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Top 5 Best Liveaboards In Thailand

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So you’ve heard that a liveaboard is the only way to access the very best scuba diving in Thailand.

But after taking a look at the different dive liveaboards in Thailand, you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the choices available.

We get it.

There are literally dozens of liveaboard options in Thailand and it’s hard to know which is the best liveaboard for you.

And that’s where ScubaOtter comes in.

AT A GLANCE: OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST THAILAND LIVEABOARDS

  • Best Budget Liveaboard: Pawara

Keep reading to learn more about these options. Plus we’ll share all the essential information you need to plan your perfect Thai liveaboard experience.

Why Go On A Liveaboard In Thailand?

You might be thinking…

‘Can’t I just go scuba diving from one of those beautiful islands in Thailand?

While it’s possible to scuba dive in Thailand from most of the islands, all of the best scuba diving spots are accessed on a liveaboard. So if you only dive on day trips you’re completely missing out on the truly spectacular diving that Thailand has to offer.

The legendary Similan and Surin islands, arguably some of the best dive spots in the world, not just Thailand, can only be dived on a liveaboard. And a scuba diving trip to Thailand just isn’t complete without visiting at least 1, if not both, of these dive spots.

What’s more, is that even in the spots where there is epic diving accessible from an island base the sites are a long boat ride away. Think 2 hours or more each way. And if you’re planning multiple days of diving this can get really tiring.

Plus with all the day boats heading out at similar times the sites can get really crowded in the middle of the day. On a dive liveaboard, you arrive at the sites long before the day trips meaning you often get the entire dive site to yourself.

Not only is a dive liveaboard more comfortable, convenient, and less tiring but it’s also the only way to experience the best diving in Thailand.

So without further ado, let’s dive right into the best liveaboards in Thailand.

Best Dive Liveaboards In Thailand

Best Budget Liveaboards

  • # Divers: 24
  • # Cabins: 12
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Yes
  • Price: Low
  • Routes: Similan islands, Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai

The 35m Pawara is a custom-built, steel hulled Similan Islands liveaboard. Diving takes place from the spacious dive platform, which offers plenty of room for gear storage, and divers who are qualified can take advantage of the FREE Nitrox on offer.

When you are above the water the Pawara Liveaboard offers 2 budget cabins with shared bathrooms and 10 cabins with en-suite bathrooms. Each cabin is air-conditioned and provides towels, toiletries and a safety deposit box.

For relaxation after the dives guests can choose from the entertainment room which is equipped with flat screen TV, DVD, sound system, karaoke, games and more, or the sun deck with comfortable soft mattresses. In the dining room 3 delicious meals of Thai and International cuisine will be served, and cookies, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and drinking water are available all day.

What we love

  • Free Nitrox
  • plenty of entertainment options
  • Local and international cuisine

Downsides

  • No TV’s in standard rooms

  • # Divers: 24
  • # Cabins: 12
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Yes (extra $)
  • Price: Low
  • Routes: Similan islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock & Surin

If you’re looking for a luxury liveaboard with incredible food and a highly experienced crew then look no further than the Bavaria liveaboard. This modern yacht provides spacious cabins, unbeatable hospitality, and fantastic facilities.

The Bavaria liveaboard offers a variety of spacious cabin options to suit all budgets. On the main deck, you can choose between a deluxe double cabin or a comfortable twin cabin both with ensuite bathrooms. Or a comfortable double cabin with ensuite or standard twin cabin with a shared bathroom on the lower deck. All feature air conditioning.

The diving platform on this liveaboard is incredibly spacious and well organized making preparing for every dive effortless. The professional and attentive dive team is always on hand to make sure you have the best possible experience both above and below the water.

In between dives, you can relax in the air-conditioned saloon equipped with the latest entertainment facilities. Or head up to the enormous sun deck to soak up some rays as you cruise past the stunning Thai scenery.

