Sometimes known as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles”, Thailand is a country of diverse scenery both on land and in the surrounding warm, clear waters. The latter have become something of a Mecca for scuba diving enthusiasts, attracted by the 2,000 miles (3219 km) of coastline, much of which is broken up by a myriad of inlets and islands.
East or West, Thailand is Best!
Divers have a choice of the Andaman Sea on the west coast or the Gulf of Thailand in the east in which to wet their whistles. No matter which side of the country you choose you will have a bewildering and exciting choice of dive sites, offering extensive reefs, wrecks and caves to explore. This makes it very difficult to make a selection of the best sites as the list would be almost as long as Thailand’s coastline. However, those discussed below should give you a start, especially if you are visiting Thailand for the first time.
Discovered by scuba diving’s legendary master, Jacques Cousteau, this site is considered by many experienced divers to be one of the best diving areas in Thailand. The attraction of Richelieu Rock stems mainly from the amazingly diverse marine life that inhabits the surrounding waters. If you are planning your next vacation in Thailand and want to check out this diving spot, the closest big city you can take a flight to is Phuket. At approximately 200km, diving experts often book a cheap hotel in Phuket for few days before starting their road trip on the west cost to the diving point.
This spot is not particularly suitable for beginners as the site is in open water and subjected to strong currents. Not only that, but at times the clarity of the water can be reduced by the teeming hordes of krill and plankton that thrive in the warm, sunny conditions. As a beginner you need all the help you can get and swimming around in a fog of tiny organisms is not to be recommended.
This situation is not all bad, however, as the abundance of food attracts that behemoth of the sea, the whale shark. Confusingly named, as it is not a whale, these relatively harmless members of the shark family, can reach a staggering 40 feet (12m) in length and weigh up to 15 tons!
Coming across one of these monsters will doubtless add excitement to any dive but, obviously, their great size requires that you treat them with caution. Who wants to bump into a fish that big when you’re 30 meters below the surface?
Famous among divers for offering superb, scary wall dives and colourful fringing coral reefs, this site also has its fair share of whale sharks and those other huge creatures, the Manta Rays. These are the largest variety of ray and they are regarded as sociable and gentle creatures. However, you will have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to be sociable with one of these babies. Bear in mind that they can weigh up to 5,000lbs and can easily be startled by sudden, unexpected movements.
This is one of Thailand’s better known east coast beauty spots, ideal for scuba diving rookies. Its reputation as the Mecca for beginners to the sport derives from the easy diving in the area and by the cheaper prices when compared to most other dive sites.
Although Ko Tao has many gentle dives, it is not lacking in fun and excitement. One of the newest acquisitions to its attractions for divers is the recent wreck of the HTMS Sattakut, a vessel once owned by the US Navy. Divers can play at being James Bond as they negotiate the gun turrets, bridge and wheelhouse, keeping a wary eye out for sharks and villainous SMERSH frogmen.
The romantically named Mango Bay and its equally romantic inhabitants, the fragile sea horses and acres of hard and soft corals, provide the Ko Tao area with even more appeal for divers. Mango Bay is also perfect for snorkelling.
More than 70 per cent of the Earth is covered by water so it is hardly surprising that there should be a huge number of sites where scuba divers can indulge their passion. Perhaps this short guide will have opened up the possibilities that Thailand has to offer as a diving destination and whetted your appetite to find out more.
Travelling to Thailand doesn’t come on the cheap so be sure to check out price comparison sites like Momondo to find the best prices for flights to Bangkok and other Thai cities.