We, my GF and I had a nice day out sailing with that little sailing charter company on Ko Tao.
6 hours(actually almost seven) of total relaxed sailing, snorkeling and enjoying ourselves.
What we enjoyed most was the absence of any noise and the sailing stories of our skipper, who circumnavigated most of the planet before settling down on Ko Tao.
This is a great operation. Small and very personal. If you are just visiting Ko Tao for fun diving, I strongly recommend the people at Scuba Junction. They're friendly, knowledgeable and professional.
One of the first things we did upon arrival was buy a snorkelling set each and discover what was beneath us in this crystal clear water. The snorkelling equipment cost 300Baht each (a little pricey for not the greatest of quality) and could probably be bought on the mainland for cheaper, but then you have to carry it around with you everywhere. I've always been a little scared of what lurks beneath the water and wasn't sure if I wanted to actually know, but the moment I donned my mask and snorkel I was in a different world! You need to go out a fair bit from the shore but it's still shallow so be careful you don't bump into or rub up against any coral! And most importantly HAVE FUN!!!
I didn't actually dive at either of these places, but i did find out about their prices and what kind of courses they offer and it seemed really good. You an also check out their websites www.kohtaoseashell.com and www.saireehut.com to see if they have any up to date deals for accomodation if you dive with them.
For more info on diving, check out www.travelfish.org as well as accomodation, food, eating..it's a great website and helped me a lot when planning my Thailand trip. Some of it is outdated but it does give you an idea of what is available at least and addresses etc. And finally, if you just google Koh Tao, you will get a plethora of websites to help you out!!!
I had a friend who was staying here who advised me me that the instructors here were very good. I had also read about places who only let you stay with them if you dived with them too, so I wasnt sure if BIG BLUE was one of these. It turns out it wasn't BUT if you DID dive with them, you got a discount on the accomodation. They didnt seem to have any nice bungalows like the ones we were staying at, so we chose just to dive with them. They have a website you can go to to check out thier prices and an email address you can write to as well. We did the beginners Open Water Course and it was 9,000 Baht. You get a book with all the details about how to dive etc and you watch a four part dvd which has the same information as the book. The books and dvds come in all different languages, so if English is not your first language, I'm sure they will have the one you need. If you wish to keep the book, it costs 900Baht. When you go out on your last dive, their camarawoman goes down with you and makes a little video for you to keep...BUT charges an extortionate price of 2400Baht, so in the end none of us chose to buy it. If you choose to do another course with them afterwards, you get a 10% discount. I loved the course with BIG BLUE and will definitely be going back to them for my Advanced Open Water certificate.
Just checked the website and it is very comprehensive. You will read how there are two different schools that you can dive with, SSI (SCUBA SCHOOLS INTERNATIONAL) or PADI (the PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DIVING INSTRUCTORS). I did it with SSI as it has more time in the water and is less theory based. There are more steps to take to become PADI qualified but in the long run it all means the same. You can dive anywhere in the WORLD!
Out of the many islands on the east coast of Thailand, Koh Tao is known best for its snorkelling and scuba facilities. As I mentioned in my overview, Koh Tao means Turtle Island, because in the past the waters in the area were rich with sea turtles. However these days very few can be seen. I am a very keen and strong swimmer but have never liked the sea for some reason. I suppose it's to do with the fact that it's deep and dark so i have no idea what's swimming below or around me. But when you come to the waters of Koh Tao you are in a for a pleasant surprise! The water was crystal clear and the visibility was amazing. My other fear or dislike about the idea of diving is the fact that you are reliant on an oxygen tank! What if something goes wrong? What if I come up to quickly and get the bends? Lots of questions racing through my mind. But when we realised that we had four days left on Koh Tao, we decided we would do it. So Charles went round some of the places that offered dive courses to see which was best suited to our time limitation and price. We ended up choosing Big Blue Diving Resort (I will talk about this place and some others in the sections to follow) and had our Open Water Diving Certificate by the end of Day 3!!!
You don't need to be a strong swimmer to learn how to dive, you just need to be aware of you surroundings and don't do anything stupid underwater that may harm you or the fish and coral. For anyone having reservations about it or about the safety issues concerning diving, please do look around for a diving place that suits you most and with an instructor you feel comfortable with because once you're under, you will depend on him/her a lot. I am planning to go back to Koh Tao in March to get my Advanced Open Water Certificate as my first experience of diving was too good not to repeat!
We were going to take this boat trip around Koh Tao and Nang Yuan Island on our last day in Koh Tao the first time round, but when we woke in the morning and saw how much it was raining we realised that our trip would be cancelled. I have included a photo of the sign so you can see how much it is and where they take you to but in case you don't want to enlarge it, I will list the details here!