One of the best things about this liveaboard is the food. Bavaria provides a wide choice of delicious dishes from local and western cuisine that are easily comparable to a 5-star restaurant. An impressive variety of fine wines is available to further enhance your dining experience.

What’s more, is that the Bavaria liveaboard offers additional activities besides diving and snorkeling including onboard massages and land excursions. So it’s a great option if you’re traveling with non-divers or are looking for a variety of activities. Non-divers also receive a 25% discount.

The Bavaria liveaboard offers 3/4-day trips to either the Similan or Surin Islands, as well as 6-7 day itineraries that combine the best sites from both island groups.

If you’re looking for a top-quality dive experience in Thailand, the Bavaria liveaboard is an amazing choice.

What we love

  • Thai massages on board
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Delicious food
  • Suitable for non-divers

Downsides

  • Snorkel gear is extra
  • Nitrox not included

Best Mid-Range Liveaboards

  • # Divers: 18
  • # Cabins: 7
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: No
  • Nitrox: Yes (extra $)
  • Price: Mid-Range
  • Routes: Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rock, Koh Phi Phi

The Phinisi is arguably the best liveaboard in Thailand. The Phinisi’s warm atmosphere, personalized service, and superior facilities create a truly unforgettable experience.

This elegant liveaboard accommodates a total of 18 guests across 7 luxurious cabins. Each cabin features individually controlled air conditioning, a private hot water bathroom, and a mini-safe. As well as twin and double cabins, there are also 2 cabins with 4 single beds, ideal for friends, families, or solo travelers.

With several spacious and comfortable communal areas on The Phinisi, you’ll have plenty of options to relax and soak up the breathtaking Thai scenery during your liveaboard trip.

Outside you’ll find a beautiful outdoor dining area, shaded lounge, and large sundeck, all offering panoramic views. Inside you have a large air-conditioned lounge, a wonderful place to unwind with a drink or watch a movie on the large flat screen entertainment system. On such a beautifully designed boat, it’s almost tempting to not go diving!

However, the incredible dive sites and highly experienced team ensure that you enjoy your time underwater as much as you do onboard. All diving is done from motorized tender dinghies that drop you right at the perfect spot. You also have the option to complete PADI diving courses onboard.

The Phinisi offers 3 or 4-day trips around the southern islands and 6 -7 day trips to the Similan and Surin islands. You also have the option to combine these 2 trips in a 10 day / 10-night trip and ensure you get to visit every dive site.

What we love

  • Spacious communal areas
  • High-end service
  • Elegantly designed cabins
  •  Surprisingly affordable
  • Small groups

Downsides

  • Nitrox is not included
  • No Wi-Fi available

  • # Divers: 24
  • # Cabins: 12
  • AC: Yes
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Nitrox: Yes
  • Price: Low
  • Routes: Similan islands, Richelieu Rock, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai

The 35m Pawara is a custom-built, steel hulled Similan Islands liveaboard. Diving takes place from the spacious dive platform, which offers plenty of room for gear storage, and divers who are qualified can take advantage of the FREE Nitrox on offer.

When you are above the water the Pawara Liveaboard offers 2 budget cabins with shared bathrooms and 10 cabins with en-suite bathrooms. Each cabin is air-conditioned and provides towels, toiletries and a safety deposit box.

For relaxation after the dives guests can choose from the entertainment room which is equipped with flat screen TV, DVD, sound system, karaoke, games and more, or the sun deck with comfortable soft mattresses. In the dining room 3 delicious meals of Thai and International cuisine will be served, and cookies, fresh fruit, tea, coffee and drinking water are available all day.

What we love

  • Free Nitrox
  • plenty of entertainment options
  • Local and international cuisine

Downsides

  • No TV’s in standard rooms

Best Luxury Liveaboards

  • # Divers: 18
  • # Cabins: 8
  • AC: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: Yes (extra $)
  • Nitrox: Yes (extra $)
  • Price: High
  • Routes: Similan Islands and northern Andaman Sea

The final liveaboard on our list is the Thailand Aggressor. Although one of the largest liveaboards in Thailand, this 35m world-class yacht only accommodates a maximum of 16 divers to provide a highly personalized and luxury liveaboard experience.

