Beginners Guide To The Best Places For Scuba Diving In Thailand
Ever wanted to explore the world beyond the usual? Of course, you have. This is the kind of curiosity that led us to the moon and in the future, to even Mars. But unless you are a millionaire or an astronaut, it’s unlikely that you will explore space. What’s the next best thing you ask, the depths of the oceans?
The underwater kingdom, with its explosion of colors and rich marine life, is a whole new world. Scuba diving opens the door to this fascinating world. It’s a zen-like experience as you glide through the water, listen to your heartbeat and watch your breath taking the shape of bubbles.
If you want this surreal experience, look no further than Thailand. With its long coastline, innumerable islands and turquoise waters, Thailand offers some of the best scuba diving in the world.
Excited already? Let’s dive in deep and discover everything we need to know about scuba diving in Thailand. Contents
What are the different types of Scuba Diving?
One time dive experience (Discover Scuba Diving)
This is a guided program that teaches you the required skills to scuba dive. So you don’t need to possess any skills beforehand. After the training is done, you are directly taken for a dive in the sea. Sometimes a practice session is done in a pool before the dive. The activity lasts for half a day and depending on the operator, you might get from a single dive up to a maximum of 3 dives. The experience lets you dive up to a maximum depth of 12 meters.
- The minimum age limit for scuba diving is 10 years
- The program doesn’t require you to know swimming. It’s a bonus if you do, just helps in being more confident under water
Scuba Diving Certifications
These programs are ideal for those who want to take it a step further and learn advanced scuba diving. There are 3 types of courses:
Open Water Diver (OWD)
This is the most basic course to learn more about scuba diving. It combines classroom training and pool practice.Then it’s straight to diving in the ocean.
The course runs for 3 to 4 days during which you complete 4 to 5 open water dives and voila, you have become a certified open water diver. Once certified, you can dive anywhere in the world with a diving partner or a professional. The OWD certification lets you dive up to a depth of 18 meters ( 60 feet)
– Minimum age requirement to enroll for the course is 10 years.
– You should also be able to swim 200 – 300 meters non-stop as well as float and tread water for 10 minutes.
Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD): This is an intermediate level program which lets you dive up to a depth of 30 meters. You get a total of 5 dives over 2 days out of which 2 are mandatory dives and the rest are of your choice. To be eligible for the advanced course, getting the OWD certification is mandatory.
Divemaster: This course is for those who want to become professional instructors. The course fine tunes your diving skills, provides dive knowledge and teaches rescue and supervision skills.
Best Places for Scuba Diving in Thailand
Scuba diving in Thailand happens on the southwest and southeast regions. The best destinations to scuba dive in the southwest are Similan islands, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe. Other diving destinations are Phuket and Krabi.
The Southeast also has stunning dive locations. Koh Tao is the best among them. Other diving destinations are Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.
Let’s look at each of these awesome places.
Koh Tao is one of the best and the cheapest place in Thailand to scuba dive. Its underwater landscapes are teeming with vibrant corals and a variety of reef fish. It’s one of the few places to watch whale sharks, leopard sharks and bull sharks from close quarters.
The island is ideal if you are looking for a relaxing getaway from the tourist hotspots. One can laze on its white sandy beaches or trek through tropical jungles during the day. Nights are for bar hopping and getting sloshed with strangers.
Koh Samui is the second biggest Island in Thailand and the most expensive place to do scuba diving. The corals around here are home to a variety of fauna and deeper dives let you come face to face with stingrays and barracudas.
Being one of the most visited islands, Koh Samui has something to offer to everyone. It has uber luxury resorts and spas if you are looking for detox sessions. Nature lovers can escape into lush rainforests and secluded beaches. The nightlife is happening with beach bar parties and fire shows.
Krabi is a mainland paradise with scenic beaches, craggy limestone cliffs and countless offshore islands. Needless to say, it has loads of diving opportunities. Diving in these waters can expose you to a diverse marine wildlife, right from squids to stingrays to black tip reef sharks.
Apart from being a good diving spot, Krabi is a great place to go to if you are looking for a laid back vacation. One of the biggest attractions here is the stunning Railay beach – it is surrounded by towering cliffs on all sides. Krabi also has scenic mangroves to explore. Nights here are rather mellow compared to the other southwest islands.
Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is a popular dive destination near Phuket with tons of easily accessible dive sites. The diving experience here is much better compared to Phuket or Krabi.
Koh Phi Phi’s dramatic landscapes were first made famous by the movie “The Beach”. The narrow strip of land between two picturesque bays has now seen plenty of hotels, restaurants, and bars come up. Tourists dive into the azure waters during the day and party all night long, just to repeat it all over again.
The sin city of Thailand is known to one and all, courtesy its nightlife. It’s not as well known as a scuba diving destination though there are quite a few dive sites around Pattaya. If you have time, then it would be best to check out the other islands for a better experience.
Apart from scuba diving, Pattaya is a hotbed for adventure sports, right from the high adrenaline ones like skydiving and bungee jumping to milder ones like zip lining. There are beaches too, but they remain crowded throughout the year.
