Koh Tao officially known as Ko Tao is an island found in Thailand. It’s one of the islands forming Suratthani Archipelago off the Gulf of Thailand on the western shore. The island covers an area of about 21 kilometers and as of 2006; it had an official population of 1,382. Ban Mae Hat is the main settlement. Koh Tao’s economy is solely centered on tourism as the main attraction is scuba diving.
Coincidentally, Ko Tao acts as an important breeding avenue for both green and Hawksbill turtles. It’s no coincidence Ko Tao means an “island with turtle-like shape”. Unfortunately, the development of tourism negatively impacted the region, affecting the breeding of turtles. To save the endangered turtles, the royal Thai Navy and KT-DOC has formed a coalition and works together to redeem the turtles.
History and culture of Koh Tao
Before Ko Tao Island even branded as a tourist destination, it acted as a resting place for travelers and occasional fishermen from neighboring islands. Based on information from old maps, Ko Tao Island was known as Pulo Bardia which means that the first settlers here were Malayo-Polynesian peoples and until the early 1900s, the northern part of the island called itself Pulo Bardia.
Chulalongkorn visited the island in 1899 and monogrammed a huge boulder; be sure to snap a picture of vintage graffiti! This boulder remains a sanctuary to the residents of this island and some even worship it.
From 1933-1947, Ko Tao served as a political prison. The Prime Minister, Khuang Abhaiwongse, pleaded for and was granted a royal pardon for all captives on the island. All the prisoners were marched to the shore of Ko Tao and Surat and abandoned.
Due to the present of land and water in plenty, the residents of the island were dependent on light farming and fishing for a living. Now Koh Tao depends on tourism as it was in the 1980s that Ko Tao became a popular destination. This meant safer, bigger, and faster boats in the region.
Where to Go Scuba Diving in Ko Tao
For people in pursuit of adventure, Diving in Ko Tao will be sure to bring you a thrilling sensation. With about 22 dive locations to choose from and other fascinating area surrounding the region, it’s absolutely logical to say that you can never get bored of this island.
The top sites to go scuba diving in Ko Tao Island include:
Chumphon Pinnacle- Chumphon Pinnacle is popularly regarded as the finest dive site! It consists of a gigantic granite peak surrounded by a series of other minor peaks. When diving in Chumphon Pinnacle, divers are likely to meet marine creatures such as Rabbit fish, Trigger fish, Paddle fin, Trevally and Batfish. In addition, if you have sharp eyes you might be lucky to see scorpion fish resting on the enormous rocks. Chumphon Pinnacle is a bit deep, ranging from 14m- 35m in depth and therefore requires experience.
Green Rock – The area offers a great diving site that is a must when visiting Ko Tao. It is filled with countless swim throughs, coral reefs and plenty of marine creatures. The waters here are deep and range from 12m-20m.
Hin Wong Pinnacle – This location is a replica of Chumphon Pinnacle and acts as an alternative to Chumphon. It’s always serene as it is surrounded by many large boulders and provides a home for many kinds of fish. This location is best suited for people comfortable with diving in depths of 10m to 28m.
Japanese Gardens- Japanese Gardens is another popular dive site with depths of 2m to 14m. It’s a perfect place for amateur and beginner divers. It’s located near Koh Nang Yuan and is surrounded with a myriad variety of hard corals resembling a garden.
Mango Bay – Mango Bay is one of the most secluded diving sites in Ko Tao. It is breathtaking and offers shallow water for amateurs and beginner divers. Many scuba divers prefer using this as an appetizer before going to their preferred scuba diving sites like Chumphon Pinnacle and Hin Wong Pinnacle.
Red Rock – Red Rock is located a few minutes from Japanese Gardens and lies immediately below the surface of the water. When diving in Red Rock, one can easily swim to the Coast where Nang Yuan Cave is located. Many scuba divers regard Red Rock as one of the most beautiful swim throughs located in Koh Tao.
Other popular diving destinations in Ko Tao include: Sail Rock, Shark Island, Southwest Pinnacle, Twins, White Rock and Aow Leuk.
When to go scuba diving in Koh Tao
Many divers have arrive between April and May, August and September and December to January. You don’t even need expereince when you arrive as there are diving schools in the area; after 3 days of a certification course, you will be ready to begin your diving adventure!
Local dive shops to book trips with in Koh Tao
Many dive shops allow you to book trips to Ko Tao Thailand, Scuba Junction is the one we recommend. Here you will be informed of the diving schools (if needed), different packages available and they offer the best prices.
Where to stay in Ko Tao
To get the most out of scuba diving, it’s critical that you look for a great place to stay. Resorts in Ko Tao have a fabulous reputation and many have been awarded with the most admired rewards from PADI. *Note that different packages are available and come with different costs. In addition, many hotels in Koh Tao have state-of-the-art swimming pools and rooms with Jacuzzis. Compare the different hotels, their services and their price quote and go for one that suits you. Popular hotels include:
· Koh Tao Coral Grand
· Seashell Resort Koh Tao
· Ban’s Diving Resort
Other things to see while visiting
Apart from diving, there are plenty of things to enjoy in Ko Tao. For instance, people interested in nature can have a wonderful time taking photos of turtles, watching coral reefs, studying different species of fish and socializing with the locals. In addition, there are clubs and bars for those who are looking for a spot to unwind.
Shallowest dive site depth: 2m
Deepest dive site depth: 35m
Dive site visibility (how clear the water is): Clarity for sighting the beautiful marine life.
Dive site currents (is there an active current in the area): Depends on the season. May-July is quite unpredictable.
Dive site surface conditions (is the water surface frequently choppy, calm, or in-between): Again depends on the season but mostly it’s in between.
Common types of animals at dive sites: Fish and turtles
Number of dive sites in the area: About 22
Recommended diving experience level (beginner, moderate or advanced): All skills
Water temperature range during peak season: 84F
Nearest airport: Koh Samui, Chumphon and Surat
Recommended length of stay: At least 1 week