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Thailand is known for its extensive stretches of gorgeous beaches and is one of the top premier tropical destinations on the planet. If you’re a snorkeling enthusiast, you need to check out Thailand, also known as “The Land of Smiles,” to greet astounding marine life that you might not see anywhere else.
Thailand has two amazing stretches of sea; the gulf side rests on the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Seaside. The wildlife on each of these different beaches is unique and distinct. This article will cover all of the beautiful animal life and coral formations to see on both sides.
There are so many different types of marine life in Thailand, and over 900 unique varieties of fish swim in the waters around this tropical nation. You can also encounter larger sea creatures, like sharks and stingrays. We’ve listed the top ten must-visit snorkeling spots in Thailand, plus a few honorable mentions to see if you have the time.
Top 10 Snorkeling Destinations
If you love the ocean and want to have a genuinely incredible experience below the waves, head to Thailand.
1. Koh Tao
Koh Tao is a gorgeous island in the Gulf of Thailand, and you can quickly get there by ferry from the mainland or one of the other large islands in the gulf. Koh Tao is also known as “Turtle Island” because you can see plenty of different types of turtles right off the shores of this idyllic paradise.
The most common type spotted are green turtles. Koh Tao is surrounded by crystal clear waters, which makes it absolutely ideal for shallow water snorkeling. You absolutely need to check out two spots: Sail Rock and Aow Leuk, where there’s a fantastic coral reef that makes an amazing dive site.
Head over to the Andaman Sea side on Thailand’s western coast, and you’ll find Koh Surin Nuea, part of a small island chain that’s off-the-beaten-path and fantastic for divers of all skill levels.
This particular island is part of Mu Koh Surin Marine National Park, and it’s completely full of spectacular marine life and coral. You can see plenty of clownfish in this part of Thailand, as well as other tropical beauties.
3. Koh Rok
Koh Rok is another small island on the Andaman Sea side of Thailand, and it’s close to the popular tourist destination Koh Lanta. Like Koh Surin Nuea, this isle is part of the Mu Loh Lanta Marine National Park, so you’re sure to see plenty of incredible wildlife and gorgeous coral reefs. One of the biggest attractions that Koh Rok offers is its abundance of turtles.
Snorkelers of any level can have a chance to swim with these majestic sea creatures, and since Koh Rok isn’t as famous or well known as places like Koh Lanta, there’s a chance that you might have the whole snorkeling spot to yourself.
4. Koh Phi Phi
Anyone who’s a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie The Beach definitely caught a glimpse of Koh Phi Phi as part of his idyllic world. Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay is one of the most incredible spots on the planet, and it contains some of the world’s best wildlife and coral formations.
Rocky cliffs surround Maya Bay on either side, and you need to take a small boat to get into the bay itself. Once you’re there, you can delight in some of the world’s most fantastic nature. The beach itself is quite long, and you can easily spend the whole day there.
(You might also be interested in knowing about the other Most Astonishing Snorkeling Destinations in the World)
Another popular Koh Phi Phi destination is Shark Point. As the name suggests, intrepid snorkelers can swim with leopard sharks. While it’s not for the faint-hearted, it’s undoubtedly one of the most memorable snorkeling experiences you will have in Thailand.
5. Koh Lan
Koh Lan is an island on the gulf side, right off the coast of Pattaya. Pattaya, Thailand, has a reputation for being a bit of a raucous town, but Koh Lan is a peaceful and lovely place where snorkelers of all levels can marvel at the coral reefs and abundant fish life, that’s right off the coast.
To get to Koh Lan, simply take a bus or taxi from Bangkok to Pattaya, and then hop on a ferry over to Koh Lan. Ferries stop running after a certain point in the evening, so it’s wise to check the schedule in advance.
6. Koh Chang
Koh Chang is one of the best-kept secrets in the Gulf of Thailand and a perfect place for snorkelers to strap on their fins and see some incredible marine life. Koh Chang is a good destination for both snorkeling and diving because it’s the site of the HTMS Chang shipwreck.
