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The Best Thailand Liveaboards of 2019

INTRO

(Or, Skip straight to our Thailand Liveaboard Reviews, HERE!)

Renowned as the Cheapest country in the World to Dive, Thailand is famous among scuba fanatics for featuring two of the greatest scuba destinations known to diver: The Similan and Surin Islands.

Located in Thailand’s North Andaman Sea, these two stunning jungle topped archipelagos have National Marine Park Status.

Because of the special protection this grants, the glistening waters surrounding these islands are packed full of vibrant, multi-coloured coral that is in breathtakingly beautiful condition.

Turtles, cuttlefish, mighty whale sharks and graceful manta rays – all can be spotted right here.

However; because the Similan and Surin Islands are so far from civilisation, the only way to reach them, is through a divng liveaboard.

Well Squad, here’s the truth: there’s an ocean of Thai liveaboards out there!

Thai liveaboards feature significantly different onboard facilities, itineraries, prices, themes and required level of diver experience. 

So, you can trawl the internet and make your eyes bleed as you painstakingly read, the stats, diver requirements and backstory of each and every liveaboard in Thailand… (spoiler, there’s dozens…)

Or you could blast through our hand picked 9 best Thailand liveaboard reviews.

We’ve only picked the best of the best and each one get’s a special award  – whether that’s being the cheapest, the best for advanced divers, underwater photography….you  name it!

Nice? Nice! Awesome!! Ok Squad. Let’s Dive in. 

Similan liveaboards
Surin Liveaboards

SCUBA FACT

What is the World's Longest Deep Dive? Hover over this box to find out...
Richard Presley holds the world record for the longest deep dive. He stayed underwater in a deep module for 69 days and 19 minutes, a feat he accomplished in 1992, at Florida, United States!

Thailand Liveaboards QUICK Comparison

Or, move on down to the first review by clicking HERE!

Liveaboard Name
Our Top Pick for:Daily Price Max Guest Capacity Itinerary Length (Nights)No. Of Logged Dives RequiredMonths of OperationDive LocationsCHECK BEST PRICE
The JunkOverall18A: 6

B: 2
0A: October – May

B: May – October
A: Similan & Surin Islands


B: South Islands
Check Price
Manta Queen 5Budget2030October – MaySimilan IslandsCheck Price
Thailand AggressorLuxury€€€ 1670November – AprilSimilan & Surin IslandsCheck Price
The HallelujahBeginners
.
€€ 2540November – AprilSimilan IslandsCheck Price
The Gentle GiantAdvanced Divers€€ 20521November – AprilSimlan & Surin Islands + South IslandsCheck Price
The OktaviaShort Trips2020January – MaySimilan IslandsCheck Price
Diva AndamanLong trips€€€ 161830AprilSimilan, Surin & Southern Islands + more.Check Price
MV GiamaniSmall Groups and Underwater Photography€€ 10A: 2

B: 4
0A: October – August

B:November – April
A: Southern Islands

B: Similan & Surin Islands
Check Price
The PawaraGroups with Non-Divers
.
€€ 2240October – MaySimilan IslandsCheck Price
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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Overall Thailand Liveaboard

The Junk

  • An Iconic Liveaboard with a Fascinating history

  • € – one of the Cheapest Thai Liveaboards

  • No Minimum Logged Dives Required

  • Operates Year Round:

  • Route A: (Oct – May): Similan Islands, Surin Islands & Richelieu Rock. 6 Days, 5 Nights

  • Route B: (May – Oct): Southern Islands. 3 Days, 2 Nights.

 

The Junk – June Hong Chian Lee Liveaboard, was once part of a micro merchant fleet that traded up and down the coastline from Burma to Malaysia over the 1960-80’s.

Because of it’s authentic design, it was used in the ZDF documentary “Dan Weisse Gold”, to show what life would have been like centuries ago when junks like this, were the main mode of transportation around South East Asia. 

On top of that, it’s also appeared in Bond’s “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “Swiss Family Robinson”.

Now, this stunning 33m authentic sailing vessel has been transformed into the liveaboard vessel for scuba fanatics that it is today.

The Junk is presently equipped with 6 air-conditioned cabins; 2 private with double bed, 2 three berth and 2 four berth, taking up to 18 passengers.

Each includes an ensuite bathroom; this extravagant vessel also boasts an air conditioned salon with a fully fitted out entertainment system as well as shaded sun deck offering amazing views.

With several cabin options, The Junk travels across the Andaman Sea on trips ranging from 5 – 9 days and typically includes visits to Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, the Surin Islands (rarely visited  by liveaboards) and Richelieu Rock.

The Junk also occasionally offers a special 8 night long trip: the Manta Expedition with the Manta Trust, which explores both the Similan and Surin Islands and the stunning islands of southern Thailand, including fabled Koh Phi Phi.

At around €116 a day, the Junk Liveaboard Experience boasts a competitive price, one that is well within the lower tier of Thai Liveaboard Price Ranges. 

Honestly, we absaloutly love the Junk. Living aboard feels like being whisked centuries back in  time to the mystical beauty of  Southeast Asia but with all the comforts of the 21st century.

It’s professional and friendly staff are some of the best we’ve encountered on any liveaboard and it’s dive itineraries are unquestionably awesome. You will finish feeling captivated by the beauty of Thailand Sea’s and the insane diversity of life within them.

That’s why, we are proud to award the Junk it’s well deserved title of Best Overall Thailand Liveaboard!

(That’s right. We’re not picking the most expensive or the second most or even the third. We’re choosing what we truly believe to be worthy of the title and worthy of you). 

