In a previous life, Phil spent his days as a dive guide exploring the Andaman Sea. A firm favourite for divers of all abilities, he shares 7 of the best dive sites in Thailand, including encounters with manta ray, leopard shark and even whale sharks. Read on to see which dive sites make the cut below.
Thailand, known affectionately as the 'Land of Smiles', has long been a favourite destination for those looking for a truly tropical adventure. Beauty abounds at every turn, with stunning nature and wildlife, incredible culinary pleasures and of course the wonderful, welcoming people that give the country its epithet.
With ideal diving conditions from November through to April, Thailand’s Andaman coast makes for a perfect winter diving break. To whet your appetite, we explore some of the best dive sites of this stunning region; dive sites that are sure to put a smile on your face once again.
Thailand is renowned for many diving delights, from colourful reefs to a superb diversity of marine life. One of the stars of the show are the manta rays however, and Koh Bon might just be the best place to see them. This unassuming island lies to the north of the Similan Islands. On its western flank a ridge drops down towards a pinnacle that acts as a manta cleaning station.
Sightings tend to be best from January through to April, but manta rays are not the only exciting encounter at Koh Bon. Eagle rays, tuna, wahoo and other larger predators are a common sight, while whale sharks make an occasional visit.
West of Eden & Deep Six
These twin iconic dive sites are found at the northwestern tip of Similan Island no.7 - part of the famed Similan Island group that are widely considered to be Thailand’s finest dive destination. An assault for the senses, these dive sites arguably offer the very best of Thailand in one small area.
West of Eden is characterised by large boulders adorned in sea fans, feather stars and soft corals, offering a wonderful playground for divers. This gives way to a sloping reef known as Deep Six with coral covered pinnacles and more magical marine life.
The diversity of these sites is exceptional, with the chance to happen upon both smaller characters such as ghost pipefish or mantis shrimp, and larger marine life - including moray eels, turtles or maybe something larger.
King Cruiser Wreck
Thailand is not only about wonderful reefs and marine life. In May 1997, the King Cruiser hit a nearby reef and sunk in the waters between Phuket & Koh Phi Phi. Now residing in 32 metres of water, this impressive wreck makes a great dive for the more experienced diver. The wreck is covered in life, from nudibranch and moray eels to turtles, batfish and barracuda. Definitely one for the logbook.
Also between Phuket and Ko Phi Phi – and accessible from both – is Shark Point. The graceful leopard shark gives its name to the dive site and is regularly seen resting on the sand or swimming effortlessly through the water.
Shark Point comprises a series of underwater pinnacles adorned in soft corals and teeming with fascinating marine life. Lovers of smaller marine life with delight in searching for tigertail seahorse, ghost pipefish or rare, miniature moray eels while snapper, trevally and grouper call this vibrant reef home as well.
Elephant Head Rock
The east side of the world-famous Similan Islands are known for their fringing coral reefs and pinnacles. The west side is very different, but no less fascinating. Here, large granite boulders create a wonderful playground for divers creating canyons and swim-throughs galore to enjoy. The most iconic dive site of this type in the Similan Islands is the aptly named Elephant Head Rock. As if the dive site itself weren't enjoyable enough, this is also a good site for shark encounters.
Another dive site on the west coast of the Similan Islands, Christmas Point is a real favourite. Wind your way through a maze of boulders and swim-throughs often awash with glassfish, all the while marvelling at soft corals radiating pinks, purples and oranges. Keep your eyes peeled for ribbon eels, nudibranch and pipefish, but don’t forget to look to the blue on occasion to look for passing a eagle ray or leopard shark! A dive site not to be missed.
Lying far to the north of the Similan Islands group and southeast of the Surin Islands is Richelieu Rock, possibly Thailand’s most renowned dive site. This horseshoe-shaped limestone pinnacle is an absolute treasure. Corals cling to every crack and crevice while a staggering diversity of marine life is seen here.
The star of the show for lucky divers however is the mighty whale shark. These gentle giants can be seen almost anywhere on the Andaman coast, particularly between February and May, but the best chance to encounter one is, without doubt at the mighty Richelieu Rock dive site.
Both resort-based diving and liveaboard diving are available in Thailand. Day boat trips explore the dive sites around Phuket and Ko Phi Phi, while it is possible to visit the Similan Islands on a fast and comfortable catamaran from Khao Lak with Sea Bees Dive Centre.
To see the very best of the Similan & Surin Islands, we recommend a liveaboard, with options available to suit a range of budgets, and between three and seven days in duration.
To discuss your Thailand adventure, get in touch with our friendly team today!