Phuket is the largest Island in Thailand and the most commercial one. Scuba diving happens in Phuket, but is best done at the nearby islands of Similan and Koh Phi Phi. Being a tourist hotspot, Phuket offers all kinds of experiences to its travelers. It’s the perfect destination to enjoy beaches and relax in cozy resorts. The nightlife here is almost as crazy as Pattaya, so party animals are sure to get hooked. Similan Islands is undoubtedly the best scuba diving destination in Thailand and one of the best in the world. There are numerous excellent dive sites here. The underwater topography is vivid and colorful with rich corals and granite boulders. The visibility here is just outstanding and one can spot a variety of fishes frolicking in the waters. One can do a day trip to Similan from Phuket or Krabi, but it would be pretty hectic. The best option would be to either go for multiple-day cruises along the islands or camp on Similan itself. Koh Lanta is one of the lesser explored islands in southwest Thailand. If you are looking for a quiet, idyllic vacation, then look no further. Lanta also happens to be an amazing scuba diving destination. Some of its dive sites are world class and on par with Similan islands. Diving here opens you to the world of steep walls and violet corals. The visibility is clear and one can spot whale sharks, grey reef sharks and manta rays. Most travelers who land up here just lounge on its serene beaches, gaze at spectacular sunsets and hike through mangroves. Nights are spent enjoying drinks at beachside bars.
Phuket is the largest Island in Thailand and the most commercial one. Scuba diving happens in Phuket, but is best done at the nearby islands of Similan and Koh Phi Phi.
Being a tourist hotspot, Phuket offers all kinds of experiences to its travelers. It’s the perfect destination to enjoy beaches and relax in cozy resorts. The nightlife here is almost as crazy as Pattaya, so party animals are sure to get hooked.
Similan Islands is undoubtedly the best scuba diving destination in Thailand and one of the best in the world. There are numerous excellent dive sites here. The underwater topography is vivid and colorful with rich corals and granite boulders. The visibility here is just outstanding and one can spot a variety of fishes frolicking in the waters.
One can do a day trip to Similan from Phuket or Krabi, but it would be pretty hectic. The best option would be to either go for multiple-day cruises along the islands or camp on Similan itself.
Koh Lanta is one of the lesser explored islands in southwest Thailand. If you are looking for a quiet, idyllic vacation, then look no further. Lanta also happens to be an amazing scuba diving destination. Some of its dive sites are world class and on par with Similan islands.
Diving here opens you to the world of steep walls and violet corals. The visibility is clear and one can spot whale sharks, grey reef sharks and manta rays.
Most travelers who land up here just lounge on its serene beaches, gaze at spectacular sunsets and hike through mangroves. Nights are spent enjoying drinks at beachside bars.
Koh Lipe is an untouched piece of land at the southern end of Thailand. It has some of the most spectacular dive sites in Thailand with unique marine life species. Highlights include dugongs, sperm whales, minke whales and you can even spot seahorses hiding under purple corals.
Far from the madding crowd, the long and white stretches of Koh Lipe have managed to escape commercialisation. You can have beaches to yourself as there are hardly any tourists here. Best would be to discover this island on foot and mingle with locals.
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The difference between PADI vs. SSI?
PADI and SSI are just certification bodies and the scuba diving experience is identical irrespective of whom you choose to go with. The only difference is in the cost as SSI can be a tad bit cheaper.
How to choose a good scuba school
You are brimming with excitement at the thought of scuba diving and can’t wait to get started. That doesn’t mean you pick the first dive school that comes your way. Remember that the dive experience depends largely on the dive shop and the instructors they provide. So make sure you are convinced about the dive school before making the decision.
Here are some of the things to be kept in mind before selecting the right school for you.
Size of school: Schools can be classified into big, medium and Small.
- Big schools: These schools are for those who are comfortable underwater and don’t need personal attention. It’s ideal for those looking to meet new people as these groups tend to be large.
- Small schools: These schools are best for those new to scuba diving and are apprehensive about their first dive. There is close individual monitoring and the feeling of being safe all the time
- Medium schools: These schools combine the best of both worlds. In the sense, you get to meet enough people on the dive but at the same time, it isn’t overcrowded.
Internet Search: Research on the internet about dive shops and read reviews on popular websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp before signing up with a school
Time of diving: Another important factor in making the decision. Party lovers might find favor with schools that start in the afternoon, while early risers will choose to go early morning. The time of diving also depends on your arrival time at the destination.
Price: Rates do play an important role. Surely you don’t want to be ripped off, but at the same time, let price not be the sole deciding factor.
Preparing for Scuba and things you need to know
As awesome as scuba diving is, it can seem intimidating to many. It’s usually a fear of entering an unfamiliar territory. But there is nothing to worry. All you need to do is keep a few things in mind and you are good to go.
- If you are flying after a scuba dive, remember that it’s important to wait at least 18 – 24 hours after the last dive before taking a flight. Not following this thumb rule can be harmful and can even prove fatal
- Check your body for open wounds and cuts. Cover them up before the dive. The skin is prone to infections around corals
- Don’t dive with a cold or sinus infection. It will be dangerous to equalize the air pressure
- It helps if you are fit before a dive. Although not much of a physical activity, you don’t want to start gasping for air every now and then.
- Don’t binge drink the night before the dive. You don’t want to be dehydrated. At the same time, keep drinking water before and after the dive to avoid dehydration
- It is common for divers to have an urge to pee while under water. This is quite normal. Remember that there are only two types of divers –those who pee in their wet suit and those who lie about it
Now you know everything about scuba diving in Thailand. So strap on your gear and take that plunge.