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thailand Liveaboard for Budget

Manta Queen 5

  • € – Cheapest Liveaboard in all of Thailand and perhaps the World. 

  • Less than €100 to still have access to exclusive and pristine, world class diving sites.

  • Route: Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock (4 Days, 3 Nights).

  • No Minimum Dives Required

  • Runs October – May

Just because the Manta Queen 5 is the hands down cheapest Thailand liveaboard, we were thrilled to see the legendary Similan Islands is still on it’s itinerary. 

What this means: Full Disclosure – you won’t have access to all the luxury on deck facilities some of the more expensive thai liveaboards have. But you will still be visiting the exact same, mind blowingly beautiful dive destinations. 

Plus, because this liveaboard doesn’t travel north to Koh Tachai or Richelieu rock, the marine park fees are cheaper than other trips and less travelling is required, giving passengers more time to relax and unwind.

The Manta Queen 5 has 3 shared bathrooms and caters for its guests in 10 twin bunk cabins with AC. As of 2018, free onboard wifi is also available.

Onboard PADI courses are common for guests, thanks to theis liveaboards insanely low rates and the great diving conditions of the locations visited along the Manta Queen 5’s route.

The Manta Queen 5 explores some of the most popular dive sites around the stunning Similan Islands and Koh Bon, including the immensely popular Elephant Head Rock, a suitably named rock featuring many small caves, arches and swim throughs, that make it an adventurous divers ideal playground.

Many shark species including leopard, whitetip and blacktip sharks can be seen here in addition to pelagics like giant trevallies and barracudas. Other great dive sites include Christmas Point, Koh bon Pinnacle and Boonsung Wreck.

Honestly, if you’re looking to immerse yourself in a scuba fanatics paradise for several days, enjoying the very same incredible dive sites that others are paying over twice the money as you for…

…Look no further. The Manta Queen 5  is the liveaboard for you.

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thailand Liveaboard for Luxury

M/V Thailand Agressor

  • Sports incredible onboard facilities, including Jacuzzis, Fully Equipped Entertainment Room, Massages and more!

  • Route: Similan Islands, Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock (8 Days, 7 Nights)

  • €€€

  • No Logged Dives Required

  • Operates November – April

One Word: Wow. We found the M/V Thailand Aggressor to be far more like a 5 star hotel than a fancy liveaboard. It has everything you’ll need to enjoy your Thai Liveaboard Adventure in pampered luxury.

This 35m World Class Luxury Yacht boasts lavish staterooms equipped with ensuite bathrooms and showers, televisions and individual climate control.

It’s spacious sun deck, equipped with loungers, hammocks and deck chairs also features a luxury Jacuzzi, perfect for enjoying a drink in – easily purchased at the premium bar equipped with Stereo Speakers to blast all the number one Ocean Tunes: Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin, Under the Sea by the Little Mermaid, Black Sabbaths’ Children of the Sea or none of those and instead whatever you want.

Divers can enjoy a whopping 5 spectacular dives a day, plus night dives around the stunning Similan Islands, Koh Bon and the even more rarely visited Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock.

You’ll swim along spectacular coral and reef coated walls and can expect encounters with manta rays, leopard sharks, silvertip reef sharks and even mighty whale sharks.

An all time favourite dive site on the Thailand Aggressors itinerary is Leopard Shark Reef, Tachi Reef. Hard Coral covers this entire area; including staghorn coral, pore coral, fire coral and brain coral – combined they make for a fiery explosion of colour.

Scuba Divers regularly see resting leopard sharks, stingrays and an enormous assortment of reef fish including puffer fish, lion fish parrot fish and moray eels.

There’s no denying it though – the Thailand Aggressor is the most expensive of the Thailand Liveaboards. But you’ll know where you put your money.

It’s not just the lavishly furnished bedrooms and the formidable array of onboard entertainment and relaxation facilities. Nor the higher than average daily dive count or the exclusive additional dive sites visited.

It’s also the highly professional crew of 8, ready to attend to every need of at most just 16 passengers. You’ll be served delicious cuisine with the options for both Local and American, receive lavish massages as well as expert guidance and briefing for all your dives. 

If you can afford it, the Thailand Aggressor is without a doubt the most diva-suitable, luxurious and all round exclusive scuba experience that money can buy in Thailand. 

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thailand Liveaboard for Beginners

The Hallelujah

  • Full range of PADI Beginner and Advanced Courses Available 

  • No Logged Dives Required
     
  • €€

  • Route: Similan Islands and Richelieu Rock (5 Days, 4 Nights)

  • Operates November to April

With literally thousands of dives under their belt, the dive staff aboard the Hallelujah have honed striking the fine balance between guests safety and enjoyment, to a fine art.

Collectively, we at Diving Squad found the Hallelujah Staff to be hands down some of the most professional, encouraging and fun diving instructors we’ve encountered across the Seven Seas.

They’re also multilingual, speaking English, German, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Flemish and Japanese and can  “accommodate just about any request” for language requirements beyond this.

To ensure that all guests get the full attention and prioritisation  they deserve, dive groups have no more than 4 guests. This also means that divers of similar levels are paired, ensuring stress free group dives. 

Accommodating up to 25 guests, the 35m long  Hallelujah features 10 twin cabins, 2 deluxe doubles and one VIP single cabin, all of which have AC and ensuite bathrooms.

There is a large, air conditioned lounge complete with library, large TV and DVD player (as well as countless DVD’s!) where guests can relax and socialise in luxury. For those who want to catch some rays and soak in some epic Similan views, the sundeck up top is the place to be.

Finally, with an inside and outside dining area and a team of talented chefs dedicated to providing the tastiest liveaboard experience possible, the Hallelujah really is almost worthy of being described as a second luxury liveaboard option. 

