Pattaya – Dive Sites and Scuba Training Ground
Dive Pattaya – you really must, certainly if you wish to train as a diver. The scuba diving and snorkeling in Pattaya, Chonburi, Thailand is superb, and especially for dive training and courses I would place it as one of the best destinations in Thailand. such a statement that bold needs explaining the reasons why. First I shall describe some of the Pattaya local dive sites and then explain about the reasons why Pattaya is such a great place to learn diving.
One great thing about diving in Pattaya, Thailand is that it is not seasonal. If you want to get wet and dive 365 days of the year – feel free. Generally visibility ranges from 3 – 20 meters. The water temperature maintains between 27 and 30 degrees – so no need to pack those suits! Most dive sites are very good for first class snorkeling also. Snorkel and dive at your leisure.
Basically the dive sites in and around Pattaya fall into three categories.
The Near Islands
Island in Thai is Koh (or Gaw if pronounced correctly). The near islands consist of 3 islands; Koh Krok, Koh Sak and Koh Larn. All are approximately 45 minutes -1 hour from Pattaya Bali Hai pier depending on the island and the side of the island being visited. Bali Hai Pier in Pattaya is a newly (2003) constructed mooring for dive boats and ferry vessels which is very clean, efficient and rather attractive.
Koh Krok is the nearest of three inner islands. The tidal flow runs directly across the line of the Krok island affording some great drift dives (excellent dive training and fun). The maximum depth here is around 12 meters (so ideal for beginners inexperienced Open Water Divers also) with the best stuff to see between 5-7 meters. Half way along the west side of the island is a huge sea anemone garden with all of the clown fish flitting around. This is particularly nice as even if there is a strong current you can duck in between the coral heads and stop to gaze for a while.
Koh Sak, Pattaya is a great dive site for both the beginner and the more experienced diver. Generally if a diver has experience but hasn’t dived in a while we find that this is an ideal location to gradually ease back into things. There are basically three dive sites here on the one island. The first two are on the north side of the island. There is a lovely sandy bay (ideal for training) with great diving either to the east or west depending on what you fancy. Drift dives are not uncommon here too. The east side is the deepest with a max depth of around 15 meters and the west affords a deepest depth of around 10-14 meters. Both sites have an abundance of life and corals (hard and soft). Generally you’ll expect to see wrasse, jacks, beaked coral eaters, butterfly fish, large angelfish and possibly a turtle or two. Don’t be surprised if you come across an octopus or cuttlefish on you dive also. The third dive site is on the southern tip. Not so much marine life but great for beginners especially when trying to avoid any current. if the tide is right and the current heading north then a nice drift can be made from the South west of the island to the north west.
Larn island is inhabited and is the largest of the 3 dived inner (near) islands. There are 3 main dive sites on Koh Larn. Koh Larn Vac is an excellent training site with abundant corals that are in very good condition. The fish life is very varied and it is not unusual to see cuttlefish and turtles on the dive site. The maximum depth for this dive site is 12 meters although most of the better corals are in 8 -10 meters. Shark Point as the name suggests is a good place to see juvenile tawny nurse and bamboo sharks. These sharks are nocturnal you will need to be looking under corals and rocks to spot them. The maximum depth at Shark Point is 22 meters for soft corals although you can go deeper and explore across the sands. Laem Thong meaning Golden Bay is on the western side of Koh Larn. There is a very deep drop-off to over 50 meters although the coral line extends down to around 25 meters. Laem Thong also has some very nice hard corals in at around 7-10 meters so it is a multi-purpose dive- site that can serve all needs. Especially good for Advanced training and the deep dive specialty. At all of these sites there is a beautiful scattering of coral lining the shallows of the beach – this lends itself to great snorkeling or freediving.
The Far Islands
The Far Island chain contains six islands although we generally only dive four of these as the others are too shallow. As the far islands are uninhabited and a little further from Pattaya bay. The visibility tends to be marginally better than at the near islands. All of the far Islands have large amounts of jacks, trevellys, barracuda, rabbit fish, angelfish, butterfly fish, wrasse, gobi’s and as with the near islands thousands of damselfish. More often turtles and small sharks are seen at the outer islands.
