Visiting Thailand is an unforgettable experience. Renowned for breathtaking landscapes, mystical temples and a never ending source of adventure, it’s no wonder that this magical country; the land of smiles, is a travellers paradise.
Thailand is home to some of the best places to scuba dive in the world as well as the hands down cheapest diving!
But SPOILER! Thailand is a big place with a heap of variety. And the oceans around it, where you’ll be diving, are even bigger and more varied. So where the hell do you start?
DivingSquad are here to answer all your questions with this whale of an article – it’s the ultimate guide to Scuba Diving in Thailand.
Ok Squad – Let’s Dive in!
Cave Dives, Wreck Dives, Drift Dives, Deep Dives, UV Night Dives… Thailand has it all!
With adrenaline pumping drift dives like Red Rock, World Famous Wrecks such as the King Cruiser and even mind warping psychedelic UV Night Dives in Koh Tao, Thailand has more diving variety than almost anywhere else.
This, combined with the unbeatably low prices of diving, makes Thailand the world’s Top Destination to get the skills and experience needed to attain your scuba certification.
Two things Thailand has in abundance: heat and sun. All year round. Temperatures stay relatively consistent, with average air temperatures typically reaching between 26°C – 32°C.
This makes not only for blissful ray catching comfort on land it also makes the water extremely pleasant to dive in.
Multiple oceans and currents merge in the aquatic intersection that is Thailand.
Because of this, large pelagics such as Whale Sharks, Manta Rays and Blue Fin Tuna (to name a few!), are frequently spotted by Divers around Thailand’s Seas.
Like the Seasons in which they are encountered, they come and go – in some months you can scuba dive with Whale Sharks, in others you’re able to freedive with Humpback Whales and in others still you might snorkel with Manta Rays.
Thailand is the cheapest place in the world to dive. Koh Tao is the cheapest place in the world to get your scuba diving licence!!
Combine this with the already cheap food and accomodation in Thailand, and one can live in like a king on the budget of just a petty hedge knight.
To make matters better still, many Dive Centres in Thailand offer competitive sign up deals and discount diving packages. Truly, Thailand is the budget divers paradise!
Dubbed the land of smiles, Thailand is home to some of the friendliest and most hospitable local people in the world.
It’s stunning underwater environments are rivalled by it’s pristine white beaches, incredible jungle coated mountains and hauntingly beautiful temples.
The delicious cuisine, rich cultural history and thriving social scene are emulated by it’s luxurious spas, beautiful music and tranquil spots of seclusion.
There is something in this incredible country for everyone and more again. Even the most die hard of divers will feel torn between life in Thailand beneath the waves and above.
Soon to be Thailand Divers – you have a choice to make for how you want to experience Diving in Thailand. You can go with a Diving School or a liveaboard.
Each presents a very different experience as well as its own set of advantages. We’ll explain exactly what this and these are….right…about…. NOW:
What the fish is a liveaboard you ask? It’s where you live aboard a luxury yacht specially outfitted for divers, travelling to otherwise unreachable dive destinations. Nine times out of ten, you’ll have these dive spots all to yourself without having to share!
That’s because the dive destinations liveaboards visit, are too far to reach in a single day, hence why dive schools visit sites that are closer to where they’re based.
Because of this, liveaboard divers also get to enjoy the most pristine diving environments, where the fewest scuba divers have boldly dived before.
Life aboard a liveaboard is pretty cushty – many are outfitted with Jacuzzis, Spas, Cinema Rooms, Luxury Private Cabins and then some more! That said they come in a range of prices, so that whatever your budget, there is a liveaboard out there for you.
For more information check out our Best Thailand Liveaboards Article
Located in the Andaman Sea of Thailand’s Western Coast, the Similan Islands are a Small Archipelago of 11 granite boulder islands, which together form the legendary Koh Similan National Marine Park.
The Islands themselves are covered in lush jungle and home to an incredible ecosystem of bats, insects, reptiles and tropical birds. But hey – we know it’s what lies beneath the crystal clear waters around these islands that you’re really interested in…
Harbouring immense drop off and intricate caves and tunnels for the boldest of divers, perhaps the most awe inspiring feature of the Similan Islands is the pristine, psychedelic coloured coral reef that grows here.