The Itinerary lasts 5 days and 4 nights – this is the perfect time span for novice divers as it allows them enough time to attain their PADI Advanced Open Water Certification without being fatigued by too many days of learning and practicing new skills.  

To name just a few of the superb dive sites on this liveaboards inspiring itinerary, you’ll visit Richelieu Rock where theres everything to see from Seahorses to mighty Whale Sharks, Koh Bon; renowned for massive Manta Rays and striking Eagle Rays, and Elephant Head Rock with stunning coral reefs.

Take it from the Diving Squad, all of whom savoured every moment of attaining our Scuba Certification – you would be very hard pushed to Learn to Scuba Dive in a more fun, supportive and downright beautiful liveaboard and location than the Hallelujah in Thailand. 

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Liveaboard for Advanced Divers in Thailand

Gentle Giant

  • Night Dives, Nitrox Dives, Deep Dives, Drift Dives, Wreck Dives and more. 

  • Route: Visits the Similan Islands, Surin Islands and Southern Islands ALL IN ONE TRIP. (6 Days, 5 Nights)

  • 21 Logged Dives Required

  • €€

  • Operates November – April

For scuba divers who’ve already proven themselves, the Gentle giant offers a truly unique and all encompassing itinerary across Thailands’ Andaman Sea.

What makes the route travelled by the Gentle Giant unlike that of all other thai liveaboards? Well, other thai liveaboards offer trips to the Similan and Surin Islands & Richelieu Rock OR to the southern islands of Koh Haa and Hin Daeng.

The gentle giant however visits all of these remarkable destinations. Whoa, hold up. We said the Similan and Surin Islands were the jewel of Thailands’ Scuba Scene. What’s all this about the Southern Islands?

Well: 45km East of Phuket, is the gorgeous 6 island archipelago of Koh Phi Phi. They are regarded as one of the most beautiful island groups in the world.

The two largest islands: Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh Phi Phi Leh are considerably populated, with several diving schools, meaning you needn’t depend on a liveabaord to get there. But the diving around Koh Koh Phi is truly next level and offers a totally different experience to the Similan and Surin islands.

Without a doubt, the best thai scuba destination without a liveaboard, would be Koh Phi Phi. Now you can really rub it in everyone’s face when you say you’ve explored it all.

Throughout the epic itinerary of the Gentle Giant, divers will get the best of every world as they see mighty whale sharks & graceful manta rays, blue spotted stingrays and regular spotted leopard sharks, cuttlefish, puffer fish, yellow fin tuna, endless varieties of reef fish and more.

With the adventurous diver in mind,  the Gentle Giant provides  adrenaline pumping drift dives, explorative advanced wreck dives, deep dives, sunset dives, cave dives, night dives, nitrox dives and just about anything else upon request.

It is equipped with a full air conditioned indoor salon featuring a 55 inch TV and entertainment area where you’ll be able to can unwind and socialise, an alcoholic beverage in hand.

Each cabin has AC and sea views, with 2 double master cabins and 8 twin standard cabins available, to cater for a maximum of 20 guests.

For those who prefer to relax outside, there’s also an outdoor covered dining area and a sundeck to soak in the tranquil views from feather soft sun beds.

The highly experienced staff are veteran divers and strike the perfect balance between ensuring guest safety and thrills.

At a competitively low price, this truly special Thailand liveaboard trip is only offered 6 times across the year between November and April. Now that you’ve read this, it should come as no surprise at all that the Gentle Giant books out fast.

Disclaimer: If you do find it booked out before you can make a reservation, you may have Diving Squad to blame. We just love the epic itinerary of the Gentle Giant so much, we want to do it again and again!

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thai Liveaboard for Short Trips

The Oktavia

  • Shortest Thai Liveaboard Available: 3 Days, 2 Nights (4 and 5 night itineraries also available).

     

  • Short Route: Similan Islands. 

  • €  – one of the cheapest Thai liveaboards

  • No minimum logged dives required

  • Operates January – May

If you crave the epic experience of a Thai Liveaboard, but are tight for time; look no further than the Oktavia. This huge liveaboard crams an impressive selection of great dives around the Similan Islands, Thailands hidden diving gem,  into just 3 days and 2 nights.

On top of that, thanks to the Oktavias’ laid back and friendly staff, we found that the itinerary feels far from rushed; with this actually being one of the most relaxed Thai Liveaboard adventures out there.

Big enough for 33 passengers, the Oktavia declares itself fully booked after just 20, giving it a magnificently spacious vibe.

All cabins posses AC, with Master cabins also getting a TV and entertainment system along with writing desks, seating areas and double beds. On the upper deck, the dining room serves tasty meals, snacks and drinks, as well as possessing a shaded lounge area for divers to relax and socialise.

It’s also worth noting, that in addition to it’s conveniently short 3 day, 2 night itinerary, the Oktavia does also run 4 and 5 night itineraries, in which it visits additional dive destinations such as Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon and Koh Tachai.

For anyone who badly wants to experience the real underwater Thailand but is still hesitant about time – we get it: Liveaboards can take a huge chunk out of your travels. But with the Oktavia, this is no longer the case. 

If you want to dive in Thailand for even more than one day, the Oktavia should be the obvious choice instead of a dive school.

After all, why visit the same, location restricted dive school in Thailand for consecutive days, sharing the less pristine underwater environment it’s situated next to; with numerous other divers, when in that same time span, you could be diving around the legendary Similan Islands with the Oktavia?

In the Similan Islands, you’ll swim across stunning coral reefs in immaculate condition, alongside species such as Manta Rays, Whale Sharks and Leopard Sharks, whilst having access to Nitrox and a formidable 4 dives a day.

