Wedged between the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, the kingdom of Thailand is blessed with numerous tropical islands, inlets and coves that yield an amazing collection of marine flora and fauna making it a divers’ mecca. This is one of the vantage points for visitors to Thailand especially those who have a keen interest in the sport of scuba diving. The main licensing board for scuba divers here is PADI which has its affiliate’s world wide. So if you have a diver’s license it is definitely recognized in Thailand which will enable you to rent the necessary equipment you require for any diving expedition in the Kingdom provided you remember to bring it along that is!
Avid scuba enthusiast who have no experience or are unlicensed can indulge in the many scuba diving courses in Thailand under the PADI license and be a certified diver in no time. These courses are available from most travel agents or at the islands on an ad hoc basis and prices range according to the skills you want to acquire as well as the location of the islands. There are also scuba diving tours in Thailand offered as part of an adventure tour in Thailand selection which can be arranged prior to your arrival on the islands. Prices mostly include equipment, boat transfers and meals as well as a dive instructor who will accompany the visiting divers. Making a choice on the type of scuba diving package in Thailand can be based on the type of boat you prefer, the number of accompanying divers per trip, other activities that are included with the package and the duration of the dive experience. Some packages throw in island hopping tours as well as jungle hikes if there are any on that particular island you are visiting as a complete package. There are also live aboard diving tours in Thailand where you can stay for a night or up to 2 weeks onboard a comfortable cruiser inclusive of full board meals.
Some of the great dive sites in Thailand include the marine parks located near Koh Samui, Phi Phi Don, the Similan and Surin Islands. Waters here are crystal clear with clarity up to easily 20 meters or more and is rich with hard and soft coral formations. The best times to visit these islands is between February and March where the seas are calm and mirror like making it the best time for clear water diving. These are also some of the best places where you can get the chance to spot the giant mantas as well as whale sharks that prefer the climate of these waters around the islands. These dive sites are notably the best in the world especially the Similan Archipelago and the Surin Archipelago. It is not uncommon to get sightings of white and black tip sharks, trigger fish and other reef fishes amongst the abundance of table and stag horn corals. Divers will also be delighted with the variety of soft corals and nudibranchs that make for great underwater photography. Underwater photography in Thailand is a popular past time especially in the Similan Islands where the rich marine life and superb coral formations as well as the amazing topography offer great photo opportunities even for the novice underwater photographer. Popular place at Similan Island include the Elephant Head and Christmas rock formations.
Other interesting dive destinations are the Surin islands where the most popular site is the Richelieu Rock that is a marine reserve. Again there is an abundance of marine life and unusual coral formations that makes this place a favorite among divers. This is reputed to be the best place where whale sharks are regularly spotted and a great place to dive among sea fans, 1 meter long groupers and other pelagic life. Shoals of Barracudas can also be regularly seen and diving among the many soft corals and sea sponges teeming with coral and reef fishes is a delight. Divers will also be able to see nurse sharks, mantis shrimps and manta rays on their dive expeditions so the only thing you will ever need to bring along with you is your dive license and a lot of time for diving! If you are into macro marine photography then check out the seahorses, cuttlefish and octopuses as well as the moray eels who are ever willing models in the underwater world. You may have seen loads of really great pictures on this so why not make some of those pictures yours and get the bragging rights for it!
The Surin Islands are also well known to have one of the premier hard coral reefs for diving in Thailand. Chances of seeing turtles on your dive expedition to these islands are also high as well as the rarely seen Napoleon Wrasse, Tomato Anemone Fish, Bump head Parrotfish and the Yellow-mask Angelfish. White tip reef sharks are also a common sight here where there are many shallow reefs and sand bars that make it their playground. Currents are a little stronger in the deeper parts of up to 31 meters and the rough seabed is home to the Cowries, Ghost pipe Fish and grey reef sharks. Beware the Titan Triggerfish who are rather aggressive when breeding and have a nest full of eggs. They have been known to bump diving tanks and chase off unwanted visitors!
A tour of the Surin Islands even with a non-diver to accompany is not boring for the non-diver. There are still plenty of other activities which are normally included in a dive package to Surin Island which includes island visits and snorkeling opportunities in the shallow waters closer to the island shores. Most of these islands are inhabited and the wildlife here is in its natural environment which means you get to spot some very unusual wildlife if you explore the islands. You might even be lucky to watch the turtle do their ritual egg laying on the beach as this is one of the migratory routes for sea turtles such as the green sea turtle. Diving in Thailand could never be completed with just one visit which is why divers return year after year to these beautiful islands and marine parks ceaselessly. It can be almost addictive and just might make you wish for an eternal dive holiday until reality sets in!