<img src="https://media.nomadicmatt.com/2019/DivingonKohTao_13.jpg" alt="Alex in Wanderland diving in the waters near Koh Tao, Thailand"
Updated: 8/22/2019 August 22nd, 2019

This can be a guest publish by Alexandra Baackes, the legend behind Alex in Wanderland. She&#8217s additionally a PADI divemaster along with a resident of Koh Tao, Thailand. Koh Tao is a well-liked place to go for all scuba divers and something the the biggiest places people learn on the planet! Within this guide, Alex provides you with the insider scoop on diving schools, prices, and also the best areas for viewing ocean existence whenever you visit Koh Tao.

Travelers in Thailand prefer to label their destinations nicely. Intricate island paradises are steamed lower to a couple of simple words or associations: Koh Phi Phi? The Shore. Koh Phangan? The Entire Moon Party. Koh Tao? Diving.

A number of them are fairly deserved and needed.

In the end, Koh Tao is among the world’s top destinations with regards to quantity of annual dive certifications issued — actually, it’s second simply to Cairns, Australia. Travelers flock from across Southeast Asia to consider their first breaths underwater within the barrier reefs fringing this paradise island. It’s easy to understand why: the courses are some of the least expensive on the planet, the teaching standards are high, the circumstances are easy, the dive sites are abundant, and it is a dang fun spot to decompress following a day underwater.

It’s very easy to become overwhelmed when traveling to Koh Tao — there are other than 70 dive schools around the island! — so a little bit of research goes a lengthy way with regards to this type of large investment of your energy and travel budget.


A massive shark swimming above a diver in the waters near Koh Tao, Thailand

There are other than 50 diving training systems all over the world, however in Koh Tao, the selection generally comes lower to 2: the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) or Scuba Schools Worldwide (SSI). Each organization develops its very own teaching materials writes its very own standards according to individuals set through the umbrella organization, the planet Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) and awards its very own certifications.

Regardless of what certification card you leave with, you’ll make use of the same equipment, begin to see the same fish, and then dive in the same destinations. Certifications are interchangeable and recognized worldwide. The most crucial factors in the caliber of your course will probably be your dive school as well as your dive instructor. But you will find minor variations between agencies.


PADI may be the world’s leading diving training organization. If you discover security in figures, then

this agency with nearly a million certifications each year could just be for you personally! The main help to diving with PADI comes in the high end. For instructors and divemasters, PADI offers the most employment possibilities, and PADI instructors could work individually (while an SSI instructor must educate with an SSI-registered shop). If you have hopes for remaining in Thailand to educate the backpacker masses and you need to be faithful to one agency, PADI is really a strong agency to hedge your bets on.


Once only a small subset from the diving industry here, SSI is growing to manage a complete 50% from the share of the market on Koh Tao. The advantage of doing an SSI certification comes lower to best bang for the baht, being an SSI course will typically set you back nearly 10% under a PADI course. If you are visiting Koh Tao particularly because of its status among the world’s least expensive places to obtain certified, individuals extra baht can produce a huge difference. Plus, all coursework is performed through the free application and/or online, which makes it a eco-friendly choice.

What’s the program Like?

Alex in Wanderland diving in the water with a groupd of friends near Koh Tao, Thailand

Outdoors Water course may be the first certification you’ll complete like a diver. Many divers arrived at Koh Tao to accomplish their Open Water certification, and a few get hooked and remain till they’re instructors themselves. But be skeptical of “zero to hero” packages which include the entire variety of courses from first underwater breath to understand scuba diver trainer — go a measure at any given time.

(While half-day encounters known as “Discover Scuba Diving” or “Try Scuba Diving” can be found, it normally won’t result in any kind of certification and really should only be looked at if you are (a) super tight on time or (b) very unsure if diving is perfect for you. Otherwise, just join in, literally, towards the Open Water!)

