If you’re anything like me, the thought of scuba diving is a little bit nerve racking, I mean, humans were built to walk on land, not breathe underwater! But when you step off the ferry onto the enchanting island of Koh Tao and you look around at the mountainous scenery, palm trees and white sandy beaches, you feel like this island is a little different to any other in Thailand.
Arriving in Koh Tao
The bustling streets are full of locals trying to sell you their handmade trinkets, the fellow travellers have excitement and eagerness on their faces, and the many street food trolleys give off such a wonderful aroma of spices, all together mixed with the sea air is enough to make any traveller drunk with happiness for that island lifestyle they are about to experience.
I jump onto one of the many taxis, and sit in the back, wind blowing in my hair as we make our way up and down the roads through the jungle towards Sairee beach, the main tourist town.
Why Koh Tao For Scuba Diving?
There are over 50 Dive schools on the island, and it is one of the most popular places to scuba dive in the world, not only because of the vast choice of schools, which offer both PADI and SSI qualifications, but it is also one of the cheapest places to learn. Most open water courses will cost less than 10,000 baht (roughly 376 AUD) and that includes your accommodation for the duration of your course. I personally chose PADI as my qualification as it seemed more universally recognised, and yes the course videos are very cheesy but the course itself was very simple and more importantly, very fun and relaxed.
I came travelling with a group of friends and they were all very eager to sign up for the course. I was a little nervous as I had only just got over my fear of going into the sea and it seemed a big step to go scuba diving, but I signed up anyway and told myself I could pull out if I didn’t enjoy it. The next day we all signed up to Davy Jones’ Locker dive school and went straight to the school’s personal bar where we sat and drank Leo and made friends with the Burmese staff, where they taught us some of their local lingoes.
What a PADI course is actually like
On day one of the scuba course, we mostly learnt about regulations on Diving, key hand symbols for use Underwater and general knowledge for the learner diver. We were all more excited about day two where we got to actually put together our scuba gear and get into the learner pool. We all kitted up and got in. I can’t explain how surreal the feeling of breathing underwater is, you can only experience it for yourself. It almost feels like you’re not breathing properly and it takes a little getting used to. We ran through some basic skills which you need to pass the course and it all seemed very exciting.
On day 3 we got to do our first 2 dives in the ocean after a bit more classroom work and a test. I was very nervous by now because I had not only just learnt yesterday how to breathe underwater, but now I was going to do it in the ocean 5 metres down! We all got kitted up again on the rocking dive boat which was moored on the popular dive site “twins”. The experience was surreal, but amazing at the same time. It is one of the best things I have accomplished in my life, and it is a great way to get up close with the marine life that snorkelling doesn’t provide.
Day 4 was our 3rd and 4th dive, where we completed a few more skills and got to start to enjoy the diving experience. It felt more relaxed and you get used to the feeling of breathing under water. You can also sign up for an independent videographer to record you whilst diving and I definitely recommend it! To capture your first diving experiences is something you won’t want to miss out on!
Marine Life On Koh Tao
There are various types of marine life that you can expect to see on a typical dive in Koh Tao. Some of the most exciting species include the whale shark, which is the biggest fish that can be found in the sea. The news of a whale shark sighting in Koh Tao spreads fast so you will know if there is one in the water. Another top sighting is a turtle. Koh Tao is actually named “Turtle Island” because of the shape of the island. The banded sea snake is a great sight although approach with caution as they are a very poisonous snake. And another great fish to spot is Nemo, the clownfish. There is actually a spot on one of the dive sites that is margined off with stones to protect a family of clownfish that don’t want to be disturbed by numerous schools of divers.
What else is there to do on Koh Tao?
If scuba diving isn’t your scene, there are plenty of other activities available on this rich island.
- Free Diving
- Paddle Boarding
- Rock Climbing
- Flying Trapeze
- Muay Thai
- Mini Golf
There are also various classes that you can take part in, including traditional Thai cooking classes, yoga classes, and CrossFit classes. If this doesn’t take your fancy, then there are numerous beautifully scenic beaches to spend your days on, with a cocktail in hand.
All in all, Koh Tao has something for every single traveller out there. The community is a great place to meet fellow travellers and swap stories, or you can chat to the local Thai and Burmese who are all very friendly. They make you feel so welcome in this community and after spending some time here, you can almost call Koh Tao your second home.