Diving in Koh Tao: A Complete Guide To The Underwater World of Koh Tao

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Koh Tao situated 55 Kms north of Koh Samui in Thailand is famous as the major diving destination in Asia and is home to many popular diving sites, stretching along with the dramatic coral landscapes. There is a gamete of diving institutions and shops in Koh Tao providing certified scuba diving courses and one-day diving packages with suitable conditions for beginners and children. Tourists can choose suitable courses according to their needs and wishes. 

Here is a complete guide to an adventurous and thrilling diving experience in Koh Tao.

Best Diving Sites in Koh Tao

1. Hing Wong Pinnacle

Hing Wong Pinnacle
Depth- 10m-28 m
Located on the northeast side of the island, Hing Wong Pinnacle is one of the most visited and challenging diving sites in Koh Tao. Its specialty lies in the fact that this site exhibits the largest number of fan corals, comb corals, and sea whips, spreading out around the deeper depths. It comprises table rock and boulders, providing a lifetime experience amidst the world of marine life and scenic beauty. Species here mainly include turtles, sea snakes, goatfish, porcupine puffer fish, angel fish, and groupers. Experienced scuba divers mainly explore this site due to occasional currents, and it is advisable to visit here only under the guidance of professional divers.

2. Shark Island

Shark Island, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 0 m -22 m
Shark Island is yet another ‘must-visit’ diving site in Koh Tao, located just off the southeast coast of Koh Tao. Unlike its name, no sharks are found at this site. It has derived its name from the shark-like shape of the site as it emerges from the ocean. There is a diversity of marine life residing amongst the granite rocks and boulders that extend up to depths of 20 m. They are mainly nourished by the balanced mild to strong currents generated in water bodies. One can witness hard and soft corals that support many butterfly fish, yellowtail barracuda, turtles, and sea snakes while diving. This site is suitable for all level divers and is often visited by locals and tourists who want to one day experience diving, rather than a full diving course.

3. Aow Leuk

Aow Leuk, diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 0m-12m
This diving site with gorgeous views and a deep concave shape is located in the southeastern part of Koh Tao. It is a comparatively shallow diving site making it perfect for beginners and children. Aow Leuk is popular for its sandy depths, with several rock boulders and coral reefs inhabiting a rich marine life. Prominent among them are beautiful parrot fish, snappers, juvenile groupers, and turtles. Apart from this, one can also encounter rare species such as pipefish and seahorses. This site provides a relaxing experience to all visitors with its glittery white beaches and water reflecting a spectrum of blue shades.

4. Chumphon Pinnacle

Chumphon Pinnacle, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 12m-36m
Chumphon Pinnacle is located 11 km North West of Koh Tao and is visited mainly by experienced divers because of its depth. This spot inhabits several pinnacles and underwater boulders with amazing marine life, including batfishes, barracudas, potato groupers, Leopard Sharks, and all the usual reef fishes of the gulf of Thailand. Juvenile Bull Sharks are one of the main attractions of the marine of this spot, and if you are lucky enough, you can also encounter a whale shark.

5. Nang Yuan Pinnacle

nang yuan island koh tao
Depth- maximum of 19 m
Popularly referred to as ‘Red Rock”, Nang Yuan Pinnacle is located on the northwest side of Koh Nang Yuan and Koh Tao Island. It mainly consists of a big rock boulder, several swims through arches, and a small cave to explore, adorned with rare wart slugs and Jenkins ray, a banded sea snake. This site is narrow at many points, especially near the cave arch, and thus generally experienced divers or tourists with professional guidance visit this site. Although the site provides a stunning underwater view with beams of sunlight giving the glittery appearance to water and glassfish floating near the reef.