The normal Open Water diving course is finished in 3 to 4 days. You will find videos to look at, book chapters to see, tests to consider, and, obviously, dive sites to understand more about! It could seem intimidating, however the course is made for students as youthful as 10 — the academics shouldn’t intimidate you.

Here’s a tough outline of the items your course may be like:

  • First Day: Orientation, documents, and videos.
  • Day 2: A morning within the classroom researching basics skills, equipment, and also the results of diving on our bodies. An mid-day put in the swimming pool or at shallow dive sites focusing on skills for example regulator recovery and mask removal, amongst others.
  • Day 3: A morning within the classroom finishing understanding reviews and a little quizzes. Within the mid-day, the enjoyment really starts with open-water dives 1 and a pair of, that will stay shallow and occasional-key. Some skills is going to be practiced throughout the dives.
  • Day 4: You’ll embark on a morning boat and finish open-water dives 3 and 4, where you’ll reach go a little much deeper and explore. Within the mid-day, you’ll go ahead and take final exam. Congratulations — you’ve made it!

When completed, you’ll get a certificate that enables you to definitely dive all over the world with another certified buddy, separate from an expert, to some depth of 18 meters.

And also the Open Water course is only the beginning! Koh Tao is really a true mecca for dive education: you are able to take courses in freediving and technical diving, and niche scuba courses in from photography to conservation and beyond — as well as the gamut of ongoing and professional courses as much as Instructor Trainer!

Which School Must I Choose?

A massive school of long fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao ain’t known as a mecca for diving for free: you will find nearly 70 dive schools about this 13-square-mile rock! This decision may be the greatest with regards to figuring out the caliber of your diving course. Typically, the colleges fall under a couple of groups:

Big schools: Bans, Big Blue, Very

These schools are enormous scuba powerhouse resorts that may turn out countless Open Water divers per week, with instructors for nearly every language imaginable. Perfect for somebody that is confident about sinking water (i.e., doesn’t need extra individual attention) and wishes to make plenty of buddies and meet individuals a large group setting. However, individuals groups could be a bit large for comfort.

Medium-sized schools: Master Divers, Sairee Cottage

Medium dive schools have the very best of all possible worlds. There is a selection of instructors and groups big enough to create buddies in, however they aren’t as vulnerable to overcrowding or hurrying with the course.

Small schools: Hydronauts, Sea Seem

These schools are wonderful at accommodating special needs or concentrating on a particular niche. The additional attention with instructors is essential for individuals who’re feeling uncertain about heading underwater or who only desire to be spoiled with attention and discover inside a focused atmosphere. However, these schools sometimes rent boat space and pool time using their company dive schools instead of getting their very own facilities.

When choosing a college as well as an instructor, think about these factors:

  • Is there a teacher who speaks a foreign language? There are lots of niche language-focused dive schools on Koh Tao: for Spanish, mind to Pura Vida or La Bambona for French, French Hug Divers for Finnish, Koh Tao Divers.
  • Will the limited dives occur within the sea or perhaps in a swimming pool?
  • The number of students come in the audience?
  • What time will they leave each morning? Individuals eager beavers who wish to function as the first around the dive site may not mind being up prior to New Way’s 6am departure, while night owls might prefer Ban’s or Sairee Cottage’s more enjoyable dive occasions.
  • May be the equipment current as well as in my size? Schools in Koh Tao have a very good record for equipment range and maintenance, however it never hurts to inquire about.
  • Will you’re able to have my very own dive computer through the course? Maybe there is an additional charge?
  • How qualified may be the instructor? Some students may understand the enthusiasm or more-to-date training of the new instructor, while some might find security in an instructor with a lot of qualifications and experience.
  • Would you such as the instructor?

Just How Much Does It Cost?

Alex in Wanderland posing for a photo on Koh Tao, Thailand

Open Water courses on Koh Tao vary from 9,200 to 10,800 baht ($300–350 USD) — without accommodation. (Not so long ago, nearly every dive school around the island bundled accommodation along with their courses, but that’s increasingly and rarer outdoors the biggest dive resorts. If accommodation is incorporated, it’s a really fundamental fan room — or upgrade to some better one for a cheap price.)

