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Dive into Paradise: The Ultimate Guide to Liveaboard Diving in Thailand

by Max
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Dive into Paradise - Ultimate Guide to Liveaboard Diving in Thailand

Thailand is one of the most sought-after diving destinations in the world, and it’s no wonder why. With its stunning underwater landscapes, colorful marine life, and warm tropical waters – Thailand offers an unparalleled experience for both beginner and experienced divers alike.

Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a haven for liveaboard diving. From the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea, liveaboard diving in Thailand allows divers to maximize their time spent underwater – while allowing them to experience the country’s best sites.

For anyone looking to truly immerse themselves in all the offshore delights Thailand offers, a liveaboard diving trip is a perfect way to do it. Here’s an ultimate guide on making your dream of liveaboard diving in Thailand come true!

Liveaboards Reviewed in this Post

Best Liveaboard for Budget Travelers: Sawasdee Fasai

The Sawasdee Fasai takes you to all the best dive sites, including the Similan Islands, without breaking the bank.

Best Liveaboard for Mid-Range Affordability: The Junk

Don’t let the name fool you; The Junk liveaboard offers an exquisite experience for divers of all levels at a comfortable price.

Best Liveaboard for Extended Trips: The Phinisi

Explore the best of Thailand on this traditional phinisi boat and leave no stone unturned – creating an unforgettable vacation.

Best Liveaboard for Luxury: Giamani

With a range of itineraries and various modern amenities, the Giamani liveaboard provides an upgraded diving experience for those seeking a luxurious adventure.

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Why Thailand Is Great For Liveaboard Diving

Known as the ‘Land of Smiles,’ Thailand is a great place for divers to explore a stunning underwater environment. With over 1400 islands and some of the best marine conditions in Asia, diving in Thailand’s waters – whether by liveaboard or day trips – can be an experience of a lifetime.

Liveaboards are the best way to discover the many dive sites around Thailand. With the constant movement of the boat and the ability to explore farther away from shore, liveaboard trips provide a whole new level of discovery and adventure. Plus, liveaboard diving allows you to maximize your dive time, as you don’t need to worry about getting back on land for the night.

Let’s look at some of the many reasons why liveaboard diving in Thailand is an unforgettable experience.

Many Dive Sites to Explore

Within the two main areas, the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, there are over a hundred dive sites to discover. From shallower reefs with stunning hard coral formations to deep drop-offs, caverns, and pinnacles – you can explore it all in Thailand.

In addition, if wreck dives are your thing, there are plenty of sunken ships to explore too. Some of the best-known wrecks include the HTMS Kut, a WWII landing ship intentionally sunk in 2006 to mark the King of Thailand’s 60th year in power, and SS Suddhadib, sunk in 1945 after a suspected bomb attack.

Chance to Swim With Sharks

If shark diving is on your bucket list, you’ll be happy to know liveaboard diving in Thailand can provide the perfect opportunity. Off the coast of Thailand, you can spot various shark species. Nurse, bamboo, bull, and tiger sharks are just some of the larger pelagics that call the waters of Thailand their home.

Ideal Water Conditions

Underwater visibility is brilliant, ranging from 10 to 30 meters depending on the location and time of year. Water temperatures are also pleasant at around 80-86°F (27-30°C) year-round. As for water currents, you can expect minimal currents in most places. This makes for enjoyable, easy diving conditions. Some areas are more prone to strong currents, so it’s best to research the site before you head out on your Thailand liveaboard trip.

Perfect For Macro Divers

While Thailand is not part of the Coral Triangle, its close proximity means it is home to plenty of macro critters. Anemone shrimp, seahorses, frogfish, and nudibranchs are just some of the fantastic creatures you can expect to encounter on your dives. This underwater paradise is also home to many reef fish species, such as clownfish and parrotfish.