6. Southwest Pinnacle

Depth- 5m-30m
Southwest Pinnacle is yet another must-visit diving site in Koh Tao. This site offers a magnificent series of pinnacles, making it a perfect place for wall dives and abundant marine life. Even beginners can easily explore Southwest Pinnacles as they gently swim off the mountain range like boulders. One can witness cobias, Razorfish, and several Giant grouper hanging out in the darker depths of the pinnacle. A very close look between the coral reefs will let you witness more amazing marine creatures, such as Blue Spotted Ribbontail Rays, White Eyed Moray Eels, beautiful glass cleaner shrimps in the hundreds of anemones, and boxer shrimps, silhouetted against the dark cracks between rock boulders. If you are lucky enough, you might spot the dream marine creature of every diver- a Whale Shark. Southwest Pinnacle also houses a variety of Barracudas, King Mackerel, Tuna, and Trevlley.

7. White Rock

White Rock, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 2m-26m
Seated on the western side of Koh Tao, White Rock is one of the most popular dive sites for both day and night diving sessions. The site comprises two big rock boulders and enticing coral gardens. The rock boulders' depth range and structure make this site suitable for all level divers. White Rock is named after the largest white rock boulder rising up to 2 meters under the water, and this site is known as ‘Hin Kaow’ among local Thai people.  Much marine life has inhabited this site, such as Koh Tao’s infamous Titan Triggerfish, Blue Ringed, Six banded Angelfish, Bannerfish, Butterflyfish, and beaked Coral fish. Turtles are the most common species that feed on this site's soft corals. The beautiful scenery this site provides during the sunset attracts many night divers.

8. Laem Tian

Depth- 5m-35m
Widely known for its peaceful diving experience and great boating opportunity, Laem Tian is located off the lesser-explored eastern side of Koh Tao. This site comprises two sections Laem Tian Bay and Laem Tian Caves. The Bay offers comparatively easier dives and unique marine life views as one gives up his way down around the rock formations. At the same time, the caves are generally explored around by more experienced divers. Major marine attractions of the site include unique orange spine unicorn fish, Weibels butterflyfish, white-eyed moray eels, Titan Triggerfish, Yellowtail Barracuda, wide varieties of nudibranchs, and sea slugs. Laem Tian is also popular among underwater photographers for its unique scenic beauty and majestic marine life.

9. Twins

Twins, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 5m-20m
Located on the western side of Koh Nang Yuan, this diving site is also popularly known as ‘Twin Peaks’. The site is mainly scattered around the three rock pinnacles, boasting calm, clear weather conditions, and is visited by all-level divers throughout the year.  It is a group of large rock boulders with tropical coral reefs. It is the house to marine species like Blue-spotted Stingrays, white-eyed Moray eels, a family of saddleback anemonefish, and banded sea snakes. Off the deeper segments of the site, one can witness Chevron Barracudas and hundreds of Yellowtail Barracudas. Like many other diving sites, Twins also hosts a wide variety of turtles in its inhabitants. 

10. Sail Rock

Sail Rock, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- Maximum 40m
Famous as ‘Hin Bai’ among the local Thai population, Sail Rock is the most famous and visited side of Koh Tao. It is located between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan and is considered heaven for marine life. The main rock boulder of the site rises up to 8m outside the surface of the water, while other small boulders remain scattered under the water. This site offers a colorful treat to the eyes as divers descend inside the blue waters and witness a diaspora of Chevron Barracuda, smooth-tailed Trevally, Queen Fish, Longfin Batfish, Giant Grouper, and blue spotted trout. Whale sharks also visit Sail Rock during the season.

11. Green Rock

Green Rock koh tao
Depth- 4m-30m
Green Rock diving site is located on the northwestern side of Koh Nang Yuan. It is a popular cave diving site among tourists, consisting of large rock formations giving way to many swim-throughs and a cave-like structure. Occasional strong currents and relatively deeper caves make this site one of the most challenging among all other diving spots of Koh Tao. Hawksbill and Green Turtles are the regular marine visitors of this site, and a number of Big Jenkins whiprays and chevron barracuda can be found hanging around at the deeper depths. Magnificent Durban Shrimp and lovely nudibranchs can also be spotted around the rock formations. One of the major attractions of the place is ‘trigger pits’. They are moon-like scenery formed by Titan and Yellow Triggerfish in the middle of the sandy area, and it is house to many female triggerfish during their reproductive season. Green Rock is a must-visit diving site in Koh Tao, providing ample and exciting opportunities for marine life photographers.

