Why should you visit?
Thailand’s beautiful islands have fast become top destinations for most travelers; whether they are looking for unique, off-the-beaten-track holiday adventure, or just seeking their own oasis of serenity. On every count, these gorgeous islands running along the Gulf of Thailand and scattered in the clear, turquoise-colored waters of Andaman Sea offer some of the most authentic beach experiences and dive sites.
Best seasons for diving
It’s always a good time to head to Thailand unless you are on a tight budget and trying to avoid the inflated prices during high tourist season. The entire island boasts an impressive variety of marine life throughout the year which includes extensive fish species, turtles, and reef or leopard sharks that are commonly encountered and the rarer manta rays and whale sharks better spotted between February and May.
So depending on what time of the year you decide to take that vacation, you can always decide between the two main diving zones on either the East Coast, with the islands on the Gulf or the Andaman Sea on the West Coast which both have alternate peak seasons for diving since their rainy seasons differ.
If visiting either of the excellent Similan Island Liveaboard and Surin Islands, Phuket, Koh Phi Phi or Koh Lanta on the Andaman Sea, visibility for a great diving experience is best from the months of November to April; on the other hand, if visiting Koh Tao, Koh Chang or Koh Samui on the Gulf of Thailand, the best time to visit for prime diving conditions is between May and August.
While the exceptional Similan Islands and its lesser-known sister island up north, are a tourist favorite, offering a spectacular diving experience, the best way to explore them is with Liveaboards which mostly depart from Phuket and Khao Lak.
Choosing an island
Most diving reviewers agree that depending on what you are looking for, whatever island you decide to visit in Thailand offers a great dive experience. Some dive spots are specifically known to be easier to spot certain marine species, and while not all coasts offer wrecks to explore, most are suitable for scuba diving and offer interesting viewings underwater.
A few things to note would be that
Andaman Sea offers more expansive coral reefs than the Gulf of Thailand, but they both have similar levels of visibility in same seasons.
As an effect of the Southwest Monsoon, the sea floor and coral reefs on the Andaman Sea (on the West Coast) are prone to rocky slopes going downward up to 10-30 meters.
On the East Coast, the Similan and Surin Islands, with their very diverse marine life making them a popular day-trip destination for Phuket visitors, also have rocky outcrops underlying their ocean floors with reefs going downward even deeper (up to 25- 30 meters)
Diving Safety in Thailand
As with any holiday destination, there is need to purchase travel insurance when planning a trip to Thailand, more so even when your upcoming trip is a dive trip. It is advisable to invest in scuba diving specific travel insurance that offers worldwide coverage in case of an accident.
It is also important while in Thailand, to book tours with companies not offering the cheapest rates, but quality service. You would be wise ask your hotel or check the Tripadvisor rankings for trusted companies before booking a trip!