Though it’s less frequent nowadays, many schools have a videographer arrive on dives 3 and 4 making a 10-20-minute music video–style recording of the day. During the night, the category will gather to look at it. With respect to the video company, they might ask you for a set rate for any copy or base it on the number of copies are offered — so that you can take one home for between 1,000 to three,000 baht ($32–97 USD). Some schools have switched to supplying still photos rather, which you’ll purchase included in a bundle — count on paying around 300 baht ($10 USD) for just one photo or 1,000 ($32 USD) for some several.

Though it isn’t a company standard, many schools possess a policy that students can’t bring their very own cameras on Open Water Courses, so don’t freak should you aren’t permitted to create your GoPro — they aren’t attempting to bully you into purchasing a video or photo package they are attempting to help you stay safe, help you stay focused, and steer clear of harm to reefs and marine existence until buoyancy is mastered.

For divers who’ve already completed their Open Water course, fun dives cost around 700–1,000 baht ($23–32 USD) each, based on the number of dives you’ll do and for those who have your personal equipment. Individuals with money and time constraints may wish to turn it into a priority to go to a minumum of one of Koh Tao’s premier dive sites.

Do you know the Can’t-Miss Dive Sites?

Alex in Wanderland leaping into the water to start a dive in Thailand

If you are a completely new diver doing all of your Open Water course on Koh Tao, to be honest, no matter in which you go — you’re likely to like it! You will be so centered on your talent and also the magic of breathing underwater the very first time, you will not really spot the variations between different dive sites yet anyway.


Twins is a type of training dive site employed for dives one or two from the Open Water course. Twins sits near the coast of Koh Nang Yuan and is ideal for new divers, because of its shallow depth. A highlight this is actually the group of rare saddleback clownfish in a anemone that you simply can’t miss — there is a ring of rocks around it!

White-colored Rock

White-colored Rock is yet another probably the most generally visited dive sites on Koh Tao, frequently for dive 4 from the Open Water course. It’s a massive dive site, supplying a large sampling of Koh Tao’s marine existence — such as the odd ocean turtle who lumbers through. On diving White-colored Rock here.


Southwest is an accumulation of pinnacles carpeted in soft barrier anemone and

the pink anemonefish that is included with them. A great site for recognizing barracuda and giant groupers. It’s located 13km southwest of Koh Tao and it is more often than not visited around the morning motorboats. With pinnacle depths from 6m to 27m, it’s ideal for anybody from Open Water certified or more. (Feeling adventurous? There is a secret pinnacle because well.) On diving Southwest here.

Shark Island

Shark Island is really named because of its resemblance to some dorsal fin, instead of a good amount of certain toothy fish. Its northern border side is better noted for its diversity of barrier, as the south side has unique soft corals you will not see elsewhere on Koh Tao. The rocky outcrop is situated southeast of Koh Tao and it is a less generally visited site because of both its location and it is frequently challenging conditions — both current and visibility could be a struggle here. On diving Shark Island here.

HTMS Sattakut

This former US Navy ship was sunk in June 2011 from the coast of Sairee Beach and it has become the place to find Jenkins’ whiprays, great barracuda, and a large number of gobies playing hide-and-seek in rusty crevices. The wreck doesn’t start until about 18m and sits lower at 30m, so you will need to be Advanced Open Water certified or perform a Deep Adventure Dive to savor it fully. To enter, you’ll want or perhaps be practicing a wreck niche.

Among the HTMS Sattakut’s finest assets is its location under 15m from neighboring dive site Hin Pee Wee. So that you can compliment a spin around

the wreck having a zip round the barrier reef. Hin Pee Wee features several pinnacles, a homeowner turtle, and a few impressive macro existence. On diving the HTMS Sattakut here.


