You don’t have to spend all night out at one of Koh Tao’s beach parties to get “wrecked” when visiting our paradise island. There is ample opportunity to get your fun fix under the water by diving Koh Tao’s shipwrecks three of which are close to the island and two more that are a short boat journey away.
Wreck diving is a different type of scuba adventure for divers than touring the coral reefs admiring the local marine life. Wreck diving offers excitement and intrigue as you swim around these old sunken vessels that have found a watery grave for their final resting place.
Koh Tao’s most popular shipwreck is an old World War 2 navy ship which originally served the United States navy in the Pacific theatre in the war against the Japanese. The boat acted as a landing craft, dropping U.S Marines on the beaches as they headed out into an uncertain fate.
The ship served in many famous battles of the Second World War including the battles of Okinawa and Iwo Jima. After surviving the war the ship was taken by the Thai navy and refitted to become more of a patrol boat. When it came to the end of its service the Thai Navy kindly donated the Sattakut to Koh Tao where it was sunk to be used for scuba diving.
Tanote Bay Catamaran
A very small wreck of a catamaran sits off the coast of Tanote Bay, this wreck lies at the depth of 15 > 17m depending on the tide making it a great dive for Open water divers or people taking in a fun dive on Koh Tao. The catamaran sank in 2004 around 20 meters from the coast making it a short swim out from the coral reef to find.
The wreck itself is quite small but has a lot of marine life around it. Underneath the boat it is common to see a resident Jenkins whip ray resting up. As the wreck has been here a while now corals have formed, growing on the top of the catamaran.
Before the Trident was sunk in 2010 the boat sailed the waters of the gulf of Thailand on “voyages of discovery” and the Trident team was responsible for finding over 30 wrecks between 2005-2010. The most notable find was a United States Submarine, USS Lagarto which was torpedoed and sunk by the Japanese during the Second World War.
The Trident is recommended for Deep Diver and Nitrox specialty divers as it sits at a depth of 35m just to the South East of Koh Tao close to Shark Island. The area the boat lies in can be susceptible to strong currents so when diving you should expect it to be a challenge but a worthy one due to the abundance of marine life that has now congregated around the wreck, which is now home!
The Unicorn wreck lies around 1 mile North of Koh Tao and is reserved for Technical divers only with the depth range of 37-50m. The ship mysteriously sank in 1989 with many believing it was part of an insurance scam due to the fact it had recently been insured for a cargo of Tuna. Once divers had the opportunity to dive the wreck they found only cans of dog food on board.
The freighter is 60 m long and is still able to be penetrated by those with the correct training. When diving, this wreck be sure to take a cutting tool as fishing nets have become entangled around her. During the dive, it is possible to see some large pelagic life such as Groupers, jacks and even sail fish passing by occasionally.
The Torpedo wreck, which sank in 1973 is named as so due to the teak logs which it was carrying as cargo which locals believed were torpedoes. It is a 2-hour boat journey, North of Koh Tao to find this old cargo vessel. The ship lies upright with a max depth of 55m meaning that Tech 50 or Trimix certifications are a must to be able to safely navigate this dive.
It is still possible to penetrate the wreck with 3 possible entry points for experienced wreck divers to explore the engine room, accommodation block and wheelhouse. A large crane has collapsed onto the deck which is possibly the reason why it sank in the first place. The wreck has become a home for schools of barracudas, tuna and snappers but visibility at this depth is usually quite low with it commonly being below 10 meters.
It is important to note that while wreck diving is exhilarating as you swim around these vessels you should ensure that you put safety first to avoid any potential accidents. You should ensure you are properly trained and qualified before entering any wreck and are using the correct equipment such as lines and reels.
If wanting to dive these deeper wrecks you need to be technical diver certified, stay well within your limits and plan your dive, dive your plan in order to lessen the possibilities of DCS or other dive injuries.
Author: Neil Davidson (PADI MSDT #294100)