The Full Information to Diving in Koh Tao

<img src="" alt="Alex in Wanderland diving within the waters close to Koh Tao, Thailand"
Up to date: 8/22/2019 | August 22nd, 2019

This can be a visitor submit by Alexandra Baackes, the legend behind Alex in Wanderland. She’s additionally a PADI divemaster and a resident of Koh Tao, Thailand. Koh Tao is a well-liked vacation spot for scuba divers and one the the biggiest locations folks be taught on the planet! On this information, Alex offers you the insider scoop on diving faculties, costs, and one of the best areas for viewing sea life once you go to Koh Tao.

Vacationers in Thailand prefer to label their locations neatly. Intricate island paradises are boiled down to at least one or two easy phrases or associations: Koh Phi Phi? The Seaside. Koh Phangan? The Full Moon Get together. Koh Tao? Diving.

A few of them are pretty effectively deserved.

In spite of everything, Koh Tao is without doubt one of the world’s prime locations in the case of variety of annual dive certifications issued — the truth is, it’s second solely to Cairns, Australia. Vacationers flock from throughout Southeast Asia to take their first breaths underwater within the coral reefs fringing this paradise island. It’s easy to see why: the programs are among the many most inexpensive on the planet, the educating requirements are excessive, the circumstances are straightforward, the dive websites are plentiful, and it’s a dang enjoyable place to decompress after a day underwater.

It’s straightforward to be overwhelmed when planning a visit to Koh Tao — there are greater than 70 dive faculties on the island! — so a little bit of analysis goes a good distance in the case of such a big funding of your time and journey finances.


A massive shark swimming above a diver in the waters near Koh Tao, Thailand
There are greater than 50 scuba diving coaching methods all over the world, however in Koh Tao, the selection typically comes down to 2: the Skilled Affiliation of Dive Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Colleges Worldwide (SSI). Every group develops its personal educating supplies; writes its personal requirements primarily based on these set by the umbrella group, the World Leisure Scuba Coaching Council (WRSTC); and awards its personal certifications.

It doesn’t matter what certification card you stroll away with, you’ll use the identical gear, see the identical fish, and be capable of dive on the similar locations. Certifications are interchangeable and acknowledged worldwide. Crucial components within the high quality of your course will probably be your dive college and your dive teacher. However there are minor variations between businesses.

PADI is the world’s main scuba diving coaching group. If you happen to discover consolation in numbers, then
this company with practically a million certifications per yr would possibly simply be for you! The key profit to diving with PADI comes on the skilled degree. For instructors and divemasters, PADI gives essentially the most employment alternatives, and PADI instructors can work independently (whereas an SSI teacher should train via an SSI-registered store). So in case you have goals of staying in Thailand to show the backpacker plenty and also you wish to be loyal to at least one company, PADI is a robust company to hedge your bets on.

As soon as only a small subset of the diving business right here, SSI has exploded to manage a full 50% of the market share on Koh Tao. The advantage of doing an SSI certification comes all the way down to greatest bang in your baht, as an SSI course will sometimes price you just about 10% lower than a PADI course. If you happen to’re coming to Koh Tao particularly for its standing as one of many world’s most cost-effective locations to get licensed, these further baht could make a giant distinction. Plus, all coursework is completed through the free app and/or on-line, making it a inexperienced selection.

What’s the Course Like?

Alex in Wanderland diving in the water with a groupd of friends near Koh Tao, Thailand
The Open Water course is the primary certification you’ll full as a diver. Many divers come to Koh Tao to finish their Open Water certification, and a few get hooked and keep until they’re instructors themselves. However be cautious of “zero to hero” packages that embody the complete array of programs from first underwater breath to grasp scuba diver coach — take it one step at a time.

(Whereas half-day experiences referred to as “Uncover Scuba Diving” or “Strive Scuba Diving” can be found, they don’t result in any kind of certification and may actually solely be thought of for those who’re (a) tremendous strapped for time or (b) extraordinarily not sure if diving is for you. In any other case, simply dive in, actually, to the Open Water!)

