Scuba diving in Thailand has always been a hit with both newbies and seasoned pros. But with so many dive sites to choose from, just how does one get started on planning a dive trip to Thailand? If you’re zooming in on places like Phi Phi, the Similan Islands, and the world-famous Richelieu Rock, bookmark this guide to the West Coast’s most prominent dive sites and islands.
Koh Bida Nai and Koh Bida Nok are Phi Phi’s most popular dive sites. Look forward to plenty of walls covered with stunning soft coral, caves, caverns, rock formations, and swim-throughs. There are lots of lionfish in the area so watch yourself (and your dive buddy) when you’re in the water.
Hin Muang & Hin Daeng
Divers that’ve been to both Similans and Hin Muang and Hin Daeng claim these two dive sites are the best in South Andaman, even when compared to the renowned Richelieu Rock (see below).
These two dive sites are submerged reefs out in the open sea – Hin Muang means ‘purple rock’ and Hin Daeng means ‘red rock’. As the names suggest, the outcrops are covered with purple and red soft coral respectively. They are both long rocks featuring pinnacles which reach depths of up to 30 metres. If you’re lucky, you might spot a whale shark or a manta ray, but you’ll most definitely be able to see big schools of fish in every direction, particularly fusiliers. Other species include rainbow runners, jackfish, batfish, wrasses, and even macro life such as nudibranchs and shrimps (popcorn, harlequin).
This group of five islands is home to a handful of amazing dive spots, including Koh Haa Neua’s The Chimney, Shark Point, and Koh Doc Mai. These sites are great for both wide-angle and macro photography. Also, at Koh Haa Yai, there’s an interesting dive site called The Cathedral – a shallow cavern where you can actually swim to the surface inside the cave.
This protected marine park has loads of dive sites worth exploring via liveaboard. On Island Number 5, there’s the coral-littered Anita’s Reef, and around other areas there are must-visit favourites like Elephant Head Rock and West of Six (aka West of Eden). It can be a hit-or-miss experience diving the Similan Islands as currents and surge can be incredibly strong.
The coral here, especially the hard coral, are relatively healthy. The site is filled with schools of rainbow runners, fusiliers, sweetlips, snappers, glassfish, and a couple of bumpheads. There’s also the beautiful Tachai pinnacle, which features huge rock formations, a beautiful coral garden, and a dizzying amount of batfish, barracuda, trevallies, snappers, bannerfish and the rare oceanic triggerfish.
Richelieu Rock is extremely well-loved by many and it’s easy to see why it’s one of Thailand’s best dive sites. The limestone formation that’s known as Richelieu Rock is home to a spectacular array of schooling fish and gorgeous soft coral. In a single dive, you could easily spot groupers, barracuda, fusiliers, trevallies, rainbow runners, moray eels, cuttlefish, and harlequin shrimp.