Untouched tropical islands in Thailand for incredible scuba

Thailand is one of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving, offering crystal clear waters teeming with marine life just offshore from its beautiful beaches and islands. While many of Thailand’s most popular dive spots have become quite developed from tourism, there are still a number of relatively untouched tropical islands that provide an unmatched diving experience. 

An introduction to scuba diving

Before exploring the island options, it’s helpful to understand some basics of scuba diving. SCUBA is an acronym that stands for “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.” Scuba diving allows explorers to breathe underwater from tanks filled with compressed air, instead of breath-holding at the surface like traditional snorkelers. This extra breathing capacity opens up a whole new world for divers to safely spend extended periods exploring coral reefs and shipwrecks.

Some key technical aspects of scuba diving include:

  • Regulator – Attached to the scuba tank, this device regulates the flow of air and allows the diver to breathe normally through a mouthpiece.
  • BCD (buoyancy control device) – Also known as a stabilizer jacket, this inflates to help divers adjust their depth and stay neutrally buoyant underwater.
  • Scuba tanks – Cylindrical high-pressure tanks filled with compressed air that divers breathe from through the regulator hoses and mouthpiece. Recreational dive tanks commonly hold 12 liters of air at 2,000 PSI.
  • Mask – Fitted over the face, the mask allows divers clear vision underwater and protects the eyes from stinging.
  • Fins – Fitted to the diver’s feet, fins provide propulsion through the water instead of swimming.
  • Computer or dive tables – Used to track no-decompression limits and avoid the bends by monitoring time, depth and surface intervals during dives.

Beginner recreational “open water” scuba certification classes introduce all of this equipment and how to use it safely through confined pool dives and open water dives, usually taking around 4 days to complete. With proper training, scuba allows all people to experience the wonders of the underwater world.

Thailand’s tropical waters provide ideal conditions for scuba diving. Its waters remain warm year-round between 78-85°F, providing thermal comfort for divers without wetsuits. Combined with low currents, the calm waters allow very good underwater visibility often ranging 30-100+ feet depending on conditions. But what truly makes Thailand world-renowned are its incredible coral reef ecosystems teeming with hundreds of species of colorful fish, sea turtles, moray eels and more. Now let’s explore some little-visited tropical islands within these waters that offer top-notch diving without the tourist crowds.

Koh Tachai (or Rabbit Island)

Nestled in a remote region of the Phi Phi Islands about 30 miles from Krabi, little Koh Tachai (also spelled Koh Ta Chai) is among the most pristine and untouched islands with world-class diving nearby. Its English name “Rabbit Island” comes from its small size and rounded shape resembling a rabbit when viewed from above. Measuring just 1.25 square kilometers, Koh Tachai remains uninhabited with no resort development and can only be accessed by private longtail boats from nearby Koh Phi Phi Don or Krabi mainland.

The seclusion keeps crowds away while allowing the reef systems surrounding Koh Tachai to thrive undisturbed. Some of the top dive sites circling the island include:

  • Anemone Reef – Swarms of protective anemones and clownfish make this shallow reef come alive in a kaleidoscope of colors. Sea fans and soft corals also blanket the reef.
  • Southwest Pinnacle – Also known as “Green Rock”, this underwater rock pinnacle attracts schools of barracuda, snapper and trevally plus occasional pelagics like sharks.
  • Middle Pinnacle – Another large rocky formation encrusted with soft corals and gorgonians, home to moray eels, lionfish and large groupers.
  • Northwest Rocks – A series of submerged rocky outcroppings connected by soft coral gardens, frequented by turtles, batfish and lionfish.

With minimal sediment disturbances from human activity, Koh Tachai’s reefs remain some of the most vibrant and biodiverse in all of Thailand. Multilevel topography provides habitat for all levels of marine life from hard coral clusters and sea anemones at 15-30 feet, down to gorgonian forests at 60-80 feet depth. Water visibility often exceeds 100 feet even on overcast days. Advanced nitrox and deep diving also access pristine drop-offs and walls.

How to visit Koh Tachai

As Koh Tachai remains undeveloped, the only way to experience its incredible diving is on multi-day liveaboard boat trips departing from nearby ports. Most operators spend a full day circumnavigating Koh Tachai and its reefs, with 3-4 dives during optimum morning light. Tours from Krabi and Phuket typically last 3-4 nights offering 5-6 dives per day to a rotation of sites between Phi Phi, Tachai and adjacent areas like Shark Point or Hin Daeng.

