The sparkling waters surrounding Thailand are without question beautiful, but with so much tourism they’re becoming more fragile by the day. These marine life adventures connect with the ocean, responsibly and respectfully
Diving sites in Thailand have recently undergone a lot of scrutiny. With dozens of speed boats a day tearing through the more popular spots off the coast of Phuket, coral and marine life have started to deteriorate. Even though the top quality waters in these southern areas are alluring, it’s best to avoid these places until more regulation is enforced to protect the ocean.
Instead, visit the quieter diving sites surrounding Koh Chang, which is infinitely less touristy than Phuket despite being Thailand’s second largest island. Koh Chang is teetering on the edge of being over-developed – there are plenty of backpackers and resorts here – but it’s known for clinging on to a good amount of wild beauty. Parts of Ko Chang’s surrounding waters are included in Mo Ko Chang Marine National Park, protected areas with plenty of colourful coral reef to explore.
Alternatively, head further south to even lesser-known Chumphon, which is on the mainland opposite busy Koh Tao. Visibility isn’t as good here as other sites, but discovered on the right day and you’ll be swimming among fish darting around anemones and if you’re lucky, you’ll spot a whale shark.
Snorkelling is a relatively low-impact way for you to discover marine life while on your travels. Thailand is home to some of the most crystal clear waters in the world, ideal for strapping on a snorkel and swimming around to see what you can find.
Koh Lanta and its surrounding islands often crop up in conversation when talking about snorkelling in Thailand. Here it’s possible to get right up close to gorgeous coral reef beds and colourful tropical fish with a snorkel, and in many different locations. Many of the diving trips are happy to take out snorkelers – ask at your hotel as some may pick up right from your front door. Koh Haa and Koh Rok are two of the best snorkel spots in the Koh Lanta area.
There are sea turtle conservation centres across Thailand that you can visit and even give a helping hand at if your time in the country allows. Nearly all species of sea turtle are endangered, having been threatened by both human interference and climate change. These centres work to educate visitors and protect these beautiful creatures.
Interestingly, one of the most developed turtle conservation centres in Thailand is run by the Royal Thai Navy. Located is Sattahip, around 170km south of Bangkok, this facility has an interactive visitor’s centre, making it a great place to take the kids. Here you’ll find a few tanks where you can see adorable hatchlings being reared as well as adults turtles, all of which are eventually released back into the wild from the centre’s little sandy beach.
Ang Thong National Marine Park
There are numerous protected ocean areas in Thailand, but one of the most beautiful is Ang Thong National Marine Park. Made up of over 40 islands scattered off the coast of Thailand’s Surat Thani province, this paradise escape was the inspiration behind Alex Garland’s novel The Beach.
Speed boats whip around the islands for travellers who want to hop from one to the other. You may well have to ride a few of these to reach the islands but there are other ways to explore once you arrive. Stop off at Ko Wua Ta Lap where the park’s headquarters is based, and rent a kayak to explore the area’s little nooks and crannies.
As the waters are shallow many people go snorkelling around Ang Thong Marine National Park, and you can spot angel fish and butterfly fish, among others, plus on a good day you might see rays or reef shark. Camp or stay in a bungalow here, but note the park is closed in November and for large parts of December.
Trash Hero cleaning up the beaches
Trash Hero have been cleaning up Thailand’s beaches since 2013, and have won awards for their extensive work to keep the country’s paradise shores pristine. The project has since expanded to other countries across South East Asia and other parts of the world, and seen great success in raising awareness about waste problems.
The project started in Koh Lipe, where you can still go and help out, but there are weekly clean-ups all over the country. There’s no fee for joining in and all you have to do is turn up ready and raring to go. Beach clean-ups are so important to keeping Thailand’s shores as beautiful as they should be, so you can help out safe in the knowledge you’re doing essential work. You’ll get to meet some fun and friendly people along the way too.