The scuba diving sites around Pattaya are based around two sets of islands known to the locals as the far islands and the near islands. We have been diving these islands for the past 20 plus years and have seen a lot of changes with the environment and marine life, such as coral bleaching from the late nineties which harmed the corals to the regrowth of the corals ever since. We also had three great shipwrecks scuttled in the last 15 years, courtesy of the Royal Thai Navy and talk of more in the future.
The great thing about Pattaya diving is we can dive all year round due to the monsoon seasons not affecting us like it does in the south of Thailand where you get the torrid rain fall and unexpected storms in the months of April to November.
The dive sites are between 45 min to an hour and a half away from Pattaya by most dive centers boats in Pattaya. We run our dive trips from our large 12 metre speedboats which limits travel time to 12 minutes to the Near islands and 25 minutes to the Far islands which means no early starts or late finishes plus we get more time under water because of mini,al travel time.
The visibility varies between 5m to 20m depending on the time of year, dive site and currents etc.
The Pattaya far islands consist of Koh Rin, Koh Man Wichai, Koh Klung Badan and Koh Phai (Koh meaning island in Thai) also it’s home to the HTMS Khram shipwreck, so we offer daily wreck and coral dive trips to these islands. Click on the dive sites for more details
Koh Rin is our premier dive spot with three great sites, the main island with north rock and south rock either side. The main island has a beautiful whitesandy beach and is great for both diving and snorkeling. The reef starts from the beach at 2 metres with small corals heads, sea anemone beds and clusters of smaller fish life, the reef slopes gradually down to a depth of 20 metres with both soft and hard corals as well sea whips and sea fans.
On virtually everydive you will see angelfish, puffer fish, stingrays, turtles, bamboo sharks and amass of smaller marine life. When the currents are running it is also a great site for a drift dive.
Hin Ton Mai- South Rock
Hin Ton Mai known as South Rock is a very popular dive spot with with lots of moray eels, cuttlefish, large marble rays and turtles. There are plenty of both hard corals and soft corals, very good invertebrate life such as nudibranchs and feather stars. This site has interesting coral and marine life down to 22 metres but needs to be dived at slack tide or minimal current. Great site for macro photography and videography.
Hin Khao- North Rock
Hin Khao also known as North Rock has the best coral life of all the Pattaya dive sites with staghorn, table coral, sponges and a huge sea anemone bed. The site has lots of rock outcroppings that are homes to bamboo sharks and moray eels, there are also schooling fusiliers and barracuda. This is an excellent site for searching around for the more unusual nudibranchs, pipefish, razorfish and others that like to hide away. The site has good diving down to around 20 metres but again is best dived at slack tide or minimal current.
Koh Man Wichai
Koh Man Wichai has two dive spots known as the fingers and the wall. The corals and marine life are similar to Koh Rin but the dive sites are totally different.
The fingers get their name from the coral formation which resembles a hand, the first finger starts at a depth of 10m and then the out cropping rocks and corals slope down to the last finger at 16m. On the dive take your time as you look around the fingers there’s lots of nudibranchs, tiger cowries and feather stars to be seen. This site needs to be dived at slack tide otherwise you will just get whisked away by the currents, usually good viz and always lots of marine life.
On the southwest tip of Man Wichai there is a small wall that goes down to 12m, along the wall you will see butterfly fish, angel fish and my favourite the sweetlips harlequin. The area around the wall is also a singular dive site running from the bay along the coral line and down to 25m with sea whips and sea fans all the way, recently there has been sightings of large marble rays and you always have a great chance to see a large hawksbill turtle, also the wall side is great for fast rapid drift dives when the tide is coming in.
Koh Klung Badan
Koh Klung Badan, is best to dive the south end of this island where it slopes down to 22m with rock and coral formations, everywhere else is pretty shallow 8m with interest, great for novice divers and long dive times. On this site there is lots of smaller marine life, there’s been sightings of sea horses hanging on to gorgonian fans, they are only small so take your time and have a good look, also another good site for drift diving when currents are present.
HTMS Khram- Wreck Dive
The main attraction of Koh Phai is the HTMS Khram, this WWII landing craft was scuttled in early 2003 to create an artificial reef and it worked. The 60m long Khram lies upright with the conning tower starting at a depth of 15m the bottom of the wreck 27m, it is now teeming with schooling barracuda, huge batfish, rays and its own resident turtle. The wreck can be penetrated with the correct qualification, large holes have been cut into the wreck and are filled with, sweet lips and rays.
Best to dive this wreck at slack tide which is difficult at times because strong currents are present with either the dropping and rising tide, make sure you have a look at the tide charts before diving this site.
Koh Phai is quite a shallow dive site lots of sponges and Christmas tree worms on the hard corals also home to some very big star pufferfish, small boxfish and sand rays. Depth 12 metres, good for drift diving with the rising tide.
Pattaya Near Islands
Pattaya Near Islands consist of Koh Larn, Koh Sak, Koh Krok and home to the shipwreck HTMS Kood and the HTMS Mataphon.
Hat Nuan is a nice shallow dive site with beautiful coral gardens but over the years has been abused by tourist pleasure boats dropping anchors onto the corals. Three years ago the Thai authority’s decided enough is enough and now have mooring buoys so the boats don’t need to anchor anymore, hopefully over the next few years the corals will grow back. Even saying this its still worth a dive especially to the east and west points of Hat Nuan where the corals survived the tourist boats, on the west side the marine life in the area is varied and includes the six banded angelfish, butterfly fish, Half ‘n half Wrasse, Parrotfish, turtles, schools of small Barracuda and Long Toms.
