Places to visit

Koh Tao

Scuba diving at Koh Tao

Scuba diving at Koh Tao

 

Scuba diving is still the biggest attraction on Koh Tao. Diving in Ko Tao is easy, fun, and you can see turtles, stingrays, barracudas, lots of small fish, reef sharks, and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark.


At Chumphon Pinnacle you are likely to see juvenile bull sharks which have, until recently, been misidentified as grey reef sharks. Don't worry, the bulls are curious but not aggressive and for many years literally thousands of people have dived this site without a single shark related incident.

Nearly any time of the year except November is good diving weather in Ko Tao and visibility can exceed 40 meters. Average visibility is around 15-20 meters. In November visibility is reduced and the seas are choppy, but diving is good by the standards of many other destinations.

It is possible and perfectly comfortable to swim and dive without a wetsuit year round. However, as with most diving, a wetsuit is recommended to help reduce risk of cuts or injury. Avoid contact with coral reefs!
Dive Shops
There are a huge number of dive operators on the island, many offering budget accommodation (sometimes described as free accommodation, but this is not really true as you will usually get a discount if you stay elsewhere). Currently (2008) the price for PADI open water certification including the new PADI training manual, professional instruction, rental equipment, boat dives, and certification is around 10,000 baht; insurance and basic accommodation may also be included. Shop around as not all shops teach the course in the same way. Look for experienced dive instructors instead of a low price.

A common method for teaching new divers is to train in a pool first by being taught about 20 basic skills before being taken out into the open water. Others will instead take you to a secluded beach so you will see fish and coral from the start and you might be able to squeeze in a short extra dive in this way, depending on your group and instructor. Some shops have a private pier, some shops depart with a longtail from the beach, and some use the public pier, where you will have to climb some other boats. Ask if this matters to you. Most important: find out maximum number of dive students in a group, and make sure you get an instructor who speaks your language if you are not absolutely sure about your English. These are the little things that will make the difference between an ok course and a great one.

 

Scuba diving course on Koh Tao as following

* Calypso (Tanote bay). Thorough German dive teachers. small boat, small group, immediate dive of the beach (2. dive wreck diving by the beach). CMAS certified. quiet huts with lovely views next door at family tanote bay resort (400 Bth and up)

* Coral Grand divers & resort. Located in a much quieter area than the other dive shops, at the far end of the beach, the hotel is more upmarket than most on the island although the free rooms are still basic. Operates 2 dive boats plus a speed boat.

* Crystal dive resort. one of only a handful of career development centres in thailand. every student level course and specialists in divemaster and instructor training.

* Diveglobe. Book your dive course or live aboard dive trip online or come and see us in chalok ban kao - full range of dive destinations and dive courses.

* Divepoint (on the waterfront in mae haad). Divepoint has probably the biggest dive boat on the island, big enough that you wont have to carry your gear to and from it. PADI & SSI. (closed during nov & dec 2007)

* Davy Jones Locker diving resort (dive resort on sairee beach). Small groups, experienced instructors and quality instruction. PADI, BSAC & SSI courses. Wreck diving by high speed rib. Offers one-year internships for aspiring divemasters.

* Easy Divers. A PADI 5 Star dive shop with friendly but experienced instructors. Professional and fun with great accommodation, and the only dive centre on Koh Tao with all inclusive packages. With a private pier and a maximum class size of 6 students to 1 instructor - Easy Divers was the the only Koh Tao dive centre to be featured on the 2008 Bebo.com "The Gap Year" television series.

* Good Time Adventures. Certified divers only, fast comfortable boat taking you where you want to go when you want to go to see the best sites with no crowds.

* IDC ko tao. Instructor Development Courses (idcs) run every month by English PADI course director matt bolton.

* Koh Tao instructor course. Divemaster and padi instructor courses.

* Master divers (mae haad). Good safety record and well placed for divers that may want to progress on to technical diving.

* Phoenix divers (sairee beach). Multilingual western and Thai staff.

