. Phuket

The King Cruiser Wreck, Shark Reef, and Anemone Reef are popular dive sites and can be accessed easily from Phuket, with liveaboards leaving Chalong Bay regularly. 

The King Cruiser collided with Anemone Reef when acting as a passenger ferry and lies in an upright position, now an artificial reef and host to a diverse range of marine life. 

Shark Point is about a five-minute boat ride from King Cruiser and consists of pinnacles running due south. Alive with Gorgonian Orange Fans and Tiger Tail seahorses and known for outstanding soft corals, divers come here, discovering something new each time. 

Anemone reef is famous for destroying the hull of the King Cruiser and is a pinnacle that drops to depths of about thirty meters. Like Shark Point, this pinnacle is covered with vibrant soft corals, seahorses, and other macro life. 

Look carefully; you may find Marble Rays and Eagle Rays on the bottom near the reef’s edge. Such finds will stay with you forever and give you stories to tell for a lifetime about diving in Thailand. 

Surrounding islands of phuket
Encountering Playful Dolphins in Thailand

Start Your Diving Trip with Thailand Divers

Thailand Divers offers an unforgettable adventure for those seeking to explore the breathtaking underwater world of Thailand. With its crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and an abundance of marine life, Thailand is an ideal destination for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.

Diving with Thailand Divers offers a chance to discover the secrets of the ocean and experience the excitement of swimming alongside colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and even majestic manta rays. Whether you are a seasoned diver or a beginner, Thailand Divers offers a variety of courses and programs to cater to your individual needs.

clear waters with turtles diving in phuket
large sea fans koh racha noi island phuket

FAQ’s About Diving in Thailand

Q1. What is the Best Month to Scuba Dive in Thailand?

Due to Thailand’s tropical climate and location, you can dive all year round here; however, where you dive will be affected by the time of year you visit.

The country is split into two diving locations; one is the Gulf of Thailand and the other, The Andaman Sea, the latter being the most popular. 

The best time to explore the Andaman Sea is from November to May. Sea conditions are calm, visibility is at its max, and the temperature usually falls between 28°C – 31° C resulting in perfect diving in Thailand conditions. 

After this time, there can be a lot of rainfall, and many marine national parks are closed until the season starts again. It is at this time when it is best to dive into the waters of the Gulf of Thailand. 

Q2. Is PADI or SSI Better?

PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is one diving organization, and SSI (Scuba Schools International) is another; both are among the world’s most prestigious. Both are checked and regulated by WRSTC (World Recreational Scuba Training Council) and are similar.

The main difference is said to be in the delivery of the course. Through PADI, you work through a set order, while SSI allows a little more flexibility. Both issue the same certification initially; an Open Water Diver of eighteen meters (sixty feet). The second is Advanced Open Water Diver with PADI, allowing you to go to thirty meters (a hundred feet), while SSI issues varying depths depending on your age and the number of dives completed.

PADI’s minimum age is ten years old, and SSI is eight years old. All certifications last a lifetime, with a refresher course needed if you last dived a while ago.

Significant differences exist if you want to extend your scuba diving training to become an instructor. A PADI instructor can work independently and anywhere when qualified. However, for an SSI instructor, you have to be affiliated with an SSI center or shop.

Ultimately, the choice lies in your personal preference. The PADI may be a little more expensive, but you only get your first certification once, and the most crucial factor is your connection with your dive instructor, dive center, and where you will be diving. 

Q3. How Much is Diving in Thailand?

Scuba diving in Thailand is affordable but can vary depending on location, equipment rental, dive instructor fees, and other dive-related charges. You must ensure your chosen dive center is well-established and highly qualified with modern and well-maintained dive gear, plus one that offers more than one certification to allow you to progress. 

For new divers with no experience, you can expect to pay around 5,000 Thailand baht. For people looking to get their worldwide diving license over what is commonly a three-day course, you can start at approximately 13,500 Thailand Baht. 

If you are already certified and looking for a day of diving, you can expect to pay around 3,900 Thailand Baht. You will find it cheaper and more expensive; it depends on what is included in your package, the type of dive you are doing, and where you are diving. 

Some resorts will offer discounted rates for those with extended stays if planning to do multiple dives, so there are ways to reduce the overall cost. However, scuba diving is affordable for most and all ages, and choosing your diving center and instructor should be enjoyable. 

Q4. Where is the Best Diving Site in Thailand?

1. Koh Tao
Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand may be considered the diving mecca. Still, it is renowned that the Andaman Sea provides the best diving spots in Thailand, and inevitably, The Similan Islands always appear among the top dive locations. 

The ‘best’ depends on individual expectations, but some sites are always spoken about amongst the Thailand scuba diving community. 

2. Similan Islands
The Similan Islands are a protected national park and, therefore, allowed to flourish and generate the most awe-inspiring underwater scenery with beautifully coloured corals, Gorgonian fans, and marine life.

Leopard Sharks, Batfish, Snappers, barracudas, Triggerfish, Unicornfish, Surgeonfish and even White Tip and Black Tip reef Sharks are some of the visitors to these waters. Easily accessible from Phuket, it also lends itself to extended visits upon a liveaboard. 


3. Koh Racha Islands
If day trips are what you are after, then the Koh Racha Islands are a hugely popular choice.

4. Racha Noi and Racha Yai

Racha Noi and Racha Yai are less than a two-hour boat ride south of Phuket. Multiple deep dive sites around Racha Yai are suitable for all certified divers who may be fortunate enough to witness the giant Manta Rays, which can grow up to seven meters here. Beautiful coral reefs and vast marine life wait to be discovered.

Racha Noi is about forty-five minutes south of Racha Yai and is known for its clear Visibility, granite boulders and sandy seabeds. Home to fascinating marine life, such as Angelfish, Pufferfish, Nudibranchs, Sea Cucumbers, and Octopus, and occasionally hosts Whale Sharks visiting. 

Q5. What is the Diving Capital of Thailand?

Koh Tao is known to certify the most scuba divers in the world, so, understandably, thousands of tourists and divers flock here. 

Koh Tao is famous for its calm waters, which attract those new to scuba diving and are an alternative when some dive sites are closed in the Andaman Sea out of season. Twenty-five dive sites around Koh Tao offer various experiences, from shallow waters to deeper open water dives of around forty meters.

There are shipwrecks, underwater sculptures, pinnacles, caves and swim-throughs to explore, and fabulous corals and tropical fish. Such diversity ensures you will never experience the same dive twice. 

However, Phuket is also said to be the hub of diving in Thailand scuba diving, where most divers locate to access some of the world-class, finest dive sites. Koh Tao is worth visiting, especially if you are new to diving, but the Andaman Sea keeps scuba divers returning year after year. With multiple dive sites and islands to explore, the list is inevitably much longer than Koh Taos. 

In conclusion, what may be deemed the diving Capital is down to the individual, where they may feel best suits them and where they are likely to return. Try as many places as possible; after all, Thailand is well known as ‘the land of smiles, and you are bound to be doing so after any dive experience in Thailand. 

Q6. Is Thailand Good for Diving?

Any scuba diver will experience nothing less than the best when diving Thailand. Its tropical location ensures excellent diving conditions with warm sea temperatures at around 84°F/29°C and a great range of Visibility. The opportunity to dive all year attracts many who want to visit sites rated the best in the world. With a vast range of dives available, such as reefs, walls, pinnacles, drifts, and drop-offs, to name a few, Thailand has got experiences to suit all abilities and ages. Thailand is an authentic diving paradise to such an extent you would feel you were missing out if you didn’t take part.

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