Thailand has a well-deserved reputation for having some of the best dives sites and impressive marine life in the world. Tropical, care free islands with white sand beaches and crystal clear waters have attracted divers and travellers for decades – and it’s a great place to get scuba certified!
Thailand has an abundance of fringing reefs with shallow coral gardens which make for excellent training grounds while experiencing close encounters with some amazing sea creatures. There are numerous impressive diving regions in Thailand that offer a choice of professionally run dive centres with excellent facilities for beginners – here are 10 of our favourites…
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi tourism has developed around diving and there is no shortage of dive centres to choose from. Learning to dive in Koh Phi Phi gives you access to great dive sites which boast a wide variety of colourful corals and reef fish, as well as turtles and black-tip reef sharks. Koh Phi Phi’s numerous sheltered bays mean there are plenty of sites offering good visibility and calm, conditions – perfect for building your confidence underwater.
Learn more about Koh Phi Phi’s diving highlights.
Known for its stunning scenery on land, the dive sites of Koh Phangan more than meet up to expectations too. You’ll find kaleidoscopic coral reefs that are bursting with colour and teeming with life. Located between the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao, Koh Phangan is an iconic Thai diving destination renowned for dive sites such as Sail Rock where whale shark sightings are a major draw card.
As a well-known hub for divers, there are a multitude of services available from accommodation through to dive centres – all of which offer the PADI Open Water Diver course for beginners who want to get certified in this phenomenal region.
Here’s everything you need to know about exploring Koh Phangan.
Koh Chang has retained its traditional island vibe and is a more chilled out destination than some of the more renowned islands. Koh Chang Marine National Park has some really outstanding reefs at shallow depths, giving even beginner divers plenty of time to explore. It’s a good place to perfect your buoyancy control before progressing onto the more impressive places further up the list.
Located in one of Asia’s oldest marine national parks – Tarutao National Park. Koh Lipe is home to amazing reefs and a wide range of abundant marine life. The shallower sites around Koh Lipe offer little current and excellent visibility for those learning to dive. Once you’ve mastered your skills underwater, there are also sites closer to the edge of the national park where it’s possible to catch sight of whale sharks and manta rays.
Koh Tao is a diving mecca for beginners through to professionals and there is a wide range of dive services to accommodate divers who visit here. The name ‘Koh Tao’ literally translates to ‘Turtle Island’, and this is an island that’s surrounded by impressive marine life from its name sake turtles through to visiting whale sharks at Chumphon Pinnacle. Koh Tao’s crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Thailand and its numerous sheltered bays, make it a top-spot for learning to dive in Thailand
Learn more about the endless adventures on Koh Tao.
Khao Lak has some pretty local reefs but the real reason Khao Lak is on the map is because it is the gateway to the Similan and Surin Islands which are visited by liveaboards. If you are planning a trip to these islands you’ll need to get certified before you leave and there are plenty of dive operators in Khao Lak who cater to those heading out on trips.
Some of the dive sites commonly found on liveaboard itineraries offer more challenging conditions so it’s important to let your operator know your experience level before heading out. For those who dive the Similan’s there are big rewards – stunning coral reefs, leopard sharks, turtles and large schools of fish.
Koh Samui is the closest point to one of Thailand’s most iconic marine parks – the Ang Thong Marine National Park. Undoubtedly beautiful above the water, the forests of hard and soft corals beneath the surface are no less amazing.
During the season, Koh Samui has generally calm conditions and the shallow dive sites make excellent underwater classrooms for learning and practicing skills. When you’re not working on your dive technique you’ll be amazed by the diversity of tropical reef life from cuttlefish and lionfish through to multi-coloured parrot fish and regal angelfish swimming by.
Learn more about the top dive sites in Koh Samui.
Unlike many regions in Thailand which are seasonal, you can learn scuba diving in Pattaya all year round. If you live in Bangkok and want to make a short diving trip, or learn to dive without needing to take time off work, then Pattaya should be on your radar. It’s possible to make weekend breaks to Pattaya without flying, and there’s plenty to see when you get there! Diving around Pattaya offers a range of dive sites including a number of wrecks to explore.
As an established scuba diving destination, there are a range of professional dive centers and accommodation options in and around Pattaya.
Krabi is a renowned hotspot for travellers, adventurers and outdoor pursuit enthusiasts. Not only can you trek and scale staggering limestone rock formations, this is an excellent place to pick up some underwater skills too. This impressive region of Thailand is home to over 200 species of fish and 80 species of reef building corals, with stingrays, cuttlefish and leopard sharks all quite common around Ao Nang. The calm, clear, protected waters make a great spot for beginners while advanced divers will find some exciting caverns and swim-throughs, particularly on the nearby islands like Koh Yawabon.
Phuket has an excellent range of sites for beginners and there is an abundance of facilities for divers from dive resorts and dive centres through to local dive boat operators. Phuket is also a well-situated base for trips to nearby islands, including the Similans, the Racha Islands and Phi Phi. If you are travelling with non-diving companions, Phuket is an ideal location with plenty of entertainment and things to do on land too.
Explore the top dive sites in Phuket.
Koh Lanta is a gateway location to some of Thailand’s best dive sites including the famous sites of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, which are home to over 200 hard corals and 108 catalogued reef fish species. These two sites also have among the highest recorded number of whale shark sightings in the world, as well as regular sightings of leopard sharks and manta rays.
While the sites immediately around Koh Lanta are not nearly as impressive they provide excellent training dive sites for those who want to get certified. Once you’ve got your Open Water certificate you’ll be in the right place to explore some of Thailand’s best diving.