Combine that with a formidably low price (this is the second cheapest Thai liveaboard available) and the Oktavia is clearly the right call, for anyone wanting to spend a few days diving in Thailand.

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thailand Liveaboard for Long Trips & Luxury 2

Diva Andaman

  • Trip A: 19 days, 18 nights. Visits the Similan Islands, Surin Islands, Invisible Banks, Southern Islands, Burma Banks and Richelieu Rock! Only Operates April.

  • Trip B: 7 days, 6 Nights. Visits the Similans and Richelieu Rock. Operates November – March.

  • €€€

  • 30 Logged Dives required

  • Long Itinerary operates over April

For those among you who feel more comfortable within the comforting embrace of your BCD than that of a person; ye who prefer fish to birds and whom choose bubbles over words, the Diva Andaman is for you. 

In addition to offering the longest available liveaboard itinerary in all of Thailand over April; a whopping 18 night scuba excursion, this luxury vessel also runs 6 night trips from November – March, with both trips being designed with the advanced diver in mind.

The 18 night route departs from Khao Lak, Phuket and features dives around the Similan Islands, Burma Banks, Invisible Banks, Southern Islands, Havelock, Barren Island, Narcondam Island and Richelieu Rock!

Guests get to dive over pristine coral reefs in crystal clear waters around legendary dive destinations, immerse themselves in the exploration of eerie sunken wrecks, be carried by the current over adrenaline pumping drift dives, embark on surreal night dives, set out on nitrogen dives and more… 

We also badly need to mention that this jaw dropping beautiful wooden liveaboard is hands down one of the most gorgeous vessels we’ve ever seen.

With open dining and sun lounges on it’s massive deck, an indoor saloon, library, AC and TV bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms; plus audio & video entertainment, the Diva Andaman really is paradise at Sea.

In addition to a total of 40 dives, the Diva Andaman also provides a series of additional activities including island touring, snorkelling and kayaking. Onboard services include traditional thai massages, daily housekeeping, juicy cocktails and two specially designed wine cellars.

A passionate onboard chef serves the local & continental cuisine ,with three course dinners served beneath the glistening stars.

The dive staff aboard the diva andaman are a group of die hard scuba veterans who take the safety of guests as seriously as they take ensuring everyone also has an absolute Whale Shark of a time.

Because the 18 night itinerary aboard the Diva Andaman only occurs during April, places often book up months in advance. You may have some of us at Diving Squad to blame for this…

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Liveaboard for Groups W Non-Divers in Thailand

Pawara

  • Extensive Onboard entertainment facilities

     

  • Route: Similan Islands & Richelieu Rock (5 days, 4 nights)

     

  • €€

  • No logged dives required, possible to learn aboard

  • Operates October – May

Non-divers, this is the Thai Liveaboard or you. The huge, 35m long Pawara boasts an indoor saloon bar, onboard wifi and a massive, partially-shaded sun deck with soft mattresses. 

It’s also got a wholesome entertainment room equipped with flat screen TV, DVD, sound system and games, a library and daily house keeping, so it’s not left to anyone who stays back and doesn’t dive!

The 10 private, beautiful sea view cabins have AC and ensuite bathrooms with warm showers, with 2 budget option dorm style cabins also being available. 

The Pawara’s talented cooks provide local and international cuisine in beautifully presented, 3 course meals as well as cookies, fresh fruit, coffee, tea and drinking water being available all day. 

With a friendly crew who are fully committed to attending to every passengers’ needs and ensuring that top service is always available on deck and off, the experience aboard this liveaboard is world class. 

That’s just one of the reasons, we were generally surprised to find that the cost of the Pawara is well within the lower end of the Thai liveaboard price range.

Truly, the Pawara is a great liveaboard both for divers and non-divers. It’s got everything that’s needed to simply unwind and let several blissful sunny days unfold in pampered seafaring luxury. 

All the while, it travels along a formidable diving itinerary, visiting world class scuba destinations that are sure to blow the air right out of your scuba tank (fortunately, not literally).

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Diving Squad Presents:

Best Thailand Liveaboard for Small Groups and Photography

Giamani

  • Takes Only 10 guests & features Camera Table on deck.

  • Route A: Similan Islands, Surin Islands & Richelieu Rock (5 days, 4 nights), November – April

  • Route B: Southern Islands (3 Days, 2 Nights), October – August

  • Visits Southern Islands (Route A) OR Similan Islands, Surin Islands and Richelieu Rock

  • €€

For those who want to dive in the smallest group possible and/or are serious about underwater photography, the Giamani may just be your spirit liveaboard. 

For one thing, with the serious underwater photographer in mind, the Giamini’s dive deck has been fit with a large camera table. 

This, combined with the versatile range of word famous dive sites along this yachts itinerary and the small groups, make it the absolute best liveaboard for serious underwater photography in Thailand.  

The Giamini’s itinerary includes the fabled Similan and Surin islands as well as Richelieu Rock or the breathtakingly beautiful southern islands of Koh Phi Phi, depending on when you go. Divers regularly snap whale sharks, manta rays, leopard sharks, scorpionfish, blue spotted stingrays, turtles and cuttlefish to name a few.

Taking an absolute maximum of just 10 passengers, at 24m long this large vessel provides ample space for those on board. There’s an air-conditioned salon, fully equipped with TV, DVD player, music system and library – plus a well stocked bar. 

For open air relaxation, one need only head to Giamani’s outside dining area or it’s upper deck where breathtaking island views are to be had from the comfort of soft sun mattresses.