* Planet Scuba (Maehaad). Samui International Diving School incorporating Planet Scuba has over 20 years of experience in Scuba Diving in Koh Samui and Scuba Diving in Koh Tao. One of Thailand's leading Dive Centers and the first Scuba Diving Center in Thailand to be awarded the prestigious PADI Career Development Center Rating (CDC). Recipient of many awards from PADI over the years. Operates a chain of Full Service Dive Centers on Koh Samui and Koh Tao offering the full range of PADI Scuba Diving courses from complete beginner up to Dive Instructor. Scuba Instructor Training in Thailand on both Koh Samui and Koh Tao running regular PADI IDC Thailand programs throughout the year.

Daily Thailand Scuba Diving Tours from Koh Samui and Koh Tao to all of the popular dive destinations ranging from the depths of Sail Rock, home of the illusive Whale Shark, to the National Marine Park and Koh Tao with their sloping coral reefs and abundance of exotic and colourful marine life.

* Sairee hut (sairee beach). Small but good, on the beach.

* Seashell dive center, wonderful place with helpful multilingual staff, good boats and gear. no free accommodation. located on sairee beach.

* Sunshine Divers Resort: located on beautiful Chalok Baan Kao beach, Sunshine Divers is a PADI 5 STAR Gold Palm Resort. Combined together, the; DMTโ€™s, staff, instructors, students, resident dogs, and fun divers all contribute to the fun, relaxed, and friendly atmosphere of Sunshine Divers.

* New way dive center, one of the oldest and most reputable dive shops, catering for a wide range of languages and senses of humour. accommodation available. located in sairee village.

* New Heaven Dive School. Over ten years of experience on Koh Tao and with that comes diving expertise. Has been involved with turtle conservation, reef restoration, The "We love Koh Tao" festival, The Koh Toa Under Water festival and any other activities which help to create the eco-friendly environment they would like to see on Koh Tao.

* If you're not into scuba diving, many operators arrange snorkeling trips around the island. ask your accommodation about a tour. long-tail boat and a driver can be chartered for about 1500-2000 baht/day including snorkeling gear.

 

 


 

* Sail Rock - one of the more famous Scuba diving sites in the Ko Samui archipelago. It is an iceberg shaped pinnacle that rises from the sandy sea floor at 40 metres and rises 15 metres above the surface. It is a suitable dive site for all levels of diver, from Discover Scuba up. Its surface consists of small patches of hard and soft coral. Common fauna that may be seen include barracuda, batfish, jacks, occasional whale sharks, and many other species of tropical fish. The currents can vary considerably, but generally are mid to strong. Visibility is usually in the 10-30 meter range. For more advanced divers, there is a vertical 'swim through' on the northwest side of the rock. Commonly called "The Chimney", it begins at a depth of 18 meters and exits the rock again at depths of 12 and 6 meters. There are no associated fees as yet with diving Sail Rock.

* Chumphon Pinnacles - Widely regarded as the Gulf of Thailand's premier dive sites, 5 km Northwest of Koh Tao. The site is comprised of one huge granite pinnacle with some smaller pinnacles rising from the bottom. 40 Meters. Grey Reef Sharks, schooling Barracuda. Batfish, Giant Gropers, Pacific Lionfish, occasional Whalesharks.

* Southwest Pinnacles - Consisting of seven granite pinnacles ranging from 5 to 30 metres deep and located around 12km off the south west coast of Koh Tao is one of the islands best dive sites. The shallower sections of the pinnacles are covered in anemones, whip corals and sea fans. Big groupers and barracudas can often be seen here and you may be lucky enough to spot even larger visitors.

* Green Rock - Green Rock offers several small swimthroughs, caves and crevices where marine life can be seen sheltering. The boulders range in depth from 5 metres down to around 32. There is often a strong current here that you can use to drift around the submerged pinnacles so its not really recommended for inexperienced divers. You will certainly encounter Yellow Margin and Titan Trigger fish here as it forms a popular breeding ground for them ... so approach with caution.

