Best Diving in the World

Taking adventure to new heights at Railay Beach, Krabi 
Taking adventure to new heights at Railay Beach, Krabi 

From the depths of the blue seas to the heights of the jungle canopy walks, marine and adventure lovers will find the perfect, natural Thai high. Thailand has some of the best diving in the world, and it’s all within easy access of its most popular beach resorts, including Phuket and Koh Samui.

Starting in the Gulf of Thailand, you’ll find Mu Koh Chumphon, and its jewel in the crown, Chumphon Pinnacle, accessible on the west coast from Chumphon, it is usually also included on a day’s diving itinerary by many of the dive centres on Koh Tao. 

This is a huge granite pinnacle that starts at 15 metres and drops down to 35 metres, covered in hard and soft corals. Here you’ll find batfish, enormous groupers, bull sharks, reef sharks and other large fish in the deeper areas and in the shallows, the pinnacle is covered in purple, pink and red anemones, teeming with clownfish, schools of banner fish, yellow boxfish and surgeon fish.

Over to the west of the Thai Peninsula in the Andaman Sea lies Thailand’s most renowned Marine National Parks; Mu Koh Similan and Mu Koh Surin – about six hours cruising from Phuket or four from Khao Lak. 

Diving in this area you may be lucky enough to see manta rays cruising through, but you’ll certainly find turtles, and some of the biggest giant morays you’ll ever see. Mix in the powder-blue surgeon fish, white collar butterfly fish and black tail angel fish and you’re in for a visual feast.

The pinnacle, literally, of the trip will be Richelieu Rock, a rock so famous it even has its own website. A large horseshoe-shaped rock, completely submerged, Richelieu is home to everything from the smallest ghost pipefish to hordes of batfish, schools of swirling snapper, and giant cuttlefish.

Down south, Koh Phi Phi is a sun-drenched island synonymous with speedboats and glamour. The terrain here, tall limestone pinnacles, was made famous by movies including The Beach, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The range of diving is immense, from easy snorkelling in Lana Bay on the north-western tip of Koh Phi Phi, to Bida Nok, which offers a most dramatic marine topography: caves, swim throughs, drop-offs and overhangs.

All around Phi Phi Ley are steep walls and coral bommies with an amazing number and diversity of smaller creatures like nudibranchs as well as the usual colourful reef fish like butterflyfish, coralfish and parrotfish.

Save the most relaxing until last: Koh Rok is a pair of limestone islands 30 kilometres south of Koh Lanta. The islands have no resorts, so most visits are arranged as a day trip, with buffet lunch on the beach. The islands are surrounded by pristine, hard coral reefs in warm, crystal-clear waters. There is a square-kilometre of reef, which can be snorkelled or dived. 

Above water, Thailand has plenty of extreme sports activities to keep your adrenalin pumping. From north to south, Thailand has many national parks to explore on a hiking tour through the thick lush rainforest of Chiang Mai, Kanchanaburi, Khao Yai, Mae Hong Son and Mae Sot. In Khao Sok National Park, you can combine a hike through the jungle with a kayak across Cheow Larn Lake, staying overnight on floating luxury tents.

In Krabi, Koh Chang, Pattaya and Kanchanaburi test your fear of heights at Tree Tops Adventure Parks. The parks have a range of challenging courses that take in the surrounding terrain, with high-ropes courses and some of the longest ziplines in the country, taking you flying through the rainforest canopy.

In Phuket the adventurous will love the Flying Hanuman – an eco, zipline adventure that has been established with great care to not harm the trees it uses or the species that inhabit the thick, 80,000 square-metres of forest. Visitors are harnessed safely on either the wooden walking platforms or the ziplines. For more ziplines or an obstacle course in the treetops, head to the Flying Squirrel in Chiang Mai. Visitors can bike high in the treetops or slide down the enormous trunks of ancient trees. 

Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures can give you a go at climbing Crazy Horse Bluff in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s most challenging rock-climbing course, or head underground to try your hand at caving. With the Underground Gibbon tour, you
can even combine a morning of caving with an afternoon flying through the treetops with The Flight of the Gibbon.

The rock formations of the beautiful Krabi Province make for exhilarating rock-climbing and cliff-diving – the setting for the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. Krabi’s sharp cliffs and walls of rock present unique challenges to divers as they face tides, ocean currents and a steep rocky ascent into the warm waters of the Andaman Sea. Krabi’s limestone cliffs were formed 300 million years ago and human habitation in the area dates back 40,000 years. 

Paragliding is another popular option to get the blood pumping in Rayong, Chumphon and Phuket. Beginners are encouraged to start in Rayong where Thai Gliding School start all new paragliding students. The training hill is said to be one of the best in the country with gentle, unobstructed slopes and consistent conditions.

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