The luxurious master cabin is located on the upper deck and has one double bed, an additional sofa bed, mini fridge, ensuite bathroom and shower box.

The rest of the cabins are still private, being deluxe class; located on the main deck, they each feature a double bed and additional extra bed for twin sharing. They also sport climate control, an ensuite bathroom and a mini fridge with beautiful sea views. 

The playful and attentive dive staff have a great eye for helping divers bag the perfect underwater photo, whereas the ships cook not only serves Thai and international meals – but also insanely good ice cream. 

The Giamini is without a doubt the Thai liveaboard for serious underwater photographers and those who prefer small groups. If that’s you, you can dive into learning more about this liveaboard by clicking below:

Thailand Liveaboards - What You Need to Know

Diving Insurance – It’s essential you’re covered by proper diving insurance before you start your liveaboard adventure.  Find out more. 

Scuba Gear – You’ll need to either bring along your own scuba gear or rent it from the liveaboard for an additional fee (around $25 per day for a full equipment rental). Find out more. 

What to Pack – To ensure an enjoyable and comfortable scubadventure, there are several must bring items. Find out more. 

Thailand Diving Season – Diving Season in the Andaman Sea spans from Oct – May. 

Outside of this period, it’s not possible to dive at the Similan and Surin Islands, although one can still dive at the Southern islands.

Find out more.  

Weather in Thailand –Thailand boasts consistently warm temperatures all year round, with water temperatures typically ranging from 27 – 30 degrees.

On land, the weather is toasty – bring plenty of sunscreen and get ready to soak up some rays.

Diving Conditions – Dive sites around the Similan and Surin Islands offer a range of conditions.

These vary from beginner level, with calm & shallow waters; to advanced with adrenaline pumping drift dives, deep dives and wreck dives and more.

Water Visibility is spectacular, ranging from 20 meters to 40 meters.

Diving Insurance in Thailand

Just as with all extreme activities, it’s vital you get properly insured when scuba diving abroad. This is to cover any medical expenses, loss of equipment and flight / accommodation expenses following injury.

Don’t leave this until the last minute! You actually need to have your scuba diving insurance sorted properly before leaving your home country, in order to get full coverage.

For the best and most scuba specific insurance, we recommend Dive Assure. That’s because:

  • They offer both short term and long term insurance.

     

  • Cheapest Scuba Insurance Prices known to Diving Squad.

  • The full package: Cover loss of diving equipment, emergency medical and evacuation expenses and flight/accommodation costs following injury.

5 EPIC Creatures you can Dive with on a Thai Liveaboard

1) Whale Sharks

  • Whale Sharks are the largest known extant species of fish in the World! The mightiest recorded individual measured a whopping 18.8m long.

  • They are slow moving, filter feeders. Their diet includes copepods, krill, fish eggs, crab larvae and very small fish and squid.

  • They’re friendly to divers and frequently allow people to swim up close. Avoid touching them though!

  • The best months to see Whale Sharks in Thailand’s Andaman Sea are March and April.

2) Manta Rays

manta ray with divers on a thai liveaboard
  • Manta Rays are another gigantic pelagic encountered in Thailand, with the largest species Manta Birostris, reaching 7m in Width!

  • In addition to being filter feeders, recent findings show that Manta Rays actively hunt mesopelagic fish and other organisms 650 – 3,300 feet below the surface.

  • Gestation lasts a year with Mantas giving birth to live pups.

  • March and April are also the best time to see Manta Rays in the Andaman Sea,  due to the thick plankton clouds that accumulate there during these months.

3) Turtles

Hawksbill Turtle with Scuba Diving in thAILAND
  • Thailand’s Seas are home to Leatherback Turtles, Olive Ridley Turtles as well as rarer Green Sea Turtles and the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles.

  • Most Species of Turtle feed primarily on small animals like jellyfish, squid and crustaceans as well as vegetation such as sea grasses and algae.

  • When they reach adulthood, Green Sea Turtles are the only species of Sea Turtle to be fully vegetarian in diet, which is reflected by their finely serrated jaws.

  • To breed, Sea Turtles return to the same beaches where they hatched. Around the Similan and Surin Islands, nesting season occurs October – March.

4) Cuttlefish

cuttlefish in thai liveaboard - the best scuba diving
  • Cuttlefish are able to rapidly change the colour of their skin to produce moving patterns of colour across their bodies.

  • This amazing ability serves multiple functions; confusing predators, hypnotising prey, camouflage, communication and elaborate mating rituals.

  • Smaller males can pretend to be females, tricking large males to mate with them & take them back to their lairs. When the bigger males aren’t looking, the small males mate with the real females!

  • There’s over 120 different species of Cuttlefish, ranging in size from 4.5cm to over half a metre long! 

5) Leopard Sharks

leopard shark with diver in thailand similan liveaboard
  • Unlike other sharks, which must constantly swim to avoid drowning, Leopard Sharks can conserve energy by resting at the bottom of the sea floor.

     

  • That’s because they have specially adapted spiracles behind their eyes, which blow a steady stream of water over their gills.

     

  • Sharks like this belong to the Carpet Shark Order. Another type of Carpet Shark is the Whale Shark.

  • From birth, leopard sharks form large schools, generally segregated by age and sex. These schools are nomadic and have a strict social hierarchy.

Thai Liveaboard Packing List

What you choose to pack for your thai liveaboard is entirely up to you. That said, we can certainly think of a few essential items that no self respecting member of Diving Squad would go on a liveaboard without:

Reef Safe Sunscreen It’s a little known fact that some sunscreens contain products that are highly toxic to coral reefs. Dive responsibly, avoid burning to a crisp and use eco friendly sunscreen. 

