Upon arriving in Koh Tao, you will very quickly notice the abundance of dive schools, and it’s easy to see why. Koh Tao is regarded as one of the best spots in Thailand for diving, yet is one of the cheapest places in the world to get your PADI certification and fun dive.
But what is the BEST dive site on Koh Tao? If you had to pick just one place to dive when you’re travelling here on a short time frame, you would need to make sure it counts.
For the majority of people who have been diving here, including me, you will hear time and again that Chumphon Pinnacle is hands down THE place to go. Of course, there are a few other favourites such as Southwest Pinnacle and Sail Rock. But why does Chumphon get the winning vote?
Situated only 11km to the North West of Koh Tao, it makes for a journey time of around 40 minutes and lies in the open sea between Koh Tao and the mainland city of Chumphon. Compare this to a 2 hour boat ride for Sail Rock, you won’t need to spend a whole day out for your dives (even though our Sail Rock with a buffet lunch is worth a day trip in itself!)
Easy To Navigate
With its North-South orientation, it’s always easy to find your way back to the boat with its North, Central and South buoy lines. It’s not too large a dive site either, so as long as your air consumption is ok, you can comfortably cover all of it in one dive, including the ‘Barracuda Rock‘ pinnacle.
Barracuda Rock is a smaller pinnacle located just south of the main pinnacle which is easily sighted from the main site as visibility is generally good year round at Chumphon.
Great for AOW divers
In theory, it’s perfectly possible to dive here with an Open Water certification, but you wouldn’t get the full Chumphon experience. With the top of the pinnacle sitting around the 14m mark, you only get an additional four metres of depth to play with. This doesn’t leave much room to explore the dive site, particularly when the majority of things to see here lie below 20m. Not only is it more suited to divers with an Advanced Open Water certification or Deep Adventure diver, but it’s also far more enjoyable!
What can I see there?
For a start, there’s plenty of fish – always. And being a deep dive site away from the main bustle of the island, it attracts bigger fish in bigger numbers such as giant groupers, mangrove snappers, great barracudas and whalesharks passing by.
If you prefer to see huge schools of fish instead, no problem: you’ll find chevron barracudas, big-eyed trevally, smooth-tailed trevally, and fusiliers in vast numbers. Magnificent anemones carpet the surface of the granite pinnacle, with their vivid greens, pinks and blues, each one thriving with pink anemone fish.
If you like macro stuff then be sure to look hard into the cracks for banded boxer shrimps, nudibranch, mantis shrimps and moray eels.
We visit Chumphon frequently, as it’s a beautiful deep dive to incorporate into the Advanced Open Water course.
Dive for longer
Your no decompression limits are shorter when diving Chumphon due to the depth of the site, so a great option is to undertake the dive by using Enriched Air Nitrox course, in order to maximise your bottom time and enjoyment. A tank of Nitrox contains a higher percent of oxygen meaning that during the dive you accumulate less nitrogen load in your body, this in turn means your no decompression limit is extended when compared to a normal tank of air.
So diving on what we call ‘the Gucci gas’ means you can experience Koh Tao’s number 1 dive site for longer.
Going Deeper Underneath
Not only that, but it attracts a lot of attention from fun divers and students interested in taking the deep speciality course. Chumphon is the also the best site to go down to 40m and become a deep diving specialist diver and to test your levels of narcosis. The deep specialty course takes 2 days and contains 4 dives and will teach you how to safely arrange, plan and carry out dives with a maximum depth of 40m.
Learning new dive techniques and taking into consideration equipment considerations that are not a factor when diving on shallow reefs.
“Chumpers” as we affectionately call the site here at Crystal Dive is firmly Koh Tao’s number 1 dive site and is firmly in Thailand’s top dive site list. If you only have time to dive on Koh Tao on 1 day make sure you choose Chumphon Pinnacle as the place to dive.
Author: Lee Pizzala (PADI DM #380258)