Koh Tao is the main scuba diving destination in the Gulf of Thailand primarily because of its shallow coral reefs that are teaming with marine life. The whole island is ringed with coral reefs, rock pinnacles and ecological diversity.
Combine this with an idyllic backdrop and a laid-back atmosphere, and the island’s diving experiences ensures stress free scuba diving with a professional whilst being great fun.
Aside from the actual physical beauty Koh Tao offers underwater, the logistical beauty is that it offers varied diving opportunities all year around. Whatever the weather, we dive in Koh Tao all year round. Yes, that’s 12 months a year and there is always something new and exciting to see.
Whatever you are looking for, whether it is conditions conducive to becoming a certified scuba diver, or something a bit more exciting such as a good wreck dive that offers divers more of a challenge, Koh Tao has something for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions
After living on ‘The Rock’ – as Koh Tao is affectionately known within the expat community – for 5 years, I think the question I am most often asked is; “When is the best time to dive in Koh Tao?”
This question is not so easily answered, anytime can be the best. It all depends on what you’re looking for. You can look at time of day, time of the month or time of the year. Everyone has a preference.
East Side Diving – West Side Nights
One of our busiest times for diving Koh Tao is July-August. This time of year offers good underwater conditions, with visibility up to 20 metres and temperatures around 29 degrees centigrade. Above water, the weather is cooler than earlier in the year with a nice breeze most days due to the southwesterly winds.
Due to these winds coming in from the west, this time of year we tend to visit the dive sites located off the east side of the island that provide calm sheltered bays in which to conduct PADI courses. Fun divers and more experienced divers get to explore the outer lying pinnacles such as Hin Wong Pinnacles.
Travellers tend to find this time of year their “best time” not only for the diving conditions, but also on land, where there are lots of people, lots going on, and a great social ‘buzz’ around the island.
For solo travellers this is the best time to meet new people and make new friends. Scuba diving is a super social activity, so whether you are meeting and making new dive buddies or hanging out on land, if you are a social butterfly this is the time of year for you to visit and dive in Koh Tao.
Monsoon Season – Diving in November & December
For those thrill seekers who prefer challenge and adventure perhaps diving in November and December is for you. Conditions around this time are not as calm and pristine as the rest of the year.
Monsoon season brings with it strong winds – blowing form the north this time – and with it sometimes heavy rains. Generally the visibility and temperature drops and gives your dive more of an eerie and adventurous feel.
However while the occasional rain showers and wind lash down on one coast, we can take the Crystal boatto the other side of the island where the sea and weather is as tranquil as you could wish for – especially for beginners.
Training dives are conducted in the calmer conditions the south of the island has to offer. Once you are certified and embarking on fun dives or continuing your diving education with the PADI Advanced course, you will be well prepared for conditions that are less than perfect to continue your diving adventures.
Too Hot to Handle? My favourite time to dive Koh Tao
My own favourite time of year to dive Koh Tao is mid February to May period. This time of year is when the weather is at its hottest – perfect for a princess who gets cold easily like me.
The sun shines nearly all day every day – when it does rain it’s usually short sharp bursts, and much needed to take the heat out of things – and the conditions below the surface are perfect to explore the marine life.
Visibility at this time of year can reach up to 30m and the water is at its warmest (29-31 degrees).
Sandwiched between two Chinese holiday periods and with a lack of European holidays at this time of year means that the island itself is quieter. This means that there are fewer boats and fewer divers on Koh Tao’s dive sites.
Once underwater you can really notice the difference and at this time of year it is not unusual to have the dive site almost to yourself. This gives the dive an even more relaxed vibe and you can chill with the fish without any interruptions.
This time of year is mating and breeding season for a lot of the smaller reef fish and there are huge schools of tiny fish. Another reason I love diving at this time of year more than any other time is that it’s also the season of the mighty Whale Shark.
Whalesharks can be spotted (pun intended!) almost all year round, but their numbers are at their highest in the months of April and May. This May (2017) we saw more of these magnificent fish than ever before, with 1-3 being sighted every day.
It is not only the amazing underwater conditions and the opportunity to see a whale shark that makes April the best time to visit Koh Tao. There are lots of other activities going on during this season that makes it fun to be on land and underwater. The second week in April is also the date of the Thai New Year known as “Songkran“, an all day water festival and one of the happiest parties of the year.
There is also the Save Koh Tao underwater festival around this time, the festival aims to educate tourists and locals about looking after our ocean planet. With beach and dive site clean ups and the release of baby sea turtles back into the Koh Tao ecosystem its a weekend not to be missed.
Koh Tao is also famous for its stunning sunsets on the west coast after a days diving. What better way to end the day than relaxing on the beach with a cold drink, admiring the sun as it sets on the horizon.
And what do my colleagues say?
I asked some of my fellow Instructors and Divemasters at Crystal Dive when their favourite time of year is to dive around Koh Tao. It’s really cool to see that everyone likes different things and it can really differ from person to person about what is the ‘Best time to dive Koh Tao’.
Here is what they said….
Jenny Dowling – PADI MSDT and our in-house Marine Conservationist
“I like diving when there is no one else around, whether it be in the morning, afternoon or night… no matter what the season is. There is no one getting in your way, cutting across your path or damaging coral“
Andy McEvoy – PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
“I love diving at night time. There is a diversity of different marine life that emerges and it’s the closest feeling you will ever have to being an astronaut in space as you are weightless and diving in the dark. I especially like our Night dives at Junkyard Reef where we get dropped off by long tail boat and swim back into the shore. We all pretend to look like navy seals as we strut up the beach in our gear!“
Neil Davidson – PADI MSDT and Dive Centre Operations Manager
“May and June are my favourite months to dive. There are lots of baby fish (Juveniles) that you do not see for the most of the year. It’s also the time when we have Pilot Whales around the island that swim and play with the waves created by the boats! A truly amazing experience“
Tina Major – PADI Master Instructor and DMC Co-ordinator
“I love diving in the early morning, it’s generally quieter and the visibility is often better than that of the afternoon. I also think that if you are in good company, whatever you do and wherever you go diving is the BEST!“
Wojciech Szymanik – PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer
“Around Christmas time is always lots of fun. You often see people dress up and dive. Seeing a group of Santa’s underwater is awesome! One year our Divemaster candidates bought lots of small (and sometimes silly) gifts and were presenting them to other divers – with love from Crystal. It was great!“
Matt Bolton – PADI Course Director
“Living here for 18 years I’ve learnt not to pay too much attention to exact dates with regards to seasons. Traditionally we regard November / December as our monsoon season yet this year the wettest months where Jan / Feb.
Saying that I’ve always liked September, as the island slows down after the European summer season and the south-westerly winds die down with nice sunny days, good visibility and quiet dive sites“
So there you have the answer to the ultimate question. The best time to dive in Koh Tao is anytime and all year round.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI MSDT #355693)