Affordable Liveaboard Options

The wealth of underwater and on-shore activities makes Thailand the perfect place for a liveaboard trip – and it is one of the more budget-friendly options. There are approximately 25 liveaboards operating in Thailand, ranging from basic boats to more luxurious vessels. Whether you are on a tight budget or looking for a touch of luxury, you can find a Thailand liveaboard that meets your needs.

Liveaboards vs. Thailand Dive Resorts

Thailand offers a huge range of dive resorts, so you may wonder why you should choose a liveaboard experience instead. Generally speaking, you are limited to the number of dive sites you can visit when staying at a dive resort. In contrast, liveaboard trips allow you to explore a much more comprehensive range – while taking you to each area as standard.

Liveaboards are also an excellent choice as the number of divers on the boat is limited, meaning you may have a quieter time underwater. Plus, you get to enjoy the company of your fellow divers and crew on board, so it’s a great way to make like-minded friends.

Things to Consider When Booking a Liveaboard in Thailand

Thailand may be a premier diving location, but it’s still important to research when booking a liveaboard. You should consider certain points to ensure you have the most enjoyable experience possible.

Locations Visited

As previously mentioned, diving in Thailand can be separated into two distinct areas – the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. Most Thailand liveaboards concentrate on the Andaman Sea, but you may be able to find one that ventures to the Gulf.

Make sure you check what your liveaboard offers and choose the itinerary best suited to your needs. With this in mind, let’s look at some of the best locations within each area.

The Andaman Sea

Stretching along the western side of Thailand, the Andaman Sea features some of the most popular dive sites around the country.

  • Phuket: Vibrant and colorful reefs, walls, and deep wrecks make this an excellent spot for diving.
  • Koh Lanta: Home to some of the most diverse and beautiful coral reefs in Thailand.
  • Similan and Surin Islands: These beautiful islands are known for their soft corals and large pelagic fish.
  • Richelieu Rock: Off Mu Koh Surin National Park coast, Richelieu Rock is known for its large population of whale sharks.

The Gulf of Thailand

The southwestern and northern sides of Thailand are home to the Gulf of Thailand, which also offers some excellent dive sites.

  • Koh Tao Island: Popular for its abundant sea life and easy-to-dive waters.
  • Koh Chang: With some awesome wreck dives, this more remote location is perfect for experienced divers.
  • Koh Samui: A prevalent location for both seasoned divers and non-divers alike.

Type of Boat

A wide variety of liveaboards are available in Thailand, with each boat offering something slightly different. You will find wooden hull boats, catamarans, steel-hulled vessels, and even traditional Indonesian phinisi boats while searching for a Thai liveaboard. Always read the boat’s description and check reviews from previous divers to ensure it meets your needs.

To help make your decision easier, we have outlined some of the best liveaboards in Thailand below – so be sure to take a look!

Liveaboard Trip Length

One of the best things about liveaboard diving in Thailand is many favored dive sites are located close to one another. This means that even short trips offer a great variety of dives, while longer excursions allow you to explore more in-depth.

Thailand liveaboard trips average around 5 days and 4 nights in length. There are shorter trips for 3 or 4 days and more extended options ranging up to 11 days in total. No matter the length you choose, you will have a fantastic time exploring everything Thailand liveaboard diving offers.

Daily Dive Amount

You don’t book on a liveaboard in Thailand just to enjoy the views and local culture – you’re here to dive! Most liveaboards offer up to 4 daily dives, but it can be less depending on the locations visited. Many itineraries offer night dives, which provide an excellent opportunity to see nocturnal marine life – if this is something of interest, be sure to check the schedule of your chosen trip.

Experience Requirements

Depending on where in Thailand your liveaboard visits, the currents can vary from calm to very strong and unpredictable. A wide range of liveaboards in Thailand do not require any previously logged dives, but some do ask for over 30 logged hours and an advanced open water certificate. As such, you must always check the experience requirements for each trip before you book to ensure that it suits your skills.