0830 - Taxi will pick up up from your bungalow
0900 - Depart from Mae Haad Pier
0930 - Shark Bay. Snorkelling with black tip reef sharks
1030 - Snorkelling at Shark Island to see the marine life which is generally larger
1130 - Snorkelling at Aow Leuk, which features many species of hard and soft coral
1230 - Enjoy your lunch and more snorkelling at Hin Wong Bay
1330 - The landscape and the reef is as breathtaking at Mango Bay
1400 - Option A - Nang Yuan Island one of the most beautiful islands in the world. (100B extra)
- Option B - See the beautiful Coral Garden at the Japanese Garden
1600 - Return to Mae Haad Pier
Trip includes: Two way transfer , all equipment for snorkelling, lunch,water, coffee, tea + fresh fruit. 600 Baht
You can also take a fishing trip!Again, I have put up a photo to show you but have listed the tour below:
Daily fishing tour - Charter boat, Group tour, Package tour. Water, lunch and fishing equipment all provided. Guaranteed Catch!! 0930-1630 day trip 1730-0000 night trip.
As it only takes 20mins to walk from one end of the beach to the other it is the perfect exercise and fun thing to do. Play with the beach dogs along the way, go for a dip at different stages of your walk to see how the water and visibility differs, see how the other half lives at the northern end of the beach where there are nice resorts and stop along the way for a refreshing mojito or mango shake!! It also helps you to get your bearings and see things that you can't usually from the main pathway!
Beautiful island, just magnificent. As the others have said, however, beware of expensive rates. On the main island you'd be getting far better accomodation for the same price, and probably have enough left over for Shark Bar later on.
Having said all that, the money does go towards something very nice. The bungalows are cosy and comfy, even if they aren't air-conditioned. The serenity is fantastic and if you've come to Southern Thailand for a little bit of peace and quiet, this place is for you. No touts, no Ute taxis and no kids or dogs! If you're lucky enough to get an ocean view, the mental picture is something else.
During the period I went, november - december, one of the three islands was inaccesible (spelling?) due to the sandy path being submerged. Koh Tao is also subject to regional typhoons during this time. I'd suggest very flexible trip plans as only one boat (the catamaran) can travel from the mainland during a strong storm as the others are made of wooden hulls, and even then the Catamaran is a vomit-inducing ride.
When on Koh Nang Yuan, make sure you climb the observation peak during light hours. There's not much in the way of safety but the view from the top of the rock is very nice indeed. At night the main hotel lights up and dinner is alright but nothing special. Make sure you bring a torch with you because the sandbar back to the rooms aren't lit and the tide usually comes up in the dark.
Some really amazing scuba diving - perfect visibillity, stunning scenery, and most importantly a friendly relaxed atmosphere!
Some of my friends did the full advanced dive course, but I only had time to do a few fun dives - which you can do without doing your full dive course! You can do just 1 or 2 dives with an instructor if you don't have time to do your full course, or if you just want to get an idea of what it would be like! Or you could even just do some snorkelling.
I paid 3000 baht for 2 fun dives with an instructor (without my dive license).
I would really recommend going out on the dive boat and do some snorkelling or scuba diving - really fantastic!
There are quite a few dive schools on the island and probably all fairly similar! Dive point had friendly staff, good prices, and nice and easy to find!
After a few days rock climbing in Ko Tao, I decided to do some sea kayaking. Whilst exploring the beautiful coastline, I spied a very likely looking rock, covered in pockets and holds. After salvaging some old rope from the shore, I returned to the rock and tied up my kayak. A short swim later, I was enjoying my first sea-rock-climbing, traversing along above the water. The beauty of this type of climbing is that falling off is positively fun, meaning you can try anything you like, no matter how hard. Brilliant!
A wonderful place to go climbing and Bouldering - So many choices of place to go. I really enjoyed climbing next to the sea, with the waves crashing close by below, watching boats go by. Another fine afternoon was spent in James's 'Front Yard', amongst the coconut trees, sweating my way up deceptively difficult routes on the superb granite rocks.
Ko Tao is only 15 mins away from Ko Nang Yuan by a long tail boat. You can rent a boat and spend an afternoon swimming and snorkling at Nang Yuan. It's about 200BHT for a ride/person -- note that I went there with 5 other people so the price can be different depending on how many friends you go there with. There are a few places along the beach that you can rent a boat, ask around.
I try to catch a sunset whenever I go to the beach or wherever. The sunset at Ko Tao, I can say that it was the best so far. I was sitting on the beach watching it setting. It was so close and clear... too bad I didn't have the camera with me. However, my boyfriend went to get the cam and took this picture on his way back to the beach. It can't compare to what I saw though.
Nang Yuan is actually an ensemble of 3 islands connected by sandbanks to the Northwest of Koh Tao. There is ok offshore snorkelling from there: some nice corals, but only a few fish when I was there.
To get to the island take a boat taxi, it's about 300 THB from Sairee. There's also a resort with different kinds of accommodation on Nang Yuan.