Koh Tao is known for its calm, clear waters and beautiful coral reefs. This makes Koh Tao an excellent place to do a Discover Scuba Dive or an Open Water Course and is the reason it is the most popular place in the world for people to learn to dive and get their PADI.
Lots to offer scuba divers around Koh Tao
With calm waters and shallow sites is there anything on offer for more experienced divers?
Of course there is!
Not only does Koh Tao offer diving year round, we also have frequent whale shark sightings, a beautiful wreck and lots of deep sites. Koh Tao has an excellent selection of dive sites to suit all levels. What do you want to see? Huge schools of fish? Penetrate a wreck? Go down to 40m? We’ve got it all in and around our beautiful island.
A list of the 5 best deep dive sites around Koh Tao
Sail Rock Dive site
Sail Rock, or “Hin Bai” in Thai, is an hour and half boat ride from Koh Tao. Sail Rock is often considered the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand. There is a certain excitement pulling up to this large iceberg like rock in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.
You can literally see the large schools of trevally and fusiliers swimming under the boat as you are mooring up. Sail Rock is a haven for marine life, expect to be surrounded by huge schools of chevron barracuda, big eyed trevally and fusiliers by the hundreds.
There is also a secret pinnacle, which is slightly smaller and a little quieter, where queen fish and great barracudas can be seen hunting for their lunch right in front of you. If you can see through all the schooling fish, Sail Rock also gives you a great opportunity to see whale sharks.
Just make sure to not use flash photography, and keep your distance, at least 3m from the head and 5m from the tail.
Descend the Chimney
Underwater, the rock joins the sand then slopes out to a depth of about 40 meters. There is also a natural “chimney” on the main pinnacle. The chimney starts at about 5 meters with an exit at 12meters and another at 18 meters.
Swimming through the chimney is an excellent way to practice your buoyancy. As you slowly descend into the large chimney you’ll be eye to eye with crabs, shrimps and various kinds of nudibranch. Definitely consider the Enriched Air Nitrox course so you can make the most of your time at Sail Rock.
Sail Rock trips tend to be a full day trip. Departing at 8am, we usually make nice, long and relaxed dives with lunch served in between during an extended surface interval. The boat usually arrives back on Koh Tao around 15.30
Chumphon Pinnacle Dive site
Chumphon Pinnacle, affectionately called Chumpers by those of us that know it well is a 40 minute boat journey from Koh Tao.
Chumphon is a huge rock Pinnacle, the top of which is around 14 meters below the surface. The site has a maximum depth of approximately 36 meters although if you swim off the north end, and with your dive computer literally resting in the bottom you will register 40 metres.
Dive off into the Deep Blue
It’s a great place to practice a blue dive, swimming off the pinnacle into the blue, just make sure that there are no currents and that you have a compass, so you can find your way back. You may be rewarded with a dive in the middle of a chevron barracuda tornado or among a mesmerizing school of yellow backed fusiliers.
The main pinnacle is carpeted in magnificent anemones, full of dancing pink anemone fish. The sides of the pinnacle are scattered with mature barrel sponges, Pacific lionfish, Spanish mackerel and white eyed morays hiding in between the boulders.
Off the Southwest side of the main pinnacle is a collection of boulders called Barracuda Rock. Barracuda rock is often teeming with rabbitfish, snappers, marble groupers and bat fish circling the rock, playing in your bubbles. Whale sharks also frequent the area in season and would make a great addition to any Fish Identification Specialty.
Southwest Pinnacle Dive site
South west Pinnacle is a 30 minute boat ride from Koh Tao. The site has a maximum depth of 30m.
South West is one of those dive sites where there is always something going on. The dive site resembles an underwater mountain range and rock forest all in one. There are big pinnacles and lots of little groups of rocks that add protection for some beautiful little creatures. Blue spotted ribbontail rays, yellow boxfish, scribbled file fish, razor fish and squid can all be found among the rocks.
Consider the Underwater Naturalist Adventure Dive to learn all about the little critters and fish and how they all live together symbiotically. Fantastic for macro lovers, with Durban dancing shrimp, pipefish and glass shrimp peering out of all the little cracks.
It’s also a great place to swim between two pinnacles, explore the secret pinnacle or try to spot the mighty whale shark.
The perfect safety stop
This is also going to be one of your favorite spots for a safety stop as the top of the pinnacle sits 5m below the surface. You can chill at the top of the pinnacle watching barracudas, batfish and rainbow runners while you wait to surface.
Or if you are really lucky, you can share your safety stop with a big spotted fish (whale shark), what a way to end a dive!
Shark Island Dive site
Around Koh Tao’s South side, lies an uninhabited island called Shark Island. The island is named Shark Island because it looks like a shark’s dorsal fin coming out of the water, not because there are copious amounts of sharks at this particular site.
This dive site is best suited to more experienced divers as it is known to have strong currents. The rocky island meets the sand and goes down to maximum depth of 26 m.
There is so much to see at Shark Island, with lots of nooks and crannies that house cleaner shrimp, Durban dancing shrimp and banded boxer shrimp. There are lots of overhangs and shallow caves that make great resting spots for blue spotted ribbontail rays and jenkin’s whiptail rays.
There is a wide variety of soft and hard corals, fields of soft coral and often large congregations of butterfly fish. This is also one of the only places around the island that you can catch a glimpse of the orange-spine unicorn fish.
If you swim into the blue a bit you may be rewarded with a black tip, leopard or whale shark sighting. If you are a shark lover then consider taking the shark specialty and learning all about things that are threatening sharks, what their life cycle looks like and why they are so important to the ocean ecosystem.
HTMS Sattakut dive site
This impressive battleship was purposely sunk in 2011 to become a dive site. The HTMS Sattakut is lying in a sandy area, just south of the dive site Hin Pee Wee. Her Stern lies at a depth of around 30 meters and her Bow in 26 meters. The top of the wheelhouse sits at 18 meters so this is best suited for Advanced Open Water divers.
The Sattakut is 49 meters long and 7 meters wide. She has two cannon guns, one at the stern and one on the Bow.
Although still relatively new, the dive site boasts an abundance of marine life such as scorpion fish, sawblade shrimp and sweetlips. For those divers looking for a new challenge, I’d strongly recommend the PADI Wreck Specialty. On the last dive of this 4 dive specialty, you actually get to penetrate the wreck.
There are many port holes on both sides of HTMS Sattakut and looking in you will see Giant Groupers, One Spotted Snappers, Butterfly Fish, amongst many others. If you descend all the way to the sand on the western side of the ship, look carefully with your torch, in between the seabed and the ‘keel’ or bottom of the ship – very often we spot a large Jenkins Whipray.
In good visibility you can actually see Hin Pee Wee and for Advanced Divers with good air consumption this is an option to incorporate into your dive plan. HTMS Sattakut is suitable for divers with their Advanced certification or higher, and for penetration a Wreck Specialist certification is required. It is also a popular choice for one of the elective Adventure dives as part of the PADI Advanced Open water diver course.
Full range of PADI diving courses Koh Tao
As you can see there is a something for every level of diver here on Koh Tao, regardless of how experienced you are. Why not come and explore the deep, and sunken treasure of this little tropical island, enjoy the abundance of marine life the waters around the island boast and maybe get lucky and spot a Whaleshark or two during your visit.
There are lots of courses and sites to choose from to help you make your diving holiday a trip to remember.
Author: Kate Bradford (MSDT)