Thailand Scuba Diving, Thailand Underwater Photo Gallery | Scuba Diving

15 Underwater Photos from Thailand | Open Wide and Say Ahhhh!

Scenic Sail Rock on Similan Island

Welcome to Thailand: Scenic Sail Rock, on Similan Island #8

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Judy G

Open Wide and Say "Ahhh"

I’ve written about my travels in Thailand previously, and shared some of the pictures from those journeys, but for me, the beautiful diving off the west coast of Thailand, in the Andaman Sea, never gets old.

I returned for my third visit to Thailand this past January, this time traveling with my twenty-something daughter. We shared the liveaboard boat we chose (The Junk) with a dozen other divers, who came from Australia, Germany, Austria, Scotland, the U.S., and Switzerland to enjoy the adventure. The three great dive guides were French, Portuguese and Thai, and when rounded out by us two Canadians, and the excellent Thai crew, it truly was an international gathering.

Thailand has a very robust dive tourism economy, and there are a lot of boats to choose from — both day boats out of Phuket, and liveaboard vessels — so there is truly something available for every budget. Getting to Phuket is quite simple from the west coast of North America. Flights to Phuket, with easy connections in many Asian hub cities, are the way to go.

The Andaman Sea has had its share of troubles: First the tsunamis in 2004, which significantly impacted some of the shallow coral gardens, and then a major coral bleaching event a few years later. I am happy to report that although there are still large patches of damaged corals in some locations, new corals, sponges and gorgonians are sprouting up to replace them, and there are still large swathes of reef that are in good condition.

The fish life this past January was as lively as I have ever seen it in Thailand — large, swirling schools of barracuda, snappers and fusiliers, on many dives, thrilled us all. Richelieu Rock still stands out as a "top ten" world class dive site for me — colorful cascades of soft corals, huge anemone gardens, regal hard coral structures, huge shoals of fish, and so many interesting critters living on and around this epic dive site.

Koh Bon is Thailand’s infamous "manta site," but I had been pretty much skunked there, with only one murky manta sighting in several dives on previous trips. On this trip, we apparently hit the manta jackpot, seeing several distinct individuals on the three dives we did at this location. One of them was the largest I have ever seen — easily 20 feet from wingtip to wingtip. These stealth bomber-like animals are so graceful and poetic — hanging in the blue for a total of several hours while watching them soar over, under, or beside us, was a trip highlight.

So what follows is a collection of wide angle scenes from the Andaman Sea. In a future installment, I’ll focus in on some of the smaller stuff that always makes choosing a lens a quandary when diving in places like Thailand.

Diver and Manta Ray underwater in Koh Bon, Thailand

Koh Bon Manta
It is a total thrill to find yourself this close to one of these majestic beasts. This was a big one.

Judy G

Underwater photo of a sea fan and baitfish with scuba diver in Thailand

Reef Scenic
I captured this image at Koh Tachai. The colorful sea fan was easily bigger than my daughter! The glassy sweepers swarming it are small, shiny baitfish that are plentiful in December and January, but later in the season they will have been snapped up by the many ravenous reef fish.

Judy G

Schooling barracuda underwater in Thailand

A Swirl of Barracuda
This was the largest congregation of barracuda that I have seen in my dive travels. They were also quite large fish — barracuda come in several varieties and sizes — and these were big ones. Seeing them swoop up into this tornado of fish was very exciting.

Judy G

Pink soft coral underwater in the Similan Islands

Pretty in Pink
Although Fiji is often sited as the "soft coral capital of the world," Thailand offers up some very pretty and colorful reef scenes, like this one, taken in the Similan Islands.

Judy G

Cuttlefish mating behavior underwater in Thailand

Canoodling Cuttlefish
This was an amazing display of behavior — two male cuttlefish were vying for the attention of the female (she is bright red in the photo). Both males underwent rapidly changing skin colors and patterns as part of the courtship with her and aggression with each other. The larger male won, while the younger male hung out in the background. These cuttlefish are not yet mating — when they do, they will face each other, tentacles to tentacles, and then male will pass his sperm pouch to the female. She will then fertilize her eggs, and place them somewhere in the reef to gestate.

