Koh Tao is one of Thailand’s (and even Asia’s) best diving hotspots. Below is the list of the best dive sites around the island.
For any divers:
Sail rock (“Hin Bai” in Thai) is arguably the best diving site in the gulf of Thailand. The dive site is 2 hours boat ride from Koh Tao. This granite, deep-ocean pinnacle rises from 30 m and breaches the surface (up to 7 m above the sea level). Don’t miss “the chimney,” a beloved, not-so-secret swim-through, and a deeper secondary (‘secret’) pinnacle east of the main rock. Sail Rock is the perfect place to dive with large pelagic such as large tunas, giant groupers, king mackerel, chevron barracudas, whale shark and manta rays.
South West Pinnacle
This diving site is sometimes considered as the second best dive site of Koh Tao. It consists of one main pinnacle which is surrounded by smaller pinnacles. You should be able to find scorpionfish, yellow tail barracudas, leopard sharks, and giant groupers. Lucky ones will meet whale sharks. This dive site is more suitable for advanced divers due to its average depth.
Chumphon pinnacle, located 11 km north-west of the island, is composed of four pinnacles covered with anemones and offers a large variety of marine life with good visibility most of the time. All year around you can dive with giant groupers, barracudas, bat fish, trevallies etc. During the whale shark season (March-May and August-October) you might be able to spot the largest fish in the ocean! Due to its depth, this is a dive site best enjoyed by advanced divers.
Twins is, in fact, the most popular dive site around Koh Tao. It’s small, quite shallow, and offers a big selection of fish life and corals. You are likely to see butterfly fish, blue ringed and six banded angelfish and it’s also a good place to spot blue spotted stingrays and white eyed moray eels. Macro photographers will enjoy goby’s, shrimps, nudibranch, and pipe fish.
Buoyancy World (located to the north from Twins) is a group of sculptures and buoyancy aids. This is an artificial dive site dedicated to a scuba diver training specific area to promote marine life, coral growth and biodiversity.
This former US Navy ship was sunk in June 2011 off the coast of Sairee Beach. The top of the wreck starts around 18m and the bottom of the hull sits down at 30 m. You need to be AOWD/Deep certified to enjoy it fully. To penetrate the wreck, you must have or be training the Advanced Wreck specialty. The wreck is full of marine life. You can see giant groupers, Jenkin’s stingrays, scorpionfish, golden trevally and many more. HTMS Sattakut is located just 15 m away from the neighboring dive site Hin Pee Wee.
MV Trident was sunk off the south of the island close to Shark Island in Sept 2010. This area often has quite some current which meant that life moved into and sheltered on the wreck very quickly. The wreck lies in 36 m of water making it ideal for more experienced divers, nitrox divers and those on deep training.
Hin Pee Wee
HIn Pee Wee is a small dive site with an amazing amount of marine life. Look for jenkins whiprays or large puffer and porcupine fish, angelfish and a variety of groupers as well as schools of fusiliers and hunting trevally.
White Rock is just 10 minutes boat ride away from Koh Tao. It is one of the largest diving sites on the island. It is particularly popular for night dives .You can meet a wide range of life local marine with, for example, sea turtles, nudibranchs, blue spotted stingrays, barracuda, angel fish, moray eels, triggerfish and for the luckiest, wrasses. It also has a wide variety of soft and hard coral.
Green Rock is a great dive site to explore. It offers many ‘swim throughs’, great corals, and enough marine life to make you come back for more. The dive site often has some mild currents. Watch out for the triggers!
Red Rock is a small pinnacle that comes up to just below the surface of the water. If you go to Red Rock, you need to swim to the coast to find the famous Nang Yuan Cave. It’s one of the most beautiful swim-throughs in Koh Tao!
Japanese Gardens is a popular dive site and another good choice for beginner divers. Located around Koh Nang Yuan, it contains many different varieties of hard corals and resembles a garden. This dive site is often used as ‘confined water’ for Open Water training.
Junkyard is an artificial dive site with depth at 10-12m depending on tide. The dive site is made up from all sorts of junk: toilets, gym equipment, tents, a car and a replica of the Sydney harbor bridge etc. Eco Koh Tao has made various structures on which coral has been planted and has been a great success as a coral nursery. You can see different species of pufferfish and porcupinefish, juvenile batfish schools, nemo families, yellow box fish and many more.
