Diving Koh Tao

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Koh Tao, Thailand

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Country: Thailand  Area: Thailand

Water Temp: 27 - 31°C (81 - 88°F)

Visibility: 5 - 30m (16 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 35m (16 - 115 ft)

Blacktip Reef Shark Breeding (May - June)

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Koh Tao is considered by many as the main diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand primarily because of its shallow coral reefs teeming with marine life making it a particular favorite amongst beginner divers and snorkelers. Combined with a laid back atmosphere, the island’s diving experience ensures a stress free diving with a professional but fun experience.

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Koh Tao is harder to access resulting to a more pristine or unspoiled island paradise. Since many divers frequent the islands, most hotels have conveniently tied with various dive schools operating in the island. Many non-divers are also visiting the island mainly to swim in its beautiful beaches and to explore its marvellous jungles.

Koh Tao meaning “Turtle Island” is indeed one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to dive. The diving experience is superb not to mention the secluded beaches and unspoilt jungles.

Sea Anemone, Credit

Climate

Koh Tao has a tropical climate and is warm for the whole year.

 During the monsoon season (beginning end of October through December) heavy rains are expected that can cause flooding and loss of electricity on some areas. On terrible days, many operators are closing for the safety of the visitors.

The main dive season runs from late December to late October when the weather is most permitting.

The water temperature hovers around 27C-31C. When the monsoon season begins, the water temperature drops to 29C becoming the perfect time to spot Whale Sharks.

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Marine Conservation

There are many conservation efforts being done on Koh Tao primarily the monitoring of the reefs like getting the water quality and that of the marine life. The Ecological Monitoring Program is one of the conservation projects – it is a coral reef research program that works with dive schools to gather data about the biodiversity and abundance of marine life in the waters of Koh Tao.

There are also a couple of Bio Rock projects in the area such as one that involves growing an artificial reef structure by using low voltage current to improve the regeneartion of broken and damaged coral.

Many dive centres also take part in reef cleanup and contribute to the turtle and whale shark sighting databases.

 
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Wildlife Calendar

   
                                       
                                       
                                       
                                       
   
   
                                   
                                     
   
   

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Shore Diving & Day Trips

Diving Koh Tao has something for all levels of experience from beginners to experienced as there is a range of dive sites from easy shallow shore dives such as Mango Bay to deeper sites like Chumphon Pinnacle and swimthoughs at Green Rock. 

Mango Bay is a typical beginner dive which has a sandy gently sloping bottom and plenty of marine life including a huge shoal of fusiliers which can reliably be found every dive. Chumphon is a much deeper pinnacle offshore which can have strong currents but also the chance of Whale Sharks in season. This site isn’t for beginners but is an excellent advanced deep dive if the currents aren’t too strong.

Diving in Koh Tao, Credit

All can be reached in minutes on a day boat so most operators offer a two dive session in the morning arriving back to the centre at lunch and then another two dive session in the afternoon. This gives you the freedom to either dive all day or to break up your day with a bit of diving and another activity such as trekking through the jungle or lazing on the beach.

There are also frequent trips to the slightly further afield site of Sail Rock near Koh Pha Ngan, which is a lone pinnacle covered in pretty reefs and home large schools of fusiliers, trevally, batfish and barracuda.

Fish! Credit

Koh Tao has an abundance of marine life, the main attractions being Whale Sharks and both Hawksbill and Green Turtles which have breeding grounds on the island, although numbers due to human impact had dramatically decreased over the years and now it is very lucky to see one. The Whale Sharks are most likely to be seen around Chumphon Pinnacle or Sail Rock from August onwards to the monsoon season.

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How to get there

Koh Tao can be reached by a ferry ride from the mainland near Chumphon or a speedboat ride (twice in a day) from either one of the two main islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan.

Koh Tao, Thailand, Credit

The nearest airport is on Koh Samui receiving regular flights from Bangkok and Phuket, followed by a 2 hour $10 ferry to Koh Tao.

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Where to Eat & Drink

The main tourist area in Koh Tao is Sairee beach located on the western side of the island and running almost the whole length. This is where the ferries arrive and depart from and there is a main street here with a selection of shops, supermarkets such as 7/11 and restaurants and bars.

If you would like a more peaceful picturesque bar or restaurant there are many more to chose from all along the beach most of which are looking out over the sea.

 

Koh Tao Street, Credit

The restaurants serve a selection of thai food and there are lots of excellent seafood and fish BBQ’s which are highly recommended.

Bars on the island rotate nights so its best to ask someone living on the island which bars are open which nights.

