Koh Tao is a small island off the coast of Thailand that is accessible by ferry from the larger island of Koh Samui. It’s surrounded by crystal clear waters, beautiful beaches, and a huge diversity of marine life. The perfect conditions mean the island has become one of the world’s hotspots for learning how to scuba dive. Despite being only 21 km2 in size, it is the second most popular place in the world to get certified – and one of the cheapest! Divers come to see reef sharks, moray eels, triggerfish, and stringrays, as well as the largest fish in the ocean – the whale shark. There is some debate over whether bull sharks are also present. Whether they are or not, Koh Tao remains a mecca for diving, and a particularly good place to give it a try. There’s a great guide to learning how to dive on Koh Tao here.
Average rating: 4.0 (very good)
Average spend per person: dives on Koh Tao cost around $20-30 with full Open Water courses costing around $300-350.
Number of reports: 1
Best time to visit: you can dive off Koh Tao year round although there are three distinct seasons. February to May is hot and sunny. May to October is cooler and windier with better visibility underwater. While October to February is rainy season and visibility is much lower. If you want to see whale sharks, the peak months are around May and November.
Typical activities: boat trip, scuba diving
WILDLIFE IN Koh Tao
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here include:
Reef shark – 100% OF VISITORS (1/1) REPORTED SIGHTINGS
The blacktip reef shark is the most common shark seen in the warm, coastal waters around Koh Tao. They are often found in the shallows close to the shore and can be seen while swimming and snorkelling. Sites such as Shark Bay, Aow Leuk, Ao Thian Ok, and Ao Tanot Bay are all good places to spot blacktips.
If you are diving, the best place to see sharks is the Chumphon Pinnacle. Made up of a series of dramatic, coral-covered pinnacles, it’s home to blacktip and grey reef sharks. Note, due to its depth, this is a site best enjoyed by Advanced Open Water divers. There is an ongoing debate about the types of sharks that visit the pinnacle, with numerous reports of unexpectedly large, grey sharks. Divers have suggested they could be bull sharks or unusually large grey reef sharks. If you’re able to provide any more information, WildSide would be very interested! Sadly, there are also reports that shark numbers are declining in the area.
Whale shark – 0% of visitors (0/1) reported sightings
Each year the waters off Koh Tao are visited by whale sharks. They can turn up at any time of the year although generally there are two main seasons when sightings are highest. The first runs from March to June, peaking in May, and the second runs from October to December, peaking in November. While sightings are by no means guaranteed, the best places to spot these giants are the dive sites at Sail Rock, Chumpon, and South West Pinnacle. Whale sharks also visit sites such as Hin Wong, White Rock, and the Twins, although less frequently. While the best chance of seeing whale sharks is when diving, some reports suggest it is possible to see them while snorkelling off shark island.
Photo credit: kevskoot under a Creative Commons license from Pixabay