Diving in Koh Samui
The Best Sites in the Gulf of Thailand
Samui Island has been welcoming visitors since the early 1970's and has developed into the most popular tourist destination on the east coast of Thailand.
The Gulf of Thailand is somewhat sheltered from the major oceans in the region and that protection gives the gulf a number of high quality dive sites which can be dived all year round. Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock are the 2 most famous Koh Samui dive sites and their popularity with more experienced divers justifiably merits their place at the top of the gulf's best dive locations.
Many pelagic fish such as whale sharks are frequent visitors to the area. There are towering pinnacles, huge rock formations, colourful soft and hard corals, and sloping reefs. Schools of snapper and barracuda abound, and the area is famed for its turtles and triggerfish.
Most of the sites in the region are close to the famous island of Koh Tao and can be dived on full day trips out of Samui. Although most people would agree that the diving is better on Thailand's west coast, Koh Samui Island diving on the east coast still has access to some world class dive sites.
One popular dive site closer to Samui is Koh Yippon, located in the far north of the Angthong Marine National Park, a picturesque rocky island covered in tropical trees. Once you peer underwater, you will find plenty of beautiful hard and soft corals, sea anemones and purple barrel sponges, all easy to spot in shallow waters, so this location is excellent to combine snorkeling and scuba diving.
While snorkelers are exploring the exciting small caves and crevices in shallow water, divers can enjoy big schools of fusiliers, large snappers or have a glance under the rocks and corals to find Kuhl's stingrays. There are also some big schools of small yellow-tailed barracuda and lots of blue-ringed angelfish.
As the maximum depth here is about 18m, Koh Yippon is the perfect dive site for inexperienced divers or beginners. One of the biggest advantages of this dive site is its shelter during the north-east monsoon season, so even if the sea might be a bit rough, Koh Yippon still offers calm areas to enjoy an unforgettable day of diving and snorkeling.
Heading north west from Samui in the direction to the Angthong Marine Park, you will reach an island which, from a distance, resembles the shape of a sleeping dragon - Dragon Island (also known as Koh Wao). But it's not just the landscape above the surface that is a piece of natural art. In the shallow and protected bay there are lots of big stone coral boulders surrounded by many different kinds of pelagic reef fish. Diving along the reef to a maximum of 20 metres there is a good chance to see some big snappers, groupers, and a big school of yellow tailed barracuda is always around.
If you are travelling with a friend or partner who is a non-diver, this place is fantastic to combine a easy day's diving with a great snorkeling experience. Dragon Island is an excellent dive site of novice divers and people who havenít dived for a while, but even experienced divers will enjoy a relaxing dive in calm waters with mild currents.
Samui will always be one of Thailand's favourite tourist destinations. With some excellent hotels and resorts, great beaches, the spectacular Ang Thong National Marine Park, and a mix of nightlife and quiet retreats, the island makes a fine place for a dive holiday, especially during the summer months when Phuket and the Similans are in low season.
You can dive the Koh Samui and Koh Tao diving spots year round, but the very best conditions exist from May to September, which is when the resort areas on the Andaman coast have their low season.
October to November brings the Northeast monsoon winds and surface swells to the islands, reducing visibility by about 30%. It's pretty rare that any daily dive trips are cancelled from here due to bad weather, but speedboat rides can be somewhat bouncy.
It can also be windy and wet in the Gulf from November to February so it may be better to go diving in Phuket, Phi Phi or the Similan Islands then.
Great for: Small animals, beginner divers, value-for-money, snorkelling and non-diving activities
Not so Great for: Wrecks and drift dives
Depth: 5 - 40m
Visibility: 5 - 40m
Currents: Can be strong
Surface Conditions: Calm to moderate
Water Temperature: 27 - 29°C
Experience Level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~10
Access: Day trips from Koh Samui by speedboat
Recommended length of stay: 1 week
More detailed information on some of the best Koh Samui dive sites:
Dive The World Recommendations: Chumphon Pinnacle and Sail Rock
• Koh Samui tourist information
• Map of Samui Island
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