Koh Tao diving

Posted from Ko Pha-ngan, Surat Thani, Thailand.


In the Gulf of Thailand, about 70 km from the coast, lies a little island called Koh Tao. This 23² km island is home to more than 50 dive shops and a copious amount of guest houses, B&Bs, hotels, resorts, villas and some other places that could pass as accommodation. It is the number one place, and the cheapest place, to go diving in Thailand.

Choosing a good place to dive at is a tremendous task, so lucky for me, whilst I was in Hua Hin kite-boarding, I met a Canadian fellow from Calgary who told me to go Sairee Cottage Divers. Perfect.


After my ferry ride over from Chumphon I took a taxi straight to Sairee Cottage Divers and booked into a dorm, booked my dive review and booked a six-dive package (which gave me two free nights in the dorm.) The dive review was 1500 Baht and the six dives were 4800 Baht. The dorm is 250 Baht/night. They have bungalows and villas also – basically they have accommodation for every price range and comfort level. The dorm had a fridge, fans and hot(ish) water – not that I ever had a hot shower. Everyday the temp soars over 30C and then just keeps climbing, and I keep melting.

The crew at this resort were awesome. It’s mostly a young group of expats who love to dive. They’re all quite attentive and take their job seriously when in the water or when it has anything to do with SCUBA diving. But if you want to have a few beers afterwards some of them may join you. They live the dream on a tropical island. I almost never left.

My dive review was only a few hours. It consisted of classroom work and underwater skills. So once we finished the necessary ‘try not to die underwater stuff’ I went for another dive. I had some nerves, but I had five more dives to shake them off. Well, I had five more dives, that is until I got back to the dive shop and found myself signing up for a separate three-dive day trip the following day. Talk about diving right in. Er.


The three-dive trip was to Sail Rock, about two hours away – closer to Koh Phangan. Cost – 3000 Baht and includes breakfast (bacon rolls and spring rolls,) lunch (chicken masala,) fruit and a beer afterwards. Two of the dives would be done at Sail Rock and the last one, after a rest period, would be done at Southwest.

At Sail Rock, for my first time, I got to do a swim through! This was totally cool no matter how lame it seems. Basically we swam through a tunnel in the rock. We did this four times! I was so proud to not hit any of the walls or aquatic life that occupy them. It’s the little things in life that make me happy.

The visibility wasn’t as great the further down we got, but I can only go to 18 meters as an open diver. We still saw tons of cool fish and had a great time. A few months beforehand bull sharks were lurking around here and every diver on the island flocked to see them. Most of the dive masters are still bummed that they had moved on. Bummed?

After lunch we headed onward to Southwest, a wonderful dive site with incredible topography. Some of us enjoyed it much more than Sail Rock, but that’s because the visibility was better. What do I know, though? I’m a noob.


Each day I went out and did at least two dives. Mango Bay, Twins, Japanese Garden, White Rock, Ao Hin Ngam, Ao Luek and Green Rock to Twins. I loved every single dive. Well, to be totally honest, there was one small part about diving that I didn’t enjoy. The damn triggerfish. Apparently, only in Koh Tao, are they predators. Ok. Not predators, but attack-fish. I’m not kidding. They’re territorial, so if anyone swims into their cone-space they will go after them. And these fish have huge teeth – because they’re huge. So no. That part wasn’t fun. Especially when you can tell they notice you and you have to wonder if you’re going to be fighting one off with your fins or just look like a retard swimming down and away from it. Many of the dive masters had teeth marks in their fins.

There may have been one moment when I was a retard. I really didn’t want to see a triggerfish that close. It was a titan triggerfish and it was massive. So I began back swimming and then floating – as I was panicking, and I had to do a quick turn and dive to get lower than it, and in all the confusion I looked and played the part quite well of a big scaredy cat. Someone later told me they found my panic quite amusing. Gee. Thanks.

Barry instructs Ciara during her Advanced Diver course.

Barry instructs Ciara during her Advanced Diver course.

But with each dive my nerves began to fizzle. I began to breathe more normally and stopped trying to suck my tank dry. I began to figure out my buoyancy, and by my final dive I could hover without kicking my fins. That was a proud moment for me.

I got more confident putting my gear together, and I even allowed myself to take one weight off my weight belt.


A lot of people asked me why I didn’t just do my advanced course. Truth is, I knew I was sketched-out under water. I needed to learn to relax and get comfortable. And I knew the only way to do that was to do a bunch of dives in a short period of time with no pressure to perform. So I did 10 dives in five days – and it worked. I just dove for fun and learned to enjoy the underwater scenery and creatures. And I learned to start identifying some things – like triggerfish.

I really didn’t do too much else on Koh Tao, though. I hear it’s a pretty island, but I only really saw it from under the water. And the rumours are true. It’s worth visiting Koh Tao. Next stop Koh Phangan.

At the end of the day you get off the boat, wash up your gear and look forward to another dive tomorrow.

At the end of the day you get off the boat, wash up your gear and look forward to another dive tomorrow.

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