Why You Should Dive in Koh Tao, Thailand
With its wonderfully warm waters, colourful coral reefs and laid-back vibe, Koh Tao, an island on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand, is an amazing location to dive. There are numerous scuba schools scattered around the island, all offering affordable PADI open water courses in a diverse range of dive sites, from calm sandy bays to shipwrecks and deeper pinnacles for the more advanced. In particular, the combination of shallow waters, gentle currents and high visibility at these dive sites makes Koh Tao perfect training grounds for those new to the sport.
Learn the Lingo at Dive School
Diving is a magical experience. Underwater, brightly coloured fish glide past you, oblivious of your existence. But before you delve into this wonderful new world, be prepared to put in the training.
This consists of three essential components: theory, practise and application. The pre-diving theory studies are a vital part of the course, preparing you for your underwater jaunts. They usually take place in a classroom close to the ocean (depending on the dive company) and aim to provide you with the basic skills and knowledge. The practise, which usually occurs in the shallow waters of a swimming pool, allows you to get acquainted with the equipment, learn the underwater lingo and put some of the exercises to the test. Application is the fun part, where you get to dive into the sea and explore the amazing life hidden beneath the waves.
Tropical Creatures of the Sea
Diving for the first time makes you feel a bit like an astronaut, floating through space. Your body feels totally weightless and all you can hear is the echo of your deep breathing. Hold your breath for a moment longer than normal, and it feels as if time has totally stood still. The likes of blue-ringed angelfish swim gracefully past, waking you up from an underwater daydream. Submerge deeper to the bottom of the ocean floor, equalising along the way to acclimatise your body and lungs with the change in air pressure, and you become even further disconnected from life above. Welcome to this beautifully endearing, underwater world!
If you’re fortunate, the likes of butterfly, parrot and banner fish may emerge from the coral reefs, with their eye-catching, bold colours. Keep an eye out for Nemo and the gang amid the corals – the elusive clown fish is likely to flash before your eyes before darting to the safety of the sheltered reefs. Beware, and respect the space of, the sizeable trigger fish – intruders, including other fish and humans, are likely to be charged at, should these slightly menacing aquatic creatures be provoked. Give them the distance they deserve, and they will leave you be.
Dive Sites in Koh Tao
With 25 dive sites across the island, popular spots for newbies include Aow Leuk and Hin Ngam Bay (to the south east), both of which are sheltered from strong winds and are home to more juvenile aquatic life. Twin Peaks, further north of the island, is the most popular dive site of them all, due to it being small, shallow and benefiting from a diverse selection of marine life and coral. Red Rock, a small pinnacle, is one of the most beautiful swim-throughs on Koh Tao, whilst the HTMS Sattakut shipwreck is a popular site for divers with the Advanced Open Water certification under their belt. Here, maximum depths reach between 27 and 30 metres.
Night Diving and Phosphorescence
Top your experience off with a night dive – it’s a must for adventurous and more experienced divers. Travelling by boat to the dive site, watch the amber glows of sunset change to hazy shades of dusk to nightfall. The journey is exhilarating and admittedly a little daunting, especially when the blanket of nightfall covers the sea and you take that leap of faith into the deep, dark ocean below. Once under the water, it feels as if you are swimming through the dark, starless night sky.
At night the more elusive creatures roam the waters, such as the naturally shy blue-spotted stingray, which emerges from the sand to stalk its prey. These predatory creatures are skittish, and divers that experience a chance encounter with these beauties are incredibly lucky – they are an amazing sight to behold.
If you’re feeling brave, sit on the ocean floor, turn off your torchlight and shake your arms to cause movement. Your reward, if you’re lucky, phosphorescence. Unbelievable beauty. Sparkling bright lilacs and fluorescent blues and pinks flicker before your eyes, lighting up the pitch-black waters like a magical display of stars. It’s totally captivating, and it’s likely that you will leave the waters hooked on scuba diving! This otherworldly experience is the perfect reward to finishing your open water dive course, and I highly recommend it. For me, it was my most magical and memorable life memory.
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