Phuket would seem like a good choice because there are excellent Muay Thai gyms as well as really good scuba diving. Unfortunately, Phuket is the hardest place in Thailand to get a dive job. Nowhere else in the country do they make you get a work permit which is a complicated legal process and a real pain! The other problem is the big dive shops are all the way in Patong Beach – a 40 minute drive from Chalong, where Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket Top Team and most gyms are located. It wouldn’t be realistic to drive back and forth, especially with all of your scuba gear. If you were really serious about giving it a try, you might get lucky, but don’t expect it to be easy.
Scuba diving and Muay Thai/MMA in Thailand Photo Gallery
I would have loved Koh Tao to have good Muay Thai, as the island has a good hiking trail, a lot of dive shops to work at and a good overall lifestyle for the money. Unfortunately, as you’ll read later, Koh Tao has the worst Muay Thai gym I’ve ever trained at.
Koh Phangan and Koh Samui are neighboring islands with better Muay Thai gyms – especially Koh Samui – however, due to over development of land, the beach sand has completely covered all of the island’s surrounding coral and thus, no longer any scuba diving around the islands. There is one dive site half way between Koh Phangan and Koh Tao (called Sail Rock) which is very good but is too advanced and deep for beginners. Aside from that, you would have to go to Koh Tao to dive. Thailand really fucked up their reefs and fish life by over-fishing and overdeveloping their beachfront properties. By clearing all the trees and building up the coast, sand washes into the sea covering the coral.
Fifty years ago there were beautiful coral reefs surrounding the islands – now there is just sand. However, it would be possible to live and train in Koh Phangan or Koh Samui and scuba dive part time. It’s not ideal to work full time in diving and train but, if you’re just doing it freelance or part time, it could work out. Pattaya has terrible diving conditions; the water is murky and so visibility is bad. There is decent Muay Thai there but with a really seedy quality of life, it’s the one place in Thailand I refuse to go to. In my opinion, Koh Lanta would be the only ideal place to do Muay Thai and work in Scuba Diving full-time.
The Muay Thai gym is called Koh Lanta Muay Thai and the owner, William, also owns the Muay Thai stadium. It’s not the best Muay Thai training in Thailand: there is no competition on the island with other gyms, the trainers don’t care too much about you or love Muay Thai as passionately as those at gyms in Chiang Mai but, overall, it does have decent training, rooms at the camp itself, and easy access to fighting in the stadium. Koh Lanta definitely competes with The Similan Islands for the #1 spot for diving in Thailand. One downside, though, is that – unless you speak Swedish, French or German – it may be very difficult to find a diving job there. The diving season starts in the beginning of November and most shops hire (through email) a month beforehand, so make sure you send in your CV or Resume early and state your languages. The only other downside would be the very short diving season from December until February (with one or two months before and afterward open as well). For the other half of the year, the island is abandoned, and since tourists mainly come for the diving, I doubt there are any stadium fights during those months either.