WHERE ARE WE GOING?

Today we are diving in Koh Tao, Thailand

WHY ARE WE DIVING IN KOH TAO?

Koh Tao is known as one of the cheapest places to get your diving certification. A similarly priced island would be diving in the Gilis in Indonesia. There are many dive shops on the island offering different levels and agencies for the training. It is known to be a great beginner spot for diving.

There is also a good chance of seeing WHALE SHARKS around the months of April and September. There’s also a WWII shipwreck for training purposes. Koh Tao is generally on most backpacker’s list of places to check out when visiting Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

You can fly into Bangkok then take a flight to Koh Samui and take the 2 hour ferry to Koh Tao. Or take a bus or train from Bangkok to Chumphon (nearest city on the mainland) then take a 2.5 hour ferry (Lomprayah or Seatran) to Koh Tao. 

WHICH DIVE SITES ARE MUST-SEE?

Chumphon Pinnacle (max. 40m) and SouthWest Pinnacle (max. 30m) are known as deeper dive spots with higher chances of seeing a whale shark or schools of barracudas. Sail Rock (max. 40m) is considered the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand and is a deep site with a huge variety and number of marine life.

Chevron Barracudas - diving in Koh Tao
Chevron Barracudas on Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand

The Sattakut Wreck from 1942 was sunk off Koh Tao in 2011 and provides a great training ground for advanced level and wreck divers.

Twins (max. 18m), White Rock (max. 22m) and Japanese Gardens are known as beginner dive sites with a range of sand for training purposes, and also colourful coral.

TELL ME MORE

Boat diving is the most popular way of diving off Koh Tao. It is usually off a large boat that includes a marine toilet, refreshments on board and dry areas.

The furthest dive site in 2.5hours away to Sail Rock, with Chumphon Pinnacle and Southwest Pinnacle around 40-50 minutes away. Twins, White Rock and Japanese Gardens are around 10-20 minutes away by boat.

DO I NEED ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT?

The water is very warm around Koh Tao and a rash vest is enough. Some people dive in just a bikini! However, all dive shops offer 3mm shorty wetsuits to wear during the dives. You will see some dive masters and instructors wear 5mm wetsuits in the monsoon season!

You don’t need any equipment for Koh Tao. Everything is provided for you by the dive shop. There is no need for reef hooks, gloves or torches.

WHAT LEVEL CERTIFICATION SHOULD I BE?

As the diving is quite easy around Koh Tao, you can be an Open Water level diver. Many people come to Koh Tao to do their first Try Dive if they have never dived before. As an AOW level diver you will have more access to dive sites, such as Chumphon Pinnacle or the Wreck. Koh Tao is a great place to get your Advanced certification.

WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?

Calm conditions in September on Koh Tao

The temperature is generally around 30 degrees celsius. It can drop to 26 degrees during monsoon, and even reach 33 degrees in dry season. 

The visibility can range – in monsoon you can go to as low as 1 meter, but generally, it is 15-30 meter visibility.

April, May is the hot season with little rain.

December, January is now considered the monsoon season.

Koh Tao gets quite busy around the European school holidays eg. July, August, and December, January.

Koh Tao isn’t known for strong currents or drift diving.

HOW MUCH WILL I SPEND?

Most dive shops offer a package price for fun-diving. One dive is generally 1,000 Thai Baht, and with more dives, the price will drop to 800 Thai Baht. Open Water courses are 11,000 Thai Baht, Advanced is 10,000 Thai Baht.

Some dive shops may offer discounts if you have your own equipment or if you hold a professional certification.

WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION IS AVAILABLE?

There is a wide range of accommodation on Koh Tao. Most dive shops will have an attached hostel or guesthouse or an affiliation with one. There may be discounts when you book the accommodation with your diving package. You can choose more basic accommodation with fan and cold shower, or Air Conditioning with sea-views, fridge etc. There is also a growing range of high-end accommodation or private villas on the island.

Prices range from 300 Thai Baht a night in a dorm, to 5,000 Thai Baht a night in a villa with a private pool.

WHERE DID YOU STAY?

We stayed at SB Cabana for 400 Thai Baht a night. This was with a cold shower (though it’s always lukewarm so it’s not too bad!) and a fan room. It was basic but fine for our diving course.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Koh Tao is a great place to get your diving certification or continue your diving training. At the time of my Open Water certification, it was the cheapest place to do it. It also has great beginner conditions for those who want to try a dive without getting their certification. The diving and the laid-back experience of the island was great so we decided to stay longer for our Advanced course. I would definitely recommend this place to my friends.

WHAT DO WE DO ON SURFACE INTERVALS?

There is a lot to do on Koh Tao when you’re not diving. We hired a scooter/bike to explore some of the viewpoints and beaches. There are some great snorkeling spots (Aow Lewk, Tanote, Shark Bay) around the South end of Koh Tao. There’s also a lot of hiking paths, steep and through the jungles, which opens up to some amazing viewpoints.

Along Sairee Beach there are some great restaurants and bars to watch the sunset, and when it gets dark, there’s Fishbowl, Jams, The Studio and more, to continue dancing and drinking! Koh Tao is a great place underwater and on-land. There are lots of local food places with Pad-Thais for 70 Thai Baht, and also fancier restaurants with steaks and proper burgers. 

Emma was terrified of the ocean but dove into her Open Water 7 years ago and hasn't looked back since! She worked as an underwater videographer for several years and is now a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. She currently runs a dive shop on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand and is the founder of Down To Scuba.

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