The standard Open Water diving course is accomplished in three to 4 days. There are movies to look at, guide chapters to learn, checks to take, and, after all, dive websites to discover! It’d sound intimidating, however the course is designed for college students as younger as 10 — the teachers shouldn’t intimidate you.

Right here’s a tough define of what your course will seem like:

  • Day 1: Orientation, paperwork, and movies.
  • Day 2: A morning within the classroom studying about fundamentals expertise, gear, and the consequences of diving on the physique. A day spent within the pool or at shallow dive websites engaged on expertise equivalent to regulator restoration and masks elimination, amongst others.
  • Day 3: A morning within the classroom ending information critiques and taking some quizzes. Within the afternoon, the enjoyable actually begins with open-water dives 1 and a couple of, which is able to keep shallow and low-key. Some expertise will probably be practiced in the course of the dives.
  • Day 4: You’ll exit on a morning boat and full open-water dives Three and 4, the place you’ll get to go a bit deeper and discover. Within the afternoon, you’ll take the ultimate examination. Congratulations — you made it!

Upon completion, you’ll obtain a certificates that lets you dive anyplace on the planet with one other licensed buddy, impartial of an expert, to a depth of 18 meters.

And the Open Water course is just the start! Koh Tao is a real mecca for dive training: you’ll be able to take programs in freediving and technical diving, and specialty scuba programs in all the things from images to conservation and past — plus the gamut of constant {and professional} programs as much as Teacher Coach!

Which Faculty Ought to I Select?

A massive school of long fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao ain’t referred to as a mecca for diving for nothing: there are practically 70 dive faculties on this 13-square-mile rock! This determination is the largest in the case of figuring out the standard of your diving course. For essentially the most half, the faculties fall into just a few classes:

Large faculties: Bans, Large Blue, Crystal
These faculties are monumental scuba powerhouse resorts that may churn out lots of of Open Water divers every week, with instructors for nearly each language possible. They are perfect for somebody who’s assured about going underneath water (i.e., doesn’t want further particular person consideration) and needs to make a number of mates and meet folks in a giant group setting. Nonetheless, these teams is usually a bit massive for consolation.

Medium-sized faculties: Grasp Divers, Sairee Cottage
Medium dive faculties typically have one of the best of each worlds. They’ve a spread of instructors and teams massive sufficient to make mates in, however they aren’t as liable to overcrowding or speeding via the course.

Small faculties: Hydronauts, Ocean Sound
These faculties are nice at accommodating particular wants or specializing in a sure specialty. The additional consideration with instructors is vital for individuals who are feeling unsure about heading underwater or who merely wish to be spoiled with consideration and be taught in a extra targeted atmosphere. Nonetheless, these faculties typically lease boat house and pool time from different dive faculties relatively than having their very own amenities.

When selecting a faculty and an teacher, contemplate these components:

  • Does it have an teacher who speaks your language? There are a lot of specialty language-focused dive faculties on Koh Tao: for Spanish, head to Pura Vida or La Bambona; for French, French Kiss Divers; for Finnish, Koh Tao Divers.
  • Will the confined dives happen within the ocean or in a pool?
  • What number of college students will probably be within the group?
  • What time do they go away within the morning? These keen beavers who wish to be the primary on the dive website may not thoughts being up in time for New Means’s 6am departure, whereas night time owls would possibly choose Ban’s or Sairee Cottage’s extra relaxed dive occasions.
  • Is the gear updated and in my dimension? Colleges in Koh Tao have an excellent document for gear vary and upkeep, nevertheless it by no means hurts to ask.
  • Will you get to have my very own dive pc all through the course? Will there be an additional cost?
  • How certified is the teacher? Some college students could admire the keenness and up-to-date coaching of a brand new teacher, whereas others could discover consolation in a trainer with tons of {qualifications} and years of expertise.
  • Do you want the teacher?

How A lot Will It Price?