Living among it, are countless reef fish, molluscs and crustaceans, as Turtles, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks cruise above. You can only dive in the Andaman Sea if you go aboard a Thailand Liveaboard. Hailed as one of the top diving destinations in the World, it’s well worth the excursion!
100km North of the Similan Islands, lies the Surin Islands – another Thailand Diving Destination that can only be reached by a Thai Liveaboard.
Even less frequented than the tranquil Surin Islands, the Similan Islands truly provide the closest you can get to stepping back in time to an era when man had yet to make a splash in the sea.
Indeed, the Moken or “Sea Gypsies” still set up temporary camp on these island throughout their seafaring nomadic lifestyle, which has remained unchanged for thousands of years.
Featuring insane coral reef and marine biodiversity, these islands are famous for the huge pelagics that can be spotted here – including Mantas, Whale Sharks and even Bryde’s Whales.
In fact, Richelieu Rock, which forms part of the Surin Islands archipelago is cited as the easiest place in South East Asia to spot a Whale Shark!
Located within the myticall Krabi Province is the gorgeous 6 Island Archipelago of Koh Phi Phi. Regarded as the most beautiful island group in the world, it’s easy to see why.
The islands here are immense towering limestone cliffs scattered with beaches, coves and bays to make for an array of varied and dramatic landscape.
For centuries these islands have been an important cultural melting Pot for Thai and Chinese Buddhists, Moken “Sea Gypsies”, Muslims and now: backpackers!
There are countless dive sites around Koh Phi Phi, many comprised of coral and sea fan coated wall dives, caves and swim throughs as well as numerous adrenaline soaked drift dives.
The marine diversity here is incredible; and as well as Mantas, Turtles and Whale Sharks, keep your eyes peeled for the numerous reef shark species that prowl these waters including Black Tips and Leopard Sharks!
The best thing about Koh Phi Phi?! It is both accessible to Liveaboards and Diving Schools! You can dive here, whatever your style!
Koh Tao really does have it all. Not only is it regarded as the Best Place in the World to Get Scuba Certified, it is also the Cheapest.
In addition to sporting the amazing coral reefs and diverse marine life you should be coming to expect with Thailand’s Best Diving Destinations, the island itself is simply breathtaking.
One half of the 21km squared island Koh Tao is home to a vibrant party scene whereas on the other part, it would be hard to imagine there are more than a few dozen people on the entire island.
This makes it perfect fr partiers and nature lovers alike.
Located 74km of Thailand’s Eastern Shore, in the Gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao boasts an INSANE variety of dives.
These include Wreck Diving, Wall Dives, Drift Dives, Deep Dives and more, which is one of the reasons it’s so great for getting diving experience under your weight belt.
There are dozens of Dive schools on Koh Tao, many of them specialising in providing different types of diving experience. Many are committed to turning diving newbies into diving pros, and have decades of experience doing so!
For More Information, Check out the Squad’s Article on Diving in Koh Tao!
Thailands second largest island oozes with laid back bohemian vibes and is situated next to several national marine parks giving way to incredible diving conditions.
It’s also fantastic for trekking, motorbike riding and tropical bird watching. Read more about Koh Chang!
Ok, we’ve done Liveaboards. Now what the squid is a Diving School!? Don’t worry, you wont get a detention if you get caught smoking a cheeky fag outside (thanks a lot Mrs. Boomfluff). A Diving School – also known as a dive centre, dive shop or diving resort is a certified facility, complete with certified staff, on or near a beach.
Here, people can enrol on any number of diving courses and/or sign up for day long fun dives (assuming they already have their scuba certification).
A diving school has its own diving equipment, which the vast majority of people end up using (this is included in the standard price) as a posse to bringing along their own. If you do bring your own equipment however, prices will be cut.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at Diving Squads Top Thai Dive Schools:
Just like you have to get travel insurance to cover medical bills and accidents whilst abroad, you must also get scuba diving insurance in order to be covered for any accidents that occur on a dive.
There’s several reputable scuba diving insurance companies offering different packages – some include travel insurance as part of their main deal or an optional add on. You’ll find that some diving insurance companies offer other cool perks to – like coverage for damaged scuba gear, lost days of diving due to weather or illness, trip cancellation etc.
