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Exploring Thailand’s Underwater Wonders: The Best Islands and Parks for Snorkelling

Thailand, with its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life, offers snorkeling enthusiasts a paradise beneath the waves. Here, we’ll explore some of the best snorkeling destinations, including Koh Lipe and Korutao National Park, Ko Tao, and the Similan Islands National Marine Park. Get ready to embark on a journey to these enchanting locations in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand.

1. Koh Lipe and Korutao National Park

Location: The Andaman Sea

Koh Lipe: Nestled in the southern Andaman Sea, Koh Lipe is renowned for its stunning coral reefs and diverse marine life. This island paradise is part of the Adang-Rawi Archipelago and serves as a gateway to the spectacular snorkeling sites in Korutao National Park.

Snorkeling Highlights: Koh Lipe boasts vibrant coral gardens teeming with colorful fish. Venture into the waters to encounter parrotfish, clownfish, and even gentle reef sharks. Don’t forget to explore the picturesque Sunset Beach, known for its underwater caves and dramatic drop-offs.

Where to book a snorkeling trip: in the main street of the Island (there is only one, you will find it) you can find many places selling snorkeling tours. They include long tail boats, gear and go pro pictures.

How to Arrive: You can reach Koh Lipe by taking a ferry from Pak Bara or other islands in the vicinity. The island is car-free, making it a peaceful and environmentally friendly destination.

2. Ko Tao

Location: Gulf of Thailand

Ko Tao: Known as the “Turtle Island,” Ko Tao is a snorkeler’s haven located in the Gulf of Thailand. This small island offers a plethora of snorkeling opportunities suitable for divers of all skill levels.

Snorkeling Highlights: Ko Tao is celebrated for its shallow coral reefs, making it perfect for beginners. Explore the Japanese Gardens, Mango Bay, and Shark Bay to discover colorful corals, anemones, and diverse fish species. Keep an eye out for hawksbill and green sea turtles, which are commonly sighted here.

How to Arrive: You can reach Ko Tao by taking a ferry from Chumphon or the nearby islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

3. Similan Islands National Marine Park

Location: The Andaman Sea

Similan Islands: A snorkeling and diving paradise situated in the Andaman Sea, the Similan Islands National Marine Park comprises nine islands, each with its own unique charm.

Snorkeling Highlights: The Similans are celebrated for their thriving underwater ecosystems. As you snorkel in the clear waters, you’ll encounter vibrant coral gardens and an array of marine species. Look out for manta rays, leopard sharks, and the magnificent whale shark if you’re lucky. Among the most famous sites are East of Eden and Donald Duck Bay.

How to Arrive: Access to the Similan Islands is primarily via liveaboard boats or day trips from coastal towns like Khao Lak and Phuket

Thailand’s beaches and marine parks offer snorkeling experiences that cater to all skill levels. Whether you’re swimming among gentle turtles in Ko Tao, marveling at vibrant coral in Koh Lipe, or exploring the wonders of the Similan Islands, each destination is a testament to the country’s rich marine biodiversity. So, don your snorkel gear and immerse yourself in the enchanting underwater world of Thailand.

4. Phi Phi Islands

Location: The Andaman Sea

Phi Phi Islands have long been considered one of Thailand’s most stunning archipelagos, famed for their breathtaking natural beauty both above and below the water, but also for wild parties. However, recent efforts to protect this delicate ecosystem have led to some changes in the way visitors can experience these enchanting islands.

Snorkeling Highlights: While Phi Phi Islands used to offer some fantastic snorkeling experiences, it’s important to note that there are some new restrictions in place. For example, you can no longer snorkel or swim in the iconic Maya Bay. This closure is part of an important conservation initiative aimed at protecting baby sharks and preserving the bay’s fragile ecosystem. However, you can still experience the beauty of Maya Bay by joining a tour that includes sightseeing without harming the marine life.

Pollution Concerns: Another thing to be aware of is that snorkeling is not recommended at Phi Phi’s main beaches, such as Loh Dalum. These areas are often crowded with boats and suffer from pollution. While they offer stunning views from the shore, it’s better to focus on other nearby snorkeling spots for a cleaner and more rewarding experience.

How to Arrive: To explore Phi Phi Islands, you can take a ferry from Phuket, Krabi, or other nearby islands. Make sure to join organized snorkeling tours with experienced guides who can take you to the best and most environmentally responsible sites.

In summary, Phi Phi Islands remain a must-visit destination in Thailand, but with a newfound emphasis on preserving its remarkable marine life. By respecting the conservation efforts in place and choosing snorkeling tours that follow sustainable practices, you can still witness the underwater wonders of Phi Phi while safeguarding its future for generations to come

5. Surin Islands

Location: The Andaman Sea

Surin Islands: If you’re looking for a quieter snorkeling destination, the Surin Islands, situated north of the Similans, are the place to be. These islands are part of the Mu Koh Surin National Park.

Snorkeling Highlights: The Surin Islands are known for their untouched coral reefs and pristine waters. You can snorkel alongside sea turtles, barracuda, and a variety of reef fish. Richelieu Rock, a submerged pinnacle nearby, is celebrated for its diverse marine life, including the elusive whale shark.

How to Arrive: Similar to the Similan Islands, you can access the Surin Islands through liveaboard cruises or day trips from Khao Lak and Phuket.

6. Koh Chang

Location: Gulf of Thailand

Koh Chang: The second-largest island in Thailand, Koh Chang, offers a blend of lush jungles and spectacular underwater adventures in the Gulf of Thailand.

Snorkeling Highlights: Visit Koh Rang Marine National Park to experience the island’s best snorkeling. Here, you’ll find clear waters, pristine coral reefs, and an array of fish species. Some snorkeling sites even feature underwater statues that add a unique touch to your exploration.

How to Arrive: You can reach Koh Chang by taking a ferry from Trat on the mainland. Once on the island, you can join snorkeling tours to explore the marine wonders.

7. Koh Samui

Location: Gulf of Thailand

Koh Samui: While Koh Samui is famous for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, it’s also a fantastic snorkeling destination in the Gulf of Thailand.

Snorkeling Highlights: Explore the coral reefs at Ang Thong Marine Park, an archipelago of 42 islands. The underwater world here is home to a wide variety of marine life, including angelfish, butterflyfish, and parrotfish. The park’s emerald lagoon, known as the Blue Lagoon, is also a must-visit spot.

How to Arrive: Koh Samui is accessible by plane from Bangkok or by ferry from the nearby islands and mainland.

These diverse Thai islands offer remarkable snorkeling opportunities for both beginners and experienced snorkelers. Whether you’re gazing at vibrant coral reefs in Phi Phi Islands, swimming alongside whale sharks in the Surin Islands, or exploring underwater statues in Koh Chang, each island has its unique charm waiting to be discovered beneath the waves.

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