Thailand’s annual Southwest monsoon season, which stretches from May to October, doesn’t mean there is continuous rain all day long; rather the rain that comes is – while sometimes prolonged – typically for 1-2 hours in the afternoon or early evening.
In the interest of safety and to help ensure a wonderful time for those visiting the beautiful beaches and islands of Southern Thailand during the Southwest monsoon, please note the following:
Swimming: Extra caution must be taken when swimming in the sea in places like Phuket or island destinations. Large waves and unseen threats like rip-currents can make it very dangerous to swim. If there are red flags planted on the beach, this means DO NOT SWIM.
Yellow flags indicate swimming is allowed, but there is still medium risk and caution is needed. Green flags indicate calm conditions for swimming.
If there is a red-yellow flag planted on the beach, this signifies there are lifeguards on duty. A black and white checkered flag means it is a boat, surfboard and other watercraft area. If in doubt about taking a swim in the sea, ask the lifeguards if they are on duty or check with your hotel staff.
Boat trips: Island-hopping and other tour boat trips still operate during this season but can be cancelled or delayed at the last minute due to unfavourable or dangerous weather conditions. This is generally the decision of a boat’s captain, and please bear in mind that if a trip is called off, it is for the safety of the passengers and crew. If you have concerns about a trip going ahead in spite of official warnings against heading out to sea, the choice is always yours as to whether or not to go.
Diving: Diving is still possible during the Southwest monsoon but not always and not to all spots; such as, the Similan Islands (see below).
Weather: Keep a constant watch on weather reports. And in the case of any flood waters, try to avoid wading through these as the water can be unsanitary and also hide hidden dangers like open manholes and jagged rocks or broken glass.
Mosquitoes: Take extra precaution against mosquitoes, which can spread disease like malaria and dengue fever, as these can breed in standing water.
Annual seasonal closure of islands: The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) closes several islands in the Andaman Sea every year from May to October.
These islands include Mu Ko Similan, Mu Ko Surin, Mu Ko Lanta, Mu Ko Ranong, Laem Son, Mu Ko Phetra and Mu Ko Adang – Rawi.
In particular, during the rainy months, the DNP closes several attractions in various national parks nationwide (for a full list of attractions that are closed for a certain period every year, click here).
Sailing: During this season, there is sailing in Phang Nga Bay right down to Phi Phi Island with strong sea conditions and larger swells in more exposed areas. Always keep an eye out for fishing nets (sometimes marked with a flag) and fishing boats. Extra care should be taken of currents in narrow areas between islands. Night sailing is not permitted in Thai waters and yachts must be anchored by 17:30 Hrs.