Hin Wong Pinnacle
Hin Wong Pinnacle is one of the less explored dive sites of the east coast of Koh Tao. This dive site offers blue soft sponge corals, colorful sea fans and sea whips. The residents are hawksbill turtles, porcupine pufferfish and angel fish.
Hin Wong Bay
This dive site is a good alternative to Chumphon Pinnacle as it’s usually quiet. Located on the East side of the island it’s made up of many large boulders, so there are plenty of places for the fish to hide.
At Shark Island, you will not see any sharks (it got its name due to the shape of the island looking like a shark fin) but you will see everything else you could possibly want to see on Koh Tao. The site is located southeast of Koh Tao, is particularly large and has a varied fauna and flora is rich in soft corals. You can dive in with turtles, sea snakes, triggerfish, clown fish and other common fish.
It is known as ‘Shark Bay’ due to the blacktip reef sharks that frequent here. This area is also a shark nursery where young sharks can be seen at certain times of the year. Look out for green turtles as well, as these live in this bay too and are amazing to see. Shark Bay is the only place where you can find turtles every day.
Hin Ngam Bay
The Hin Ngam Bay area consists of three pinnacles where you will find a variety of shrimps, scorpionfish, pipefish, porcupine pufferfish, yellowtail barracudas, blue-ringed angelfish, white-eyed moray eels, and blue-spotted rays.
This shallow dive site is great for student divers to practice their skills. A good option for fun divers is to get dropped off at Hin Ngam (on the way into Aow Leuk) as it offers a wider variety of marine life and is also a little bit deeper.
This dive site provides a great cross between natural and artificial reefs with lots of marine life. Maximum depth here is 18 m when heading to see the sunken catamaran, and with lots of corals right up to the 5 m. The catamaran sits slightly out from the main site in the sand. You can see a big Jenkins whipray underneath of the wreck and some giant groupers chilling at the main deck.
Mao Bay is a relatively shallow water dive site. It has an artificial reef to stimulate an interest in the area from the local marine life. The water depth varies and drops down to a maximum of around 20 m. There are numerous spectacular rock formations where you will find diverse marine life, including batfish, triggerfish, trevally and lots of varieties of reef fish.
Laem Thien Pinnacle
Laem Thien Pinnacle is a hidden gem ranging from the beach all the way down to 30 m and beyond with something to offer all levels of experience. Humphead parrotfish, butterflyfish, groupers, barracuda and drummers can all be found in large numbers. Turtles are common as are stingrays and triggerfish. Amongst the rocks and boulders you can find numerous swim throughs.
Lighthouse Bay is named after the small lighthouse which sits on top of the bays cliffs. Due to its sheltered location, visibility here is normally good for the majority of the year round making it a great spot for budding underwater photographers to practice their camera skills (except for October-November). The coral at Lighthouse Bay are ones of the best table corals Koh Tao has to offer. The many staghorn corals and big barrel sponges as well as the Christmas tree worms.
This beautiful secluded bay offers some good shallow water diving. You can explore both sides of the bay or do a ‘drop off’ on your way into it.
This submerged set of three rocky pinnacles is located just off Sail Rock. The formation rises from the ocean floor at 30 meters up to a minimum depth of 13 meters. The rocks are covered in soft corals, sponges and a wealth of colorful anemones. Just off the rocks hanging in the mild to strong currents you will find large groupers, great barracuda and shoals of big eye jacks.
Three Rocks site can be seen from the surface, emerging around 2 meters out of the water. You will be able to find many nudibranchs and wart slugs. There is a small swim through and some lovely table corals which butterfly fish and banner fish like to swim close by to.
Pottery is made up of many small rock formations on which hard corals have grown. Slightly away from the rocks sits a sunken long tail boat. Pufferfish use the rocks and corals for cover trying to use their camouflage to blend into the background. A variety of smaller groupers including hexagon, black tip and blue lined members of that family can be seen here while bottom dwellers such as sling jaw wrasse swim around close to the sand. During night dives Pottery Pinnacle is a good place to spot reef octopus. Bioluminescence at Pottery is amazing due to the lack of light pollution around the site. During the twilight hours look out for blue spotted ribbontail rays.
Buddha Rock or Buddha Buddha Point is a quiet, peaceful dive site with pleasant conditions. You have all the peace and freedom to enjoy the different species of coral and the abundance of marine life.