Without a doubt Koh Tao diving provides access to some of the most pristine waters in all of Asia and certainly Thailand. I was able to scuba dive in Koh Chang, Koh Phi Phi, and Koh Tao during my time in Thailand. I chose to get certified in Koh Chang due to the lack of tourism there and the pricing (cheapest I could find) but Koh Tao is also a very affordable place to get your Open Water Diver Certification. Based on my research and discussions with diving instructors the only place I missed out on that has a better reputation than the aforementioned are the liveaboard only sites (multiple days and lots of $$$ spent on a boat to reach your destination) further out into the Andaman Sea.
With that being said I would say Koh Tao diving is the all around best location for scuba diving in Thailand! The pricing here is very fair, I paid just 7500 baht per person for 10 dives including all rental gear, insurance, etc. As competition is stiff on the island between dive shops you won’t find any substantial variance in pricing. There are dozens of dive sites and while Sail Rock and Chumphon Pinnacle are undoubtedly the biggest and best the rest of them were all worthy competitors! Both my girlfriend and I constantly looked forward to the next dive and not once did I feel like we were at a bad site. In fact with so many to choose from the sites were never crowded.
Choosing a dive center…to book in advance or on the spot?
I would wait until you get to the island to find a dive shop as you will likely be much more satisfied and it will give you a chance to get a feel for the place prior to forking over your money. On Koh Tao diving centres are in no shortage with outfits dotting almost every street throughout Maan Haad and Sairee so don’t worry about not finding a spot in advance like I did!
We booked in advance as I was completely unfamiliar with how things worked and went with Tripadvisor’s number one ranked shop, Roctopus Dive. Overall, I have to suggest you try another shop out as I believe they have grown too large to provide “the best” experience but it certainly was still a great time! The instructors were great people and under the water they were excellent at ensuring we enjoyed the dive but it was clear that their was a corporate mindset to the shop and not the usual, laid back feel you get with most diving outfits in Thailand (our chief complaints being the under-filling of tanks and the over-pushing of specialty day trips by the staff). That being said our dives were all excellent, the equipment was well maintained, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves thoroughly!
Quality of the dive sites
Again, without shelling out serious cash to get yourself onto a liveaboard into the Andaman Sea Koh Tao diving is bar none the best scuba diving in Thailand! The peak season for Koh Tao diving is from January-April and virtually guarantees 25+ meter visibility and calm waters but diving here is worthwhile year round! No trash floating on the waters’ surface, no bleached coral, truly one of the last pristine dive sites in the land of smiles!
What wildlife should I expect to see?
Picture-perfect coral reefs, the largest species of fish in the sea the mythical Whale Shark, schools of thousands of fish, flamboyant cuttlefish, rays, puffer fish of all sizes, and dozens of other fascinating creatures are all daily sightings off the coasts of this idyllic island! I even visited a few sites 2-3 times and each visit seemed to yield a new discovery. Below are some great shots I was able to get with the GoPro during my Koh Tao diving!
Still not ready to take the plunge? Lucky for you, snorkeling here is more rewarding than diving in many places with spots like Shark Bay and Nangyuan Island yielding access to underwater life just below the ocean’s surface. Rent a snorkel and fins for 150 baht a day and swim on out from the beach!
Koh Tao Out of the Water
Looking for the hot spots on land as well? Read how my girlfriend and I spent two weeks in paradise at $35 a day!