* White Rock - Two large granite boulders make up the White Rock dive site. An expansive coral garden can be found here at around 10 meters that's teeming with schools of butterfly fish and angelfish. Blue spotted stingrays are also a common sight on this dive. White Rock is also a popular night dive spot where feather stars, and an array of crustaceans can been seen hunting for food.

* Red Rock - This dive site is also refered to as Nang Yuan Pinnacle. It starts at around 2 metres and drops to 22. The pinnacle itself is nothing special and the main attractions to this site are the swimthroughs. The entrance to the swimthrough can be found if you leave the pinnacle and head west towards Koh Nang Yuan. This is usually done as a drift dive down to Japanese Garden where you can relax for the safety stop.

* Twin Pinnacles - On the far side of Koh Nang Yuan starting at around 5 meters below the surface and dropping to a depth of 18 metres is Twin Peaks or just "Twins". This is an ideal site for beginners due to its depth and ease of navigation. The rocks are embedded into white sand and there is no shortage of marine life here. A friendly pair of rare saddleback clownfish and be found to the western side of the larger of the Twins.

* Japanese Gardens - This dive site is named after the ornate arrangement of coral boulders here. Situated on the east side of Koh Nang Yuan and with depths ranging from 2 to 12 meters it is suitable for snorkelers & beginners. Plenty of staghorn and plate coral can be observed in the shallows. A popular drift dive can be done from Red Rock through a series of swimthroughs and emerging into Japanese Gardens for a relaxing safety stop amongst the myriad coral formations.

* Hin Pee Wee - Next to White Rock, 30m.

* Mango Bay - Located to the north of Koh Tao the area around Mango Bay makes a nice relaxing dive. With depths ranging from 2 to 15 meters its ideal for beginners and snorkellers. Hard and soft coral formations here are plentiful along with a variety of sponges and clams. The bay is only accessible by boat and makes a popular snorkellers day trip. Drop in further around the northwestern tip of the island and drift into the bay area to avoid the crowds.

* Lighthouse -

* Hin Wong Pinnacle - Situated on the east side of Koh Tao is Hin Wong Pinnacle. This site comprises several large granite boulders covered with sea fans and whip corals, as well as filefish, shrimpfish, coral grouper and many other reef fish. You may encounter the resident Green Turtle if you're lucky. The summit is a tabletop rock formation within about 10 meters of the surface and the maximum depth at Hin Wong is around 32 meters.

* Laem Thien Pinnacle - Laem Thian Pinnacle is a great rocky dive site near Mao Bay full of swimmthroughs, caverns and small caves. There are a few steep walls with some predators hunting for smaller prey. Some excellent white soft coral and sea whips can be admired along the wall at depths between 18 and 5 meters. It is possible to combine this cave dive with the beauties of shallow reef diving inside Mao Bay or Aow Mao.

* Tanote Bay -

* Shark Island - Named after its resemblance to a dorsal fin, Shark Island is a twin rock outcrop situated to the southeast of Koh Tao. Each side of the islet offers a different array of marine life and features making it almost two sites in one! On the east side you'll find myriad soft corals, gorgonians and sponges while the west offers hard coral formations that are home to moray eels, nudibranchs, sting rays and the odd Leopard shark. Titan triggerfish can be very aggressive here so approach with caution. Maximum depth at this site is 25 metres.

* Hin Ngam - Same wider bay as Aow Luek, shallow training or sheltered dive dive.

* Unicorn Wreck - It was rumored at the time of sinking in 1989 that the Unicorn was sunk on purpose as an insurance scam. The 60 meter long cargo vessel was reported to have a hold full of expensive tuna fish which turned out to be inexpensive dog food, hence the nickname it later acquired - the "dog food" wreck. Lying around 12km off Mango Bay and in 50 meters of water it is also a technical dive. Still mostly intact with the majority of the obtrusive fishing nets now removed some penetration is possible. The wreck is now home to some big red snappers and patrolling groupers.

