Thailand Diving Destinations
Diving in Koh Tao
'Turtle Island' (as the name 'Koh Tao' means in English) has long been a magnet for backpackers and traveller types who want learn about scuba diving in Koh Tao. The many shallow bays are used to certify more PADI student divers than anywhere else in the world outside of Australia.
One such bay is Ao Leuk. Its easy, relaxing diving is strongly recommend for beginners or for divers that haven't got wet for a while. The Thai name means 'Deep Bay' which is something of a misnomer since it is one of the shallowest of the Koh Tao dive sites with its sandy bottom allowing a maximum depth of only 12-14 metres. There are a surprising amount of reef fish such as butterflyfish and angelfish, schools of juvenile yellowtail barracuda and turtles.
Shark Island is a small rocky islet off the southeast coast of Koh Tao. The eastern side is the more interesting with its boulder formations. Many types of tropical fish are found around here. On the south side at 14 metres is a soft coral garden on a rocky bed. Sometimes you'll find leopard sharks and turtles here. Occasionally there can be strong currents at Shark Island from either the southeast or northwest.
Hin Wong Pinnacle is certainly a unique scuba dive at Koh Tao Island. The large granite pinnacle is at the northern end of Hin Wong Bay. The north side is beautiful with purple soft corals and many different kinds of sea fans, whip corals and black corals. Blue and black damsels swarm around you as if in greeting as you enter the water. Down on the bottom you might see small groups of shrimpfish driftby.
As you spiral up the rocks to the shallower section you'll find groves of Christmas tree worms embedded in the hard coral reef. There are white-eyed moray eels hiding in the crannies and some big groupers here too. Look up and you might see schools of fusiliers or turtles swimming past.
White Rock is located mid distance between Koh Tao's Mae Haad Pier and Koh Nang Yuan. The site consists of 2 large boulders which are only a few metres apart. These big stones are surrounded by smaller boulders and patches of coral. The site is a relatively easy one with the maximum depth around 20 metres. The star of the show at this dive site is Trevor the Triggerfish who is known as the most aggressive triggerfish at Koh Tao.
The small islet of Koh Nang Yuan is connected to Koh Tao by a thin strip of white sand and is surrounded by several charming dive sites. It's an area for relaxed and easy diving and is also a very popular place for snorkelling as there are plenty of reef fish.
Green Rock is a big boulder formation located on the north west of Nang Yuan Island. The dive site starts at about 1 metre below the surface and goes down to a depth of 30 metres. Green Rock has an impressive number of swim-throughs and overhangs which are the highlight of the site where you can expect to see moray eels, blue-ring angelfish, blue damselfish, groupers, batfish and sea snakes. It is also infamous for rather aggressive yellowmargin triggerfish and titan triggerfish.
Nang Yuan Pinnacle is located between Koh Nang Yuan and Koh Tao and is like a miniature version of Sail Rock. It is only a few fin kicks away from the eastern coastline of Koh Tao and starts at just 2 metres below the surface. There are many interesting boulders with nooks and crannies to explore here, and several swim-throughs. Moorish Idols, angelfish and oriental sweetlips are some of the common inhabitants. Also keep an eye out for octopus hiding in the rocks and cuttlefish.
Twins is just south of Koh Nang Yuan. It is a similar dive site to White Rock on Koh Tao and is actually 2 rock reef patches starting at 6 metres and going down to 18 metres. There are lots of anemones here with their resident families of clownfish.
Chumphon Pinnacle is possibly Koh Tao's best and most famous dive site and should definitely be part of your east coast Thailand diving itinerary. It's a granite pinnacle to the north west of the island and which starts 12 metres under the surface and goes down to a maximum depth of 35 metres. There is one main pinnacle which is surrounded by a dozen or so smaller rocks in the deeper areas.
The base of the main rock is completely covered in anemones which gently sway back and forth in the current. They are full of anemonefish of several varieties including the western clownfish, or 'Nemo's. This is a good site to see big fish including grouper, batfish, yellowtail barracuda and many others.
Huge schools of jacks can make it difficult to even see the dive site as they rush around divers. Whale sharks are a common visitor here, the best time being from February to April, and even whales have been spotted. Leopard sharks are often seen resting on the sandy bottom at the reef edge. Other species here include lionfish, fusiliers, rabbitfish and schooling bannerfish.
The depth and currents mean that this is not a dive site for complete beginners. It's a good idea to have some deep dive training before you visit Koh Tao; at the least you should be PADI Advanced Open Water certified.
Southwest Pinnacle is approximately 13 km south west from Koh Tao and in many ways it is like a shallower version of Chumphon Pinnacle. It's best to dive here when the Gulf sea is calm as Southwest Pinnacle is out in the open and has no protection from waves, but it is well worth the effort as it is one of the best dive sites at Koh Tao.
The dive site consists of a limestone rock and boulder mount that's completely submerged and carpeted with pink and gold anemones and their host spinecheek anemonefish. Surrounding the rock formation are black corals and sea fans. Leopard sharks, blue-spotted sting rays and marble groupers are often found here on the sand substrate bottom.
Whale sharks can sometimes be spotted here and it is also popular with juvenile pelagic fish such as yellowtail barracuda, schools of reef fish such as yellow snappers and rabbitfish, and bigreef squid.
How to Dive Koh Tao Island
The dive sites can be visited on day trips from Samui Island. Dive boats depart every morning, normally in quite small groups. You will normally return at 5:00 pm in the early evening. You can book dive day trips only, or combine them with accommodation at one of our recommended Koh Samui resorts.
Got a question?
Have a look through our Frequently asked questions
The dive sites at and close to Koh Tao can be dived throughout the year. However the best season for optimum diving conditions is from March to September.
Monsoon winds reduce visibility from October to November, and sea swells can be present. However, these are rarely bad enough to interfere with the running of diving trips.
November to February brings rain and winds to Koh Tao so it is not be the best place to dive at this time of year.
Good for: Large animals, beginner divers, dive value-for-money and snorkelling
Not so good for: Wrecks and drift dives
Depth: 5 - 35m
Visibility: 5 - 20m
Currents: Usually gentle but can be strong at some sites
Surface conditions: Normally calm, but can be choppy offshore
Water temperature: 27 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - intermediate
Number of dive sites: ~15
Access: Koh Samui diving day trips
Recommended length of stay: 5 days
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