Thailand’s oceans are home to a colourful range of species and offer diving and snorkelling opportunities that rival the adventures on offer in the world’s most famous marine destinations.
Whether you choose the delights of the Andaman region or the Gulf of Thailand for your next vacation, there are plenty of adventures to be had if you venture under the sea.
Thailand is one of Asia’s premier destinations when it comes to underwater attractions. In fact, the tiny island of Koh Tao issues more PADI diving licenses than any other country in the region, and is second only to Australia globally in this respect.
Divers and snorkellers in Thailand have the option of day trips or live aboard excursions, depending on how deep they want to delve into the Kingdom’s sapphire waters.
Below is a rundown of some of the intriguing species to keep your eyes peeled for when you take the plunge.
For those in search of the ultimate marine encounter, there are plenty of members of the shark family to meet in Thai waters, and the majority of them are harmless. The slender-bodied leopard shark, named after the large spots covering its back, are known to be docile and schools of leopard sharks are a common sight in Thailand’s bays and estuaries as they glide over kelp beds and reefs. Phuket’s Shark Point is a great place to go if you fancy catching sight of one of these graceful creatures. This dive site is also home to a vivid rainbow of other tropical marine life.
While they may not have the majestic grandeur of the leopard shark, seahorses never fail to wow divers with their effortless ability to look super cute. Found in temperate waters across the globe, seahorses tend to stick to sheltered areas such as sea grass beds, coral reefs and mangroves, which is why you will only catch a glimpse of them if you’re an eagle-eyed diver. On the way to Phuket’s Shark Point lies Koh Doc Mai, a colossal limestone rock that juts steeply out of the Andaman Sea. Look out for bobbing seahorses next to the gorgonias, along with an array of other striking reef fish.
The moray eel is another critter you should watch out for in Thai waters. They are generally shy creatures that would much rather flee than fight, but it’s still wise to keep a safe distance from these sharp-toothed snakes of the sea. Koh Samui’s Sail Rock dive site is a good place to go if you are determined to get a glimpse of the elusive moray eel, and the site features a selection of swim-through opportunities including archways, caverns and caves. Other fabulous marine creatures to look out for there include white tip reef sharks, blue-ringed angelfish and harlequin sweetlips.
Koh Tao, which translates to ‘Turtle Island’ in English, is (unsurprisingly) known for its population of marine turtles. Situated 70km north of Samui, the visibility at the dive sites off Koh Tao ranges from 15 to 30 metres. Unfortunately, turtles often fallen prey to hunting, so eco-friendly initiatives across Koh Tao now encourage divers to log information about when and where they see a turtle. If you are determined to set eyes on one of these glorious creatures, Koh Nang Yuan, White Rock and Red Rock dive sites are popular locations for turtle watchers.
Catch the Rays
Manta rays are, without doubt, among the most elegant sea creatures you can hope to encounter under the ocean’s surface. Lucky visitors exploring the seas of Thailand have the chance to spot these incredible fish. If you are based on Koh Samui, give sites like Chumpon Pinnacles offers a thrilling selection of marine life – including magnificent blue spotted stingrays. Other sensational residents include sea snakes, turtles and moray eels. Over in the Andaman, Koh Racha Noi is one of the top locations if you are searching for rays. The island is popular with more experienced divers, as the depths and currents are greater. In general, areas with large underwater rocks are a good place to look out for manta rays.