Reef Safe Body Wash and Shampoo – Many brands of body wash and shampoo also contain chemicals that are toxic to coral reef and fish. Avoid smelling like a Dead Whale without screwing up the Ocean.

Full Face Snorkel Mask – Throughout your liveaboard odssey, you’ll have countless snorkelling opportunities between dives. Nowadays when snorkelling, you’ve got the full face snorkel mask for maximum comfort and 180 viewing! Most also have an attachment mount for GoPros. 

Waterproof Dry BackpackFor scuba excursions, you really want a backpack that’s designed specially for the job. We vote the Dometool Backpack; it’s completely waterproof, insanely durable and also floats. Dayum!

Diving Camera –  To take cracking underwater photography, without your camera actually cracking, you’ll need a scuba camera, specially designed for the job. Currently, we vote the GoPro Hero6 Black as our all time favourite Diving Camera. 

Reusable Water Bottle Having a durable, reusable and recyclable water bottle that’ll keep liquids cold is essential for both eco awareness and hydration = scuba success! We love the TankH2O – It is all of those things and looks like a scuba tank

Diving Season in Thailand

thailand diving season

Every Thai Liveaboard sails across the Andaman Sea, which is located off Thailand’s Western Coast. Here, there’s a distinct diving season (Oct – May), outside of which the Similan  and Surin Islands are closed to all vessels.

As for the Southern Islands in the Andaman Sea, such as Koh Phi Phi; these can be dived all year round, but they’re still subject to the changing conditions of the diving season.

Month by month conditions vary considerably; water visibility, choppiness and even the presence of certain species, changing throughout certain times of the year. Use the squad month by month guide to work out when’s the best time to go on a Thai liveaboard for you:

January – February: The Andaman Sea enjoys calm waters, with exceptional visibility both up North around the Similan and Surin Islands as well as in the South Islands. It ‘s also during tourist high season, so book early to avoid disappointment.

March – April: These two months are also great to dive in the Andaman Sea, with clear & calm waters. That said, water visibility isn’t quite as clear. That’s because of the large plankton blooms that occur over these months.

But: these plankton clouds attract Pelagics, making March one of the best months to see Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in Thailand.

May (mid) – October (mid): The Similan Islands and Surin Islands are closed due to the exceptionally choppy water conditions bought on by monsoon season.

However, the South Islands can still be dived at during this time. Water is considerably more choppy and less clear though – not every single day mind, but due to unpredictable weather it can be difficult to plan for ideal diving conditions.

October (mid) – December: From the middle of October onwards, liveaboards in the Similan Islands and Surin Islands are back open for business, with incredible water visibility and stillness.

October is considered one of the best months of the year to dive, due to this being tourist low season which means quieter dive sites.

From November onwards, it’s back to tourist high season, with continued exceptional diving conditions both up north in the. Similan and Surin Islands and down at the Southern Islands.

Thailand Liveaboard Destinations

Similan Islands

Donald Duck Bay, Simlan Islands

Fifty two miles north west of Phuket, lies the fabled Koh Similan Marine National park – an archipelago of eleven granite boulder islands arranged in a South to North access. In order from South to North, they are:

 

Koh Huyong (Island 1, at the southernmost tip of the mini Archipelago)

Koh Payang (Island 2)

Koh Payan (Island 3)

Koh Miang (Island 4)

Koh Ha (Island 5)

Koh Payu (Island 6)

Koh Hin Pousar (Island 7)

Koh Similan (Island 8)

Koh Bangu (Island 9)

Koh Bon (Island 10)

Koh Tachai (Island 11, at the Archipelagos northern end)

 

Your yacht captain will almost certainly refer to these islands by their number and not their names!

 

Reef fish and Coral Grouper

Above the vibrant blue water, the views are simply breathtaking. Lush neon green rainforests adorn the islands, the dense vegetation jostling for space to reach the fiery orange sun beating down upon it.

Swooping and swinging, skittering and scuttling, crawling and flying through this noisy tumble of jungle are crab eating monkeys, dusk langurs, squirrels, lizards, bats and a colourful assortment of tropical birds. To all of these exotic animals, this is home.

Around the edges of the island, the vibrant jungle reluctantly fizzles out to give way to immense boulders littering the fine sand beaches that are almost as white as snow.

But it is what lies beneath the crystal clear waters surrounding these islands, that has given the Similans their formidable reputation as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the entire world.

The eastern Similan dive sites showcast rainbow assorted coral reefs, with psychedelic coloured sea anemones lazily waving their tentacles in the air as countless reef fish dart above them.

Waters here are tranquil, with dives of moderate depths, suitable for all levels of divers and also snorkelers to.

Baby Whale Shark off South West Pinnacle

Meanwhile, along the western dive sites are mighty granite boulders which descend all the way down to 40 meters, featuring swim throughs, caves and tunnels for the boldest and most intrepid of divers.

Strong, drift dive offering currents, provide bountiful nutrients for immense living walls and carpets of crescent coloured soft corals and sea fans which coat every feasible surface.

Mighty Whale Sharks and Graceful Manta Rays frequently visit these waters between February and April, hoovering up the living clouds of plankton that accumulate here around this time.

Massive barracuda, jackfish, batfish and snapper shoot after the smaller reef fish, whilst camouflaged scorpionfish, stonefish and octopus blend in seamlessly with their environment.

Alien like cuttlefish scoot to and fro’, as lethal lionfish drift ominously drift through the water and nosy moray eels poke their head from hidey holes.

Peek carefully, among the coral and crevices, the reefs and rocks, the cracks and gaps, and delicate seahorses, dainty pipefish, skittish shrimp, surreal nudibranch and all manner of other weird and wonderful micro critters await your discovery.

