Thailand is a place of many wonders, vibrant nature and wonderfully friendly people. But her real treasures lie under the water in the breathtaking sea life and with so many world-class beaches to choose from, it can be next to impossible to decide which one to dive beneath the surface of. Well we’ve done our research and as far as we’re concerned these are four of the best beaches for snorkelling in Thailand.
- Nang Yuan
- Maya Bay
- Aow Leuk
- Shark Bay
1. Nang Yuan, Near Koh Tao
Located a short ride on a longtail boat from Koh Tao, to the east of the mainland, Koh Nang Yuan is one of the most popular snorkelling destinations in Thailand. It’s also an incredibly beautiful location that has adorned many a tourist photo. The area is made up of three small islands that are linked by a strip of white sandy beach. You can walk around the islands on foot within a short space of time, but it’s the bays that you really want to explore.
Offshore snorkelling is exquisite, even in knee-deep water you’ll see sergeant major fish and parrot fish, but the deeper you go, the more colourful sea life you’ll see swimming in and out of coral reefs. Clown fish, surgeonfish, angelfish, jack fish and many more beautiful sea creatures are all on display. If you’re really lucky you’ll even see rays and turtles.
Top tips when travelling to Nang Yuan:
- Bring cash, there is an entrance fee as well as a restaurant and bar
- It’s often busy, so try and get there as early as possible to get the best of the water
- Opt for the bay that has the least amount of people in it… you’re guaranteed uninterrupted snorkelling without bumping into people
2. Maya Bay, Koh Phi Phi
Made famous by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, Maya Bay is located in between the most captivating cliffs, cropping out of the water around the bay to create a sheltered cove. Extensive coral reefs make up the lay of the underwater land, attracting innumerable colourful creatures, as well as tourists. Arrive by boat, drop anchor and snorkel from your boat. The depth of the water here is about 2 to 3 metres.
The moment you put your goggles underwater, you won’t want to return above water. Tread lightly though because the boom in tourism has damaged the coral reefs in some places and it’s everyone’s responsibility to treat this special piece of nature with respect. Steer clear of the crowds and you might get to see the two local clownfish common to the bay: pink skunk clownfish and ocellaris clownfish.
Top tips when travelling to Maya Bay:
- It gets really busy, so best to avoid visiting during peak hours. Go either really early or later in the evening
- Bring cash (firstly for the longtail boat to drive you there) to land your boat on the shore
3. Aow Leuk, Koh Tao
The coral reefs in Aow Leuk start right off the beach and make up the two sides of the bay, which has depths of up to 10 metres. Here you will see abundant, colourful marine life and you could even be fortunate enough to see baby black tip reef sharks before they move out into deeper waters.
You’re guaranteed to see schools of sergeant major fish, parrot fish, jack fish, trigger fish, snappers, lionfish, and perhaps even a turtle or two if you’re really fortunate. It’s a quiet, little bay, which affords tourists more snorkel pleasure, but also best to avoid during peak hours to enjoy the best conditions.
Top tips when travelling to Aow Leuk:
- If travelling from land, there is road access and an entry fee will be charged
- If travelling by boat, make sure you choose a calm day or you won’t be able to drop anchor
4. Shark Bay, Koh Tao
As the name suggests, Shark Bay is a must-visit if you want to get up close and personal with some black tip reef sharks. The bay is known as Thian Og and it’s a remote beach that houses only two resorts. It’s accessible by longtail boat or you can pay a day visitor’s fee to snorkel from the beach. The water is up to about 4 meters deep where you’ll be anchoring, but you can snorkel all the way into the shallows or until the reefs end.
There is also a resident pair of turtles who have been known to frequent the outskirts of the bay. Although they are more inclined to stick to the deeper waters, it’s worth keeping an eye open for them too. You’ll also be treated to plenty of parrot fish, bluestreak cleaner wrasse, trigger fish (watch out for these guys) and loads of other little beauties.
Top tips when visiting Thian Og or Shark Bay:
- There are a number of tour operators who incorporate Shark Bay as a stop on a day trip around Koh Tao’s best snorkelling beaches. This trip also includes other fabulous snorkelling beaches such as Mango Bay and Aow Leuk
- The restaurants on the bay are very expensive, it’s best to eat elsewhere if you’re hungry
- The bay is beautiful, but not the best reefs when compared to Aow Leuk or Mango Bay. Come for the sharks and look carefully as they are so quick, slick and easy to miss
Travel to: Thailand
One last tip!
With all the beaches, bays and reefs in Thailand, it’s our responsibility to respect them and keep them clean. Don’t stand on the coral reefs, swim over them so that we can enjoy them for many moons to come!