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Thailand Diving

With its flour-white tropical beaches, mountains, temples, national parks, fabled cuisine, illustrious history and a strong culture undiluted by foreign colonialism, Thailand can be all things to all people.

Although main-stream tourism has arrived in some areas, a little effort will take you off the beaten path to a land of exceptional geographical and ethnic diversity.

This country of kaleidoscopic impressions and colours also offers outstanding opportunities for divers. Located at an oceanic crossroads (the Gulf of Thailand is ultimately connected with the Pacific Ocean, while the Andaman Sea forms part of the Indian Ocean) there is a surprising diversity of marine life.

Divers can expect an impressive concentration of large fish and pelagics, including Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, Whaleshark and Leopard Shark.

The best diving is on the west side of the southern Isthmus in the Andaman Sea, and the best of that is reached by liveaboard dive boat - although there are also some very nice spots around many of the southern islands or accessible by day boat trips from centres such as Phuket and Krabi.

The Similan & Surin Islands, which can be dived over 4 days to a week by liveaboard, coupled with Richelieu Rock -- famed for its frequent visiting whalesharks -- are the best of Thailand's best. Spectacular both above and below the water, the islands sport superb white sand beaches and unspoiled nature. Beneath the surface the terrain is strewn with coral boulders encrusted with brilliant hard and soft corals, offering great swim throughs.

Fish too are in abundance, from the small to the very biggest, with Mantas and Whalesharks often visiting.

Koh Phi Phi is one of the most picturesque islands in the world. You'll marvel at the stunning movie-set, desert-island scenery both above and below the waterline. Phi Phi scuba diving offers more than 15 different sites with many walls, caves and caverns.

However, the southeast monsoon that blows in from mid May until mid October make all but the very sheltered spots undiveable during summer. It is better to head to the Gulf of Thailand to the east side of the isthmus where the most notable dive sites are around Koh Tao, a boat ride north of the popular tourist island of Koh Samui. The Gulf enjoys a micro climate roughly the opposite to the Andaman Sea with the rough conditions coming around December and January.