The Ins and Outs of Diving in Koh Tao
There are a number of wonderful features that bring visitors to the island of Koh Tao in Thailand. The white sand beaches and deep blue water are truly sights to behold. There are cliffs perfect for the adrenaline rush of cliff jumping. And the vibrant inland jungle will please hikers, bikers, and explorers of all kinds.
If you seek the excitement of scuba diving and snorkeling, Koh Tao should be a must-visit destination for you. Here you can find shallow bays full of coral, fish, and other sea life, it’s a dream when it comes to snorkeling. There are diving spots for beginners and intermediate divers, so there’s no need to worry about a lack of experience as long as you take the exam for PADI certification.
How to Get to Koh Tao
Koh Tao is about 70km off the east coast of central Thailand, located in the Ko Phangan District. It’s about 21 square miles in total. You can fly from Bangkok to Koh Tao in 3-4 hours, or take the bus from Bangkok to Chumphon followed by a high-speed catamaran. The bus will be an overnight trip, followed by a catamaran ride of about 2 hours. The latter is the more affordable option, but flying will save you more time.
Full of Natural Beauty
Diving in Koh Tao is still a fairly recent venture. In fact, the island itself was only discovered in the 1980s, so it’s too young to have been spoiled by any one industry. The jungles are rich and full, the beaches are relaxing, and the diving expeditions still have all the necessary thrill without discouraging crowds.
Translated, Koh Tao means “turtle” and it’s sometimes called simply Turtle Island. There’s some dispute as to what feature gave it this moniker. The island and the waters nearby are home to a number of different kinds of turtles, including Hawksbill and Green turtles. However, some point to the view of the island from Ko Phangan, in which it seems to be a massive turtle shell.
PADI for Beginners
Koh Tao is an excellent location for beginner or novice divers, but to dive in open water, you will need a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification. Fortunately, Koh Tao is second only to Australia when it comes to numbers of certified student divers.
First, you’ll take a written exam to test your knowledge of scuba diving. Next you’ll move on to pool work for a more practical application. When you’re ready, you’ll try open water diving. After five successful open water dives, you’ll earn your certificate.
All told, it should take about two days, so make sure you have enough time for this on your schedule as well as the budget. The open water dives cost about 250 euros. You’ll also want to buy your own personal gear. If you don’t bring it with you, there will be scuba shops on the island.
There’s another scuba school in Koh Tao, Scuba Schools International. The costs for certification are about 10% cheaper than PADI certifications, which might make it worth your while. However, the advantage of PADI certifications is that PADI is the largest scuba school internationally, so your PADI certification will carry you further in your travels.
Rest assured that the water feels as good as it looks. These shallow bays are usually at temperatures around 30 degrees Celsius and tend to be calm with soft currents. You might experience stronger currents or waves in certain spots, so it’s best to talk to a diver who is familiar with the area.
You can dive down between 5 and 35 metres with excellent visibility. I referenced the natural beauty earlier. The sea life is also vibrant and largely unaltered. Here you can find schools of reef fish, sea snakes, stingrays, squids, and colorful coral. There’s even a snorkeling tour, Jumping with Jaws, that includes snorkeling with black tip reef sharks.
Don’t worry — these sharks are a shy breed and rarely pose a threat for humans so long as you’re careful. However, there have been instances of provoked or unprovoked black tip reef shark attacks, so while the sight is quite the reward, try to enjoy it from a distance.
Some of the top diving spots include:
- Chumphon – A popular spot visited by most morning diving boats where you can find batfish, barracuda, scorpionfish, and maybe even whale sharks if you’re lucky.
- The Wreck of the Sattakut – There haven’t been many shipwrecks on the coast of Koh Tao, but the site of this sunken 2011 US Navy ship is the newest and perhaps most interesting dive site in Koh Tao. Here you can find puffer fish and stingrays, though this dive is best for advanced divers.
- Shark Island – This site is named for its dorsal fin appearance, not for a hefty population of actual sharks, though you may have to worry about triggerfish here. On the other hand, the variety of coral life is stunning.
- Southwest – A great location to follow schools of anemone and clownfish.
The best time of year for diving in Koh Tao is July and August, although it can be a little crowded because of peak season. Diving is still open in October and November, but monsoon swells make it a bit more challenging. March and April are breeding season for triggerfish, and they can get rather protective of their nests, so it’s best to avoid this season. When you’re ready, pack your sunscreen, summer clothes, and an underwater camera for a diving experience you’ll never forget.
About The Author: Christine is an assistant for TripFuser and enjoys traveling during her spare time among other things.
Image Source: Pixabay.com