The best dive sites in Thailand

Snorkelling in Thailand: Some of Asia's best dive sites explored.
Snorkelling in Thailand: Some of Asia's best dive sites explored.

With long coastlines, a plethora of colourful coral reefs and clear, warm water, it's not difficult to see why Thailand is a major international snorkelling destination - with dive sites galore. A huge variety of marine life is attracted to the reefs and a multitude of dive shops and live-aboard tours provide access to what is also one of the most affordable places in the world to discover subaquatic vistas. 


Most dive operators have PADI Open Water certification courses for beginners to dive master level, and day trips or longer with live-aboard facilities to the best sites. Before embarking, ask a few key questions, such as whether they offer insurance and hotel pick-ups, how many people will be in your class, and if there's an instructor who speaks your language.


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The Andaman Sea on the west coast is known for some of the best dive sites on the planet, particularly around the Similan and Surin island chains. Reach them with Phuket live-aboard operators such as Dive Asia, which has multilingual training programmes, and Scuba Cat Diving, a Canadian-owned, English-managed National Geographic dive centre with an outdoor training pool.

On Ko Phi Phi, another premier site for snorkelling, Island Divers has beginner to dive master courses. In the Gulf of Thailand many good firms, like Big Blue Diving, operate from Ko Tao. If you’re staying on the nearby islands of Ko Samui or Ko Phangan, most operators head to Ko Tao anyway, so there’s no need to switch accommodation. The 50-island archipelago of Ko Chang also has many schools.


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Thailand is known for its incredible dive sites. Photo: Shutterstock

5 great dive sites in Thailand

1. Burma Banks

Three submerged peaks provide a superlative diving experience at Burma Banks. The peaks of Silvertip, Roe and Rainbow rise from 300-metre (980ft) deep waters to within 15 metres (50ft) of the sea’s surface. Encounters with silvertip, nurse and, occasionally, grey reef sharks are a near certainty. The only way to dive these sites is from a live-aboard dive charter arranged out of Khao Lak, Phuket or Ranong.

 

2. Chumphon Pinnacle

About 5km northwest of Ko Tao, the Chumphon Pinnacle is a very popular site, with depths of up to 38 metres (125ft) and regular sightings of large grouper and other sizeable fish.


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3. Hin Bai (Sail Rock)

Rising like an iceberg out of the water, Hin Bai's highlight is a vertical chimney. Located about halfway between Ko Phangan and Ko Tao, this is regarded as one of the best dive sites in the Samui Archipelago and is suitable for all levels. The rugged rock emerges like an iceberg from the water; most of its bulk is hidden below the surface, reaching depths of more than 30 metres. The granite pinnacle is circled by large schools of pelagic fish, but the highlight is a dramatic vertical chimney that can be entered at 19 metres underwater, with an exit at 6 metres from the surface.

 Hin Rue Bai, Thailand. Photo: Shutterstock 

4. Hin Daeng and Hin Muang

Approximately 20km from Ko Rok, the twin peaks of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang – frequently rated one of the world’s top 10 dive sites – pierce the surface of the water. An incredible variety of marine life thrives at this site. As the only outcrops in this area of deep open sea, the peaks also attract many pelagics, as well as large tuna and barracuda. Schools of grey reef sharks often approach divers, and the area has one of the highest incidences of whale-shark sightings in the world.

 

5. Richelieu Rock

The Surin Islands’ most popular dive site, Richelieu Rock, is only just exposed at low tide. It is one of the world’s top locations for sighting whale sharks, with February to April being the best time. On average, 10 percent of all dives in a year at Richelieu result in an encounter with this 20-metre behemoth.

 

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