It is impossible to do any real level of justice for the true beauty that awaits divers in the Similan through words or even pictures.

To fully realize the splendor that awaits you there, you will simply have to go.

Green Turtle off the Similan Islands

Surin Islands

100 KM further north of the Similans, is the even less frequented, but no less spectacular Surin Islands.

The 2 main main islands forming the bulk of this 320 KM mini archipelago are:

  • Koh Surin Nuea
  • Koh Surin Tai.

…In addition to 3 smaller, satellite islands that enhance the overground visas and provide additional fringing reef:

  • Koh Ri
  • Koh Khai
  • Koh Klang

This National Park status also extends to Richelieu Rock, a huge seamount in the middle of the sea 10 km southwest of Koh Surin, which is renowned as one of the top ten greatest dive locations in the world, as well as one of the most likely places to see a Whale Shark.

 

Whale Shark Spotted at Richelieu Rock

Because the Surin Islands are visited even less frequently than the Similan Islands, divers will enjoy having these crystal clear waters all to themselves.

It is like stepping back in time, to an era where life beneath the waves was still unaffected by the hand of man.

The coral reef here is in spectacular condition and home to a wide assortment of reef fish and other marine life.

Whale Sharks and Manta Rays are frequently seen around the Surin Islands, as well as Turtles and sometimes even Bryde’s Whales.

Dive conditions range from beginner to advanced, with everything from shallow to deep diving, calm waters to drift current dives and cave to open water diving being available.

For those who can make it, there is something here for everyone.

As with the Similan Islands, only a small fraction of the true magnificence of the Surin Islands can be conveyed through word or picture.

To truly appreciate the incredible diving holiday that can be had here, one has to actually go.

Green Sea Turtle swimming around the Similan Islands

Southern Islands

Koh Phi Phi

Phi Phi Islands: 45 KM East of Phuket, in the Krabi Province, is the gorgeous 6 island archipelago of Koh Phi Phi. They are regarded as one of the most beautiful island groups in the world.

The two largest islands, Koh Phi Phi Don and Koh phi phi Leh, make up the bulk of landmass, with the former being an ancient settlement that is a melting pot of Thai Buddhists, Chinese Buddhists, Muslims and Sea Gypsies – and now backpackers!

Towering limestone cliffs climb into the sky from these two islands, where the dense canopy of jungle atop them stretches further towards the heavens still.  Beaches, coves and bays are scattered across them, to make for a diverse assortment of dramatic landscape.

The four smallest islands, Koh Mai Phai, Ko Yung,  Bida nok and Bida Nai are little more than limestone rocks jutting from the sea although the diving to be had around them is just as stunning.

Diver with Anemone Coral

There are many incredible dive sites around the Phi Phi Island group, consisting largely of incredible coral and gorgonian fan adorned wall dives, where the limestone drops to a depth between 10m – 25m, and feature various caves and swim throughs for thrill seekers.

That said, most local dives around here are suitable for beginner level divers, whereas some of the further flung dives featuring currents and deeper waters, better suited for experienced dives in search of action.

Expect a phenomenal range of marine life including Wrasse, moorish idols, rays, travallies and angelfish.

Keep an eye out for leopard sharks cruising along the bottom and blacktip sharks patrolling over the reefs. Turtles, Manta Rays and Whale sharks regularly present themselves to the lucky.

Leopard Shark cruising through the waters around Koh Phi Phi.

King Cruiser –  Wreck Dive Lovers, The King Cruiser is for you! Once an ex-car ferry that travelled between Phi Phi and Phuket, in 1997 the “King Cruiser” cruised straight into an anemone reef and sank a short distance away. Happily, nobody died and divers were left with an awesome wreck!

Now mostly broken up, the King Cruiser is coated with beautiful soft corals and is inhabited by large schools of Barracuda and Snapper, as well as Groupers, Eels and Crabs… more still lies in wait those who know how and where to look.

With strong currents and reaching down to 32m deep, this is a great dive site for advanced divers or those looking to rack up the experience as part of their PADI Advanced Open Water Course.

With stunning views both from outside and the cavernous inside, the King Cruiser is regarded as the best wreck dive around Phuket.

 

King Cruiser Wreck from outside

Shark Point – Named after the large numbers of peaceful Leopard Sharks that are regularly seen here, Shark Point is a series of 7 pinnacles running north to south, that lie halfway between Phuket and Phi Phi.

Covered in red, pink and purple soft corals, large sea fans and all colours of sea anemones, they are home to a variety of reef fishes as well as seahorses, barracuda and occasionally other shark species such as black tips. It is a favourite drift dive for experienced divers!

Stunning coral reef near shark point.

Koh Doc Mai – Also known as “Flower Island” this is a small piece of jungle topped sheer rock located between Shark Point and Phuket. Although tiny, it regularly provides divers with huge memories due to the incredible wall diving and macro species encountered here.

Those who regularly dive this favourite site report encountering something different every time, from seahorses, frogfish, nudibranchs and ornate ghost pipefish and even to tiny, cute bamboo sharks.

For the intrepid there are also some thrill seeking opportunities here including a spacious cavern and an air pocket in one of the caves to make for a mind blowing surfacing experience at 13m.

Koh Doc Mai Island.

Squad Inventory - Scuba Gear for Thai Liveaboard

Ok Squad! Here’s the deal. Scuba Diving requires a ton of gear. This should come as no real surprise, considering that the very nature of this sport is to breathe underwater – the exact opposite of what us humans are evolved to do! 