But which perks you get, what add ons are included and how much you pay for all this varies between the different scuba diving insurance companies and the various packages offered by each!
If you want to find out more, you can check out this epic page on the best diving insurance where we break down, compare and review the very best scuba diving insurance companies of all time so you don’t have to.
Diving in Thailand is possible all year round! But not in the same place! Thailand is an aquatic intersection, with many oceans and currents merging around it’s shores. Because of this, the water conditions on either side of Thailand are very different.
This means the best time of year to dive off Thailand’s Eastern Coast, in the Gulf of Thailand, can be the worst time to dive off Thailand’s’ Western Coast, in the Andaman Sea.
October – May: This marks the best time to dive in the Andaman Sea, of Thailand’s Western Coast – this includes all Liveaboard Destinations (Similan and Surin Islands) as well as Koh Phi Phi and Phuket.
From the months March – April, water visibility in the Andaman Sea is somewhat reduced on account of the large plankton clouds that accumulate around this time – but these attract Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. Hardly able to complain right?
June – October: This marks monsoon period around the Andaman Seas. Thai Liveaboards are off limits and not available for booking during these months. Diving can still be had on islands such as Koh Phi Phi and Phuket, but water conditions are choppy, and visibility is reduced.
This does not mean there are not still some great diving days to be had, but they are hard to plan due to the unpredictable weather.
Gulf of Thailand:
March – September: This marks peak diving season in the Gulf of Thailand at locations such as Koh Tao, with July and August typically being the best months for clear and calm waters, especially from April onwards.
April – May are great months for seeing Whale Sharks and Manta Rays on account of the large clouds of plankton that gather in the Gulf of Thailand at this time of year. Consequently water visibility is somewhat reduced, but that’s totally worth it if you get to see a Manta Ray, eh?
October – February mark monsoon period in the Gulf of Thailand resulting in poor visibility and choppy waters. Although most diving schools operate around these months, due to the inconsistent weather, it is much more difficult to rack up a series of great dives in this part of Thailand during these months!
Those searching for cheap diving in Thailand will be relieved to hear…this is one of the world’s cheapest places to dive!
For the PADI Open Water + PADI Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Course package combo, divers can expect to pay around 17,450 THB ($529.30), when on the less expensive islands such as Koh Tao, which offer some of the cheapest diving in Thailand.
Cheap Free Diving in Thailand is also available. The full PADI Freediver Cost can be had for as low as 6000 THB ($181.87).
The cost of a day fun diving including 2 dives and scuba equipment rental is 4100 THB ($124.36). Add in an extra dive and it’s still a low cost for diving, at around 4700 THB ($142.56).
The average cost of a 4 day liveaboard trip in Thailand can be as low as 19,800 THB ($600,18). or up to 50,000 THB ($1515.61). Relatively speaking…that’s some cheap liveaboards! See the Liveaboard in Thailand for more details on this.
In conclusion: cheap dives in Thailand are abound!
The oceans around Thailand are home to some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.
Stunning coral reefs, charismatic species including Turtles, Whales and Dolphins and lush beach forests can all still be observed in magnificent splendor in this beautiful country. But their days may be numbered.
Over the past four decades, Thailand’s rapid economic development has led to a rise in environmental issues including water pollution, loss of biodiversity and loss of coastal habitats including mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs.
Tourism, community settlement and port activities have lead to the heavy destruction and loss of mangrove forests and beaches.
Mangrove and beach forests protect coastal habitats from rising sea levels, and without them flooding, coastal erosion and salinization of ground and surface waters occur at a far greater frequency.
Turtles only spawn on the same beach where they hatched, resulting on successive generations relying on the same spawning ground. The loss of such spawning grounds has led to a dramatic decline in their numbers.
Pollution caused by shrimp farming sewage as well as net fishing and trawling and residues from estuaries, means that over half of seagrass beds and corals still remaining in Thailand are now classified as in poor condition.
Without conscious and deliberate intervention by humans, it is entirely possible that we could lose many, if not all, of the marine and coastal ecosystems within Thailand in less than fifty years.
The time to act is now. Here’s what you need to do.