Choose from either a master suite with a queen bed or a deluxe stateroom with 2 twin beds. All of the decadent cabins include private hot-water bathrooms, mirrored wardrobes, fresh towels and bathrobes, a hairdryer, individual climate control, and a 22-inch flat-screen TV equipped with the latest movies.

When you’re not diving you can socialize in the spacious air-conditioned lounge, which also features a well-stocked library and HD entertainment system. There’s also a beautiful sundeck, perfect for soaking up some rays and enjoying the ocean breeze. End your day lavishly by enjoying a well-deserved cocktail in the onboard jacuzzi.

The food onboard the Thailand Aggressor is easily comparable to a high-end restaurant. The onboard chefs offer a variety of delicious American dishes, local cuisine, and mouth-watering barbeques. All soft drinks, iced tea, local beer, and wine are complimentary.

The exceptionally knowledgeable dive team provides extensive briefings with high regard for safety and marine conservation. With up to 5 dives available per day including a night dive you’re sure to make the most of the epic scuba diving Thailand has to offer. And after every dive, you’re welcomed back on board with a warm towel and a delicious selection of homemade snacks.

The Thailand Aggressor liveaboard offers all the necessary facilities to set up and look after your underwater camera as well as edit your photos. You can also rent a GoPro or opt for an underwater photography package to capture all those epic diving memories.

If you’re looking to treat yourself to a luxury liveaboard experience then the Thailand Agressor is the perfect choice for you. With unbeatable diving, service, and facilities, this liveaboard is worth every cent!

What we love

  • Luxurious cabins
  • Onboard jacuzzi & massage therapist
  • Amazing food
  • Complimentary wine with dinner
  • Large dive deck with camera station

Downsides

  • Nitrox not included
  • Wi-Fi not included
  • Expensive

When Is The Best Time For A Dive Liveaboard In Thailand?

The best time to go on a dive liveaboard in Thailand is between November and April, also known as the dry season. During the monsoon season, between May and September, the Similan and Surin islands are closed due to exceptionally choppy sea conditions.

December and January will be the most crowded as this is the peak season when the weather is at its best. Between February and April is the best time to see whale sharks and manta rays.

Still not sure when to go on a liveaboard in Thailand?

Let’s take a closer look at the dive conditions month by month:

JANUARY TO FEBRUARY

For sea conditions, these are the best months for a liveaboard in Thailand. The water is beautifully calm and visibility is exceptional, both around the Similan and Surin Islands as well as in the south. However, this is also the high season for tourists so sites can be busy. And make sure you book early to avoid disappointment!

MARCH TO APRIL

During these months the sea conditions are still calm but plankton blooms mean that the visibility is reduced. However, as every keen diver knows, plankton blooms attract those bucket list pelagics. So March is one of the best months to see manta rays and whale sharks on a liveaboard in Thailand.

MAY TO SEPTEMBER

The monsoon season creates rough sea conditions that force the Similan and Surin islands to close. The Southern islands, such as Koh Phi Phi, can still be enjoyed on a dive liveaboard. The water tends to be less clear and more choppy during these months.

However, the weather is often unpredictable and you can still experience some great diving conditions. Plus this is low season so liveaboards in Thailand are considerably cheaper than in other months.

OCTOBER TO DECEMBER

This is the start of the dry season when liveaboards start returning to the Similan and Surin Islands. The water is mostly still and visibility is incredible again.

October is often considered the best time for a dive liveaboard in Thailand. The conditions are fantastic and as it’s still low season the dive sites are much quieter. November marks the beginning of the high season with exceptional diving throughout the region. But expect liveaboard prices to increase and dive sites to be busy.

What Are The Destinations For Dive Liveaboards In Thailand?

The majority, if not all, of the liveaboards in Thailand are found along the east coast in the Andaman Sea.