If you’re lucky, you can see some reasonably large marine animals in the waters near Koh Chang, including leopard sharks and whale sharks. Pearl Beach is an incredible place to snorkel, and you’ll find coral reefs full of stingrays, fish, and the odd shark or two.
7. Koh Ngam Yai
Koh Ngam Yai is often overlooked for more popular gulf island destinations like Koh Tao or Koh Samui. Still, this pretty island right off the coast of Chumphon is an excellent spot for amateur snorkelers to get comfortable with being in the water. Koh Ngam Yai has a gently sloping coastline, making it shallow enough for even those afraid of getting into the water.
Koh Ngam Yai’s coral is just six feet below the surface of the waves, so you can explore reefs without ever having to get too far from shore or travel too far below the surface of the water. Koh Ngam Yai is easily accessible by ferry from Chumphon and is about an hour ride each way.
8. Koh Kradan
This Andaman Sea gem is right near popular Koh Lanta and is a protected area that is covered under Hat Chao Mai National Park. As such, the reef on this island is protected, but you can still visit it as long as you follow the rules. This island is the polar opposite of rowdy Koh Lanta, so don’t expect to see too many tourists.
The best place for snorkeling is Ao Niang, which is in the southeast part of Koh Kradan. There’s plenty of coral and marine life off this beach. Just be wary of the riptides that sometimes happen around this area of Koh Kradan.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand and makes up a whole province in and of itself. There are plenty of beaches to lounge on and explore dotted all over Phuket, but the island’s most significant driving pull lies below the waves. Snorkeling and diving are both huge in Phuket, and Kata Beach is one of the most famous places to take a dip.
Kata Beach is a white sand paradise that is generally not as popular or busy as some of the other beaches. Snorkelers just might get lucky and find that they are the only people on Kata Beach. It’s a mile long and offers snorkelers a chance to check out some very vivid marine life in the shallows that hug the beach.
If you are planning on visiting Phuket, make sure that you set aside a few days at least to enjoy everything that the island has to offer fully. Phuket has its own airport so that you can take a direct flight from Bangkok.
10. Koh Lipe
Koh Lipe is a small island on the Andaman Sea that often gets overlooked in favor of larger islands like Phuket and Koh Lanta. Still, this little piece of paradise has a lot to offer, especially for snorkelers and divers. It’s located almost right on Malaysia and Thailand’s border and has fantastic weather and a thriving natural environment.
Koh Lipe is a fantastic place to see seabeds in their full glory. There is so much to see on this tiny island, so plan to spend at least a day checking out the sights. Sting Ray City is one of the best snorkeling and diving spots, as are any of the coral formations and animal life off Pattaya Beach or Sunset Beach.
Koh Lipe is also a fantastic place to get PADI certified. PADI certification stands for “Professional Association of Diving Instructors” and allows you to check out the world beneath the waves virtually anywhere on the planet.
If you get this certification, you will be able to dive in many places on the gulf and Andaman sides of Thailand, including wreck sites and Hin Daeng and Hin Muang; two great diving sites where you can see whales, sharks, tuna, and other giant sea creatures.
A Few Other Snorkeling Gems Worthy of Mention
(Want to explore more snorkeling spots near Thailand? Try reading; Best Snorkeling Spots In Indonesia)
Start Snorkeling in Thailand
If you love the water and want to get a pleasant taste of tropical paradise, head to Thailand. The Land of Smiles has so much to offer both on land and in the water. You will find many beautiful places on both coasts where you can get your feet wet and really see some fascinating coral formations, sea life, and underwater plants. Thailand is quite far away from the US, but the reefs of the Best Snorkeling Spots in Curacao are a great and closer alternative to the Thai destinations. And even if you don’t plan on going there, you should check out the impressive sea life in the link above.
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