Thailand’s Andaman Sea and Similan Islands are world famous for liveaboard diving, expect beautiful coral reefs, mantas and even whalesharks.
Diving is one of the most popular activities is Thailand, all levels of divers drawn to the calm, warm waters and rich variety of marine life. Diving is on offer all over the country but liveaboard diving is concentrated on the west side in the Andaman Sea. The islands and rocky outcrops in these waters are home to some of the most fascinating marine life in Thailand. Some are accessible from land but the more remote areas like Richelieu Rock are much better from a diving cruise as they are several hours from land. Most diving liveaboard itineraries take between 4 and 10 days depending on how many places you want to visit.
Those who want the experience of a traditional Southeast Asian sailing boat can choose between the atmospheric, if slightly older, ‘The Junk’ and the traditional but luxurious SY Diva Andaman. Divers looking for simple backpacker style, will enjoy the Flying Seahorse. The MV Deep Andaman Queen, MV Andaman Tritan and Marco Polo are more modern with spacious cabins and bright windows. At the luxury end, you can travel in complete comfort on the Thailand Aggressor with a stylish sundeck and private bathrooms in the cabins.
Thailand is world famous for having ideal conditions and spectacular marine wildlife. The macro life in Thailand is amazing, the coral gardens and pinnacles are buzzing with life. There is so much going on divers can just sit and watch the action. Anemone can be found all over, with resident clownfish as well as an abundance of seahorses and pipefish of all shapes and sizes. This is of course in addition to huge numbers of reef fish like triggerfish, parrotfish and the curious looking boxfish.
One reef fish in particular, the cleaner wrasse, is abundant in Thailand which is good news for divers. The wrasse encourage bigger pelagics like mantas and whale sharks to use the reefs and pinnacles as cleaning stations. There are other sharks on the reefs as well, black and white tipped reef sharks and guitar sharks can be found in many places.
BEST TIME TO GO
November to April
The best time to go diving in Thailand is November until April, particularly for liveaboards on the west coast. During this period the water is very calm and despite a few plankton blooms visibility is still around 82-92 ft. (25-30 m). Liveaboard diving outside of these times is rare with many of the best sites unreachable due to weather conditions.
Whale shark season in Thailand is between February and April when these giants can be spotted cruising past the cleaning stations. This is also the perfect time to see mantas, who are following the plankton bloom.
Most diving liveaboards that visit the Similan Islands and the North Andaman Islands depart from Khao Lak or Phuket. Phuket airport is around an hour and a half from Khao Lak, most of the liveaboard companies will offer free transfer from the airport or a local hotel. The Flying Seahorse and Marco Polo both provide transfers but for an extra fee. It is also possible to book private transfers or take the local bus although with dive equipment in tow this can be more difficult.