Appleby's delight 2016
In the end we were delighted with the holiday.
Called the "land of a thousand smiles", in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand attracts millions of tourists year-round. With excellent underwater scenery and clear water, colorful tropical fish and corals, Thailand also welcomes thousands of divers. Various diving trips and numerous islands await divers of all levels
Best time to go: November - May
Thailand is definitely the right destination to explore on a short liveaboard trip. There are plenty of diving safaris with up to 4 nights on board here to make your holiday unforgettable
Although Thailand is famous for its short liveaboard trips, there is a selection of well-known classic diving safaris with 5+ nights on board. Make a difference in your life by taking a long diving trip in Thailand
Best time to go: December - April
The Kingdom of Thailand is often referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Smiles”, because you can always enjoy the gorgeous weather, the rich bounty of the warm Andaman Sea, and the great hospitality of the local people. Scuba diving is not limited to one specific area, but most of the top spots are located on the west coast. The most common routes for safari boats include the Similan Islands, including Richelieu Rock, and Burma Banks with the marvelous Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar. Liveaboard diving in this area is known for its safe and comfortable cruising and sailing environments.
The complex ecosystem of the Similan Islands in Thailand and the Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar is often referred to as the rainforest of the sea. Here you will see hard and soft corals, great variety of sea anemones. The communal structures created by polyps of hard corals produce various forms and sizes and eventually a coral reef is formed.
On the liveaboards, you will be able to encounter leopard sharks and whitetip reef sharks that are very common during the Similan trips. The safaris in Myanmar have many nurse sharks and silvertip sharks. Big schools of barracudas, turtles, blue-spotted rays, marble rays, and fantail rays can be seen at all Thailand destinations as well. If you are lucky you will even be able to see whale sharks and manta rays here, so keep your fingers crossed!
The Andaman Sea is full of diverse dive sites, but Thailand has plenty of islands, so most of the beautiful places are located far from shore. When thinking of the specifics of this destination, the wisest decision you can make is to go on a liveaboard to dive in Thailand. Safari diving here has its own particular features because it is shorter than you might have thought.
The common length for Thailand liveaboard diving is 5 days/4 nights. A shorter option of 3 days/2 nights is also available, as well as extended trips for 7 days/6 nights or 8 days/7 nights. The extended trips have 15 to 26 dives, while shorter safaris provide the opportunity for 7 to 11 dives.
There are more than 100 dive sites in Thailand, which have something for every diver. If you prefer walls, tunnels, and sharks, then you can go to Koh Haa or Hing Muang. For more diverse types of sharks, visit the famous Shark Cave. The Phi Phi Islands are also very popular with divers who enjoy macro photography and sharks.
The Similan Islands are well-known for everything that you may want to see, from coral walls and beautiful landscapes to tiny nudibranchs and graceful manta rays. If you visit the Similans on a liveaboard, you can visit Richelieu Rock and East of Eden, which are the 2 most famous dive sites in all of Thailand.
The annual average for water temperatures in Thailand is 38°C/100°F, but the water temperature may go as low as 19°C/66°F during the colder season. Similar to other island countries, Thailand has two main seasons: the dry season and the wet season. The dry season lasts from November to April. March is the hottest month, and the temperature may go higher than 40°C/104°F in some areas. If you are particularly susceptible to motion sickness, then you need to choose the dry season, because the seas are the calmest during this period. During the dry season, we recommend that you choose liveaboard trips to the Similan Islands, Surin, and the Hin Daeng/Hin Muang dive sites. February through April is the best time to enjoy seeing giant manta rays and whale sharks in the Similans.
The wet season, which is also commonly known as the green season, starts in May and ends in October, and brings heavy rains to Thailand. The air and water temperatures drop to their lowest points during this time. If you travel during the wet season, be ready for rocking and tossing, and also know that many marine reserves will be closed in the Andaman Sea. So if you decide to visit during the wet season, it is best to visit the Gulf of Thailand on the east side of the country. The best diving spots during the wet season are around Koh Tao, Phuket, and the Phi Phi Islands, although be aware that these places can be pretty crowded.
There are two main types of Thailand liveaboard diving trips, namely the Similan Islands and Mergui Archipelago. The latter is in fact called the Burma Banks because most of its route is located in the territory of Burma, which is now officially called Myanmar.
The Similans have about 20 of the most famous dive sites and are the best destination in Thailand to visit during the dry season. The most famous dive sites here include Richelieu Rock, with its amazing micro and macro world for photographers and whale sharks, Fantasea with manta rays, and Koh Tachai, which is famous for its numerous canyons covered with large sea fans. During the dry season, be ready for lower visibility here (20-30 m/66-98 ft) due to the large amount of plankton in the water, which is a trade-off for the larger number of diverse marine inhabitants that are attracted by the extra food.
The Mergui Archipelago in Myanmar offers diversity even for very experienced and sophisticated divers. This place is less popular than the Similans, and is much less crowded. The best time to go to Mergui is also Thailand’s dry season. The Mergui Archipelago has diving spots for all levels of divers, from beginners to advanced, due to the large depth range (10-40 m/33-131 ft). The 3 most popular dive sites for safari boats here are Shark Cave (nurse and gray reef sharks), Western Rocky Island (great for the rainy season with huge lobsters and wrasses), and North Twin in the Twin Islands (amazing mantas and eagle rays).
The Andaman Sea is pretty warm, but if you plan to dive more than twice a day, you may get chilled. The optimal suit is a 3-5 mm wetsuit, depending on your personal thermal preferences. Tanks here are made with A-clamp international valves (YOKEs), so if you have a DIN regulator, make sure to bring your own adapter. Most tanks are 12-liter aluminum tanks. If you require a higher capacity you can also rent a 15-liter tank, but make sure to book your rental in advance. Nitrox is available for an extra charge, but not all boats have it. If you want nitrox, verify that it is available on your specific liveaboard before you book your trip.
If you are coming into an international airport in Thailand with a passport from one of 52 specified countries (including the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, some European countries, and South Africa) that are granted a visa exemption, then you will be able to stay in Thailand for 30 days without obtaining a visa. If needed, you will be able to extend your stay for 7 more days at any immigration office. Tourists with passports from some countries in the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Africa may have more stringent requirements to get visas. Please check the tourist visa requirements for your country. All tourists are allowed to bring 200 cigarettes or 250 grams of tobacco or an equal weight of cigars, and 1 liter of liquor.