There are 3 main destinations for dive liveaboards in the Andaman Sea; the Similan Islands, Surin Islands and the Southern Islands around Koh Phi Phi.

Liveaboard trips will range from 3 to 10 days, offering itineraries that explore one or all of these locations.

Let’s take a closer look at each of the liveaboard locations…

Dive Liveaboards In The Similan Islands

The Koh Similan Marine National Park is a world-famous scuba diving destination located 52 miles north-west of Phuket. A dive liveaboard is the only way to dive in the Similan Islands.

Made up of eleven small islands the scenery here is spectacular. Lush rainforests cascade down dark granite cliffs, bright white beaches roll down into vibrant blue waters. And it gets even better when you descend below the surface.

From tranquil reefs to exhilarating drift dives and enticing swim-throughs, there’s a wide variety of dive sites to be explored. As one of the world’s top locations for scuba diving, the Similan islands are a must for every passionate scuba diver.

Here you’ll find carpets of psychedelic anemones, vibrant soft corals, and humongous sea fans. Encounter massive barracuda, jackfish and snappers darting after the smaller reef fish. Look closely and you can spot perfectly camouflaged scorpionfish, octopus and stonefish. There’s also seahorses, pipefish, nudibranch and a whole array of weird and wonderful macro critters for you to find.

And if that’s not enough, between February and April you’re almost guaranteed to find whale sharks and manta rays feeding on the plankton blooms that accumulate here.

Honestly, it’s impossible to describe how incredible diving in the Similan islands is with words. Or even photographs. You’ll just have to go and experience the magic for yourself.

Dive Liveaboards In The Surin Islands

Travel another 100km north of the Similan islands and you’ll reach the Surin Islands. The Surin islands are less famous and less frequented than the Similans but just as spectacular. Many dive liveaboards in Thailand combine the best sites from the Similan and Surin islands in 1 trip.

Here is where you’ll find 1 of the top 10 greatest dive sites on the planet, Richelieu Rock. This is one of the best places in the world to scuba dive with whale sharks and is only accessible on a Thai liveaboard.

The crystal clear waters here are home to some of the most pristine and abundant coral reefs in Thailand. Combined with the frequent sightings of sharks, mantas, and turtles, the Surin islands deliver an unforgettable liveaboard experience.

Akin to the Similan, there’s a variety of diving conditions to suit all levels. From shallow to deep, calm waters to pumping currents, enticing caves, and steep walls, there’s something to suit every level and taste.

If you’ve got the time and budget we highly recommend a liveaboard that combines the Similan and Surin islands so you can experience the very best diving that Thailand has to offer.

As both the Similan Islands and Surin Islands are national marine parks you will be charged a daily entrance fee whether you’re diving or not. The national park fees (approximately $15 per person per day) are very rarely included in your liveaboard package.

Dive Liveaboards Around The Phi Phi Islands

In addition to the Similan and Surin islands, dive liveaboards in Thailand also offer itineraries to the southern islands around Koh Phi Phi. These 6 islands 45km east of Phuket are regarded as one of the most beautiful island chains in the world.

There are many incredible dive sites around the Phi Phi islands, including coral covered walls and enticing limestone caves. You’ll encounter a wide variety of reef fish, macro life and passing pelagics. Most of the dives here are suitable for beginners. However, there are some more challenging currents and deeper waters for experienced divers looking for some action.

What Is Diving On A Liveaboard In Thailand Like?

A liveaboard in Thailand offers a variety of diving experiences including wrecks, fringing reefs, deep drop-offs, caverns, pinnacles, walls, tunnels, and open ocean seamounts.

Dive conditions in Thailand are some of the most beautiful in the world. The water temperature rarely drops below 80°F / 27°C throughout the year and visibility is usually spectacular (20-40m).

Depending on the tide and location, currents can be a little on the strong side or completely non-existent. Most of the diving on a liveaboard in Thailand is relatively shallow (5-25m). However, you’ll also find several sites offering advanced divers the opportunity for deeper dives (25 -40m).

