Diving in Thailand
When most people talk about diving in Thailand, the chances are they're talking about Koh Tao. This island is the main diving destination in the entire gulf of Thailand; in fact it is the number one place in the world to 'get your PADI'. The entire island is surrounded by rock pinnacles, reefs and shallow bays, perfect for new divers in training or seasoned divers alike.
We own our own villa on Koh Tao, and this is now available for all Orca Scuba customers. If you'd like to explore Koh Tao, this is a great place to start, and we'll manage everything on your behalf from the moment you decide to book. From accommodation and activities to transfers and general holiday advice, we're always ready to help you. We use Cape Shark Villa frequently ourselves - it's truly a wonderful home-away-from-home.
Koh Tao is not only visually stunning, it also has a lovely, laid back atmosphere and friendly feel. The island is typically filled with divers, and it's common to overhear stories of sharks, turtles and whatever other critters have been spotted that day. We think you'll love it.
"It's easy to see why travellers come to Koh Tao seeking a few days' R-and-R and end up staying for weeks or months at a time. The island's laid-back vibe is catching, the food surpasses expectation and the diving is out of this world." TripAdvisor
When is the best time of year to dive in Thailand?
Koh Tao offers diving opportunities all-year-round, but one of the busiest times is July-to-August. The visibility at this time is around 20 metres, and the water temperature is a comfortable 29C or so. Above water, the temperature is a bit cooler than at other times of year, often with a nice cooling breeze.
Monsoon season is around November or December. At this time the water is not as calm, so visibility and temperature drop a little, but the ocean is still diveable in the many sheltered bays.
Mid-February-to-May brings hotter weather. Most spring days offer sun all day long. At this point the viz can be up to 30 meters and water temperature goes up to 31C. The island is quieter at this time of the year, with fewer tourists, fewer dive boats and thus fewer divers at dive sites. This is also the predominant breeding and mating season, which means you'll see very large schools of small fish. Spotting of whale sharks is also more frequent, although whale sharks can be spotted at Koh Tao at all times of the year.
Activities for non-divers and families
Not so keen on trying diving? No worries, the island offers a vast array of activities for the non-diver. If you don't want to dive but still enjoy the water, there are literally dozens of pristine snorkelling locations, just off the shoreline. Also, with several hills and hiking paths, Koh Tao is an ideal place for those who like to strap on some walking shoes and get away from it all.
Thailand is well known for great massages and Koh Tao offers plenty of reputable, family-run places that offer a professional massage service. For those keen on staying in shape, there are plenty of gyms on the island, most of which offer weekly as well as monthly memberships. You can also do rock climbing, Muay Thai / MMA, yoga, cooking classes, kayaking, mini-golf, shooting, cliff jumping, flying trapeze...
What facilities are there on Koh Tao?
Koh Tao has most of the facilities you would expect from a well developed resort island: a few smaller supermarkets, plenty of bars and restaurants, a clinic with a few beds to stay overnight, and emergency services. Visitors in need of serious medical assistance are usually transported to Koh Samui, where there is a hospital.
For those seeking night life, there are a few clubs in the area of Sairree beach, leaving the rest of this tiny island quiet and peaceful at night. There are plenty of taxis to drive you where you want to go and, for those keen on their own transportation, scooters can be rented on every corner of the island. (Please do keep in mind scooter accidents are plentiful on Koh Tao island!).
Food-wise, Koh Tao has a great selection, with a good mix of Thai, international and fusion menus. Here's a review of some of the best restaurants, which you might find useful.
What's the diving like on Koh Tao?
Koh Tao is renowned as a dive capital in SEA. In fact, it is believed that 15% of all diver certifications worldwide come from this tiny speck of an island in the gulf of Thailand. Yes, this does mean that it is a busy place to dive, but why do so many people go year-after-year?
First of all, the diving is very easy on Koh Tao. There is little-to-no current, all diving is done from a boat, and the boats run like clockwork, making it some of the most convenient diving you are ever likely to encounter. The island's shallow bays are perfect for straightforward dives and training, and there are plenty of healthy coral reefs and reef fish.
Because the island is so small you'll never have to travel far. Dive shops are normally just a short hop from the boats and within 15-30 minutes you can reach almost all of the dive sites
Koh Tao's Best Dive Sites
The depth and condition of Koh Tao's dive sites makes them perfect for beginners, but they're also interesting enough for more advanced divers too. One favourite is a fantastic, east-to-reach wreck called the 'Satakut 742'. It is a 42-metre-long World War 2 infantry carrier, with an impressive cannon on the bow. This wreck often shows up as part of the PADI Advanced course, but it makes for a great fun dive, for those who are already certified.
