Chumphon Pinnacle –
Widely considered Koh Tao’s premier dive site, Chumphon Pinnacle is also one of the island’s most challenging with occasionally strong currents. Ranging from depths of 12m to 40m, the site is a group of massive rocks arranged in a rough oval and running north to south. The site is about a 40 minute boat ride Northwest of the island.
Visibility is great in season, and the site plays host to a wide variety of pelagics as well as reef fish. Great barracuda, Trevalley, Queen fish, Batfish, King Mackerel, Grouper, and Tuna can be seen at Chumphon all year around. If you’re going to see a whale shark in Koh Tao, this site is your best bet in season! As the site is a fair distance offshore, visitors from the open ocean are unpredictable -sailfish, oceanic white tip sharks and bull sharks have also been spotted.
Southwest Pinnacle –
Some will argue that Southwest Pinnacle is better than Chumphon Pinnacle; but it’s a close call. The dive site is located a 40 minute boat journey to the Southwest of Koh Tao and is another deep dive site (28 m). Made up of many small pinnacles, with one large pinnacle in the middle that reaches up to 5 m below the surface. There is a abundant amount of fish life here ranging from large schools to hidden Scorpion fish. A short swim away is another pinnacle called ‘the Secret Pinnacle’, also good for fun diving. If you are extremely lucky, you may see Bryde’s Whales, but they come around maybe once a year.
Shark Island –
There are no sharks at Shark Island, so don’t get too jazzed. The island got its name from its appearance at the surface, looking like a shark fin. Located to the South West of Koh Tao, Shark Island is a great dive site, available for all levels of diver. It has amazing soft corals located to the south, and deeper, you can explore around the large boulders. This is one of the best places for fun dives and large enough to keep you happy for more than just one dive. However, sometimes Shark Island does have strong currents, so be prepared to kick.
The Wreck of the Sattakut –
The artificially sunk military vessel of 49 meters long and 7 meters wide was sunk in 2011. It is located 50 meters south of the Hin Pee Wee dive site and very close to Sairee beach. The boat lies at a depth of 29 metres, and has a weak current. The dive site is perfect for experienced divers and dive shops of Koh Tao often go there for the PADI Wreck Diver course. Fusiliers, barracudas, groupers, trevally, wrasses, snappers, morey eels, grey reef sharks and putter fish has already decided to inhabit this artificial reef.
Sail Rock –
Sail Rock is a 2 hour boat journey Southeast from Koh Tao. What makes this site special is its structure. It is basically a very large rock in the middle of the ocean, rising up to 7 meters out of the sea level which drop down to 22 meters and structured as a long chimney with a vertical swim trough. It is the perfect place to dive with large pelagic such as large tuna, Giant Groupers, King mackerel, Chevron Barracudas, whale shark or manta rays. Personally, I am not a huge fan of Sail Rock due to its lack of coral and abundance of crowds. I think it is the most over hyped dive site in the region.
The Twins –
The Twins, also called Twin Peak is a pretty good dive site, mostly for the ones who love searching for small marine life such as shrimps and sea horses. The dive sites is composed of two large rocks 8 and 20 meters deep. You will be able to moray eels, clown fishes, angel fishes, trevallies, yellow tail barracudas, blue spotted stingray, and pink anemones. There is only a weak current, and only 22 m deep, making it available to Open Water divers.
White Rock –
White Rock is one of the most popular dive sites on Koh Tao, and also one of the largest too. Just 10 minutes boat journey from the pier, White Rock is accessible to all levels of diver (as its depth ranges between 5 m – 20 m). This a great site for seeing a huge selection of marine life, from Turtles to Nudibranch, it has it all. The site makes for a classic night dive as the Pickhandle Barracudas use your torch as a hunting tool.
Green Rock –
Green Rock really is a ‘fun’ dive. Located just to the North West of Koh Nanguan, it offers a diver so much to explore. The main attraction is its many ‘swim throughs’. This is a great test for your buoyancy and also a great experience. Another attraction is the ‘Trigger Pit’. This is an area of sand that both Yellow margin and Titan triggerfish have made their home for mating and nesting. Be careful when swimming close to triggerfish, as they can sometimes get quite aggressive (if they feel threatened).
The best season for optimum dive conditions is from March to September, with the busiest months being July and August. The weather during this period is warm and usually sunny, offering the best conditions for diving, especially in terms of underwater visibility.
Monsoon winds reduce visibility from October to November, and sea swells can be present. However, these are rarely bad enough to interfere with the running of diving trips. November to February brings rain and winds to Koh Tao so it is not be the best place to be at this time of year.
There is a chance to see big pelagics such as whale sharks, most often in September, but the possibility remains all year around. Titan triggerfish might become aggressive during their breeding season which usually runs from March to April, as they are extremely territorial. The male usually guards the nest against intruders, including scuba divers. They are only following their instincts and divers should avoid getting inside their ‘protection zone’ (above the nest, as the titans can see upwards).
There are over 30 Dive Shops on Koh Tao and it is extremely hard to decide who to go with. I will always recommend booking with New Heaven Divers though. I stayed here and did a marine conservation internship with them in September. They are a family-owned dive school, committed to marine conservation, education, and eco-tourism. They only take small groups of divers out at a time so you will always feel safe and taken care of. Plus, they offer nice, affordable lodging on site, yoga classes, aryvedic health classes, and have a yummy restaurant. What more would you need?
Photo credit to New Heaven Dive School