Seriously. Pollution from shrimp factories in Thailand is one of the biggest causes for degraded water quality which results in the loss of coral and seagrass.
In fact, try and be careful about anything that comes from the Sea to your dinner plate. Was it locally caught by line or small net? Great!
Has it been caught by a colossal trawl that was scraped along the bottom of the sea like a rake, tearing up coral reefs and literally impaling sharks, turtles and dolphins along the way? Don’t eat it.
It’s easier to find out than you may think. You don’t have to stand up on a restaurant table, beating your chest and screaming “did your fish dish kill the sea”!?
It’s simpler to politely ask staff where their catch came from, is it fresh/local, and how was it caught.
Endangered species like sharks and bluefin tuna are a big no.
Nine out of every ten plastic items end up in the sea, where they choke up marine habitats, release chemicals that pollute the water and are consumed by sea animals, poisoning and killing them.
Plastic also has serious health implications for humans. For more information on this colossal issue watch the documentary “Ocean of Plastic”.
Never litter the beach. Report or stand up to others who you see doing this.
Are you thinking about staying on a beach resort? Research it – what was there before?
Has it been constructed in an eco friendly way or has it simply bulldozed over what was once natural habitat with no mitigation actions taken at all?
The simple truth is that many if not most beach resorts have resulted in complete or partial degradation of the habitat where they were built.
But there are a few exceptions to this, and some places are worse than others.
Do your research. Know where you are staying and the impact you will have by being there.
A huge number of dive centres in Thailand are strongly committed to conserving the marine environment through action, awareness and conservation.
You can enrol in eco diving courses where you can participate in dive site cleans ups, marine surveys, coral restoration and more!
Find out more about this below!
Diving and Marine Conservation?! It’s entirely possible. There are countless eco diving projects available in Thailand.
These include baby turtle rehabilitation centres, diving surveys, coral restoration, dive site clean ups’ and giant clam nurseries.
Here the three best eco diving experiences in Thailand:
Now you can sign up with Eco Koh Tao, who not only offer scuba certification courses and eco internships but have a range of exciting projects you can participate in.
These include coral surveys and restoration, dive site clean ups, underwater debri cleanups, eco diving courses, giant clam nurseries and more.
Work with the upbeat and friendly eco crew and you will become part of the family – one committed to preserving and restoring Thailand’s oceans “through awareness, education and direct action” – site ethos.
GoEcoPhuket are a collection of dive centres, eco divers, scuba shops and businesses within phuket who are committed to protecting and rehabilitating the marine ecosystem around this stunning island.
They run numerous activities such as beach clean ups’, underwater debri clean ups and coral surveying.
In addition you can take on unique diving courses such as the AWARE shark conservation diver speciality course.
Sign up with one of the many dive centres associated with goecophuket, get involved in their many projects and even become a full time member.
BlueplanetDivers are a 5 star certified PADI, eco operator dive centre in Koh Lanta, and like goecophuket they are also a member of the international group AWARE.
In addition to running beach clean ups and offering diving certification courses as well as instructor training courses, they also have a heavy awareness aspect in which they run educational classes on responsible diving.
Project AWARE is “a global movement for ocean protection powered by a community of adventurers”, that focuses heavily on combing scuba diving with marine conservation.
Universally acclaimed and worked alongside by dive centres, dive shops, eco divers and businesses they have a range of exciting projects and extensive informational resources on marine conservation.
Through AWARE, you can adopt a dive site, start a fundraiser and make/or make a donation to one of their many exciting projects, as well as much more.
GREENPEACE – Known across the world as being one of the few environmental charities to shy away from NOTHING, greenpeace are constantly fighting for environmental justice both in the water and on land.
Go on their site to read about the current frontline battles they are fighting, share their causes with everyone you know and make a donation.
Give yourself a hearty slap on the back. You are now empowered with the knowledge of everything you need to know about diving in Thailand. You are now ready to get out there and dive! (…Or Snorkel).
Truly, Thailand is a beautiful country with some of the world’s best diving locations, a vibrant culture with beautiful people and delicious food, cheap enough for any budget backpacker to live like a king and a range of genuinely really exciting eco diving opportunities to get involved in.
In conclusion: Thailand is one of the best places in the world to dive. Time to get your fins and mask on.