12. Mango Bay

Mango Bay, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 5m-16m
‘Aow Meong’ or Mango Bay is probably one of those places that deserve to be on your must-visit bucket list while visiting Koh Tao, primarily because of the stunning underwater views and lavish marine diversity waiting to be explored. It is located off the island's northern coastline and is home to many reef-fused boulders inhabiting varieties of Wrasse, Parrotfish, and smaller grouper species. Rich marine vegetation also includes mushrooms, Staghorn, table corals as well as giant barrel sponges, giant clams, and small colorful nudibranchs. This is popular among open water divers and shallow water scuba diving training schools for its ideal white sand and reasonable depth.

13. Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens, Diving in Koh Tao
Depth- 6m-16m
Located on the eastern side of Koh Nang Yuan, this relatively shallow diving site is suitable for beginners and children. Japanese Gardens are situated directly opposite Twins, another diving site in Koh Tao.  Characterized by minimum sea currents throughout the year, this place houses many hard and soft coral reefs. Prominent marine life includes Fusiliers, Rabbit Fish, Catfish, and Giant Pufferfish. It is also home to much juvenile fish, including blue-ringed angelfish, moon wrasse, damsels, and chromis fish, with multiple porcupine pufferfish hiding within the rock cracks.

Scuba Diving Schools in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao
Koh Tao has several diving schools that offer courses on various levels, such as beginners to advance training. Currently, there are about 50 diving schools on the island, and one can choose based on their requirement. Most of them will either provide a PADI certificate or an SSI certificate. They are mostly the same thing, but they are affiliations to two different organizations with different materials and certification standards. The extra focus should be on the diving instructor and their quality.
  • Roctopus Dive
Phone: +66908631836
Address: 17 Moo 1 Sairee Beach Koh Tao Suratthani, Surat Thani 84360, Thailand
  • Big Blue Diving Resort
Phone: +66 77 456 050
Address: 17/18 Moo 1 Koh Tao Amphoe Ko Pha-ngan, Chang Wat Surat Thani 84360, Thailand        
  • Crystal Dive Koh Tao     
Phone: +66 77 456 106
Address: 7/1 Moo 2, Koh Tao, Surat Thani 84360, Thailand
  • Simple Life Divers
Phone: +66 77 456 329
Address: 14/11 Moo 1, Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, Surat Thani 84360, Thailand
  • The Dive Academy
Phone: +66 92 464 3264
Address: 158/6 Moo 1 Bophut Koh Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

Diving Course in Koh Tao

Diving in Koh Tao

1. Three-day Course

Koh Tao provides a three-day diving course which will include classroom sessions, examinations, and a diving test. The necessary certificate that these courses offer is an Open Water Diver.

Day 1: Classroom sessions and training at the dive site.
Day 2: Classroom sessions including a detailed explanatory course and quizzes followed by dive site training.
Day 3: Dive site training and a diving test.

Tips While Taking up a Diving Course
  1. Confirm the preferred language for instructions with the instructor.
  2. Enquire about the whole course and options for dive sites.
  3. Make sure you’re comfortable with the instructor.
  4. If you’re in Koh Tao to try out diving, it’s better to enroll in a trial scuba diving course, which lasts for a day or two at reasonable costs.

2. Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)

PADI is the most common instruction school that is present all over the world. The certificate provided by PADI provides a diver with the eligibility to become an instructor by taking advanced courses.
Currently, the organization has more than 6000 certified organizations worldwide.