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Other Activities

Koh Tao has plenty to offer other than diving such as a more earth bound adventure including an inland trek and rock climbing.

You can also participate in wake boarding and sailing or learn Thai boxing. You can also enjoy a relaxing spa and the world famous Thai massage.

Nudi, Credit

The Mango Bay area also offers inland activities such as hiking through the jungle with routes leading to the Sairee passing 2 hours of a thick jungle. For light treks, you may prefer the friendly trails leading to the secluded bays or you can simply hop aboard a boat cruise that circle the island.

If you love unspoilt beaches, head to the small island of Koh Nuan Yuan just minutes away from the coast of Koh Tao. The idyllic beaches are surrounded by breathtaking blue waters teeming with wildlife perfect for snorkelers.

Family Friendly

The Mango Bay dive site is the most child friendly site but it is not advised to bring children with zero experience when it comes to open water diving, however the shallow beaches in the area are great for snorkeling.

Fire dancing, Credit

Elephant Trekking & Abuse

As far as we saw there is no Elephant trekking offered on Koh Tao, however out of the interest of raising awaresness; please do not support Elephant torture and abuse by riding Elephants (or supporting Elephant performance) in Asia;

In Thai culture, the Phajaan or ‘the crush', is the torture method elephants undergo to become a part of the tourism industry. Essentially this involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time to make the Elephants submissive to humans.
Asian Elephant spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
There is responsible Elephant tourism in Thailand - a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them. 
Any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means they have undergone horrific abuse in order to get them to where they are
Please do not support Elephant torture and make your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry.
  • In Thai culture, the Phajaan or ‘the crush', is the torture method elephants undergo to become a part of the tourism industry. Essentially this involves cruel physical and mental abuse over long periods of time to make the Elephants submissive - starting as a calf
  • Asian Elephant's spines cannot support the weight of people. Carrying people on their backs all day often leads to permanent spinal injuries.
  • There is responsible Elephant tourism in Thailand - a good rule to remember is that if a tourist outfit offers anything other than getting to spend time with elephants, it is not friendly to them.
  • Remember; any outfit that offers riding, circuses or paintings means the Elephants have undergone horrific abuse in order to train the Elephants

You can help these magnificent animals by making your travel companions aware of what lies behind this industry. The main problem is a lack of awareness - most people have no idea! 

Dive Report is committed to raising awareness to the abuse suffered by Elephants used in the tourist industry. If you want to know more you can find out more hereherehere and here. Also see a PETA documentary video here.

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Tips

Motorbike accidents are very common, so ensure you wear a helmet and do not drink drive! Most roads on the island are only dirt roads and are not recommended unless you are an experienced rider.

If you do hire a motorbike bear in mind that although the vehicle hire shops are cheap it can be very expensive paying for scratches on the newer bikes, so try to hire an older bike. 

There are clinics on the island but the nearest hospital is Koh Samui or on the mainland at Chumphon. Koh Samui also has the closest recompression chamber to Koh Tao.

Some Thai foods can send you running towards the loo so be on guard against unusual street foods especially if you’re new to the island.

Boats, Credit

Health

There are also clinics on the island but the nearest hospital is found only on Koh Samui and Chumphon.

Koh Samui has the closest recompression chamber to Koh Tao.          

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Rating 7/10

Whale Sharks at Koh Tao!

Koh Tao17 Dec 2012 - 30 Dec 2012

I traveled with my girlfriend to Koh Tao for Christmas. I had never been there before but she had worked there for a number of years previously as a dive instructor.

There are a number of dive sites positioned closely together not far from the island where a ship was also scuttled to provide an interesting wreck dive. The other sites near it were very easy dives.

The highlight was Chumphon Pinnacle on Christmas Eve. There had been reports of Whale Sharks at the site recently and when we arrived there was another dive boat which signaled to us that there were 2 in the water. We jumped in the water immediately and a small whale shark swam over us as we were descending. Shortly after another swam directly towards us! It repeatedly swam around the Pinnacle so we stayed in the same place and let it come to us over and over again. We felt so lucky seeing that my girlfriend had spent years working there and only seen Whale Sharks twice. To top it off we passed 3 bull sharks on the way back to the boat.

I posted a video of the experience here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68kBIgWuJ2Q

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Catherine Jones

You are so lucky, sounds like an amazing trip, i was there as a DM for 4 months and didnt see one!

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Steven Williams

Great photos, will check out your video too.

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Marie Harper

I will hopefully be diving there in the summer, im crossing my fingers for whale sharks!

