Diving in Thailand
Thailand has exceptional diving for every kind of diver, and distinct dive seasons. From November to April, the best dive conditions are found in the Similan Islands and the Andaman Sea. Although a chillier time of year (which means slightly less sultry than summer), the seas are calmest and it’s the best time of year to experience whale sharks and mantas.
Dive resorts with best access to the Andaman Sea can be found in the dive towns of Phuket, Khao Lak and at Koh Phi Phi, and there are loads of live-aboard options which give you the best access to the striking Similan Islands. These islands are known for their spectacular underwater vistas with vibrant and colorful reefs. Perhaps the most famous site in the region is Richelieu Rock. This site is emblematic of the region with whale sharks overhead and a seascape brimming with biodiversity. Clownfish are everywhere, white-eyed morays, mantas, massive groupers, cuttlefish, octopus and even frogfish. Schools of jacks swirl in the water column. It’s action-packed. The reef is crowded with fat barrel sponges, the entire color palette of soft corals, and forests of seafans and gorgonians. The entire chain of islands that make up the Similans feature one world-class dive after another, with top sites like Elephant Rock, Christmas Point, and Deep Six among others.
There’s also a special place to dive with elephants that swim from island to island in the Andamans.
The Gulf of Thailand, especially off the islands of Koh Phangan, Koh Tao and Ko Samui, the best season for diving is from February through May. Here, you get thick schools of barracuda over lush pinnacles. Whales sharks visit occasionally, and black tip reef sharks are common. Sail Rock and Shark Island bring in such unique marinelife as leopard sharks, bluespotted lagoon rays, and huge schools of fusiliers. The seascape sways with whip corals, sea fans and sponges and soft corals. Several areas feature long, dramatic swim-throughs and caverns. And, if you get the chance, explore the little dived coast off the North coast of Koh Tao.
If you visit Phuket, you’ll need to check out the Elephant Statues in Siam Bay, which was built after the tsunami.
Visibility in Thailand ranges from 70-100 feet depending upon plankton blooms and season, but generally its on the high-end of the visibility range. The water temperature ranges from 78°F to and warm 86°F. Check the current weather
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. All persons leaving the Thailand, pay a Government Departure Tax.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Thailand. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at
Culture and Customs
The Thai believe strongly in a concept called sanuk, an enviable ideal that life should be fun. Some social taboos you should know are that its considered rude to touch someone on their head, or placing one’s feet higher that someone’s head. Thai consider the foot the lowliest and head the most respected parts of the body, and they will even sit with their feet aimed away from others. Be sure to aim your feet away from images of Buddha in local shrines. Monks are not allowed contact with women, so females should make space in crowded areas. Architecture, art, etiquette and customs are strongly influenced by Buddhism. You’ll find huge statues of Buddha at temples throughout the country. Exotic festivals occur throughout the year. The Thai new year happens in April with the Songkran Festival, which is noted for water throwing. The June festival of Phi Ta Khoon sees the streets filled with men wearing ghost or ghoul masks. Perhaps the most elegant festival is Loy Krathong where hundreds of lit candles float away under leaf “balloons.” Secularly, Full Moon parties are held each month on the beaches of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand.
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Thailand is 220 volts, 50 cycles, so an adapter will be needed for US visitors. The
country code for Thailand is 66 and direct dial service is fast and clear. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs.
Internet service is sporadically available, but there are lots of internet cafes to support the thriving backpacker culture.
Water quality is fine in the larger hotels and resorts. Bottled water is recommended elsewhere.
Language & Currency
Thai the official language, English and French are also spoken.
The local currency is the Bhat (THB), check the current exchange rate
History, Art, and Culture
Lampang Man dates humans in Thailand to more than 500,000 years ago. Much of what we know about Thailand has been discovered since the 13th century, with a mix of cultures, rulers and kingdoms from the region living throughout the area. The original Tai people came from the Yunnan region of China. Burmese armies and European colonialism further shaped the region with a series of conflicts. With the myriad of influences, the art of Thailand manifests in everything from ornate guilded temples, full of statues representing gods, demi-gods, dragons and myths. Lacquer, murals and other mediums reflect these themes and are intricate and ornate. You will find more simple art in the form of pre-historic rock art found at archeological sites. Thai dancing is exotic, sensual and extremely formalized in its movements.