Peak season in Thailand not only brings clear skies and sunshine but also calm seas and clear waters, which makes it the perfect time to take the plunge and learn to dive. The teeming reefs in the Andaman Sea and Gulf off Siam offer a breathtaking introduction to the marine world.
Whether you are island hopping in the Andaman Sea, based in a luxury holiday home on Phuket or staying in one of Koh Samui’s fantastic private rental villas while you explore the Gulf of Thailand on day trips; proximity to the ocean offers up an impressive range of activities to entertain you and your travel companions.
Scuba diving is one of Thailand’s most popular watersports thanks to the rainbow of corals and diverse array of marine life just beneath the waves and many people choose the Kingdom’s islands as the place to learn the skills. In fact, Koh Tao, a small island just to the north of Koh Samui now issues more PADI diving licenses than any other destination in Southeast Asia.
Once you have mastered the basics, there are plenty of ways to take make the most of Thailand’s spectacular underwater sights: from one-day boat excursions to multi-day packages and even live aboard dive cruises.
Below are a few tips to set you on course towards a new holiday passion.
Master the Basics
In order to dive recreationally in the world’s oceans, you need a PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) Open Water license or equivalent qualification and thanks to its underwater visibility and warm waters Thailand the perfect place to take the 3 or 4-day course. All Thailand’s islands, including Phuket and Koh Samui, offer a wide choice of reputable dive schools, and anyone from the age of 12 years up who is in good health can learn the necessary skills. The PADI Open Water course is divided into theory classes and practical sessions in the pool and ocean. A qualified instructor teaches students how to use scuba equipment and also trains then on all the key techniques for safe, enjoyable diving Once you are qualified, you are free to dive independently anywhere in the world, although it is essential to dive in pairs, and advisable to join a guided excursion or hire a local dive master to save time and effort finding the best sites.
Hone Your Skills
If you already have the a basic PADI licence, Thailand is also the perfect destination to build on your skills with a few more adventurous dives. The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver Certification is an increasingly popular choice for visitors who want to “delve a little deeper” into the underwater world. Three adventure dives, which may include specializations like wreck diving or underwater photography, are followed by deep dives (down to 30m) and underwater navigation dives. These challenges will prepare those with a real passion for the sport to take next step and become a Dive Master.
Once you are qualified and ready to take the plunge beneath the waves, the easiest way to familiarize yourself with independent diving is to book yourself onto a day trip. These excursions are ideal for beginners, but also cater to more experienced divers who want to more challenging dive sites. Day trips from Phuket and Samui operate throughout the year and offer a taste of the stunning underwater world that keeps divers returning year after year. Equipment can be rented relatively cheaply and dives are conducted by professional dive masters with a thorough knowledge of the sites and prevailing underwater conditions.
Often referred to as the gem of the Andaman, Phuket is within easy reach of plenty of top marine locations for diving day trips, including the famous Phi Phi islands. Meanwhile, for those who really want to immerse themselves in the magic of the ocean; live aboard safaris may be the way to go. Typical routes take in the Similan Islands, Koh Bon and also the Phi Phi Islands. Situated 95km northwest of Phuket, the Similans are prized as an unspoilt tropical oasis, home to a multitude of colourful coral reefs ripe for exploration.
Exploring the Thai Gulf
Koh Samui provides the ideal base for divers keen to explore the AngThong National Marine Park as the majority of dive sites in the park are situated a short distance from its islands, which can also be explored on foot. Heading north to Koh Tao offers the chance to glimpse the elusive sea turtle. Meanwhile, Chumphon Pinnacle, located some 11km north of Koh Tao, is a popular destination for divers with more experience in the region. The pinnacle itself starts 14m underwater and drops to depths of approximately 36m, creating a fantastic habitat for a wide array of fish – including whale sharks, depending on the season.