* Torpedo Wreck - The Torpedo is a 70 meter Japanese cargo vessel sitting upright in around 55 meters of water an hour north of Koh Tao, she sank in the mid 1970's. Due to the depths involved this has been classified a technical dive for experienced divers only. There are three areas of penetration however visibility is usually poor at depth. The deck is at 45 meters and the cargo holds are still full of teak logs, with a few scattered on the seabed.

Diving at Koh Tao

Koh Tao

The literally Turtle Island, is an island in the Gulf of Southern Thailand.


It was once the detention place for political prisoners similar to Koh Tarutao of Satun Province historically, but today it is a great place for divers or anybody who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Ko Samui and want more than the Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan. Ko Tao is a great place to learn how to dive. There are hardly any currents and a wide selection of dive sites and dive shops, schools and resorts. Activity options are growing outside of diving and the food and nightlife options are some of the best in the Gulf of Thailand.

The only option is by boat. The nearest airport is in Koh Samui, which is fairly well connected to major cities in the region (Bangkok, Penang, Singapore, etc).

If you're coming from the south, you can take a ferry from Surat Thani (around 3 hours) on the mainland, or from Koh Samui (1.5 hours) or Ko Pha Ngan (1 hour). If you're taking a boat from Surat Thani, one possibility might be an overnight ferry - depart around 23:00 and arrive in the morning, about 06:00 (subject to changes). It's advisable to arrive early to grab a mattress as most are formerly cargo boats, so facilities are basic.

If you're coming from the north, you can catch a ferry from Chumphon. Numerous agents sell tickets for a variety of boats of varying size and speed. The fastest takes about 90 minutes, the slowest almost 5 hours. the overnight train BKK (dep 18.15)- CHUMPON is best value: bed included and optional feed and drink, if you prebook.

You can also day trip on diving charters from Koh Samui. Many have high speed boats that can make the trip to Koh Tao in about an hour.

Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran or Seatran are the fastest and most comfortable way to get to Ko Tao. They run twice a day from Ko Samui, Ko Pha Ngan and Chumphon. They also have online booking - useful for checking availability at peak times and all their boats have air conditioning and movies for all passengers.

Sangserm offer "VIP" combined coach and boat tickets from Bangkok, claiming to take 6 hours by bus and 1.5 hours by boat - in fact, it takes closer to 9 hours by bus and 3 hours by boat, neither of which are particularly comfortable. In this traveller's opinion, the Lomprayah High Speed Catamaran (2 hrs) and bus (8 hrs) are much more comfortable and quicker (ticket: 850 bth cat and bus).

There is one main road running North to South on the island with many smaller roads diverting off it. Some roads lead over the spine of small mountains the run along the middle of the island and are all dirt and can close out after rain. There are usually plenty of taxi cars available on both Sairee village and Mae Haad, however they tend to be expensive given the actual distance you travel.

You can rent bicycles and motorcycles at a few places on Sairee Beach, Mae Haad, and Chalok. Be careful if you rent a motorbike as the dirt roads can get dangerous. ATV's are dangerous (ask any medical clinic) and expensive (500+ THB a day) and should be avoided in favor of Honda Dream's (150-200 THB a day) or Sonic's (200-250 THB a day).

Be aware that an increasing number of rental shops are charging large amounts of money for non-existent scratches on bikes when returning them, notably the shop next to 7/11 in Sairee . Make sure you note down all scratches and dents before you rent a bike from anyone.

Longtail boats offer rides to and from certain beaches on the island. They are a more comfortable way of getting to isolated beaches than attempting to ride over the mountains. Round island longtail 500-700 baht, short trips 100-200 baht.

You can take a bike around the island. Shark Bay is a good place to go snorkeling for the day (don't worry too much about sharks, they are only small black-tip reef sharks). Koh Nang Yuan, Freedom beach, Laem Thian, Mango Bay and Tanote Bay are good day excursions, accessible by road or boat.

However, to see the best places, go by foot as some are inaccessible to motorists. There are a number of good viewpoints around the island such as John Suwan mountain viewpoint in the South of the island, Two View in the center and Fraggle Rock in the North.