Thailand, “The Land of a Thousand Smiles”, a country proud of its unique landscape, of its tropical beaches and temples submerged by rainforests. But maybe most of all, its incredible underwater scenery. The surrounding waters boast some of the greatest diving opportunities in Southeast Asia, including large-scale creature encounters, micro-wonders and grand wreck sites. Thailand may just become your favourite dive destination, we bring you seven of the best places to dive in Thailand:

Koh Dok Mai

Translated to mean “Flower Island”, this picturesque micro-limestone-island has its peaks topped with tiny forests and its base with open caves. It is situated just over an hour away from Chalong Bay. Once you reach and suit up, you’ll be able to dive into waters that host a fantastic wall dive littered with macro marine life. For those that love the mini critters, and exploring the mucky seafloor, then we highly recommend this site.

© Wikimedia commons

© Wikimedia commons

Richelieu Rock

The site that is shaped like a horseshoe – a huge central pinnacle surrounded by smaller jutting rocks, where every centimetre has been colonised by something. From soft corals, anemones, barrel sponges and sea fans, it’s a free-for-all war for survival. Hovering above this ongoing land dispute; manta rays, whale sharks, barracudas and huge groupers weave around the rocks and offer divers a chance for incredible face-to-face encounters with marine life of the giant kind.

Koh Bida Nok

Hanging on to the southern shores of Phi Phi islands like two small outcrops sticking out from the turquoise-blue sea. Koh Bida Nok means “Outer Father” in Thai, and the site is protected by the Phi Phi islands national marine park. Here you can find black-tip reef sharks, Khul’s sting rays, turtles, leopard sharks, anemonefish, durban dancer shrimps, filefish and white-eyed moray eels, plus many more.

Sail Rock

Sail Rock is one of the most renowned diving sites in the Gulf of Thailand. Its sheer abundance of schooling fish have brought it fame and status in the Gulf. The large pinnacle which starts from above the waves provides a superb wall dive, and together with the surrounding pinnacles, Sail Rock offers an amazingly varied topography. Here you’ll find large barracuda and mackerel and many other types of marine life.

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Hin Muang (Purple Rock)

Thailand’s highest, and arguably most vibrant of vertical walls. The wall is the home of many purple soft corals, and one side of the submerged rock levels out around 60 metres and the other disappears into the abyss. A vast carpet of anemones cover shallower points of the reef while sea fans cling loosely to the steep walls, clinging on to avoid dropping into the abyss. This site is great for big fish, but also for macro life.

Hin Daeng (Red Rock)

Diving below to this submerged boulder pinnacle – where observing the bare rocks from above the water leaves you initially disappointed – will bring surprises like few can ever imagine. Coral landscapes that have more “in your face” colour than Koh San Road, standing as large psychedelic structures to the small-scale world that works alongside, a world that much diver-fanatics and macro shooters would spend an entire dive exploring. Those who desire the presence of something larger will be pleased to hear that the site is frequently visited by whale sharks.

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Similan Islands

The Similan Islands. It’s to Thailand dive tourism, what the colosseum is to Rome – the main attraction. The headline act. There are so many fantastic sites in this national park that we couldn’t just pick out a handful. Take a liveaboard boat’s cruise and dive into the marine world which offers leopard sharks, white tip and black tip reef sharks, batfish, moray eels, snappers, barracudas, triggerfish, surgeonfish and unicornfish – not to mention the huge (both in size and in numbers) corals that cover the seafloor. With the many beautiful and diverse dive sites in the region, Similan offers divers some of the best encounters in the coral triangle.