Laem Thong is on the North Westside of Koh Larn and in our opinion the best dive on this island, the diver will find an area with a flat sandy bottom and lots of large coral heads and groupings, there’s a fairly large coral reef leading to a underwater rock face sloping down to 18 metres. This is an interesting area to explore and great fun can be had swimming in search of the marine life. Here you will find numerous giant sea anemones with their inhabitants as well as a variety of elephant ear anemones with black and white clownfish, these fish make very good photographic subjects. In the deeper areas there are almost always bamboo sharks, blue spotted rays and eagle rays to be found.
The North East corner starts off with clean white sand progressing to the usual range of hard corals as you approach the island. Here the corals are at depths from 1-6m, as you round the corner they progress deeper to a depth of 18 metres. This corner is home to hawksbill and leatherback Turtles as well as numerous bamboo sharks, the sharks are however hard to find as they tend to be very shy and divers need to search for them, usually under the coral heads.
Koh Krok is the nearest island to Pattaya, the corals start on the sand at 12m and extend right up to 2 metres so its great for diving and snorkeling, also an excellent site for drift diving as the prevailing currents run parallel to the island. Large “bommies” are a feature of this site; staghorn, brain, mushroom and table corals are in abundance as well as Neptune’s, barrel and blue sponges.
The southern point is home to turtles, pufferfish, parrotfish and angelfish are plentiful. One section of the West face has an area covered with giant sea anemones along with the usual anemone and clownfish.
HTMS Kood- Wreck Dive
The Kood is a World War II US landing craft and was scuttled in 2006 off the northeast side of Koh Sak, this ship has been well prepared by the Thai Navy as a dive site and is free from armaments. The Kood lies upright at a depth of 30 metres and the top of the conning tower at 12m, the wreck still doesn’t have as much marine life as the Khram but is home to schooling barracuda, rays and turtles.
A sister ship of the HTMS Khram, the Kood is another fine example of a thriving artificial reef offering Pattaya yet another great dive site.
HTMS Mataphon is a Mark VI Landing Craft Tank and is situated outside the island bay of Hard Nuan, south of Koh Larn island. The deepest point of this wreck dive is approx 23m and the tip of the conning tower at approx 12m. Due to the depth, to dive this vessel you need to be reasonably experienced open water diver upwards or alternatively you can make it an Adventure Dive to your Advanced course certification.
The ship was well prepped by the Thai Navy for wreck diving, like the rest so you have no concerns for hazards. The gunning mounts were left in place although the arms themselves were removed. This is a ideal wreck dive for people wanting a little more bottom time on the wreck without using EANx.
The craft is already teeming with life from Nudibranch and dresser crabs to some larger residents such as Grouper and Blues Spot Sting Ray, the occasional school of Bat fish hang around and play with the divers also.
Samae San Islands
The first time I discovered Samae San was on my Padi Open water course back in 1996. After making my Open water dives 1 and 2 in Pattaya my instructor gave me the chance to complete my course in Samae San and I’ve never looked back. To me Samae San was more like an Adventure and a chance to see more than just diving. It is a nice ride when you travel along the Sukhumvit road, you can relax and look at the Thai countryside, the journey only takes 45 mins but plenty to see on the way.
As you get close to the small fishing village where the pier and boats are, you will get a whiff of fish and squid drying in the morning sun as the local Thai people go about their business.
What is really nice about Samae San village is it hasn’t changed since the 90’s, you still have the small markets, wooden piers and plenty of fishing boats to see. The local Fishing community are very friendly and helpful to scuba divers no problem in taking photo’s or videos, it would be a shame if you didn’t.
Back in the old days we used to have 2 small long tails which were very basic but very safe. Being on the small boats you got to know all the divers, helping each other into dive equipment and in and out of the boat. The lunch was very Thai, fried rice great big pieces of fried chicken with heaps of watermelon and pineapple as we relaxed or went snorkeling.
Sadly the old captains have retired now but we can get one of them Uncle Tong to do the odd dive trip for those of you who want to see how we did it in the early days “real island diving” jumping in wherever we wanted especially if we were out for an adventure and hadn’t dived there before.
Now we have an the option of a 18 metre boat with a friendly Thai captain and boat boys plus we still have all the great food and new extras like hot and cold drinks, fresh water showers, plenty of seating and a western toilet.
As you leave the pier and sail out to the dive sites you will notice a large island called Koh Samae San which has some beautiful remote beaches and lovely thick tropical trees and bush. All the islands are owned by the Royal Thai Navy so no jet scooters or banana boats.
One of the most popular dive sites is the WW2 Hardeep ship wreck which was bombed and sunk by the British RAF. The ship rest’s at 27 metres and offers so much aquatic life and coral growth it’s amazing to see. The first time I dived this shipwreck was with my brother and it took my breath away, this is a recommended dive to all Advanced divers subject to weather and sea conditions.
As time goes on the ship has started to come apart in the mid section Real Divers warn all their divers about this and keep to the large cargo holds to explore the wreck inside.
The coral dive sites are full of beautiful well kept corals and give you a chance to see some different and larger fish. I’ve been lucky to see large Marble Rays, turtles, wild Dolphins, Reef sharks and huge Marlin. Some of the most popular coral sites are Hin Chalem, Koh Chuang, Shark Fin Rock and Koh Chan. These dive sites are great for Discover scuba divers to the more experience divers also great for night dives as you get to see heaps of squid and octopus.
I have always enjoyed the diving and fun in Samae San, as well as getting the chance to dive outside the Pattaya dive sites and also see some of the countryside. In my own words I would recommend this trip not only for divers and students but all the snorkelers and passengers it’s a great day out for every one.