BEST DIVING TIP
A 4 x night, 14 x dive liveaboard to the Similan Islands including Richelieu Rock, then back to Phuket, followed by a 2 x day, overnight, 7 x dives including 1 x night dive trip to the Phi Phi Islands. November to April.
THAILAND AT A GLANCE
Thailand is a wondrous kingdom, featuring Buddhist temples, exotic wildlife, and spectacular islands. Along with a fascinating history and a unique culture that includes delectable Thai food and massage, Thailand features a modern capital city, and friendly people who epitomize Thailand’s “land of smiles” reputation.
Located in the centre of Southeast Asia, Thailand is truly at the heart of the region. Looking over a map of Thailand will reveal a country whose borders form the rough shape of an elephant’s head.
While religion in Thailand is centred around Buddhism, people in Thailand have compassion and tolerance towards any religion and welcome others to study Buddhism or learn to meditate.
The best scuba diving areas are the Similan Islands off the west coast and the islands off Koh Lanta in the south west. There are also other dive sites off Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Krabi, all located in the south west, and a few off the east coast around Koh Samui.
The Similans are part of an archipelago of 9 small granite islands located some 90km northwest of Phuket, and can lay claim to the best diving Thailand has to offer. The dramatic underwater terrain is highlighted by thriving reefs and abundant soft corals, and the tremendous diversity of marine life includes many of the more exciting and larger pelagic.
The best way to dive the Similans is from a liveaboard. Most offer a 4 night 5 day trip, whilst some of the larger and faster boats will extend this to include trips up to Koh Bon and Koh Tachai and Koh Surin Marine National Park, which includes the renowned Richelieu Rock, and even further north to the Burma Banks. Diving these outlying islands is best done from later in November to April.
Liveaboards vary in size and quality. Many offer 3 standards of cabins from double en-suite, down to 2 or 4 sharing a cabin with shared bathrooms. These are perfect for couples and friends who are happy to meet people from all over the world, but they are not suited to larger groups. There are several larger and more upmarket boats that offer a similar cabin standard throughout, featuring en-suite with air-conditioning.
What comes into the mind of travellers when we talk about sea, sun and sand? Phuket must definitely be one of the answers. A number of exciting activities can be found on this island. The island's long history has shaped the Phuket of the present with its diverse ethnic groups, culture, architectural influence, and fine cuisine. These attributes have made Phuket a complete tourist destination that offers a lot more beyond its natural heritage of sea, sand and forest. The 3 main beaches of Phuket are Patong in the north, Karon in the middle and Kata in the south. Patong Beach is the main and busy tourist hub, with many hotels, clubs and restaurants, beautiful sandy beaches and plenty of in-water and on-land tourist attractions.
For a more tranquil stay, look at Kata and even Karon.
Serious divers will treat Phuket as a place to stopover for a day or 3, for shopping, culinary and cultural experiences, but will generally give the very average dive sites a miss.
One of the most unique and attractive clusters of islands in the world, Koh Phi Phi is an idyllic island retreat that features a number of beaches that feature a variety of accommodation options and many outdoor activities.
Koh Phi Phi is the collective name for a small archipelago in Krabi Province just an hour boat ride from Phuket. Known as the 'jewels of the Andaman Sea', there are only 6 islands. Only Phi Phi Don is inhabited; all others are undeveloped and protected by their National Park status and are frequently visited as day trips from Phuket, Krabi, and Phi Phi Don. Phi Phi Ley was featured in the Hollywood blockbuster movie The Beach, a story about the ultimate secluded island beach. The waters surrounding the Phi Phi Islands are filled with exotic marine life, including docile leopard sharks, and snorkelling and diving day trips rival lounging on the beach as top activities on Koh Phi Phi. Koh Phi Phi also features a vibrant nightlife, with Tonsai Beach containing dozens of beach bars and restaurants and lively Tonsai Village consisting of a maze of shops, bars, and restaurants. Smaller beaches around the island are alternatively ideal for honeymooners, families, those on a budget, and those looking for the ultimate luxury resort retreat.
As one of the premier island destinations in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi features both five-star resorts and budget beach bungalows; and both raucous nightlife and secluded isolation, depending on which beach you choose to stay at. Nowhere in Thailand, perhaps the world, are there so many opportunities for visitors to find exactly the right beach holiday they are looking for within a setting of such spectacular natural beauty. Whether you enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling, or simply relaxing in a hammock, Koh Phi Phi has a beach that will exceed your wildest dreams.
A great way to dive the Phi Phi Islands is from Phuket on a 2 day, 1 night overnight trip. You dive on the way to Phi Phi, and on the way back the next day, yet you get the chance to experience island life and cuisine, and even a night dive.
Krabi is a growing tourist town that lies east of Phuket. As it has only more recently developed into a tourist destination, the hotels are mostly modern and beautifully designed, featuring many cascading swimming pools, beautiful gardens and modern decor. Scuba diving is concentrated south of the town around the islands of Koh Podah Nai and Nok, and the surrounding limestone outcrops. The dive sites are reached by the local day boats and are relatively shallow, making snorkelling a popular activity.
Koh Lanta is a 25 km-long island off the Andaman coast of Thailand, south of Phuket and Krabi. Renowned for its long beaches, quiet seclusion, and natural beauty both above and below the water, Koh Lanta is a beach lover’s and scuba divers paradise. The prime attractions on Koh Lanta are its long beaches, clear water, and laid back atmosphere. The west coast of Koh Lanta features nine beaches along its 25 km shore, most which are great for swimming and ideal for long, romantic walks and sunset views. It’s a great place for a family vacation or a romantic escape. The most developed areas of the island are on the northwest shore, particularly the beaches of Klong Dao and Long Beach (Phra Ae). Farther south the beaches become more secluded and the road terminates at a national marine park. In fact, beach hopping from north to south, either by rental car, motorbike, or long-tail boat is one of the great attractions of Koh Lanta. Diving and snorkelling is highly rated in the region, both from day boats and from the liveaboard boats that include the dive sites in their offerings. The variety of diving includes walls, fringing reefs, caves and a wreck, with abundant marine life including pelagics and dugongs. Avoid the monsoon season from May to October.