The diving culture of Koh Tao, Thailand

The Thai Islands, offer a whole host of things for many a traveller, and people are drawn there for usually one or two reasons, not the least for a relaxing time by the beach. If it is Koh Phangan, to the East of the country; this will the infamous Full Moon Parties, were people party from dusk to dawn, drinking a variety of cocktails, served in beach buckets.

This was never my cup of tea, so I avoided it, like the plague.

However, there is more to Koh Phangan, than just the parties; a friend of mine went for many walks there, and there is more beauty than first meets the eye.

Koh Tao, south of Koh Phangan, attracts a different kind of traveller however.

Sun set on the beach on Koh Tao Island, Thailand
Sun set on the beach on Koh Tao Island, Thailand

The culture hits you, as soon as you dock on the island. There are various shops, and people are advertising one thing. In fact, this may have been advertised, before even getting to the island. Even the mention of Koh Tao, will lead on to the question .. “oh, you must be going there to …”

Accommodation is catered for people doing this, and if you go to a bar, or out for dinner with other travellers, they talk about one thing ..

Their PADI dive course. How many dives they’ve done. What company they are using. Photographs from their dives.; and that, is about it.  During the day, you’ll see a group of people often cramming over a cheap Thai meal at a restaurant. Then by midday, the island will be virtually empty, with most people coming back around 5/6pm, and some even leaving again after dusk for night dives.

A local on his boat, on Koh Tao Island, Thailand
A local on his boat, on Koh Tao Island, Thailand

Scuba Diving in the clear waters of Thailand is meant to be beautiful, and becoming a certified diver takes 5 days. Koh Tao, offers some of the cheapest prices in the World to get certified, and this is what attracts many travellers.

However, it didn’t attract me.  I had been diving in the Poor Knights Island, in New Zealand, and although I enjoyed it, I didn’t enjoy it enough to part with my precious Thai Baht on a course, that quite frankly, I had no idea I would ever use again.

My aim of getting to the Thai islands, was to relax by the beach, after a long train journey from Bangkok, which was an incredibly busy city. I needed some sea and sunshine.

Relaxing with a cocktail on Koh Tao island, Thailand
Relaxing with a cocktail on Koh Tao island, Thailand

My sister on the other hand, who had only ever been diving in a local pool, wanted to give it a try, but didn’t want to do the full course. So, she did a few ‘try dives’ with the dive school Crystal.

Like me, it took her a long time to getting into it, and learning to breathe underwater, but in the end. She enjoyed it.

My sister off on her first dive in the Ocean, at Koh Tao, Thailand
My sister off on her first dive in the Ocean, at Koh Tao, Thailand

 

The cost of two try dives with Crystal was 900 THB  per dive or £18 or US$ 27. During her time underwater, I was able to tag along on the boat, as a spectator, read my book or go for a swim, for free (some companies charge a fee to those who want to tag along).

Relaxing in the sun, on the top of Crystal Dive Schools dive boat in Koh Tao, Thailand
Relaxing in the sun, on the top of Crystal Dive Schools dive boat in Koh Tao, Thailand

 So what else is there to do in Koh Tao, other than diving?

For the most part, during our time on the island, we relaxed by the beach; ate amazing Thai food at the restaurant of the guest house we were staying at, went for walks through the small town, visited neighbouring beach areas, and went on a snorkelling day trip around the whole island.

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This was definitely to best activity I got to do in Thailand, after rock climbing in Krabi. 

What is the cost of a snorkelling day trip on Koh Tao?

Shop around. Your accommodation and punters on the street will be selling the same trip, for various prices. We found a small travel agency on the main street (were we also purchased onward ferry tickets, for a cheaper price), and paid 800 THB or £16 or US$24. Possibly a bit pricey for an activity, but it was my main activity in Thailand, and it included lunch, and was an all day trip (9am-6pm). Enough justification? 

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The water was so clear, the sun was super hot and we got to see many fish. We stopped off at four different areas around the island, with the best one, being the last – Koh Nangyuan Island – a small paradise to the North of Koh Tao. So remote and unspoilt, that there is an additional entrance fee, and rules against bringing bottles onto the island are not allowed!

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If there is one tip, I can offer any traveller, it is – bring money for water. We managed to sneak through one small (500ml) bottle of water onto the island, which we drank fairly quickly, and with the temperatures soaring and humidity at its peak, we were getting very dehydrated.

We hadn’t brought money with us on our snorkelling, as our lunch and water was included. However, after we were dropped off at Koh Nangyuan Island, our boat disappeared somewhere to dock, and we had no idea what time it was coming back. In the end, we managed to persuade another boat that was docked to fill up our bottle a few times, the retreated to the shade.

Koh Nangyan Island was possibly one of most scenic areas of Thailand, I got to see, the view point is a steep climb, but totally worth it for this view.

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Have you been to Koh Tao? Did you go diving, or did you do something else? I’d love to return here someday soon. 

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