Dive Insurance

Whether booking on a liveaboard in Thailand or anywhere else in the world, we always recommend purchasing dive insurance before your trip. The added peace of mind offered by dive insurance is well worth the cost, and it is often a requirement by liveaboard operators.

We recommend DiveAssurethe leading dive insurance with the most comprehensive Diving Accident and Dive Travel insurance plans. Get your dive insurance now and enjoy your scuba diving vacation without worries.

Nitrox Availability

This mix of oxygen and nitrogen is becoming increasingly popular among divers, and many Thailand liveaboards offer it as an option. You will need a nitrox certificate to use this gas, but if you don’t have one, some liveaboards in Thailand offer courses on board.

Required Gear

Gear rentals are not uncommon on Thailand liveaboards but do come at an additional cost. Many divers prefer to pay the rental fee over taking their gear on the plane. That said, you will need to check your chosen liveaboard offers rental gear before you book, or check if there are any specific gear requirements if bringing your own.

What Is the Best Season for Liveaboards in Thailand?

You can dive year-round in Thailand, as the two distinct locations offer alternating dive seasons. If the Andaman Sea is your chosen destination, the best time to go would be from October to April. On the other hand, the best season for liveaboards in the Gulf of Thailand is from May to September.

Whale shark season is from February to April, and manta ray sightings also occur during this period. Because of the various dive sites and varying conditions, the best season for liveaboards in Thailand is down to you and what you wish to see.

If you have a specific dive site you wish to visit, you should note that some areas are only accessible during certain times of the year.

The Best Itineraries for Liveaboards in Thailand

The best itineraries for liveaboards in Thailand are based on the beautiful dive locations found in the Andaman Sea. There are a few different routes to choose from, but you can always expect to visit fantastic dive sites, see stunning landscapes, and witness beautiful marine life!

Similan and Surin Islands

One of Thailand’s most popular itineraries for liveaboards is the Similan and Surin Islands route. This trip usually lasts 5 or 7 days and covers some of the best diving spots found in Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Expect to see a fantastic array of corals, vibrant marine life, pristine beaches, and even an occasional whale shark!

Best of Thailand

For a full-on 11-day excursion, there is the Best of Thailand itinerary. This route covers not only the Similan and Surin Islands but also includes Koh Bon and Richelieu Rock, two of Thailand’s best dive sites. Expect to see an amazing variety of coral formations, plus plenty of pelagic fish, including barracuda, leopard sharks, and manta rays.

Southern Explorer

This route focuses on all the famous spots situated around Phuket. Shark Point, Anemone Reef, Hin Daeng, Racha, and Koh Phi Phi are just some of the areas experienced on this short but sweet 3-day itinerary. Expect to enjoy plenty of excellent wall diving, vibrant reefs, and a dazzling variety of marine life.

What Is the Required Budget for Liveaboard Diving in Thailand?

Liveaboards in Thailand are renowned for being incredibly affordable. Prices can vary, but for a 5-day trip, you can expect to pay $700-$1000. Longer 11-day adventures can cost around $3000, whereas shorter 3-day vacations can be as little as $500.

Prices fluctuate according to the season, route, and boat, so do check in advance when is the most cost-effective time to go. All liveaboard trips will include food and drinks onboard, but you should also factor in any additional costs, such as transfers, diving gear rentals, and park fees.

Liveaboards in Thailand are in general much more affordable than those in other popular destinations such as the Maldives, the Bahamas, or Indonesia.

The Best Liveaboards in Thailand

Before you book your next liveaboard dive trip in Thailand, you must consider what boat is best for you. Thailand liveaboards come in all shapes and sizes, with varying price points. Let’s take a look at some of the best liveaboards in Thailand:

4 Best Liveaboards in Thailand – Our Top Picks
4 Best Liveaboards in Thailand – Our Top Picks

Sawasdee Fasai

Length: 36.8m Width: 7.8m Nitrox: Yes (free) Cabins: 15 Maximum capacity: 30 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Sawasdee Fasai liveaboard is the perfect budget option without compromising on quality. Offering trips for 5 days and 4 nights, passengers will visit renowned dive sites like Elephant Head Rock, Koh Bon, and Richelieu Rock. All accommodation is air-conditioned; many cabins are available, including a master cabin and deluxe cabins!