Alex in Wanderland posing for a photo on Koh Tao, Thailand
Open Water programs on Koh Tao vary from 9,200 to 10,800 baht ($300–350 USD) — with out lodging. (As soon as upon a time, virtually each dive college on the island bundled lodging in with their programs, however that’s turning into extra and rarer outdoors the biggest dive resorts. If lodging is included, it’s a really primary fan room — or you’ll be able to improve to a nicer one at a reduction.)

Although it’s much less frequent today, many colleges can have a videographer come alongside on dives Three and Four and make a 10-20-minute music video–fashion recording of your day. At night time, the category will collect to look at it. Relying on the video firm, they might cost you a flat fee for a replica or base it on what number of copies are bought — so you’ll be able to take one house for anyplace from 1,000 to three,000 baht ($32–97 USD). Some faculties have switched to offering nonetheless images as an alternative, which you should buy as a part of a package deal — anticipate to pay round 300 baht ($10 USD) for one picture or 1,000 ($32 USD) for a set of a number of.

Although it’s not an company normal, many colleges have a coverage that college students can’t deliver their very own cameras out on Open Water Programs, so don’t freak for those who aren’t allowed to deliver your GoPro — they aren’t attempting to bully you into shopping for a video or picture package deal; they’re attempting to maintain you protected, preserve you targeted, and keep away from harm to reefs and marine life till buoyancy is mastered.

For divers who’ve already accomplished their Open Water course, enjoyable dives price round 700–1,000 baht ($23–32 USD) every, relying on what number of dives you’ll do and in case you have your individual gear. These with money and time constraints will wish to make it a precedence to go to no less than one in all Koh Tao’s premier dive websites.

What are the Can’t-Miss Dive Websites?

Alex in Wanderland leaping into the water to start a dive in Thailand
If you happen to’re a model new diver doing all your Open Water course on Koh Tao, fairly frankly, it doesn’t matter the place you go — you’re going to adore it! You’ll be so targeted in your expertise and the magic of respiration underwater for the primary time, you received’t actually discover the variations between totally different dive websites but anyway.

Twins is a quite common coaching dive website used for dives 1 or 2 of the Open Water course. Twins sits simply off the coast of Koh Nang Yuan and is ideal for brand spanking new divers, because of its shallow depth. A spotlight right here is the household of uncommon saddleback clownfish inside an anemone you could’t miss — there’s a hoop of rocks round it!

White Rock
White Rock is one other one of the vital generally visited dive websites on Koh Tao, often for dive Four of the Open Water course. It’s an infinite dive website, offering a large sampling of Koh Tao’s marine life — together with the odd sea turtle who lumbers via. Learn extra about diving White Rock right here.

Southwest is a set of pinnacles carpeted in mushy coral anemone and
the pink anemonefish that accompany them. This can be a nice website for recognizing barracuda and big groupers. It’s positioned 13km southwest of Koh Tao and is nearly all the time visited on the morning boats. With pinnacle depths from 6m to 27m, it’s excellent for anybody from Open Water licensed and up. (Feeling adventurous? There’s a secret pinnacle right here as effectively.) Learn extra about diving Southwest right here.

Shark Island
Shark Island is so named for its resemblance to a dorsal fin, relatively than an abundance of sure toothy fish. The north facet is greatest identified for its variety of coral, whereas the south facet has distinctive mushy corals you received’t see elsewhere on Koh Tao. The rocky outcrop is positioned southeast of Koh Tao and is a much less generally visited website attributable to each its location and its typically difficult circumstances — each present and visibility is usually a battle right here. Learn extra about diving Shark Island right here.

HTMS Sattakut
This former US Navy ship was sunk in June 2011 off the coast of Sairee Seaside and has change into house to Jenkins’ whiprays, nice barracuda, and dozens of gobies enjoying hide-and-seek in rusty crevices. The wreck doesn’t begin till about 18m and sits down at 30m, so you actually have to be Superior Open Water licensed or do a Deep Journey Dive to get pleasure from it totally. To penetrate, you need to have or be coaching for a wreck specialty.