Rating 10/10

An Abundance of Whale Sharks

Koh Tao1 Oct 2012 - 1 Nov 2012 with Sunshine Divers

Sunshine Divers have seen an abundance of Whale Sharks this October. With the rainy season hitting Northern Thailand there has been a lot of nutrients washed into the water thus attracting the Whale shark. With blooms of macro-algae surrounding such dive sites as Chumphon and South West and the world famous South Rock ( located between Koh Tao and Koh Phang Yang ) there has been a lot of Whale Shark activity. Whale sharks have reported at all mentioned dive sites at the same time!

With some dives racking up several sightings of different Whale sharks, including adults over 9m and baby's at around 4-6m. On more than one occasion Sunshine Divers were the only boat at the dive site.

The Sail Rock trips have been amazing for Shark activity, imagine seeing bull sharks swimming beside Whale Sharks, emerging together out of the thermocline at the same time!!!! "Well that's what we witnessed" If you are in Thailand, now is the time to come down to Koh Tao and go diving. It is by far one of the best dives you can have, swimming beside a Whale Sharks for an entire dive.

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Katie Evett

Amazing! :) LOVVVVE whale sharks

When is the busy season?

I prefer to go slightly off-peak season just so life is easier! Just wondering when that is for Koh Tao (is it similar for locations around Koh Tao?)

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Morgan Bennett

0 votes

Peak is Dec/Jan.. either side should not be too bad! Avoid xmas! :)

Rating 10/10

Sattakut Wreck

Koh Tao3 Aug 2012 - 1 Sep 2012 with Sunshine Divers

After a long history at sea the Sattakut (HTMS Sattakut LCI742) came to its final resting place of the east coast of Koh Tao.

As its a new wreck you can witness how the ocean will slowly claim this Artificial dive site, whilst still being able to see the original features of the ship, with a bottom depth of 30m and a lot of crevices, there are numerous hiding places for some amazing marine life, from Jenkins Whiptail rays to moray eels and whole array of bottom dwelling critters.

With Giant Groupers inhabiting the top decks and Blue Spotted Trout patrolling the peripheral. Even Titan triggerfish have taken refuge on the wreck claiming one of the immense anti air crafty gun's as their home.

With each dive on the wreck you are guaranteed it will be a unique visit each time. From Sea Snakes gliding through the many entry points of the wreck to the odd Giant Barracuda cruising by, there is always a pleasant surprise at this wreck. Sunshine Divers visit this site every week, with the experience and expertise of the Sunshine Dive Team you're guaranteed to have an adrenaline packed dive.

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Marie Harper

Great photo of the gun! So interesting to see how the sea takes over wrecks!

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Clemence Castagne

Love it - nice photos :)

Rating 10/10

PADI Ecological Monitoring Programme

Koh Tao18 May 2012 - 21 May 2012 with Sunshine Divers

We took part in the Ecological Monitoring Program', affiliated through PADI with Sunshine Divers.

The Koh Tao EMP course is based on the original Ecological Monitoring Program developed by the "Coastal Preservation and Development Foundation"… the difference being that the Koh Tao course has been written with regards to Reef checks on particular dive sites around Koh Tao as well as particular Marine Life most commonly found here which has the most impact on the overall health of our reef systems.

We learnt about the different types of corals out there including the vast amount within the Hard Coral family, we also learnt the coral code that is used by scientists and the Ecological monitoring Program for data collecting. This programme also enables you to preform 3 surveys (Fish, Invertebrates & Substrate) as well as how to lay the Transect Line for accurate data collection and proper use of a Secci disc for accurate visibilities readings.

This is a great programme to do, its fun, helpful and educational all at the same time.

Rating 7/10

Fall 2011

Koh Tao1 Sep 2011 - 12 Sep 2011

I spent approximately two weeks in the south of Koh Tao at Chalok Baan Kao at the tail end of a one month backpacking trip around Thailand with a brief stopover to Cambodia.

I had a fantastic time there, not because the diving was mind-blowingly spectacular but because the atmosphere and the people just have such a passion for diving and having fun. The diving was pretty good though.

There's a pretty good diversity of creatures and corals, with some great schools around the two pinnacle sites (Southwest and Chumpon). Decent snorkelling to be had too, for surface dwellers. A whale shark eluded me by two weeks time. Getting towards the end of the season the seas did kick up a bit. Visibility was good, but not great, 30-50 feet I'd say. Water temps around 26C/80F. Air temps slightly higher.

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Catherine Jones

Sounds great...the Whale Sharks eluded me by about 2 weeks as well!

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