Chumphon is really a submerged granite pinnacle covered in colorful ocean anemone and encircled by large schools of trevally, batfish, and barracuda. Lucky divers will place giant groupers, pompanos, as well as whale sharks. Because of its depth, this can be a dive site best enjoyed by Advanced Open Water students.

Chumphon is nearly always visited around the morning motorboats. Because of the distance — it’s 11km from Koh Tao — and how big this dive site, some schools schedule two dives consecutively here. On diving Chumphon here.

Sail Rock

Sail Rock is the premier dive site within the Gulf of Thailand. Don’t miss “the chimney,” a beloved, not-so-secret go swimming-through, along with a much deeper secondary pinnacle east from the primary rock. This granite, deep-sea pinnacle increases from 30m and breaches the top, a welcome sight following the two-hour boat ride from Koh Tao.

From time to time, you will get lucky and finish dives 3 and 4 of the open water here for an additional fee, though generally, this can be a niche trip costing between 2,500 to three,500 baht ($81–113 USD) and including three dives, breakfast, lunch, along with a beer in route back. A number of schools take journeys to Sail Rock but many only go once per week, so plan accordingly. On diving Sail Rock here.

When you should Dive on Koh Tao

A colorful school f fish in the waters of Koh Tao, Thailand

Most island divemasters agree that April and could are the most useful several weeks — they’re warm and obvious, and also the ocean is flat. And recently, they’ve been filled with whale shark sightings! Plus you can time your vacation to invest Songkran (Thai New Year’s) on Koh Tao (mid-April).

That stated, there isn’t a real bad time for you to dive on Koh Tao, outdoors of November and December, when winds and could be high and also the weather could be dicey, causing boat rides to become uncomfortable and visibility to become poor.


Understanding how to dive on Koh Tao ought to be contacted carefully, as it can result in a really serious dependence on the diving hobby and lifestyle! Many a dive virgin has showed up by ferry with intends to stay a couple of days and obtain certified, only to discover themselves several weeks later calling the area home and dealing toward being a diving instructor.

Alexandra Baackes may be the author from the Wanderland Help guide to Koh Tao (that is an amazing help guide to the area! and founding father of Wander Women Retreats, which hosts a yearly women’s dive and yoga retreat on Koh Tao. She overshares about travel, diving, and existence being an entrepreneur on her behalf blog Alex in Wanderland as well as on her Instagram @alexinwanderland.

Book Your Vacation to Thailand: Logistical Tips and Methods

Book Your Flight

Look for a cheap flight by utilizing Skyscanner or Momondo. They’re my two favorite search engines like google simply because they search websites and airlines around the world which means you always know nothing remains unturned.

Book The Resort

You are able to book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you wish to stay somewhere apart from a hostel, use Booking.com because they consistently return the least expensive rates for guesthouses and economical hotels. I personally use them constantly. My personal favorite accommodations are:

  • The Very much Koh Tao Hostel &#8211 The eco-friendly hostel provides a bar, coffee shop, restaurant, pool, and rooftop terrace. It&#8217s an excellent place to unwind and fasten along with other travelers.
  • Gecko Republic Jungle Hostel &#8211 You&#8217ll be difficult pressed to locate a cleaner hostel with staff as friendly as individuals that actually work at Gecko. It&#8217s simple to meet people here and there’s AC made available!

Don&#8217t Forget Travel Cover

Travel cover will safeguard you from illness, injuries, thievery, and cancellations. It&#8217s comprehensive protection in situation anything goes completely wrong. Irrrve never use a trip without them when i&#8217ve had for doing things many occasions previously. I&#8217ve used World Nomads for 10 years. My personal favorite firms that provide the best service and cost are:

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Searching to find the best companies to save cash with?

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Want A lot of Thailand?

Make sure to visit our robust destination guide on Thailand for more planning tips!

The publish The Entire Help guide to Getting started Koh Tao made an appearance first on Nomadic Matt&#039s Travel Site.

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