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.

Corals, Credit

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

Summer in Thailand 2010

Koh Tao25 Jun 2010 - 31 Aug 2010 with 100 Degrees East

I dived Koh Tao most days during the summer whilst staying on Koh Samui training as a Divemaster, so had the opportunity to dive a huge selection of the sites around the island. Unfortunately i didnt manage to catch a glimpse of a whale shark :(......a load appeared a few weeks after i left! Still had some very good dives, excellent schools of trevally, batfish and fusiliers, giant jellyfish at Chumphon, encounters with titan triggerfish at Green Rock and i had to over come my fear of Remoras which seemed to sense my fear and latch on at every dive site!!!

Anemone2 dave6 trigger1 P1030569
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