Types of Courses Offered at PADI
  • Open water course
  • Advanced Open water course
  • Rescue Diver Course
  • Divemaster Internship
  • Instructor Internship
  • Freediving courses and
  • Speciality courses.  

3. Scuba Schools International (SSI)

SSI is another organization that offers diving courses with about 2,500 schools worldwide. They generally cost less than PADI courses. They are equally good and allow you to open up an SSI-certified diving school.
SSI also provides scuba diving courses where a diver can only dive to 18 meters. 

Types of Courses Offered at SSI
  • Beginners Level
  • Advanced level
  • Technical level
  • Professional level
  • Scuba diving

Diving Course Costs

The cost of a diving course depends on the kind of course and the diving school.
PADI CourseWith accommodation (3 days): THB 9000 to THB 9500
Without accommodation: THB 8000 to THB 8500

SSI Course
With accommodation: THB 8500 to THB 9000
Without accommodation: THB 7500

Other Charges
Videos - THB 2500
Hiring a camera - THB 1500

Tips for choosing Diving School and Courses in Koh Tao

1) Ensure that the instructor assigned by the school speaks your language and is qualified enough.
2) A thorough knowledge of the course you are selecting is very important you will include a visit to top diving sites or not?
3) Ask yourself about the level of attention and training you need. For example, if you are a beginner, you will require more personalized training, and thus it will be advisable to go to schools hosting small diving groups.
4) Check if the instruments provided by the school are up to date and comfortably fit you.
5) One must choose a suitable course keeping in mind the duration of the visit and the financial budget.
6) If you have any previous diving experience, always carry your certifications with you while visiting Koh Tao.

Best Time to Visit Koh Tao For Diving

Koh Tao experiences a moderate climate throughout the year due to its tropical location. Similarly, the the dive site around Koh Tao also hosts visitors throughout the year. The average temperature of the island lies between 25.6?C-28.9?C. However, the best time to visit Koh Tao is between March to September, with July and August being the busiest months. The climate during these months is sunny and warm, providing the best conditions for diving, especially underwater visibility.
Weather: The water temperature remains between 28 degrees Celsius and 29 degrees Celsius, making diving in Koh Tao pleasurable.
Seasonal Variation: If people dive into Koh Tao to look at any specific species, they should do more in-depth research about their seasons.
Whale Sharks: March and May are the peak season for whale shark spotting.
Dolphins: August and September are the best months to spot Dolphins.

Koh Tao Marine Life 

Diving in Koh Tao
Koh Tao, although a small island, has over 25 dive sites surrounding the island. If you want to experience marine life, then Koh Tao holds a different adventure altogether.

Deep Blue Sea Experience
Whale sharks are the most prominent marine creature that one can spot at specific dive sites. Apart from that, there are banded sea snakes, colorful yet unusual Nudibranchs, Shrimps, hawksbill turtles, barracuda, batfishes, triggerfishes, Morey eels, pufferfish, sea urchins, and so on. Divers get to see a variety of aquatic plants and corals as well.
PADI Course:  
With accommodation (3 days): THB 9000 to THB 9500 , Without accommodation: THB 8000 to THB 8500
SSI Course: With accommodation: THB 8500 to THB 9000 ,  Without accommodation: THB 7500
Other Charges: Videos - THB 2500 , Hiring a camera - THB 1500

Tips for Diving On Koh Tao

  • Since Koh Tao has always been known for diving, it will be wise to explore as many dive shops as possible. This will help in catching a better deal.
  • There is no car rental facility in Koh Tao, and thus motorbikes and water taxis are the best way to get around the island.
  • Carry a bottle of sunscreen with you.
  • Always take your health into consideration before going diving. For example, Asthma is one such problem that should not be overlooked. In any such case, it will be better to have a doctor's recommendation first.
Enjoy diving in Koh Tao by taking in the marine life that is present over there. It is a fantastic experience that people will have on the small island of Koh Tao.

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