‘Turtle Island’ also known as Koh Tao, with good weather year-round, beginner-friendly diving, and a plethora of schools, is an ideal location to start learning to dive.

After exploring the pinnacles, reefs, and wrecks of the island sandy beaches, pool-side drinks, or island jungle exploration await.

Best Dive Sites in Koh Tao

Sail Rock

Sail Rock is one of the best dive sites in Thailand, if not all of South East Asia.

After an hour and a half boat ride from Koh Tao, you can easily spot the pinnacle breaking the surface. Regular boats travel to the site daily (weather dependent).

The longer boat ride is punctuated by whale shark sightings, which are less common in closer sites, and abundant marine life as the pinnacle often attracts large schools.

Sailrock Divesite

The site’s circular nature around a column makes it simple to navigate as divers enjoy barracuda schools, anemone gardens, and whale shark sightings.

Chumphon Pinnacle

Only a 40-minute boat ride away is one of the finest dive sites in the Gulf of Thailand. The Pinnacle sits in an area of relativity flat seabed, giving it an other-worldly, alien appearance.

Swaths of pink anemones cover the tops of the pinnacles and schools of Travellies and Fusilier’s twist and roll through the currents.

Chumpon Pinnacle Divesite

Marine life stretches from the tops of the pinnacles, down the steep walls and on into the surrounding seabed with Giant Groupers often found at the Pinnacles’ bases.

HTMS Sattakut

A popular wreck, accessible by recreational divers lies just south of Koh Nangyuan. The boat has attracted a myriad of marine life since it was sunk to create an artificial reef in 2011.

Sattakut Shipwreck Divesite

Malabar Groupers and Titan Triggerfish can be found on the upper deck and peering out through portholes in the Captain’s cabin. If you dive to the base of the ship, keep an eye out for rays in the spaces between the seabed and the keel of the boat.

The wreck gently slopes upwards from stern to bow, with the final dramatic view of the bow unmissable. Two guns are still on the wreck, providing a home to smaller marine life in their inner workings.

Hin Pee Wee is another good (and often overlooked) coral reef. The reef is close by and shallower than the wreck, so a good option is to combine the two.

Red Rock

Given its proximity to Koh Nangyuan and its settled position in a cove, Red Rock is popular, but still worth a visit Dropping down to the bottom of the pinnacle and then corkscrewing back up through will reward you with views of walls teeming with marine life.

Redrock Divesite

Almost at the base of the pinnacle is a deep, flat crack spiraling in a corkscrew.

Follow this, keeping an eye (and torchlight) in the crack and you may see rays, eels, and other marine life.

Close to the pinnacle are reefs that form part of Koh Nangyuan. Both green and hawksbill turtles can be seen at Red Rock and in reefs close to Koh Nangyuan.

Dive Centers in Koh Tao

Big BLue Dive Center

Big Blue Diving is one of the most well known and established dive centers on the island. In fact, they were the second one ever to open for business on the island.

Located on the northern end of Sairee beach, Big Blue Diving is the ultimate and all in one diving getaway experience.

Featuring a load out of 4 dive boats and 3 shuttle boats, they are one of the largest dive centers available. They take pride in their boats being dedicated dive boats, not converted fishing boats like many other charters on the island.

To find out more about what makes Big Blue Diving so great, check out their website!

Sairee Dive Center

Crystal Dive Center

Liveaboards in Koh Tao

Liveaboards aren’t too popular in Koh Tao and take place more on the west coast of Thailand and Myanmar. For more information on Thai liveaboards, check out our guide on liveaboards in Thailand.

When To Dive in Koh Tao

Diving is possible year-round and contributes to Koh Tao’s popularity. The tropical island remains hot and sunny throughout the year. With its exposed location and rapidly changing weather, forecasting can be difficult. However, all dive centers work hard to ensure daily diving and the wide range of sites allows many options.

March-April can be very hot but is the best time to see Whale Sharks.

Between July and September, visibility and weather are often exceptional, but this also means the island is busier.

How To Get To Koh Tao

Despite its remoteness, regular transport links make it easy to get to and from the island. The easiest option is to fly to Koh Samui and jump on the regular ferry to Koh Tao. The boat takes around 90 minutes Pre-booking tickets online is recommended, as the boats are quite small and demand can be high, especially during peak season.

Other options, such as the overnight ferry from Chumphon or Surat Thani exist, but for getting to and from Koh Tao directly, Koh Samui is the most convenient route.

Where To Stay In Koh Tao

Despite the small size of the island, accommodation options range from budget hostels to 5-star luxury hotels. Many of the dive centers offer accommodation as part of their courses and this is often the cheapest and most convenient option.

Sairee Cottage Resort offers accommodation for all, not just those
on their diving courses. With two pools, a restaurant, a coffee, and a bar it offers a complete package in a central location on the island.

Hostels such as the Savage and the Dearly can give cheaper nights and a party atmosphere with prominent locations on the main drag of bars. For those looking for the 5-star treatment, there are a number of options across the island.

The Haad Tien Beach Resort is a boutique destination in the deep south of the island, offering tranquillity, private beaches and bays, and guaranteed isolation and peace.

What’s Koh Tao Diving Like?

Around 60km from Ko Samui, Kao Tao features dive sites across the island. With hills acting as a weather barrier, pockets of calm sea and dry weather can always be found; a boat trip of around ten minutes can reveal completely changed conditions.

On its west coast sits Koh Nangyuan, a three-peaked island connected by a ribbon of the beach and low water. Koh Nagyuan is reachable by regular taxi boats taking passengers from the main island to enjoy the beaches and snorkeling.

The west side of the island and the reefs around Koh Nangyuan, closest to the harbor can be busy with dive boats, but the east side of Koh Tao offers quieter spots, hidden bays, and fewer crowds.

Dive sites encircle the islands often within less than a twenty-minute boat ride, and some exceptional options likeSail Rock and Chumphon Pinnacle exist a little further afield. The extended sailing time is more than made up for by their incredible marine life.

Sunsets from the boat, after a long day of exploring make these extended trips extra special. Marine life abounds on the reefs. ‘Turtle Island’ is unsurprisingly home to both hawksbills and green turtles. Whale sharks make occasional appearances, particularly in the more remote locations.

Titan Triggerfish are a common sight, biting at corals and sometimes divers’ fins. Keep an eye out for smaller marine life as well. Patience and good eyesight can reveal Nudibranchs, Harlequin Sweetlips and Yellow Boxfish. A good dive guide might also spot the concealed Scorpionfish.

Cracks and shelves in reefs can reveal Blue-spotted ribbon tail, Jekins’ whip rays, and White-eyed moray eels, especially at night when they are more active. Night dives may also allow glimpses of elusive cuttlefish and octopus. Thanks to their symbiotic relationship with anemones, pink anemonefish swim and hide amongst their tentacles and are found at many dive sites.

Conclusion

Whether as part of a longer trip around South East Asia or Thailand or as a standalone holiday, Koh Tao will not disappoint. Popular with those starting out on their scuba journeys, it offers quality diving and instruction at prices that are hard to beat.

Accommodation, dive centers, and food and drink are varied and cater to all tastes and budgets. Clear waters, warm sunshine and some of the best diving in Thailand make this unmissable.

Austin Tuwiner Administrator

Austin is the website owner, and began scuba diving at just 16 years old. After traveling and diving all over the world, he is dedicated to bringing the hobby to more people.

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