Diving in Thailand
Fancy going snorkelling or diving in Thailand? One of the biggest drawing factors for travellers to Thailand is its marine wealth. The sheer beauty and vastness of it. I mean, the UK has some great beaches, but Thailand has the weather to match it too. This is why a lot of my friends take that flight every year, from London to Thailand. Could you blame them? With an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahreinheit). Thailand is a great getaway from the rain and sludge of city life.
It presents visitors with a mixture of culture and madness. The culture being all the soul enriching activities such as meditation retreats that one can take part in. The madness being some of the soul destroying things others choose to do while here. No one is judging, we have different poisons. Thailand caters for all.
If you are a water person, and love a good snorkel or dive, this is the place to come. All throughout Thailand, you will be surrounded by clear water. Scuba diving and snorkelling are widely offer on all of the Thai coasts. You can rent or buy equipment, dependent on your need or budget.
For beginners, there are also diving schools that you can attend, to level up your skills before you go at it. The more seasoned among us may be up for a greater experience. This would mean taking a trip out to another coast or reef to dive. These are organised by various diving centres across Thailand.
Best time to go diving in Thailand
You can dive all year round in Thailand. This will come down to where you do the diving.
Between November and April, the Andaman Coast is the place to go.
Between January and October, the Gulf Coast is the place to go.
Before we dive deep into detail, let us make sure that you are aware of some responsibilities that you have as a diver. You are responsible for caring for the coral reef. The aim should always be to leave it no worse than you find it. This will include not encouraging locals to damage it by looking for souvenirs off it. Leave something for the rest of us to enjoy when you have left.
Getting Diving Kit
You will generally find that most diving schools and centres will offer you diving kit. This may be for use while diving with them or for sale. I do not know anyone who travels with their own diving kit, unless you are both rich and very serious about your diving. If you are looking to buy a kit in Thailand, about TB 1500 gets you a fairly good one.
For TB 50 (US$1.58), you can rent a mask and snorkel. All in all it will cost you TB250 (US$7.83), with TB200 (US$6.29) refunded to you when you return the kit. If you would like to rent full diving gear, which would include the wet suit and all, it will cost you TB600 (US$18.86) plus the deposit.
Before booking a diving course or trip, always ask if the costs cover the gear as well. It is a question that has saved a lot of people a lot of money.
Forgot you’re Go Pro? Fear not, most centres also offer you the chance to rent underwater cameras. They range between TB1000-1500 for the day, which is about US$32-48 at the time of writing.
Going diving in Thailand
There are various options for scuba diving in Thailand. You can go on a day trip. You may perhaps want to go on a night dive. There are also centres that offer a 2-7 day live board diving experience. This would take you diving off the Similan and Surin island, as well as Burmese islands. All of this would set you back THB 9000, which is about US$239 at the time of writing this.
Beginner friendly diving
Phuket diving is definitely the most beginner friendly. Some may argue that you could find the same at Khao Lak, Ao Nang, Ko Pho Phi, Ko Lantanas, Ko Tao and Pattaya. Perhaps it will come down to which cost you are staying at for your trip, if it is not just diving that you are in Thailand for.
With all that considered, Phuket definitely offer the most bang for your buck (affordable).
For TB1500 (US$48), you will get your fins wet. You will become familiarised with the skills that you would need to venture out.
For TB4500 (US$142), you will be trained and ventured out with an instructor. It is always very comforting to know that there is a more experienced person watching over your when you do this for the first time. Better safe than sorry.
If you are looking for a more in depth training, TB12 000 (US$378) gets you a 4 day training course. This will take you up to a level where you would be confident and competent enough to go diving without the watchful eye of your instructor.
Questions to ask a diving centre or instructor
Are you insured?
I don’t have to tell you how important this will become in the event of something going wrong. It is also worth getting your own insurance. You can do this for under TB50 (US$1.58) per day.
Are you a member of PADI?
P.A.D.I. is the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Members of this are expected to adhere to a certain standard. This is a standard that will give you peace of mind. Your instructor will have a good set of skills, conduct themselves in a professional manner and are capable fo safeguarding you.
If they are not a member of PADI, do not write them off. They may be a member of the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI), which is just as good.
You can also use these two organisations’ websites to find recommended instructors and centres, based on reviews and competence.
How big is the boat?
This may sound quite trivial. Safety matters! The size and quality of the boat that you take across to the diving spots is important. Make sure you see some photos of the boat. These are usually readily available. If not, that should be a red flag. People like to show their nice boats.
Also ask about the radio they use when out at sea. This may be the difference between waiting for someone to come and help and hoping someone passes by and spots you.
Also ask about emergency features on the boat.
Top Place to go snorkelling and Diving in Thailand
Koh Ngam Yai
Ao Nang Bay
You will often find it called Ao Phra Nang. I cannot tell you why. Ao Nang played second fiddle to Laem Phra Nang for a long time. This is largely due to the latter having better beaches. However, as with most tourist resorts, the get overrun with footfall and visitors. This is where Ao Nang has benefited. The atmosphere here is certainly preferred to that of Laem Phra Nang.
The water is glorious. The divers will find about ten shops that offer diving gear.