Some top liveaboard operators for Koh Tachai trips include:

  • Poseidon Liveaboard – French-managed vessels providing boutique luxury service, international PADI crews and gourmet cuisine.
  • Scuba Junkie – Australian-owned with mid-sized comfortable boats, tech-friendly diving focus and dedicated safety standards.
  • Sherpa Liveaboard – Thai-managed liveaboards at affordable prices with casual atmosphere, tasty Thai cooking and local flair.

While a liveaboard is the only way to dive Koh Tachai, it provides the unique experience of an entire reef conserved for divers. With multiple dives per day and overnight anchoring, liveaboards maximize time exploring the remote dive sites with ease and convenience. Though diving access is restricted, Koh Tachai’s pristine condition rewards those who seek truly unspoiled coral wilderness.

Surin Islands National Park and Koh Surin Nua

Located about 125 miles north of Phuket, the five atolls and islands of Surin Islands National Park comprise one of Thailand’s best preserved marine ecosystems. Roughly circular reefs form emerald lagoons within each island, providing safe habitat for sea life to proliferate without fishing pressure. With remote location and exclusive support facilities, tourism numbers here remain relatively small compared to other parks. Surin offers what few places still can – walls of pristine coral and abundant marine biodiversity preserved in fully natural conditions.

The northern islet Koh Surin Nua is the park’s prime diving mecca, harboring close to 500 identified coral species, over 900 fish species and occasional visits from rare whale sharks and manta rays. Much of Surin Nua’s outer reef face drops off dramatically forming near-vertical drop-offs and walls.

Among the premier dives within Surin Nua’s waters include:

  • Japanese Gardens – Gigantic plate and branch coral formations create visually striking “garden” scenery. Schools of snapper congregate while eagle and manta rays often pass by.
  • Richelieu Rock South – Turquoise waters frame hard and soft coral encrusted rock pinnacles emerging from the sandy sea floor out to 60m depths. Lone sharks patrol.
  • East of Eden – Known for schooling barracuda, grouper and large lionfish residing amidst vast fans of gorgonian sea fans and whip corals.
  • The Edge – Stunning corals, schools of bannerfish and solitary reef sharks at the spectacular wall drop-off into the blue.
  • Anemone Reef – Colorful anemones provide vivid contrast sheltering clownfish, shrimp and morays. Hard corals abound at 15-25m depths.

Liveaboards still represent the only accommodation within the park limits. A minimum of 3 nights is recommended to fully experience Surin’s diving and gain convenience of multiple daily dives. Night dives offer chances to see nocturnal critters like octopus, squid and lobsters. With ongoing conservation efforts, Koh Surin Nua remains a underwater Eden preserved.

Koh Ha

Another Andaman Sea atoll within a protected marine park area lies about 180 miles southwest of Krabi – Haad Chao Mai National Park and the island of Koh Ha. Accessible only by multi-day liveaboard trips, this remote and primitive park sees few visitors each year, which has allowed its rich ecosystems to remain pristine. The channel waters around Koh Ha maintain very good visibility from 25-100+ feet on average.

Top dive spots encircling the uninhabited forested island are highlighted by:

  • Anemone Reef – Soft corals adorned by countless anemones provide a kaleidoscope of colors, playing host to clownfish and smaller reef inhabitants.
  • Mountain Pinnacle – A sloping seamount rises from the depths, inviting diver exploration across its coral ridges and gorgonian forest habitats. Large pelagics like barracuda and sharks occasionally visit.
  • Rock Reef – Encrusted boulders and outcrops harbor moray eels, nudibranchs and resident grouper amidst bountiful hard and soft coral growths.
  • The Crack – A sloping wall dive passing through a narrow gorge “crack” in the reef leads into a bluewater arena frequented by schooling bannerfish and jackfish.

With over a dozen additional quality reef dives, Koh Ha offers perfect environment for advanced nitrox, technical and night diving. Remote Haad Chao Mai National Park ensures this atoll retains its underwater integrity and diversity rivaling the reefs of times past. For dedicated adventurers, Koh Ha provides diving to be cherished for a lifetime in one of Southeast Asia’s last underwater frontiers.

Alternative inland islands

While remote offshore islands compose some of Thailand’s unspoiled jewels, there are also worthwhile options closer to mainland that remain relatively low-impact. Koh Kradan, Koh Rok Nai and Mu Koh Lanta National Park present great diving without needing liveaboards. https://kampatour.com/scuba-diving-in-thailand

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