Twins and White Rock
'Twins' and 'White Rock' are two of the most popular dive sites - perhaps because they and are only a ten-minute boat ride from shore. Though quite busy they are still a treat. Both sites have many large coral heads covered in colourful Christmas tree worms. There are also schools of squirrelfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, triggerfish, bannerfish, angel and butterflyfish, groupers and snapper. As if that weren't enough, there's also a decent chance of seeing blue spotted sting rays, moral eels, turtles, sea snakes, pipefish and cleaner or boxer shrimps. White rock offers amazing night dives with many great barracuda hunting around you at an almost uncomfortable distance. Right next to twins (even possible to do on the same dive) is 'buoyancy world' - a man-made assault course for practicing your buoyancy control. Great fun!
Tao Chumphon Pinnacle - one of the best dives you'll ever do?
Many people say this about the North East of Tao Chumphon Pinnacle. It's a huge set of pinnacles, like the tip of a mountain range sticking up from the bottom at depths of between 30m to 15m. Suitable for all levels and often used as the final dive on the OW course, this dive is also just a 30-minute boat ride from Koh Tao.
Tao Chumphon Pinnacle is largely covered in sea anemones and clownfish and has many canyons, troughs and gullies. These make convenient hiding places for crustaceans, eels and some huge Malabar groupers. Head south west to Barracuda rock and hang out at around 25 metres for the chance to see some big stuff, such as schools of Fosters and Chevron barracuda, giant groupers, cobias, queenfish and, if you are lucky, perhaps sharks.
From time-to-time big bull sharks are spotted visiting the site. These may hang around for a few weeks before disappearing again. Chumphon is also one of the places you are most likely to see whale sharks.
Koh Tao whale sharks
Koh Tao is renowned for its whale sharks, of which more and more seem to appear every year. The best time to see them is May, although they can be spotted all-year-round.
South West Pinnacle
Southwest of Koh Tao is the aptly named South West Pinnacle - another breathtaking site. Quite similar to Tao Chumphon, except a single giant peak, South West Pinnacle emerges from the sea bed at around 25 metres, and stretches all the way up to about 5 metres below the surface. The main pinnacle is surrounded by a batch of smaller peaks and a huge boulder garden, where you can find sea fans, large groupers and large schools of smaller reef fish. This is also a good site for whale sharks and large schools of chevron barracudas.
Take a dive course in Koh Tao, Thailand
Although headquartered in Singapore, with our main dive centre on Pulau Rawa, Orca Scuba also offers a complete range of dive courses in Koh Tao. We have a fully equipped dive room, with compressor, at our base there, plus the ability to dive directly in front of your accommodation. Our approach to instruction in Thailand is flexible - but typically when our customers travel to Koh Tao to dive, our dive instructors will be based on site. That not only means our people are always on hand for help and advice, but also it means that they can tailor the dive schedule to suit your specific requirements. If you're interested in a dive course in Thailand you can find more course information here.
What's the easiest way to get to Koh Tao?
There are three main options for travelling to Koh Tao, depending on your budget and preference:
- The quickest and easiest, but also the most expensive option, is to take a flight to Koh Samui and then a ferry to Koh Tao
- A second option is taking a flight to Chumphon, then a bus to the pier and the ferry to Koh Tao
- Many backpack travellers travel by bus or train to Chumphon to take the ferry to the island
At Orca scuba we offer a fully customised booking process. Let our team do the heavy lifting in helping you plan your travel at no extra cost. You can contact the team here - just give us a call or request a call back at a time that's convenient.
"For an island of only 21km squared, Ko Tao packs a punch..."
What accommodation do we offer on Koh Tao?
Orca Scuba Koh Tao offers its very own private 4-bedroom villa. Situated in the quiet, southernmost corner of the island, it offers private access to the ocean at Shark Bay, and sits within the small, friendly neighbourhood of Cape Shark. Watch our video here.
The main house features three bedrooms, each equipped with a double bed. There's also a fourth bedroom with two single beds down by the ocean. Customers can rent all four rooms themselves, or may want to reserve the fourth room for their Orca Scuba dive crew. Whatever your preference, each bedroom is well appointed and has a private bathroom with shower.
The main house has a splash pool, indoor and outdoor living area, and fully appointed kitchen, with a large fridge, dishwasher, oven, toaster, microwave, plates and cutlery.
If you'd like to rent more than one villa, or need something a different size, we can arrange the rental of other buildings within the Cape Shark complex. Please just let us know your requirements and we'll make sure you have the ideal set-up.