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With a world of dive experiences as exotic as its culture, Thailand will challenge you with an amazing array of diving destinations to choose from. The diving here is typically good all year, but the Gulf of Thailand is at its peak from May through September while you'll find the best diving from October through April in the Andaman Sea. The Andaman Sea is primarily accessed by live-aboard and has the most well known diving spots and best visibility. Phuket is the base for many of these live-aboards and is also home to a some great sites. Phi Phi, Krabi, Koh Lanta Yai and Koh Lipe are also excellent and popular diving destinations. The southern Gulf of Thailand has its own selection of top diving sites, and the season generally runs from December to September. This is where you will find the incredible islands of Koh Tao, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui. The coast off the north of Thailand is the place to go for wrecks and operates year-round. In any season, you'll be warmly welcomed because the Thai people are famously friendly. You'll need to schedule time away from the water, too. Sample Thailand's legendary nightlife, like the Full Moon Parties or the beaches of Pattaya or Phuket. Or hit the countryside for elephant excursions, golden temples, exotic cultural dances and, in the markets, your senses will swirl in opulent aromas.

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Destination Information

When to go:

The diving here is typically good all year, but the Gulf of Thailand is at its peak from May through September while you'll find the best diving from October through April in the Andaman Sea.

Marine Life Seasons:

Whale sharks February-April.

When to Get the Best Deals:

June for the center of the country.

What to Pack:

3/2 mm wetsuit in summer; 5 mm in winter, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, comfortable shoes that can get wet for hiking, DAN card, long sleeved lightweight shirts, long trousers for cool nights, a light jacket for cool evenings, small medical kit.

Water Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 25°C/76°F in winter and 30°C/86°F in summer.

Air Temperatures:

Seasonal averages: 22°C/72°F in winter and 33°C/93°F in summer.

Currency:

Bhat (THB). Credit cards are widely accepted.

Visa/Passport Requirements:

Valid passport; check with local immigration office for visa requirements.

Departure Tax:

Included in your airfare.

Immunizations:

None required, but antimalarial drugs are recommended. Check with the CDC recommendations.

What to Eat:

While you'll find wonderful Thai food everywhere, look for the specialty dishes in each region. In Phuket, try khanom cheen - noodles covered with a spicy fish flake curry served fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit. In Koh Samui, try one the spicy curries - red, green or massaman. Look for the local giant oysters - hawy chakteen - in Krabi.

What to Drink:

Cold drinks, served with lot of ice, are common in Thailand's warm climate. You'll find sweet ice tea or coffee everywhere and fruit-based drinks of countless combinations. Singha is the best-known Thai beer, but several other national and regional brews are readily available. Whiskey and other spirits, over ice, of course, are what the locals usually drink.

Top Adventures/Shopping/Culture:

Get a Thai massage at the beach; ride an elephant; hit the markets of Chiang Mai; go temple hopping through the many sacred temples with golden Buddhas; see a kick-boxing tournament in Bangkok.

Customs and Culture:

Thai people believe that life should be fun - they even have a name for it. Don't touch someone on the head and don't raise your feet higher than someone's head. Monks are not allowed to touch women, so give them some space in crowded areas.

Top Festivals/Events:

Phi Ta Khoon, June, where men dress as ghouls; Thai New Year, Songkran April; Loy Krathong ballon festival; Full Moon parties on Koh Phangan each month.

Electricity and Internet:

220V/50 HZ; Internet common in hotels and tourist areas.

Drink the water?

Bottled water is recommended.

Language:

Thai; English is also widely spoken in tourist areas.

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Amazing Marine Life

Banded Sea Snake:

One of the most poisonous and curious snakes on the planet, but not at all interested in biting divers.

Macro Life:

From pipefish to harlequin shrimp, Thailand's reefs are a feast for the macro hunter.

Manta Ray:

These giants soar like winged flying carpets feeding on plankton.

Whale Shark:

While the "whale" reference in its name refers to its mammoth size (up to 12 meters/40 feet), this spotted goliath is actually the world's largest fish.

Parrotfish:

These brilliantly colored fish do, indeed, possess remarkably parrot-like beaks that they use to grind coral structures so they can eat the soft coral animals inside.

Leopard Shark:

Docile, spotted and great photo subjects, leopard sharks are commonly sighted on Thai reefs.

Moray Eel:

Most often found in holes, caves, and wrecks, moray eels sometimes venture out so divers can see their entire snakelike length.

Sweetlips:

Named for its fleshy lips, this striking fish features wide black bands running the length of its body, alternating with black dotted lines against its white and yellow body.

Frogfish:

This highly decorative anglerfish can be found in a variety of vivid shades, from oranges to pinks, and boast frilly bait-like appendages with which to lure prey.

Sea Turtle:

Hawksbill and green turtles can be found swimming in leisurely fashion or napping under ledges on most reefs.