One of many HTMS Sattakut’s biggest property is its location lower than 15m from neighboring dive website Hin Pee Wee. So you’ll be able to praise a spin round
the wreck with a zipper across the coral reef. Hin Pee Wee options a number of pinnacles, a resident turtle, and a few spectacular macro life. Learn extra about diving the HTMS Sattakut right here.

Chumphon is a submerged granite pinnacle lined in colourful sea anemone and surrounded by massive faculties of trevally, batfish, and barracuda. Fortunate divers will spot big groupers, pompanos, and even whale sharks. Because of its depth, it is a dive website greatest loved by Superior Open Water college students.

Chumphon is nearly all the time visited on the morning boats. As a result of distance — it’s 11km from Koh Tao — and the scale of this dive website, some faculties schedule two dives in a row right here. Learn extra about diving Chumphon right here.

Sail Rock
Sail Rock is taken into account the premier dive website within the Gulf of Thailand. Don’t miss “the chimney,” a beloved, not-so-secret swim-through, and a deeper secondary pinnacle east of the primary rock. This granite, deep-ocean pinnacle rises from 30m and breaches the floor, a welcome sight after the two-hour boat trip from Koh Tao.

Often, you may get fortunate and full dives Three and Four of your open water right here for an additional charge, although typically, it is a specialty journey costing anyplace from 2,500 to three,500 baht ($81–113 USD) and together with three dives, breakfast, lunch, and a beer on the best way again. A handful of colleges take journeys to Sail Rock however most solely go as soon as every week, so plan accordingly. Learn extra about diving Sail Rock right here.

When to Dive on Koh Tao

A colorful school f fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand
Most island divemasters agree that April and Might are one of the best months — they’re heat and clear, and the ocean is flat. And lately, they’ve been chock filled with whale shark sightings! Plus you can time your journey to spend Songkran (Thai New Yr’s) on Koh Tao (mid-April).

That mentioned, there isn’t actually a foul time to dive on Koh Tao, outdoors of November and December, when winds and could be excessive and the climate could be dicey, inflicting boat rides to be disagreeable and visibility to be poor.


Studying to dive on Koh Tao needs to be approached with warning, as it may result in a really critical habit to the diving passion and way of life! Many a dive virgin has arrived by ferry with plans to remain just a few days and get licensed, solely to search out themselves months later calling the island house and dealing towards turning into a scuba diving teacher.

Alexandra Baackes is the creator of The Wanderland Information to Koh Tao (which is an unbelievable information to the island! and founding father of Wander Girls Retreats, which hosts an annual girls’s dive and yoga retreat on Koh Tao. She overshares about journey, diving, and life as an entrepreneur on her weblog Alex in Wanderland and on her Instagram @alexinwanderland.

E book Your Journey to Thailand: Logistical Ideas and Methods

E book Your Flight
Discover a low cost flight by utilizing Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favourite engines like google as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is left unturned.

E book Your Lodging
You may guide your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use as they constantly return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low cost inns. I take advantage of them on a regular basis. My favourite locations to remain are:

  • The Dearly Koh Tao Hostel – The eco-friendly hostel gives a bar, cafe, restaurant, pool, and rooftop terrace. It’s an amazing place to loosen up and join with different vacationers.
  • Gecko Republic Jungle Hostel – You’ll be arduous pressed to discover a cleaner hostel with workers as pleasant as those who work at Gecko. It’s straightforward to fulfill folks right here and there may be AC obtainable too!

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield you towards sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes incorrect. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions previously. I’ve been utilizing World Nomads for ten years. My favourite firms that provide one of the best service and worth are:

In search of one of the best firms to economize with?
Try my useful resource web page for one of the best firms to make use of once you journey! I record all those I take advantage of to economize once I journey – and I feel will make it easier to too!

Need Extra Data on Thailand?
You’ll want to go to our sturdy vacation spot information on Thailand for much more planning ideas!

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