This liveaboard also offers a bar, warm water showers, and there are snacks available throughout the day. Regarding food and drink, there are various options to keep everyone satisfied! With free nitrox and gear rental options, the Sawasdee Fasai is an excellent choice for keen divers looking to get the most out of their trip.

The Junk

Length: 33m Width: 8.5m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 6 Maximum capacity: 18 guests Rental Gear: Yes

You may recognize this liveaboard from one of its many movie features, including Swiss Family Robinson and James Bond’s ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’! The Junk offers year-round trips covering the Similan and Surin Islands and also the exciting Southern Explorer itinerary – with trips lasting 3 to 7 days.

Onboard amenities include warm water showers, a sun deck, and daily housekeeping for a comfortable stay. As for diving, there is a dive deck, optional tenders, and DIN adaptors. Meals on The Junk are served 5 times daily, including 2 breakfasts, meaning visitors do not need to worry about getting hungry!

The Phinisi

Length: 34m Width: Not specified Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 7 Maximum capacity: 18 guests Rental Gear: Yes

The Phinisi is a traditional Indonesian liveaboard boat offering an authentic phinisi experience. The longer trips lasting 11 days provide plenty of time to visit stunning dive sites like Hin Muang, Koh Bon, and Koh Tachai. After a long day of exploring, guests can look forward to air-conditioned cabins with en suite bathrooms and warm water showers.

There are both outdoor and indoor dining options, with a choice of cuisines and a full board option. The Phinisi also offers plenty to do onboard, including relaxing on the sun deck, getting to know other divers on the leisure deck, and even a library.

Giamani

Length: 24m Width: 6.5m Nitrox: Yes (paid) Cabins: 5 Maximum capacity: 10 guests Rental Gear: Yes

Giamani is the ideal choice for a luxurious, personalized experience – as they cater to just 10 divers per trip. Vacation options range from 3 to 5 days, and you can visit fantastic dive sites such as the Similan Islands, Koh Bon, and Phi Phi.

For those traveling with non-divers, snorkeling equipment is available on board, so they don’t need to miss out on the beauty of Thailand’s waters! Dedicated crew members ensure your every need is taken care of. Not to mention, the boat has been custom-built for diving – with rebreather support, DIN adaptors, and tech diving capabilities.

What to Bring for a Liveaboard Trip in Thailand

You don’t need to pack a lot for a liveaboard trip in Thailand. However, there are certain items you do not want to leave home without. When packing for a liveaboard trip in Thailand, here is what to bring:

For Diving:

  • Logbook and certificates (dive qualifications and nitrox, if owned)
  • Scuba equipment – if not renting
  • Money or credit card
  • Surface marker buoy (SMB or DSMB) – if required
  • Dive insurance

Essentials:

  • Passport and travel documents
  • A few changes of clothing suited to a tropical environment
  • Medication – if required
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, sun hat, etc.)
  • Toiletries (toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Towels (it always pays off to bring some spare towels, even if the liveaboard provides you with towels)

Additional:

Final Thoughts on Liveaboards in Thailand

Liveaboard diving in Thailand is an incredible adventure that is a dream for many. With such an array of amazing dive sites and great value for money, it’s hard not to want to explore the underwater wonders of the region. Whether you are a new diver or a professional, there is something for everyone.

Just be sure to check your chosen boat will visit the areas you wish to see and that its amenities and services match your needs. With a little bit of research, preparation, and one of Thailand’s brilliant liveaboards – your hopes of liveaboard diving in Thailand can become a reality!

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