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Top Dive Spots

Richelieu Rock, Similans:

Renowned for encounters with whale sharks, this site consists of a horse-shoe shaped rock pinnacle surrounded by smaller limestone rocks, that are covered with anemones, sea fans, barrel sponges and soft corals. Look for tomato anemone fish, yellow boxfish, white-eyed moray eels, mantis shrimp, nurse sharks, manta rays, meter/yard-long malabar groupers, chevron barracuda, frog fish, seahorses, cuttlefish, and octopus.

Elephant's Head Rock, Similans:

Named for the shape of the submerged boulders here, this site in the Similan National Marine Park also features a group of pinnacles towering to the surface. The boulders create arches, caverns, gullies, swim-throughs and tunnels, sheltering egg cowries, sea fans, black coral, blue-ringed angelfish, Andaman sweetlips, bi-color parrotfish, yellow goatfish, snappers, lionfish, grouper, and turtles and reef sharks. The sandy bottom at 27 meters/90 feet boasts purple fire gobies, blue-spot stingrays, nudibranchs, and the rare McCoskers dwarf wrasse. Also watch for manta rays and whale sharks.

Chumpon Pinnacle, Koh Tao:

Take a boat 40 minutes north of Koh Tao and you'll find one of the Gulf of Thailand's best dive sites. Here, huge anemone-studded granite pinnacles are ringed by a series of smaller ones - all of which is attended tended by throngs of batfish, trevally and giant schools of both barracuda and snapper. The occasional whale shark and manta ray also come by for a visit. The pinnacles run from north to south in 14-38 meters/46-125 feet. As a bonus, just south of the main pinnacle is Barracuda Rock, where - as the name implies - large schools of great barracuda congregate.

South West Pinnacles, Koh Tao:

Regarded as one of the premier Gulf of Thailand dive sites, the largest pinnacle towers from a depth of 27 meters/90 feet to within 5 meters/15 feet of the surface, carpeted with magnificent anemones. Surrounding the main pinnacle are many smaller peripheral rock formations extending outwards. Enjoy abundant corals and large sea fans, schools of giant barracudas and the occasional whale shark visit.

Sail Rock, Koh Phangan:

North of Koh Phangan is Hin Bai, otherwise known as Sail Rock, this is one of Thailand's famous pinnacle dives known for the chimney carved through its center. Critters here include bearded scorpionfish, sea anemones and pink anemonefish while yellow margined morays, reef crabs and painted shrimp also abound. It isn't unheard of for divers to spot schools of great barracuda, big-eye jacks, tuna or rainbow runners so thick they eclipse the sun

Ang Thong, Koh Samui:

Ang Thong National Marine Park consists of 42 islands, with its two most popular dive spots being Koh Wao and Hin Yippon. Divers can enter shallow caves and wander through swim-throughs. Look for soft and black corals, banded sea snakes and turtles here. It is also one of the few places where a seasonal dwarf minke whale may be sighted.

Ko Ha, Krabi:

A series of underwater caves, connected by swim-throughs offer the opportunity to surface inside air pockets to view stalactites hanging from the cavern ceiling. Look for sea whips, porcupine fish, banded sea snakes, leopard sharks, lionfish, silver-lined barracuda, tuna, turtles, octopus, moray eels, silversides, glassfish, crabs, harlequin shrimp, squid, and lobsters, as well as more than 60 different coral species.

Siam Bay Statues, Phuket:

This may be the only place in the world where you can dive with elephants. The artificial reef here is actually a group of underwater statues, including two elephants, a large oyster shell, a temple gate guarded by a mythical giant sentry (known in Thai as Yak, and believed to protect the gate from evil spirits), and a Thai sala (pavilion). Also look for white-eyed moray eel, blue-spotted stingrays, garden eels, bent-stick pipefish and reef stonefish. The reef itself is comprised of staghorn and table corals, which harbor trumpet fish, lionfish, scorpionfish, titan triggerfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, puffer fish, schooling fusiliers and yellow-tail barracuda.

Hin Luk Bat, Koh Chang:

This site is considered a top destination for its numerous marine species and healthy soft corals. Massive boulders and a steep reef wall house sea whips, gorgonians, black coral, groupers, angelfish, clown fish, triggerfish and pelagic species.

HTMS Chang, Koh Chang:

This is a spectacular new wreck dive, sunk on the 22nd of November 2012, sits on the bottom at 30m, the topdeck on 21m, the captain's cabin at 12m, and the mast almost breaches the surface. The ship is 100 m long, making it the biggest wreck in Thailand. Only a short time after the sinking it many fish have taken refuge there already; barracuda, grouper, squid and octopus, batfish, shrimpfish make up some of the interesting diversity of marine life.

Hin Daeng:

Renowned for encounters with whale sharks and manta rays, this huge underwater rock formation lies within the Mu Koh Lanta National Marine Park. Enjoy red soft coral, schools of jacks and trevally, crocodile long toms, barracuda and large schools of fusiliers. The shallow rocks shelter shrimp, crabs, cowries and moray eels.

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