If you are interested in scuba diving or snorkeling but have never had the chance to do it, Thailand is for you. Renowned as one of the world's best beach destinations, Thailand offers an excellent wide range of water sports for travelers.
Discover the best places in Thailand for diving, snorkeling and other water sports below.
- Unwind in Koh Phi Phi, where The Beach (1999) was filmed
- Have your first surfing lesson at Patong Beach
- Explore the beauty of Phang Nga Bay by kayak
- Raise your adrenalin by jet skiing at a beach in Phuket
- Spend a full day exploring marine life at a clear-water beach by the Andaman Sea
Diving in Thailand
Why dive in Thailand? Simple. Thailand has more than 349 named diving sites, great weather, warm water, and an astonishing 153 km2 of coral reefs. What to expect and where is the best place to dive?
What to expect
Thai coral reefs are breathtaking and intact, though some are still recovering from the 2004 tsunami. Its seas offer you the chance to dive with leopard sharks, whale sharks, manta rays, and other fascinating creatures.
Thailand has two diving zones with two different seasons: the Gulf of Thailand on the east coast and the Andaman Sea on the west coast. The water temperatures in both places hover between 27oC and 32oC year-round, depending on the season.
If you plan to dive in the Andaman Sea on the west coast (Similan Islands, Surin Islands, Phuket, Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi) the hot, dry season from November to April is best, due to good water visibility.
On the east coast, the Gulf of Thailand (Ko Tao, Koh Samui), the best time is between May and September, when the weather is quite chilly, with fewer tourists.
Best places for diving
The Andaman Sea offers numerous diving spots all down the west coast of Thailand. Below we list the areas with the best coral reefs.
The Similan Islands are often ranked among the world's premier diving sites. The best way to dive at the Islands is with a cruise, for between two days and two weeks. A day trip from Khao Lak is also possible, with an additional trip of 1.5 to 2 hours each way.
Koh Lanta and Koh Phi Phi offer good places to dive with whale shark and manta ray. They are surrounded by 70 islands, among which are two world-class diving sites, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang.
Hin Daeng literally means 'red rock'. It is home to a variety of soft corals of red hue. Hin Muang means 'purple rock', and is also named after the color of the soft corals that cover the rock formations there.
Koh Phi Phi
Phi Phi Island is a popular dive destination in the Andaman Sea, accessible from Phuket, Koh Lanta or Krabi. The island is still recovering from the destruction of the 2014 Tsunami, but its marine life is thriving and strong.
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Snorkeling in Thailand
Snorkeling is perfect for exploring the underwater world, using simpler gear than diving.
What to expect
The crystal-clear water and friendly sea turtles are highlights of a snorkeling trip. The sunny and chilly weather from November to April at the Andaman Sea is best for exploring its underwater life. Expect to see an abundance of marine life.
Best Places for snorkeling
Snorkeling tours are available as day tours, overnight tours or live-aboard cruises from Phuket, Khao Lak, Krabi, Koh Samui and Koh Lanta. On the Andaman seaside of Thailand, the best time to snorkel is from November to late April.
From May to September, when heavy rainfalls hit the west coast, the Gulf of Thailand on the east coast may be a better option.
Koh Hong is part of Than Bok Khorani National Park. It opens only for day visits and no overnight stay is allowed. Koh Hong Islands consist of numerous islands with spectacular formations and breathtaking natural lagoons, surrounded by limestone formations.
Koh Phi Phi
Via the movie The Beach of 1999, Leonardo DiCaprio introduced Koh Phi Phi to the world. The 200-meter stretch of beach is surrounded by towering cliffs on three sides, and covered with foliage and greenery. It has a nice mix of hard and soft corals, anemone and sea fans, with opportunities to encounter black-tip sharks and leopard sharks.
The Surin Islands are located close to the Similan Islands, less visited but with better reefs. Under protection of the Mu Koh Surin Marine National Park, the beaches and coastlines remain pristine.
One of the most visited snorkeling areas in Surin Island is Ao Mae Yai Bay, where the striking coral is home to notorious clownfish.
Other water sports in Thailand
Jet skiing is a thrilling adventure. It is available at most of the beaches in Thailand, In Phuket, you can only legally rent and use a jet ski at five beaches, Karon, Patong, Kata, Kamala and Bangtao. Always put your safety first by renting from a licensed jet-ski operator.
If you plan to operate a jet ski, you need to have a 'Second Class Helmsman of Power-Driven Sea-Going Vessels' license on your pocket, since the risk of accident is quite high. Otherwise, you could face a 10,000 baht fine. The safest choice is to go as a passenger.
Paddle-boarding or stand-up paddle-boarding is a comparatively new beach activity in Thailand. It is easy and does not require special physical preparation. There are a few lessons to learn before entering the water, such as how to balance on the surfboard, how to use a long-handle paddle, and how to tame potential waves.
You can find paddle-boarding around Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga, Khao Sok and Khao Lak.
The Andaman Sea has bigger and more powerful waves than others. Take your first surfing lessons at beaches with milder waves, like Patong and Kata Noi, and when you're confident enough, Kamala, Surin, Kata, Nai Harn, and Bang Tao have bigger waves to challenge you.
It is considerably safer to surf on the beaches mentioned above. They have sandy sea-beds, so injury from rock or reef can be avoided. Also the likelihood of meeting sharks, stingrays or jellyfish quite low. The best waves come between May and November.
With kayaking, the beauty of Thailand's shoreline and its natural splendors are intimately within reach. Pedal your kayak to breathtaking lagoons, alongside the limestone cliffs of Thailand's small islands such as in Phang Nga Bay, between Phuket and Krabi.
Kayaking is available all year round and runs on a daily basis, both on the west and on the east coast. Avoid the rainy season for a better experience.
Useful tips for water sports in Thailand
Water sports are fun-packed activities, but they are also dangerous if you are not well prepared. Here are some useful tips to ensure you are ready for safe water sport in Thailand.
Choose the right time
Weather is the main key in planning your activities. Avoid the stormy rainy season if kayaking, snorkeling, or surfing. Having a good understanding of the differences in weather between Thailand's west and east coast can help you in choosing activities.
Decide on location and logistics
There are no such time restraints for your other leisure time, but good calculation of time and transportation needed to each site or each activity will help you manage your whole holiday better.
Consider your own physical strength
Some water sports such as kayaking and water-boarding need moderate physical preparation. No one knows better your physical strength than you yourself. If you want to do heavier activities, train accordingly.
Use proper gear
A life jacket is a must; being able to swim is not sufficient. Before you enter the water, make sure you are wearing a life jacket that fits you.
Book with a reliable agent
There are hundreds of agents offering similar packages with slight differences in price or detail. Always choose a reliable one. Find their information and review it online, check their license or certificate, and make sure your safety is their first priority.
Double check your travel insurance coverage
Protection is as important as prevention. Make sure you are protected by your insurance even for the smallest injuries.
Be aware of your surroundings and never go alone (especially kids)
Be aware of your surroundings under and outside the water. Shark attacks may be avoided if your trip brings you to safe areas, but it is important to take into account other factors such as weather or currents.
Be more than just a tourist, and give more than just a visitor.
Care more about the environment by doing simple things such as choosing less-hectic sports to reduce impact, not disturbing aquatic life while diving, not using sun-block while diving, collecting your own garbage, choosing reliable agents who use newer ships/boats/jets making less noise pollution.
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Diving with Asia Highlights
Bathing in the waters of the Andaman Sea, travelers with a brave heart for adventure will never become lukewarm or bored. Rather than scooping out the best possible activities yourself, why not let us do the job? Contact us now to kick-start your fun adventure in Thailand!
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