Judy G

Underwater photo taken in Thailand of soft coral and the thermocline is visibile

The Thermocline
Here, the soft corals (and colorful gorgonian sea fan) are all fluffed up in the current, feeding on plankton and other microscopic critters that pass by. The strange color of the water was something new for me — when we arrived on the reef, the water was clear, warm, and blue. In the distance, we could see a large, green, murky cloud of water rolling in from the deep. Look carefully at this this photo — you can make out the two thermoclines as they mix. Eventually, the green water won, and the dive became quite turbid and chilly.

Judy G

Diver and reef scene underwater in Koh Tachai

Koh Tachai Scenic
Koh Tachai is located north of the Similan Islands, and a bit east of Koh Bon. I’ve always enjoyed the dives I have done at Koh Tachai, although some of them have been challenging due to strong currents. On this dive, the currents were quite mild, and the fish life was happening. Behind the sea rods you can see my daughter with her camera, lining up a shot.

Judy G

Scuba diver peeks through a hole at Elephant Rock dive site, Thailand

A Hole in the Wall at Elephant Rock
There are quite a few signature dives in the itineraries that most live aboard boats follow in this part of Thailand. Elephant Rock, in the Similan Island group is one of these. The Similans are very rocky islands — formed from massive granite boulders and formations that soar up out of the water, and cascade down below its surface. Elephant Rock, as its name suggests, kind of looks like an elephant bathing in the ocean. Below the surface, huge boulders and cut throughs create some swirling current, and some great places for fish to hide. This is a natural hole that has formed in a large rock on the site.

Judy G

Scuba diving with schooling barracuda in Koh Tachai, Thailand

Barracuda Revisited
We got lucky on the memorable "barracuda dive" at Koh Tachai. They were orbiting off one of the points of the reef structure when we arrived, and they were still there after we did a big circumnavigation of the site. In this picture, Jerome, our dive guide, swims with the fishes.

Judy G

Underwater photo of a starfish in a coral garden in Thailand

Thailand Rocks
Not all the dive sites in Thailand are covered with beautiful gardens of soft corals and sea fans. In places where there is a lot of current — which is typically on the windward side of the islands, there are a lot of huge “bare” rocks like these. But as you can see, when lit up, these too are colorful. And it is always worthwhile to have a closer look — often nudibranchs, shrimps, gobies and other small critters can be found on the rocks.

Judy G

Underwater photo of a colorful soft coral reef in the Similan Islands, Thailand

Soft Coral
This was one of the most colorful bits of reef I photographed. This image was captured in the Similan Islands.

Judy G

Underwater photo of a manta ray in the ocean. Koh Bon, Thailand

Ready for his Close Up
As I mentioned in the write up above, I had been skunked for good manta sightings (and photo ops) on previous dives at Koh Bon. So, anticipating not seeing them again on this trip, I screwed on a mid-range lens on our first dive there, and went looking for smaller subjects. It is Judy’s Law that I inevitably choose the wrong lens for a dive. It happens far too frequently. So instead of a great full-body shot on a close approach by this manta (in unusually blue water!), I got this head shot instead.

Judy G

Schooling fusiliers fish in Richelieu Rock, Thailand underwater photography

Richelieu Rock Rocks
I truly love Richelieu Rock. On this trip, we were treated to four dives on this very large site — starting with first thing in the morning, and ending with a late afternoon dive. Each one was spectacular, and getting to dive it four times allowed me to shoot a variety of lenses. Large schools of schooling fish are one of the delights of Richelieu Rock. In this photo, a swarm of fusiliers orbits a bit of reef covered in bright pink soft corals.

Judy G

Scuba diver playing around on SMB line underwater in Thailand

Monkey Girl on the Line
Here is my daughter, hanging out on the line of her Surface Marker Buoy (SMB) during our safety stop. It is highly recommended to carry and use one of these simple but highly effective blobs before coming to the surface in Thailand. With so many divers in the water, enjoying the great diving, there is a lot of boat traffic overhead.

Judy G

Judy G is a traveling underwater photographer and regular contributor to Follow her travels on her blog and follow her on Facebook: Judy G Diver.

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