Diving with enriched air nitrox is recommended for divers wishing to explore the deep pinnacles and swim-throughs. Nitrox is available on the majority of liveaboards in Thailand for those certified.

Not sure about the benefits of nitrox? Check out our complete guide to diving with enriched air nitrox.

What Can You See Diving On A Liveaboard In Thailand?

The Andaman Sea is home to Thailand’s most vibrant and healthy coral reefs. So expect an intoxicating explosion of color every time you jump into the water.

On a liveaboard in Thailand, you’re guaranteed to encounter an overwhelming variety of marine life including; colourful reef fish, schooling barracuda, patrolling tuna, turtles, octopus, cuttlefish, lionfish, sea snakes and leopard sharks.

And if that’s not enough, manta rays and whale sharks are frequent sightings for liveaboard trips around the Similan and Surin Islands. Very lucky divers will also encounter a rare sailfish or even a pod of dolphins during their safety stop!

Although a dive liveaboard in Thailand is more about the big fish there are also some great spots for macro lovers. Divers with a keen eye will be able to spot seahorse, pipefish, stonefish, and an impressive array of nudibranch.

Your logbook will definitely fill up fast on a liveaboard in Thailand!

What To Pack For A Dive Liveaboard In Thailand?

In addition to your usual vacation essentials, you might want to consider the following for your liveaboard trip:

SCUBA GEAR

You can rent a full set of scuba gear on all liveaboards in Thailand. This will cost approximately $25-$30 per day.

But if you plan on scuba diving often it’s much more cost-effective, and comfortable, to bring your own dive equipment. Having at least your own scuba diving mask and dive computer will make a big difference to your comfort and safety on a liveaboard.

DIVE INSURANCE

It is highly recommended, and sometimes mandatory, that you have dive insurance for a liveaboard in Thailand. Diving in Thailand is very safe but it’s much more relaxing knowing you’re properly covered just in case.

Confused about insurance for scuba diving? Check out our complete guide to dive insurance.

WATERPROOF CAMERA

Lastly, don’t forget to pack an underwater camera to capture all those once-in-a-lifetime encounters!

Frequently Asked Questions

Some boats are happy with an open water scuba license from any recognized training agency.

Increasingly more dive operators are asking for advanced or deep certification as a minimum level of experience. In this case, open water certified divers can complete the advanced course onboard for a discounted price.

For the more challenging dive sites an advanced certification is highly recommended.

Prices typically include a dive guide, 12-liter tank, weights, and belt, all meals and water/tea/coffee etc. Excluded are the marine park fees, dive equipment rental, Nitrox, alcoholic drinks.

Some boats include equipment rental in the price but most charge extra for equipment as many divers who join a liveaboard have some or all of their own equipment.

Some dive sites do have strong currents at certain tides at certain times of the year.

Experienced dive guides will know how to handle these dive sites and time swimming into a current should be minimal. Some dive sites have lines for ascents and descents. Reef hooks and gloves are not required.

Now you are fully equipped with all the information you need to plan your perfect liveaboard in Thailand. So all that’s left is for you to book it and get packing!

And if you go with one of the top liveaboards mentioned above we know you’re going to have an unforgettable trip.

Which liveaboard did you choose? Let us know in the comments.

Looking for other liveaboards in south-east Asia?

Alexa Worswick Administrator
Alexa is a scuba diving instructor currently based in Indonesia. She’s been diving since 15 years old and has always been obsessed with the ocean. After leaving the UK at the beginning of 2017 to travel around South East Asia. A series of opportunities allowed her to stay, where she gained online marketing experience and pursued her passion for diving. What she loves most about diving is the people. Diving allows her to connect with people from all over the world, from all different backgrounds with different experiences, who all come together to share their love for the underwater world.
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    My name’s Austin, and I created OtterAquatics to help readers become better divers, help them buy their first gear, and plan their next dive vacation!




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