Pattaya offers year-round diving with a diverse selection of sites and excursions at comparatively low prices. A water temperature of around 28ºC all year makes this a popular sport with both experts and beginners.
Many beginners come here especially to learn at one of the several five-star diving centres, at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent training in their home countries. Courses range from one to four days, depending upon the proficiency you wish to reach and the type of diving you wish to learn.
If you already have a proficiency certificate, a day’s diving will normally cost you around 3,000 baht, with equipment supplied. Night diving with three dives will be about 3,500 baht. Various options are also open for experienced divers, including specialist days as a boat diver, drift diver, underwater naturalist, underwater videographer, and also nitrox diving. These will cost about 4,500 baht for two dives and instruction.
Two-day speciality dives available from Pattaya include deep diving, wreck diving, underwater photography and night diving. These are normally priced at around 8,000-9000 baht for the two days.
For the beginner or intermediate diver who wants to learn or improve, PADI courses are readily available. An open water dive course over four days will get you your PADI certificate for around 14,000 baht (US$350 or £200). An advanced open water diver two-day course is about 12,000 baht with five dives. There are also day-long introductory dive classes if you are short on time.
A 21-day dive master course is around 28,000 baht, and some people stay on to teach diving at one of the centres, which are often keen to employ new instructors.
Pattaya dive sites
There is a large selection of diving sites within easy reach of Pattaya, and most boats leave from either Pattaya or Jomtien. The most convenient and popular areas to dive are around the various islands only a few kilometres from the mainland. The islands further from the shore take longer to get to but tend to be a lot quieter and do not suffer from the speedboat and jet-ski traffic of the islands closer to Pattaya.
The main dive sites in the area include:
Koh Sak: has two main sites starting in a sheltered bay so it’s ideal for beginners and those who have not dived for a while. There are lots of hard corals and fish in this shallow (12-14-metre) diving area.
Koh Larn: is the largest island near Pattaya. It is a popular daytrip for tourists and there are, therefore, quite a few dive spots. Shark Point, as the name suggests, is the place to see young sharks, as well as the odd turtle or cuttlefish, with soft coral to 22m. Koh Larn Vak is most notable for a half-built restaurant which was so badly sited that it sank during its construction, leaving some interesting small caves and new coral on the concrete. Golden Bay, also on Koh Larn, is a multi-purpose dive site with a deep drop off to around 50m and coral down to about 25m. Some very good hard coral at between seven and 10m provides intriguing diving.
Koh Krok: is a small island on a tidal flow and is ideal for drift diving.
Koh Rin: is one of the ‘far islands’ situated about 15kms off Pattaya and which takes 90 minutes to get to. It has three main dive sites; the one at Koh Rin Ba, being a relaxing dive away from currents, while Hin Ton Mai and Hin Khao (Northern and Southern Rocks) are very popular for the diverse variety of fish and coral.
Koh Man Wichai: is another ‘far island’ and is a favourite with returning divers. The two excellent dives here bring people back year after year, with a variety of environments on each dive. The nearby Koh Hu Chang is a tiny island with good coral and a profusion of small fish at a relaxing 10m depth.
Koh Phai: or Bamboo Island is controlled by the Royal Thai Navy – who restrict the use of the beaches – yet the small sheltered bay at the southern end of the island is ideal for beginners.
Samae San: and the surrounding sites have some of the best diving in the region. The Hardeep Wreck of a freighter that sunk in 1943 is the reason why most divers come to this site, but at 27m, it is not one for beginners. There are two very pleasant coral dives nearby.
Koh Chuang: near Koh Chan and Submarine Rock, provide three areas of diving interest not far from Samae San, with different corals and fish at each site.
There are many diving centres on the eastern seaboard and in Pattaya itself. Examples are:
Mermaids Dive Centre: in Jomtien is also a PADI five-star centre, with its own boat and qualified professional on board every trip. 315/166-167 Moo 12, Thappraya Road, Jomtien Beach, tel: (038) 303 333, email.
Moose Diver: also in Jomtien, has roughly the same pricing structure and they speak English, Norwegian, Swedish and Thai. 75/28 Moo 12, Soi 5, Jomtien, tel: (038) 231 874, (089) 832 8732, email.
Pattaya Dive Centre: on Beach Road, Central Pattaya is a five-star IDC operation, with professionals on each trip aboard the Lady-Go-Diver; the only fast catamaran dive boat. 219/3 Tipp Plaza, Beach Road, tel: (038) 422 133, email.