When you go on your liveaboard adventure, you have two options on the gear front:

  1. You can either rent the gear, at an additional cost, per piece. This generally costs around $25 for a full equipment rental per day.
  2. Or you can buy and bring along some or all of your own scuba gear. 

    …You decide! At any rate, here’s a brief reminder of the various bits of scuba gear that you’ll be using:

Diving Mask – Full Face Snorkel Masks are taking the world by storm but they can’t withstand pressure beyond several meters depth.  For diving you need an old school dive mask.

BCD – A BCD is the jacket divers wear to maintain optimum buoyancy, which they can adjust by operating the inflate and deflate buttons. 

As well as this, the BCD holds the divers regulator(s), dive gauge and air tank.

Regulator / Octopus – The regulator reduces pressurised breathing oxygen to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver through a mouth piece. Remember, you need two – one for you and a spare for a buddy in case of emergencies!

Diving Torch – Absolutely essential for Deep Dives and Night Dives. So you can…you know – see. Bioluminescent plankton anyone? 

Scuba Tank – This contains the pressurised breathing gas – i.e. oxygen, that you will be breathing underwater (after it’s been reduced to ambient pressure by the regulator). Pretty essential right? 

Scuba Weight Belt – A diving weight belt assists with maintaining optimum buoyancy, by stopping divers from floating to the top of the water. How much weight you take will depend on your build, weight and diving ability.

Dive Computer – The Dive Computer is used to measure the time and depth of a dive. In doing so, it calculates a safe ascent profile, vital for avoiding decompression sickness. 

Dive Gauge – Essential for keeping track of your air consumption and the depth at which you are diving. The best ones also feature compasses and can read the water temperature (useful for bragging rights when you go on extremely cold dives!).

Scuba Fins – Fins greatly reduce water resistance when swimming and thus help to conserve energy and swim faster / against currents. They also allow you to unleash your inner mermaid/man. 

Dive Boots Designed to be worn under your fins, dive boots prevent rubbing and skin irritation from said fins – whilst also keeping your feet toasty and warm. 

Wetsuit – Crucial for keeping you warm. Even in hot countries, when you dive deep, it gets cold. Which one you pick will depend on the climate of where you’re diving. 

Ultimate Combo Package Whew! That’s a lot of gear we’ve covered. If you don’t yet have any scuba gear and want to bulk buy at great quality and value, this is the number one scuba starter pack out there.  

Diving Squad Debriefing

Diving Squad! Give yourselves a big wet slap on the back!! You have made it to the end of this MONSTER guide to the best liveaboard diving in Thailand!!!

We have covered the best liveaboards in Thailand for all categories – the best thailand liveaboards for beginners, the best luxury thailand liveaboards, the best thailand liveaboards overall and so much more…

We’ve also looked at best time to go on liveaboards in Thailand, learned about each of the best liveaboard dive locations in thailand and reviewed the cost for a range of different budget types.

We’ve looked at dive itineraries, diving conditions, dive season, national park fees and regulations and hopefully learned some cool things we didn’t expect to along the way!

Now you are fully equipped to have the best thailand liveaboard of your life. All that remains is to go and actually have it.

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Help Diving Squad with Marine Conservation

EPIC FAIL HUMANITY:

  • Over 18 billion pounds of plastic enters the World’s Oceans every year. That’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic (Every. Year).

     

  • As well as containing it’s own toxic chemicals, like BPA, plastic absorbs even more potent toxins from other pollutants in the Ocean such as oil, untreated sewage and radioactive waste.

     

  • Plastic is indestructible and never degrades. Instead it simply breaks down into smaller pieces which accumulate together, en masse.

     

  • Today, each square mile of ocean has over 45,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

     

  • Plastic is mistaken for food and eaten by marine animals. Because it can’t be digested, it fills their stomachs and causes them to starve to death.

     

  • For those “lucky” individuals that don’t eat plastic, the toxic chemicals present in every part of sea water from plastic, wreck havoc throughout the ecosystem causing changes in animals behaviour, immune systems and reproduction.

     

  • There are 200 known ‘dead zones’, or areas deprived of oxygen and devoid of life, (area between 1 and 70,000 km²),  in the world ocean, due to plastic: this number has doubled every decade since 1960.

     

  • Chemicals in heavily polluted waters can make their way back to us and cause serious health issues like reproductive problems, hormonal problems, kidney damage, and nervous system damage.

     

  • It’s estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight). AND IT’S GETTING WORSE

The Time to Act is NOW

To Diving Squad, the grizzly stats above are appalling, tragic and completely UNACCEPTABLE. That’s why we are working hard towards combating plastic pollution in the ocean.


How do we do this? Through spreading awareness, providing informative guides on eco friendly diving and donating
10% of all profits that we make towards combating plastic pollution in the Ocean.


So, how does Diving Squad make money? Through You! Every time you click on one of our painstakingly, yet lovingly researched liveaboard, gear or insurance links and spend money – we earn a % commission thanks to affiliate partnerships.


We then donate 10% of this towards Marine Conservation Schemes that target plastic pollution.


What does this mean? It means that if you book a Liveaboard through a Diving Squad link – some of that money goes directly towards Marine Conservation. Buy a piece of Gear through a Diving Squad link?

 Nice! You’ve just contributed money towards Marine Conservation. Booked yourself Diving Insurance through Diving Squad? Go, go Marine Conservation!


So help us…help you…help the Ocean. Together, we can do this.


To which Marine Conservation charity do we donate, you might ask?
Our squad is already hard at work selecting the ideal candidate. The winner will be announced at the end of 2019. Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear… If we pick your suggestion, there just might be something in it for you…


Contact us at: Alex Hatton:
[email protected] (Grand Admiral at Diving Squad).