Koh Rin has three dive areas each of which can easily support more than one dive. Hin Ton Mai also known as south rock is a very popular dive spot as the fish life is very varied with lots of moray eels and barracuda. There are plenty of both hard and soft corals, coral whips as well as very good invertebrate life such as nudibranchs, brittle stars and feather stars. This site has very good coral life down to 16 meters. Hin Khao also known as north rock does not have as much coral life as south rock but has lots of rock outcroppings that are homes to many sharks and eels. This is an excellent site for searching around for the more unusual nudibranchs, pipefish, razor fish and others that like to hide away. This dive site has great diving down to around 18 meters. Koh Rin bay and around the south east corner of the main island is truly superb. I absolutely love this site. This dive site is unlike the north and south rocks previously mentioned. Although this coral site only goes down to a maximum depth of 12-14 meters it is well protected from currents and is therefore a nice relaxing dive when compared to both south and north rock with excellent corals also. Stay at 12 meters for the coral and fish life but for the more adventurous diver (if they want) I like to take them out onto the sand and in between the rocks, ray and shark seeking to approx 20 meters. Great diving. For me this is one of the best dives in Pattaya. Starting from the mooring line of the boat in approximately 5 meters of water – head south east to the point – the visibility there is usually very nice at 10 – 15 meters average. Once on the point it slopes off sharply in a curved arch of coral taking you west – everything opens up with the bright colours of the corals and so many fish it’s truly wonderful.
Koh Manwichai has two excellent dive areas; the first of which is ‘The Wall’ which cannot be completed in one dive. The Wall is a 7 meter high coral wall that runs down from 9 to 23 meters and is a dive in itself. The area around the wall itself is an excellent dive site, you can start your dive from the bay and go out along the soft coral line at 18 meters, finish half of your allotted time and come back to the boat along the hard coral line at 12 meters, two environments in one dive. As each environment is different with the larger fish among the soft corals this is for me is one of the best dives to be had around Pattaya’s islands. The other dive site at Koh Manwichai is called ‘The Fingers’. The fingers are a set a rocks stretching from land out to sea to a depth of 12 – 15 meters, the hard coral and fish life is very good and as there are five fingers ( but no thumb !!) its is like diving across a large hand. Koh Hu Chang is a very small island that although quite shallow at around 10 meters has some very good corals and abundant small fish life. Koh Hu Chang has more sea anemones that either Koh Rin or Koh Manwichai and as it is well protected from the wind is a good relaxing dive spot. Koh Klung Bedan is another small dive site that is also quite shallow, maximum coral depth being 12 meters. This dive site has many staghorn and table corals as well as boulder corals that have many Christmas tree worms.
Samaesan (home to the Hardeep Ship-wreck)
Most people that go to dive at Samesan go to dive on the Hardeep shipwreck (more on that in the ship wrecks section) but both Koh Chan and Koh Chuang are very good coral dives in themselves. Koh Chuang is a large island to the south of the Hardeep wreck and we dive on the southern most point of this island, the hard coral life is very good with abundant small fish as well as the occasional turtle and cuttlefish. The maximum depth of this dive site is 12 meters and although the dive site is quite small it has some very interesting invertebrate life. Koh Chan is south east of the wreck and as with Koh Chuang we dive on its southernmost point, here there are lots of large boulder bommies and as you descend further down the ridge into the soft coral you will find literally hundreds of yellowtail jacks that will circle around you. At this depth also you will find sleeping tawny nurse sharks under the rocks as well as a large variety of different eels.
Mermaids work with Project AWARE and also local residents to clean up the local seas often. Monthly Mermaid Dive operate at least one reef clean up and beach clean up. The waters around Pattaya are so much cleaner than reported many years ago where the waters were polluted by waste in a certain area. With ongoing applied pressure from our diving community we’re keeping the reefs of Pattaya cleaner than ever.