Due to the off shore reefs, clear blue water and proximity to some world-class dive sites, it is not surprising Koh Tao has become a renowned underwater destination. Whether you want to be right on the sea bed amongst the fish and corals or floating around on top looking down on it, you won’t be disappointed.
The diving boom first went off in Koh Tao in the 1990s when word that the island offered some of the best and cheapest diving in Thailand spread quickly. Unfortunately, such popularity led to some of the inshore reefs being damaged before the island’s residents and the government became more environmentally aware. That said, however, diving and snorkelling are still the main reasons why tourists visit Koh Tao, and these excursions represent island’s largest form of income.
Koh Tao Scuba Diving Guide – Endless Reefs, Pinnacles and Drops
The weather in Koh Tao is pretty much always perfect for diving and snorkelling, although November can be a bit of a risk as it is often quite cloudy and seas are choppier and visibility drops to around 5m. In general, visibility can be up to 40m on good days but around 15-20m is standard at most times of the year.
There are good options for independent snorkelling right off the beach all around the island, although Ao Thian OG (Shark Bay) is inconsistent these days with lots of dead coral. From Tanote Bay visitors can rent a kayak to take you out to the nearby reef. Alternatively, you can approach the owners of the long tail boats moored up on the beach and negotiate a price for a half or full-day snorkelling tour, taking in the best sites around the island, or pay a set price for an advertised tour.
Many of the dive sites, which are especially suited to beginners (around 10m), are located off the small bays around Koh Tao. The island boasts more than 25 all together, with offshore sites dropping down to 40m, but the majority averaging at a depth of between 12m and 18m.
Beginners will be able to see a vast variety of colourful fish close to shore, while those who venture farther can catch blue spotted and jenkins rays, schools of barracuda, turtles, giant grouper and, very occasionally, whale sharks.
The entire spectrum of courses, from introduction to professional, are available here, with the three/four-day Open Water certificate (allowing dives up to 18m) proving the most popular. Speciality courses, such as rescue training and underwater photography, are also offered by some dive schools.
Some prefer to visit the underwater world of Koh Tao via a tour from neighbouring Koh Samui. Many of these operators provide speedboat trips which are fast and comfortable, and often there are fewer divers per instructor this way. It obviously takes longer to get to the dive site, however.
Finally, should there be any diving emergencies, you can be assured that you will be in safe hands on Koh Tao. Although the SSS Recompression Network hyperbaric chamber is no longer on the island, there remains an office on the island and serious cases are sent to neighbouring Koh Samui by speedboat.