Koh Tao Scuba Diving
Spotted Boxfish. Credit Rickard Zerpe on flickr
Koh Tao is one of the most popular dive destinations in Thailand and probably has more beginner diving courses than anywhere else as travellers from all over the world head to the paradise waters.
Diving is possible all year but during the rainy season, September to November, visibility can be negatively affected and some dive sites may experience rougher seas. Water temperatures are pleasantly warm all year.
Snorkelling is popular in the area and most dive shops will also offer snorkelling trips alongside scuba trips.
There are plenty of excellent places to stay on Koh Tao. The vast majority of dive trips from Koh Samui will also visit Koh Tao dive sites.
Bigeye. Credit Thomas Quine on flickr
Probably the most famous dive site on Koh Tao its location, 12km northwest of the island, means that it is rarely visited by Koh Samui boats. Due to the quality of the site many boats will do multiple dives here.
The submerged granite pinnacle rises from 36 metres to around 14 metres and is covered in colourful sea anemones. There are also a number of smaller pinnacles.
The site is most suited to more advanced divers due to the depths although currents are generally weak to medium. Visibility varies between 10 and 30 metres.
The pinnacle is often surrounded by large schools of trevally, big eyed jacks, batfish and yellow tailed, chevron and giant barracuda. The top of the pinnacle is home to scorpionfish, crabs and shrimp. Other marine life that can be seen includes king mackerel, grey reef shark, bull shark, lionfish, white eyed moray eel, grouper and pompanos. Whalesharks also visit the area during March to May and August to October.
Sail Rock (Hin Bai)
Whale Shark at Sail Rock. Credit Ryan Lackey on flickr
Probably the best dive site in the area although the 2 hour boat ride may put some people off the journey.
This huge pinnacle rises around 7 metres above the surface of the water down to depths of around 22 metres. With weak to medium currents Sail Rock is suitable for all levels of diver although the deeper areas (down to 40 metres) are only suitable to advanced divers. The vertical swim-through known as the “chimney” is also only suitable for experienced divers.
The site is teeming with marine life with large schools of trevally, queenfish, barracuda, fusiliers, tuna as well as batfish, scorpionfish, moray eel, soldier fish and nudibranch. The site also sees giant grouper and at certain times of the year, manta ray and whaleshark.
South West Pinnacle / South West Rock
Leopard Shark. Credit TANAKA Juuyoh on flickr
Another excellent dive site, known as either South West Rock or South West Pinnacle, this site is actually a series of pinnacles with one larger one in the centre. Depths of up to 33 metres and generally moderate currents make this site suitable mostly for the more experienced although some boats will take less experienced divers in suitable conditions.
Located around 13km southwest of Koh Tao the site features leopard shark, yellow tailed barracuda, grouper, scorpionfish, pink anemonefish,blue-spotted ribbontail rays, white eyed moray eel and every now and then whaleshark.
Hawksbill Turtle. Credit Rickard Zerpe on flickr
First of all don’t expect to see sharks. This site gets its name from the fin like pinnacle that breaks the surface. Situated just 300 metres from the southeast coast of Koh Tao.
The site is suitable for all levels of divers with average dive depths of around 14 metres although it can go as deep as 24 metres in places. Currents can vary considerably so make sure your dive operator is aware of conditions.
The area has a wide range of coral, boulders and rocks surrounding the small island that attracts a wide variety of marine life including turtles, butterflyfish, batfish, yellow boxfish, snapper, grouper, sea snakes, clownfish and triggerfish
Yellow Boxfish. Credit Rickard Zerpe on flickr
A popular dive site located to the northwest of Koh Nanguan (just off Koh Tao) suitable for all levels of diver with generally weak currents and depths from 5 to 28 metres. The site is comprised of large boulders and rock formations which create a series of swim throughs and small caves.
Another site to spot turtles, green and hawksbill and yellowtail barracuda. also seen here are harlequin sweetlip, blue-ringed angelfish, chevron barracuda, titan triggerfish, yellow margin triggerfish moray eel, scorpionfish, yellow boxfish and nudibranch.
Titan Triggerfish. Credit Roderick Eime on flickr
On the east of Koh Tao, Lam Thian is an easy dive suitable for all levels of diver, with depths down to 17 metres.
There are green sea turtle, blue spotted stingray, triggerfish, bannerfish grouper, jacks, whitetip reef shark and nudibranch.
Mango Bay (Aow Maung)
Parrotfish. Credit Thomas Quine on flickr
On the north of Koh Tao, Mango Bay is a gorgeous setting for an easy and relaxing shallow dive with plenty of macro life as well as bigger marine animals.
The area has mushrrom, staghorn and table corals alongside giant barrel spnges and giant clams which all help to attract wrasse, parrotfish, yellowtail barracuda, Jenkins whiprays, grouper, fusilier and seahorses.
An excellent snorkelling location.
Twins / Twin Peaks
Clownfish. Credit Thomas Quine on flickr
These two large rocks at 8 and 20 metres deep are known as either Twins or Twin Peaks. The site is suitable for all with depths ranging from 7 to 22 metres.
An excellent location for underwater photography Twin Peaks has some wonderful reef life including clown fish, blue ringed angel fish, moray eel, stingray, yellow tail barracuda, trevally, porcupine pufferfish and butterflyfish.
Yellow Tail fusilier. Credit Bernard Dupont on flickr
Lying opposite Twin Peaks this site is popular with beginners and snorkellers due to the shallow depths (maximum 15 metres).
The area has hard and soft coral formations which look similar to a Japanese garden, hence the name.
Marine life includes pufferfish, rabbitfish, fusilier, bannerfish, angelfish and the odd turtle.
White Rock (Hin Kaow)
Banded Seasnake. Credit Elias Levy on flickr
One of the largest and most popular dive sites on Koh Tao, partly due to being just 10 minutes boat ride from the islands main beach, but also due to its suitability for all levels of diver, the wonderful marine life and suitability for student divers.
The current is weak, visibility varies between 10 and 30 metres and depths up to 24 metres.
Marine life includes turtles, blue spotted stingray, barracuda, titan triggerfish, moray eel, angel fish, scribbled filefish, Jann’s pipefish, banded sea snake and nudibranch. During night dives great barracuda can be seen hunting.
Hin Pee Wee
White Eyed Moray Eel. Credit Rickard Zerpe on flickr
Located on the northwest of Koh Tao, 200 metres south of White Rock, this reef has 3 pinnacles and is usually less busy that other dive sites. Depths up to 28 metres and the diving conditions make it a popular site for some advanced diver courses.
Another excellent underwater photography location, marine life includes blue spotted rays, green and hawksbill turtles, yellow tail barracuda, fusilier, grouper, trevally, white eyed moray eel, angelfish, butterflyfish, rabbitfish and, if you look carefully, seahorse.
HTMS Sattakut Wreck
Meyers Butterflyfish. Credit Tony Tarry on flickr
Sunk, on purpose, on 18th June 2011, just south of Hin Pee Wee the ex Thai Navy boat HTMS Sattakut lies in a sandy area at a depth of around 30 metres meaning it is suitable only for more experienced divers.
The wreck provides opportunities to explore inside, for those suitably qualified, as well as the wide variety of marine life that has made the wreck their home.
There are giant grouper, one spotted snapper, butterflyfish, sweetlips, Jenkins whiprays, blue spotted ribbontail rays, black spotted pufferfish, barracuda and gobies.
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